Homemade Rope Ladder

Written by jack hugo
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Homemade Rope Ladder
A rope ladder can double as an emergency fire escape. (echelle de corde image by Jean-François DESSUP from Fotolia.com)

A rope ladder is an integral part of many treehouses and playgrounds, but it can also prove invaluable as an emergency fire escape. Placing a rope ladder over the side of a boat allows swimmers and skiers a safe and simple re-entry. Unlike traditional ladders, the rope version can be rolled up and stored in the boot of your car. Building a rope ladder is both simple and inexpensive, and with proper care and maintenance, the ladder should remain usable for years.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Electric drill
  • Drill bit, 1 1/4-inch
  • Vice
  • Table or handsaw
  • Oak dowels, 24 inches long, 2-inch diameter
  • Nylon rope, 1-inch diameter, 90.7kg. weight capacity minimum
  • Washers, 1 1/4-inch
  • Measuring tape
  • Felt-tip marker

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  1. 1

    Determine the length of your rope ladder by measuring the distance between ground level and where the ladder will be attached. Dowel rungs should be placed 12 inches apart, with an additional 2 inches factored in for the diameter of each dowel. Add another 2 inches in length for each knot that must be tied. Leave approximately 3 feet of rope above the top and bottom rungs, so the ladder can be tied off. Building a 10-foot ladder would require two 25-foot lengths of rope, ten 24-inch dowels, and 40 washers.

  2. 2

    Cut the dowels into 24-inch lengths. Measure 2 inches from the end of each dowel, and mark a drilling spot with the felt-tipped marker. Place the dowel in the vice and tighten. Drill completely through the dowel at the marked spot using the 1 1/4-inch drill bit. Repeat this procedure for each dowel.

  3. 3

    Measure 3 feet from one end of each rope--the bottom of the ladder--and make a mark. Tie an overhand knot at the 3-foot mark. Thread the opposite ends of each rope--the top of the ladder--through the washers, followed by the dowels, and followed by another washer. Slide the dowels and washers down the length of the rope until they meet the knot. Tie overhand knots tight against the top washers.

  4. 4

    Measure 12 inches from the first dowel and make a mark. Tie another overhand knot in each rope. Continue threading the rope through the bottom washers, the dowels, and the top washers. Tie an overhand knot tight against the top washers. Repeat this process with the remaining eight rungs of your rope ladder.

Tips and warnings

  • The top end of the rope ladder can be left loose, tied into loops, or fitted with grappling hooks.
  • Ascending and descending the ladder will be much easier if the bottom is attached to stationary points on the ground.
  • Climb a rope ladder slowly. They are unstable, and falls are common.
  • Only one person should climb a rope ladder at a time. Do not overload the weight limit of either the ropes or the rungs.

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