Admit it, you’ve always wanted this: imagine a leather armchair like your grandfather might have owned. Overstuffed, puffed up, dark, and covered in polished brass studs. Now imagine you, your beslippered feet propped up on a finely upholstered leather ottoman, the glass stem of a wine glass between your fingers. You wrapped in your finest gold trimmed robe with a puffy collar tied about your waist. You are in your study. Oak paneling, elegant moulding, shelves filled with heavy leather bound books. The shadows in the room so softly melding with the the faint amber light of a crackling fire and iron wrought table side lamp. Go ahead, take a puff on your bubble pipe, and enjoy the perks of a life well lived.
It evokes a certain scene, right? Perhaps you are caught up in feelings feelings of finery and elegance? Perhaps you can smell the aged tobacco and mulled wine? Well please allow me to present our newest creation that takes us just got one step closer to that overblown, clichéd estate ambiance. Yes, the very self-same!
Behold! Our rolling library ladder (brassy and plucky fanfare).
First off let me point out, this ladder is legit. I’m talking about those 15 degree sloped steps. I’m talking about those mortised stairs. Those polished oak rails, those self-locking spring loaded wheels, those vintage cast iron metal slides. You know, the right stuff.
This ladder is a salvaged rolling loft ladder from New York. The hardware was originally designed and built in Chicago in who knows when, and it looks great. We were gifted this ladder Christmas of last year, but have not been able to install it yet because of all of the other things we’ve had to do! Now that we’ve finally been able to wrap up the gray water system and the kitchen, and the closets (both the clothing and storage ones, even our couch), we decided now was the right time to get a permanent ladder. So we pull this tall fellow out of storage and started installing it!
When we first opened the package and started looking at the parts, we quickly realized that, while charming and vintage, most of the cast iron hardware needed some good TLC in order to work properly. First of all, the ladder was far too tall for our needs, so we had to cut off a couple steps. No worries there, in fact, we are thinking about turning the two steps we couldn’t use into a step stool! We’ll keep you up to date on that. Secondly, the cast iron glides were rusted over and the paint was chipping in several places. When we first tried to install it, the glides repeatedly seized up and refused to glide smoothly. On top of that, one of the wheels had an annoying squeak to it every time you stepped on the bottom rung. This thing was going to need some work.
So, we got right to it. I spend a solid half of a day with sandpaper buffing off of the layers of rust that had built up in and around the hardware to get to the silvery steel underneath. Afterward, I applied a generous amount of mechanical grease to the insides of the metal slides and around the unfinished steel I had just unearthed. It was just the right old fashioned trick we needed, and after a fair amount of work, the slides worked with little complaint. The wheels were a bit dusty and filled with cobwebs, and after cleaning those out, I popped open a can of WD-40 and set to work fixing the squeaky wheel.
While I was working on the mechanics, I also took some time to buff up the side rails and clean off some of the caked up dirt and dust. Besides that, some of the steps had a sticky residue left over by some rubber step grips that had peeled off some time ago. Some soap and water for the dirt, and some alcohol for the sticky steps, and it was good as new.
The rolling rail that came with the ladder was a different story. It just didn’t fit the rest of our décor, and we weren’t sure what the paint was made of, so we set off to make our own rolling rail. After poking around in hardware for many, many (MANY) hours, we found a great solution! ¾ inch black iron pipe and fittings! Except, we decided that it wouldn’t be black for long. After a short amount of time with a sander, I stripped off the top layer of black asphalt that seasoned the metal and once again got to the bottom layer of silvery metal. I then applied a coat of linseed oil to bring out the sheen of the raw metal and to keep it from rusting for a short time. It looks pretty great on our loft! And its strong enough for me to trust too.
After we hitched the ladder on the rail and did some tests, we found that we have to re-learn how to climb a ladder that can move. The bottom wheels lock when you step on the rungs, but the top can still roll if you’re not careful. Sierra and I learned that the best way to stay safe is to plant our hands, lean back a little bit, and take one step at a time so we don’t swing the ladder too much. Its a bit of an adjustment, but the safety and extra piece of mind is worth it.
So that’s it! Our new ladder is probably the classiest addition to our house so far. Tell us what you think about it!