I was invited by Perennial StL to enter a furniture competition where we were supplied an old wooden ladder and were tasked to turn it into a fresh new furnishing for the home using only the wood salvaged from the ladder. Also, we were only to use hardware that we had readily available, we weren’t able to purchase anything new. I immediately started thinking about an Adirondack chair, probably because I have been lusting after some salvaged pallets to make one for myself, but I talked it over with some people at the office and we decided that was an obvious choice and that I should come up with something that is a little more unusual than a chair. That also ruled out coffee and end tables as most people have that taken care of already. Naturally, my mind went towards alcohol, specifically alcohol display and storage. I wanted something that was portable, usable for inside and outside, and also multifunctional if possible. I started sketching up some ideas for a bar cart/wine caddy/breakfast butler that contain storage and workspace as well as be portable and easy to move around.
Here are some initial sketches (using 53’s Paper app on the iPad):
Initially I wanted the slide out piece to be an extension of the top and provide more workspace or possibly a removable cutting board but when I determined that I wouldn’t have enough wood to do either of those I decided to build a small drawer for added storage.
Inside each step on the ladder was a threaded metal rod that help strengthen the step. I have wire wine glass racks in my cellar and they came to my mind once I decided on building the wine caddy. Now all I had to do was to figure out how to do it…
There was some existing hardware that I salvaged off of the ladder that looked like a metal cup that the step supports were seated into. I thought a nice feature could be to reuse those to include a towel rack on the final piece.
My first task was to break down the ladder, inventory the individual pieces, and sand everything down. Then I biscuit jointed (is that a word?) the main “C” shapes together.
I forgot to mention that Perennial also supplied us with a natural beeswax finish and milk paint for our projects. Since they promote sustainability and upcycling, they wanted everyone to use non-toxic finishes as well. What they didn’t mention is how much a pain in the ass the milk paint was going to be. It comes in powder form which you mix with water and then mix up. Mixing was the first of many problems with the milk paint. It got chunky at best and went on like water. What you see in the photo above is about four coats of the milk paint and I still didn’t have coverage. A happy accident was that I ended up liking the wood grain showing through, it looked a bit like a colored stain so I went with it. The beeswax on the other hand I really liked. You rub it on, wait 30 minutes and wipe it off. It gave the wood a nice sheen.
Starting to get the two large pieces together.
Working on the wine bottle storage/plate storage section. The slats are spaced so that 3 wine bottle can rest in between the grooves (marked by the blue stripes) and then 3 more bottles can be stacked on top of them in a pyramid.
Getting the rest of the rack together. This side of the rack is purely decorative. I wanted to come with something functional for this side – I wanted everything on the cart to have a function to give it a reason for being there but I was just simply running out of wood and time.
I took these photos the morning that the cart needed to be delivered to Perennial. I would have preferred to do the shoot outside but of course it started to rain so I had to shoot it in the garage.
Here it is staged as the bar cart.
Here is how the wine bottles stack up.
A detail shot of how the glass racks turned out. I used a vise and my bare hands to make all of the bends.
Detail of the drawer, which is pretty shallow but could hold bar tools, silverware, coasters, etc.
Here’s the setup for the breakfast butler.