project completion - Built-in cabinets and shelving, with library ladder and LED shelf lights

Henry W

Senior User
Project for a client that took me waay too long. Here's a few comments:
- Finishing was a bit of a struggle; the LED install (under each shelf) and the making of the ladder was not nearly as easy as I expected.
- 9' ceilings and 11' wide. Had to modify the existing wainscotting on both sides to have it 'work'. I left the existing 11' crown piece in place behind this, as it was installed 'behind' both pieces that t intersected with; removal of that one piece of crown meant disturbing 3 pieces on 3 walls instead of just one piece on the backwall.
- 6 total units - 3 base cabinets and 3 uppers
- Maple face frames on all 6 pieces, installed in place (not a one piece frame)
- 5 piece Shaker doors (maple + ply) with domino tenon joinery. This portion is about the only part that went according plan without (many) glitches.
- Finish is Target Coatings acrylic pigmented 'lacquer' custom tinted to the white in the room already (very close to a pure white). Color and sheen match was excellent - as I can't tell which piece was coated with which coating.
- Thanks to Phil S for his assistance with Target Coatings primer when I needed some quickly.

Pretty happy with the end result, as are the clients.

Further ladder notes (in response to a query about how to make a ladder):

Of course the way to make a ladder is one step at a time, haha (and you follow the instructions...)

In this case I was purchasing hardware (the wheels, brackets, and ladder rail and rail mounting hardware). You can purchase complete kits, including both the wood side-rails (if that's the term) and treads; shipping these long side rails makes no sense since these are wood side-rails and I can deal with finding appropriate side rails (7/8" thick was called for I believe). CSH (a WC advertiser) ladder hardware kits have instructions on sizes of wood treads, the angles to dado the side-rails, and how to glue and screw the treads.

In this case I used Rockler black metal treads (client request), which are screwed into the 'rails' using barrel bolts; there is a male threaded screw with large washer head on the inside, and a barrel nut inserted from the outside. The holes of course need to be sized and placed carefully (good instructions available on Rockler's site).

I created a drilling template to locate these holes at the desired locations, and using a hand drill made both sides simultaneously (to maintain consistent errors if there were any). The challenge to this barrel bolt system is that the barrel bolts are a snug fit (appropriately) and any deviance of the hole from true perpendicular to the face of the side-rail makes assembly a challenge (DAHIKT).

Ladder Lessons Learned?
If I were to do this again I would use a thicker than 3/4" template to better ensure 'hole perpendicularity.' In the end this came together well, but a few bolts were a challenge to drive home. Using a drill press might help, but in my case I suspect that might have been worse because I don't have 8' of clearance on either side of my drill press or stand to support long pieces (these were 9+' feet long and holes spanned a 7+' length). So achieving perpendicular holes would have meant supporting the piece and checking level for every hole.

For a paint grade ladder, these metal treads were a top-notch choice, and I think created the visual contrast needed in what would have been a rather monolithic white piece (at least empty, it will of course have books and display pieces on the shelves). I use ladders a fair bit, and this one was as good as any commercial ladder I have used (except for the disconcerting slight L-R movement that can occur because it is on wheels!); this is also not a particularly long ladder. Metal treads were not cheap - approx $45-50 each I think... but check your vendor for real numbers. I used clear, straight grained hard maple for the sides. Also this is more a visual than a practical ladder, but it is very safe (my impression at least; and I am particular about ladders, especially when I am the one climbing them).

Phil S

Board of Directors, President
Phil Soper
Staff member
Corporate Member
Thanks for your assist! Presuming you have received your primer?!
yep one of the best primers I know of. dries quick, high solids so it fills well and it does not clog sandpaper


Corporate Member
Very Nice !. For the person who inquired about making a ladder. Both the Osha CFR 1926 book and some codes books in the back appendix actually have a little detail sketch on how to make one and how to make it OSHA Compliant ......... Who knew ?

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