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Building The Tarmac Ladder

Project:  The Tarmac Ladder

Goal:  This project started as a commission from a client.  Could we design + fabricate a library ladder inspired by Jean Prouve's 1951 rolling stepladder?  We studied Jean Prouve's ladder and thought is was a pretty perfect design, but were excited to add our own ideas and inspirations, and "trademark" details, ultimately creating a new design.  With a streamlined grab rail and graduating arc treads, the Tarmac Ladder is the pride and joy of our woodshop.

Our original renderings...


In Josh's words, (Image, Above Left) "This is my favorite variation so far. It is somewhat inspired by Star Wars, but not really. One of the few things I thot I could actually improve was the shape of the grab rail. I think the original grab rail protrudes a little bit too far, so I held these rails a little closer to the piece. These images don't include wheels... Those who know me may find elements they might consider my "trademark" details, but I won't point them out."

(Image, Upper Right) "Here's the cool, and completely superfluous tread detail from the top. The top tread is rectangular, but as they go down, each tread gets deeper, with a graduating arc. The actual standing area remains the same all the way down, but you get this neat effect at the back, which reminds me of some kind of cooling fin, or exoskeleton."

This elevation view shows the streamlined grab rail. Both the grab rail, and the back of the stair treads hold a vertical line.


For those of you who like to skip the book and go straight to the movie...!



Building Prototype #1

A built-in "seat" makes a cozy spot to read a book... it is a library ladder after all!

Building Prototype #2

Modifications are made and Prototype #2 is assembled and ready for testing.

Here we are testing the ladder.  It holds Josh's weight, but it also had to pass the lean + reach test.  We took the ladder to a local park (falling on soft grass seemed more appealing than falling on concrete) and thankfully, the ladder passed this test too.  Another crash-free crash test!

We brought along some weights to add some excitement to the lean and reach test.


Building Prototype #3

A few modifications, and continuing to fine tune design and functionality.



Ok, No More Prototypes. Now the Real Deal...

The making of Tarmac Ladders no.1 and no.2 in the Edition of Five.  Moving on to the final version was pretty darn exciting.

In the beginning...

Using every inch of our materials, the ladder was designed so that parts could be cut without waste.

Assembling ladder #1 in the Edition.

All parts parts are locked together by a combination of tension and dado joints (note the grooves in the side panels.)

The finished ladder, ready to deliver to our client in San Francisco.

We love the 13-ply Maple core edges.

Grab Rails, handcrafted.


And, Ladder #2 in the Edition... A beautiful union of 13-Ply Maple with Bittersweet Orange and vintage fiberglass veneer.


Want a Tarmac Ladder of your very own?  Please contact us for details and custom color requests.









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