Makeshift Scaffolding of All Sorts

A commenter on our last post asked about the stair block, so this seemed as good a time as any to point out that you should always make sure your ladder is firmly seated on a surface that will not slip before climbing up. It seems so simple, but it's a fairly common handyman accident to improperly seat the ladder. A few wobbles from way up high and you're getting to learn all about leverage and vector math in a very personal way.

Anyway, a few months ago Noel built this handy stair block. The dimensions are sized to our stairs and our ladder, but the concept is pretty simple: you just raise the height of a couple stairs up enough to make a level platform.

Schwa checks out the stair block

The block is very firmly screwed together with 2 1/2" wood screws. You want a very sturdy piece of material to do this job; a ladder puts a lot of force on the surface it is sitting on both directly down and sideways. If you just made a loose piles of pieces of lumber, they could slide and destabilize your ladder pretty easily.

On the other hand, there's no reason to get too fancy with the block: it's a tool. Ours is made of scrap lumber.

Goldie demonstrates the stair block's construction

(As you can see, I had a Bad Case of Animals while I was taking photos.)

In the back hall, I've finished washing the plaster I can reach easily from a standing position, and today I set up the folding ladder as scaffolding. Schwa helped me test it for safety. I believe he approves, because he's been on the thing all day.

Schwa on the scaffolding

I find the scaffolding configuration a little more manageable for long periods of time, and it is certainly easier to move around on it, as opposed to having to climb up and down the ladder and drag that around all the time. We have a board that fits nicely over the upper rungs to make a platform.

Do I have a picture of that? Hmm, yes:

Scaffolding and cat

As I said, the scaffolding is very popular with the cat.

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posted by ayse on 01/20/10


Good kitty! Schwa knows you put all those great climbing toys there for him, so he's making the most of it.

It took him ten minutes to figure out how to climb a ladder. Minutes later he was staring intently at a hole in the wall, considering how to jump through it. I'm thinking there may be some kitty-shelves in his future.

I've never been able to figure out how to paint in my stairwell - your block is genius! Do you have any concerns about the ladder slipping off? It may be that there's enough "tooth" between the ladder and the block, though.

I may have missed it - but is there a meaning behind the name Schwa? He's very photogenic!

There's lots of friction between the surface of block and the ladder. And because the block goes right up against the railing, we don't have to worry about it tipping over (unless the railing fails, but it's pretty sturdy.

As for Schwa, it's a letter in the International Phonetic Alphabet, the "uh" sound, marked with an upside-down e. We chose it because he had a previous name, Dingo, which was bad luck for him, but we couldn't decide on a new name for him immediately. So for a week or two he was called The Cat Formerly Known As Dingo, and then we decided to replace his name with a symbol. Also, whenever people asked his name, we would say, "uh...." So Schwa worked on many levels.

Thank you, Ayse, for posting the images of the stair blocks. I couldn't quite picture them from the text. Hope you don't object if I steal this idea when I start my staircase.

May I add another word of caution. When at the top of the ladder, do not over-reach. Too much weight shifts and it is easy to lose balance. I learned this the hard way.

Thanks for your post. I follow it every week.

Thank you for the excellent illustration and explanation. I had never heard of a stair block before.
Schwa is a cutie. I'll bet he doesn't miss a thing. Typical little boy cat - lots of big ideas and enthusiasm, but not always a lot of common sense. A delightful combination!

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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