Do it yourself! How to make your own Pilates Ladder Barrel
A 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…
- 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)
- 0000 Steel Wool
- Tack Cloth
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.
Construct the Barrel section with 1″x 2″s or bendable/flexi plywood.
A center board is added for strength.
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.
Scott used ‘come-along’ straps to assist with adding the upholstery.
A thick, firm door mat 24″x 36″ was used for even distribution when tightened down.
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)
Weights were used to help to compress the padding.
The ‘come-along’ straps were then pulled tight.
The next photos show the sequential stapling of the vinyl. The stapling can done in a very systematic way.
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.
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.
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!
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.