Make Your Own Ladder Shelf for your Craft Show Display

I want to get away from using tables in my display. Tables are very limited in their display potential. You can add shelves to them, but you are still losing the bottom three feet or so of vertical space.

After reviewing the options, I decided to go with a ladder shelf. I didn’t actually have a ladder, so I made my own.



It was very easy to make.

I just bought eight 6 foot long 1×4’s and 3 1×10’s (they were on sale at Busy Beaver, but 1×12’s would give you even more space on your shelves).

Then I cut up eight of them to make the crossbars. I cut them to fit the 1×10 boards, but cut them for whatever size board you are using for the shelves.

I laid out the 4 6 foot pieces and the 8 crossbars on top of each other as I was glueing so they would line up correctly. I “clamped” them by putting 20 and 15 pound dumbbells on top of them.

I was planning on adding screws as well, but I got lazy. If you have heavy items to display like pottery or something, definitely add the screws to be safe.

After the glue was dry, I laid them out and added the hinges.


I didn’t, but I suggest that you sand before you put the hinges on. I sanded it afterward while it was standing up (on my porch). I also sanded the boards, so everything has nice smooth rounded edges. After sanding, add a rope or chain to keep the ladder from spreading out too far.

I drilled holes through the second crossbars from the bottom and ran a rope through the hole and tied a good knot on each end.

After it’s all sanded, you are ready for your show. Though of course you might want to stain and/or lacquer it. I didn’t.


I’m even thinking of using this for indoor shows. Imagine everyone else with tables, and your eye catches this across the room. You have to go check it out.

It is heavy. It’s a lot of solid wood, so it’s heavy. And it takes up a lot of room in the vehicle. In fact, if you only transport your stuff in a car, you are probably out of luck.

But if you have a station wagon or a van, it’s still very portable. It folds up flat. I made the 2 bottom shelves 6 feet long, so it’s a lot of space too. I’m considering making another one, but I may not have the space for it in my station wagon. Another thing you could do is make mini ladder shelves like this one below, but using the same template as I used to make my big one.


I hope you are inspired to make your own craft show shelving now. It’s so super easy, and you can save a bunch of money. My shelf cost me about 40 dollars. Though of course, my wood was on sale, and I can use every bit of my scrap pieces to make toys out of. I can even use the shelves if I need to during the winter, and make more shelves next year.

Update: If I made this again, I would go with 1×2’s for the sides and crosspieces instead of the 1×4’s. It would be lighter and “cleaner” looking, because the wide boards wouldn’t be sticking out as far from the shelves. I would definitely screw in the shelves for a ladder shelf made with 1×2’s.

I haven’t been using the ladder shelf as much, since I made a larger, floor version of these shelves. They are 5 feet tall, with 1×10’s for the shelf boards. I use 2 folding things to hold up 6 foot long boards. They are lighter and hold more because the shelves don’t have to be tapered up with the ladder design.




12 thoughts on “Make Your Own Ladder Shelf for your Craft Show Display

  1. Hi Cheryl 🙂 I finally got around to reading your blog . The kids loved the snake story ! We got an Aquarium pass this year and would love for you to be our guests there next time you are back here . Oh and we are also having a event for the big latch on if you would like to donate a toy(s) as door prizes to get the word out about your business .

  2. I love it.. I’ve been wanting ladders for my booth for a while but have been having a hard time finding old ones.. so this is a great solution! 🙂 thanks for posting!

  3. Pingback: Craft Booth-ing : School of Moxie

  4. Hi, I really love this design. I had a bunch of old wood fencing laying around and some old hinges. I just built one of these for some historic reenactment shows that I do. They are great for a rustic way of displaying pottery. Thank you for the idea. I am excited to see how well it works.



  6. Pingback: 24 Ladder Bookshelf Plans | Guide Patterns

  7. Do you have a problem with tipping? If one side of the plank is heavier that the other when you put your stuff on it. I like the design, but I’m worried about the shelves tipping if the stuff on display is heavier on one side than the other.

    • Hi, that is something you need to watch out for, but it has not been a real problem for me. The top shelf is the tippiest, so you should put the heaviest stuff on the bottom. But like I said, it hasn’t been an issue for me. Wooden toys are lightweight.

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