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San Francisco Fire Department’s Ladder Shop-and Building Your Own Ladder

Written by mike on November 4th, 2010

Inside the Ladder Shop at the San Francisco Fire Department – a wonderful look at a historic institution that has been building wooden ladders for the SFFD since the early 1900’s. Used instead of the modern lightweight metal versions due to the amount of powered trolley lines still in use in the city (and partially for the wind-resisting benefit the extra weight gives). They’re not cheap, and the process is not fast, especially the time required to age the wood before construction can occur. Watch the video to get all the details.

Want to build a wooden ladder yourself? First, I recommend considering a pre-built one; a ladder that has been built with an unseen flaw can be dangerous or even deadly. That warning given, here is a set of plans to make a basic wooden ladder in just a few hours.

Tools and Materials
You will only need a few tools to build your quick and easy wood ladder. First, you will need a saw. I recommend a circular saw but even a simple hand saw would even suffice. Next, you will need either a hammer and nails or a screw driver (power drill/driver recommended) and screws. You will want two clamps to aid in cutting the ladder rails, a pencil, and a tape measure. Finally, you will need at least three 2″x4″x8′ boards (if your ladder is going to be taller than 7′, get longer boards).


  • RT @msenese: New post on my site: San Francisco Fire Department’s Ladder Shop-and Building Your Own Wooden Ladder http://j.mp/aUydzC

  • RT @msenese: New post on my site: San Francisco Fire Department’s Ladder Shop-and Building Your Own Wooden Ladder http://j.mp/aUydzC

  • Ray Hanson Jr

    I have a 20 foot straight wood ladder from our fire Dept. It is missing a couple of rungs. Can the SF ladder company fix ?

  • John Neihart

    I own a 64 Am LaFrance Tillered Aerial unit with wood ladders. They all need mojor attention. Can someone let me know how to proceed I would like them to show better, they look like crap. jneihart@chippewafiredistrict.com

  • joe snyder

    This wood ladder is a piece of crap

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