Do it yourself! How to make your own Pilates Ladder Barrel

how to make your own ladder barrel DIY

Do it Yourself! Make your own Pilates Ladder BarrelA big thank you to Scott and Sunni Almond for sharing their step-by-step photo diary of a DIY Ladder Barrel success story. Sunni Almond is the owner of Studio S Pilates in Temecula, California.

She had her handy hubby Scott make a Ladder Barrel for her studio – 2 actually! – for less than $500.

Tools, Scott Almond and white Great Dane not included…

Materials include:

  • Sheet of ¾” Birch plywood for the sides of the Barrel
  • 2 – 2′x2′ sheets of ¾” construction plywood for the barrel
  • About 90″ of 1¼” dowel rod for the ladder rungs
  • 5   8′ lengths of 1″ x 2″ board to make about 20 boards 20″ long to construct the barrel section, or use ½” bendable plywood if you can find it.
  • Preferably from clear pine stock milled to 1¾” x 2¾”, cut 2 boards 37½” for vertical ladder rails and 2 boards at 41¾” for the horizontal base rails.
  • From clear pine stock cut 2 boards 1¾” x 3¾”  x 16½” for connecting the base of the ladder assembly.
  • (If using standard 2 x 4 stock or other materials adjust the measurements so the that the overall width of the ladder assembly is 20″ and the overall length is 44½”.)
  • 14 – 2″x ¼” carriage bolts or several 1¼” wood screws
  • 6 – 1½” wood screws for ladder rungs
  • 2 small wood screws for top rung
  • 16 – 1″ wood screws for brackets
  • Wood filler or wood plugs to cover counter sunk screw holes
  • Foam padding: 2″ thick + two layers (pieces) of a yoga mat to protect the wood
  • Marine grade vinyl – 4″ larger than barrel to allow for stretching into place with ‘come along’ straps
  • Brackets (2 sets)
  • Brushes
  • Polyurethane
  • 0000 Steel Wool
  • Tack Cloth
  • Sandpaper

Constructing the Barrel section

First, make a homemade protractor with a yard stick. Affix the nail at the center point and make a hole for a pen to trace the circumference along the top of the Barrel.


A 10″ radius gives you your 20″ diameter.

Cut 3 semi-circular pieces for the curved Barrel top.

Cut out the 2 outer side panels of Barrel using the same curved radius as for the tops.

Dimensions for the Ladder Barrel sides (make 2) are 34″ tall x 20″ wide.

ladder barrel 3

Construct the Barrel section with 1″x 2″s or bendable/flexi plywood.

ladder barrel 7ladder barrel 6ladder barrel 8

A center board is added for strength.

ladder barrel 9

Scott made 2 Ladder Barrels while he was at it, if you are making one Ladder Barrel you will of course only have one of these.

ladder barrel 10

Scott used ‘come-along’ straps to assist with adding the upholstery.

ladder barrel 11

A thick, firm door mat 24″x 36″ was used for even distribution when tightened down.

ladder barrel 12

On top of the doormat: place a piece of fabric between the doormat and marine grade vinyl to keep the vinyl clean.

On top of the vinyl: 2″ foam padding and 2 layers of yoga mat (yoga mat will be against the wood)

ladder barrel 13ladder barrel 14

Weights were used to help to compress the padding.

ladder barrel 15 ladder barrel 16

The ‘come-along’ straps were then pulled tight.

ladder barrel 17 ladder barrel 18

The next photos show the sequential stapling of the vinyl. The stapling can done in a very systematic way.

ladder barrel 19 ladder barrel 20 ladder barrel 21 ladder barrel 22

All finished and very barrel-like!


Constructing the Ladder section

The outside width should be 20″.

Cut dowel rod to 18″ lengths for the 3 lower rungs. (The overall width is 20″ so length adjustments may be needed depending on the size of the rails and depth of of the inset holes for the dowels.)

Cut dowel rod to a 30″ length for the top rung of the Ladder.

The top dowel rod (rung) will pass through the top of both Ladder rails and will be held in place by small counter-sunk wood screws from the back. It is 1½” on center from the top of the ladder rail or 36″ on center from the bottom. Rubber end caps can be placed on the top rung for finishing.

The distance from the top of the Ladder to the centers of the lower rungs are 5 1/5″, 13 ¼”, and 19 ½”.
Some barrels have different distances so feel free to emulate a barrel to which you have access.

Do It Yourself! Make your own Pilates Ladder BarrelDo It Yourself! Make your own Pilates Ladder Barrel

Attaching brackets to the bottom of the ladder for extra support.  Carefully chisel out material to inset the brackets or use a router to remove the material.

Attach the ladder boards with the brackets using the 1″ wood screws (Make sure the right angle is kept square).


Insert the lower 3 rungs into the ladder frame.

Make sure to keep the Ladder square while attaching the rungs.

Use 1½” wood screws and counter sink them to fasten Ladder rails to the inset dowel rods (rungs). Be sure to drill pilot holes into the dowel rods to prevent splitting.

Insert top rung into ladder and center. Attach with small wood screws using pilot holes.

Complete the ladder frame by attaching the 16 ½” cross supports at the base of the frame (Make sure to keep everything square as the base of the ladder frame is attached).

Attach the barrel sides to the barrel with  2″ x ¼” carriage bolts or use several 1¼” wood screws inserted from inside the barrel into the side panels (Be very careful to avoid going too far and having the screws poke through the sides. Use 1″ screws if necessary).

Attach the barrel to the base frame with 6-2 ½” x ¼” carriage bolts or with 2″ wood screws.

The distance between the inside edges of the ladder and the barrel sides should be 22″

Hint: Finish the barrel sides with polyurethane before attaching to the barrel to avoid damaging the vinyl.

Use wood filler or plugs to cover counter-sunk screw holes. Sand every thing smooth with a fine sand paper.

Apply two coats of polyurethane. Be sure to sand with 0000 steel wool and clean with tack cloth before each application.

And voilà!! A beautiful DIY Ladder Barrel of your very own!

Do it Yourself! How to Make your own Pilates Ladder BarrelDo it Yourself! How to Make your own Pilates Ladder BarrelDo it Yourself! How to Make your own Pilates Ladder Barrel

For handy reference, here’s a collection of photos of the 2 Ladder Barrels at Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles. Both are made by Gratz, but at different times. One is owned by Jay Grimes, which was made in the 1980s, and the other is most likely made post 2000.

Have you made any pieces of your studio apparatus yourself?

Please share your own DIY projects in a comment below. We’d love to hear about it! 

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Andrea Maida

Andrea Maida

A native of Pittsburgh, Andrea began her study of the Pilates method in 2000. She holds two comprehensive certifications from Romana’s Pilates in New York and Excel Movement Studios in Washington, DC.  Andrea continues to study with numerous world-class instructors including Romana Kryzanowska, Jay Grimes, Sari Mejia-Santo, Junghee Kallander, Cynthia Lochard, and Kathryn Ross-Nash whenever possible. Andrea was privileged to be in the inaugural class of The Work at Vintage Pilates under the direction of Jay Grimes, 1st Generation Master Teacher and student of Joseph Pilates.

From the Community

  1. Avatar

    Sara Birndorf

    Member since 2021

    I am wondering what brand of ladder barrel was used to get the dimensions for this plan? It is beautiful. Attached is a picture of the Wunda chair my husband made me. Hoping for a ladder barrel next.

    • Avatar

      Sara Birndorf

      Member since 2021


  2. Avatar

    Emily Seaman

    Member since 2023

    Is there instructions on how to make just a barrel or can the dimensions above be used for just a barrel?

    • Alisa Wyatt

      Alisa Wyatt

      Member since 2011

      Hi Emily, do you mean dimensions to make a Small Barrel or Spine Corrector? The Ladder Barrel barrel is the same size as the hump part of a Spine Corrector I believe but you would want to check that by measuring. The Small Barrel is also the same shape as a Ladder Barrel barrel but the bottom of it is cut off to make it smaller. Hope this helps, we don’t have any other notes from the member who shared his DIY instructions with us.

  3. Avatar

    Jennifer Jensen

    Member since 2021

    Has anyone made a Wunda Chair? I am desperate for one and would love the instructions if you don’t mind sharing!
    Thank you!!

    • Andrea Maida

      Andrea Maida

      Member since 2012

      Unfortunately, I am not aware of anyone building their own Wunda Chair… but I am sure it is possible and we’ll let you know if we have any more info on the instructions for constructing one.
      Alisa, do you know of anyone who’s tackled this kind of project?

      • Alisa Wyatt

        Alisa Wyatt

        Member since 2011

        No one has shared their DIY instructions for a Wunda Chair yet, sorry!

    • Alisa Wyatt

      Alisa Wyatt

      Member since 2011

      Jennifer one thing you could do is borrow a chair from someone and have a woodworker copy it or have her/him visit someone who owns a chair and measure it very carefully so he/she can make it. We’d love to share your instructions if you do have this done!!

  4. Avatar


    Member since 2020

    i would like to try this. Where did you get your supplies from?

    • Alisa Wyatt

      Alisa Wyatt

      Member since 2011

      Hi pilateswithjenny, Sunni shared her process with us but I don’t think she sees these comments. I believe she got the materials from Home Depot. They all should be available at a building supplies store and you can source the naugahyde online. Good luck!

  5. Andrea Maida

    Andrea Maida

    Member since 2012

    LOL !! Maybe start with an easier project like the 2×4 exerciser – can be done at halftime 🙂

  6. Avatar


    Member since 2017

    my husband says no…weekends are for football!!!!! but thanks!

    • Avatar

      Stacy Hohman

      Member since 2023

      You can do it yourself!!!

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