Ingenious Folding Ladder Built by Roy Underhill

//Ingenious Folding Ladder Built by Roy Underhill

In the above quick video Bill Anderson and I show how Roy Underhill’s famous “folding ladder” works. Roy’s design is based on a folding ladder used by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. You can learn more about Thomas Jefferson’s folding ladder here.


Here’s the best price for the season 8 DVD of “The Woodwright’s Shop” where Roy shows how to build this ladder: here or here. You can also download the single episode here for around $5.


What amazing woodworking inventions have you discovered?


About the Author:

Joshua loves mixing his passion for traditional hand tool woodworking with his ability to teach in a simple manner. He lives on a small farm in Earlysville, Virginia with his wife and four children, and builds furniture in his workshop / woodworking school.

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Joshua FarnsworthMatthew LeeJason Hammond Recent comment authors
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Jason Hammond
Jason Hammond

In Roy’s book “The Woodwright’s Eclectic Workshop” 1991 Chapel Hill Press, page 87 he gives exact dimentions of the ladder, rungs, grooves and all and some of its history. The only thing I could see with the ladder is its width. I’m afraid it would be to narrow for my big feet. If you made the rungs wider then they would probably be spaced too far apart to step up on the next rung. I know after seeing that episode I thought about a few variation of that ladder. Of course I love just about everything T Jefferson thought up.

Matthew Lee

Thanks for posting this. Very clever indeed. That design is beyond what I can do with the limited tools I have. But the picture of the one by Jefferson or his woodworker is within reach. Here: The design is somewhat different, it appears simpler to me at least. In plan view, the sides of the ladder are “L” shaped. And the rungs of the ladder just run between the two “L’s” which are turned opposite directions. The rungs appear to be connected to the rails of the ladder with some sort of dowel. I wonder how can the dowels… Read more »

Matthew Lee

p.s. Tried to send you a message through your contact form, but it wouldn’t go through, it seemed to just keep thinking…. with a few arrows going in circles indicating it was processing, but never sent the message. No big deal, just thought you’d want to know. Maybe its just my computer?

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