How to Give a Flying F***

Building a Flying Pull-ups Ladder

Materials

  • Two 12 ft. 2”x4” lumber
  • Six ¾” diameter threaded gas pipes 30” length
  • Twelve floor flanges for ¾” gas pipes
  • One small (8 fl.oz.?) can of exterior urethane sealant and paint brush
  • Forty-eight 1” #12 flat-head wood screws
  • Twenty ft. of ¼” plastic covered cable
  • Two ⅜” sleeve cable clamps with stops
  • Two screw-gate links or carabiners

Tools

  1. Wood saw
  2. Drill
  3. Drill bit/saw for cutting 1” diam. holes
  4. Screwdriver
  5. Two adjustable wrenches or channel-lock pliers
  6. Cable cutter

Instructions 

  1. Clamp lumber together along their length, so you can drill holes simultaneously through both.
  2. Mark locations for rung holes. This is a personal choice. One rung should definitely be a foot from the bottom. I started the rest of them at a point slightly below my full reach when the ladder is tilted. My full reach is 7 feet, so I wanted a starting-rung  height of 6’6”. Accounting for tilt, I centered my first climbing rung 6’9” from the bottom of the side rail.
  1. Next, decide your rung spacing. I spaced them 9 inches apart. If you’re a beast, maybe you could do 12”. You can always skip rungs as you get strong. Any closer than 9”, however, and your wrists might knock rungs below your grip. So mark the centers of successive rung holes. I have 5 rungs at 9” spaces.
  2. Drill holes with the 1” diameter cutter. With the rails clamped together, you can drill through both at once and be sure the heights will match.
  3. Check to ensure the gas pipes fit through the holes you’ve cut, then put the pipes aside. Why do you need a 1” hole for a ¾” pipe? I’m not smart enough to know.
  1. If your side rails extend more than 6” beyond your top rung, you can cut the excess
  2. You may want to seal the wood rails with exterior urethane sealant, or varnish. I did. The smallest (8 fl. ounce?) can should suffice for two coats.
  3. Fit the rungs through the holes, with the threads poking through to the outside.
  4. This part’s tricky. You want to screw the floor flanges on the rungs,on the outside of the rails, but with the flat side of the flange against the rail. The reason this is tricky is that they’re designed to attach to the pipe facing the other way, so it can take a bit of force to screw them the way I prescribe. Sometimes it helped to screw them once the designed way (with the pipe starting into the raised “nipple” side of the flange —to clear out the threads—then undoing it and trying from the flat backside), but it’s primarily a matter of forcing the start. That’s why I call for two wrenches or channel lock pliers. I managed it eventually for each of the 12 pipe-ends
  1. You don’t need to fully sink the pipe in the flange sockets. The rail-holes hold the weight of the rungs. The flanges just secure the rungs, so if you can only screw them in a few turns, it’s enough.
  2. Check to see the rungs are all even and the side rails parallel.
  3. Drill pilot holes for the screws in the four holes of each flange. Screw them to the side rails.
  4. The ladder should be good and sturdy now.
  5. If you wish, wrap some duct tape around the circumference of the very bottom of each side rail, so it won’t splinter with use.
  6. I lean the ladder out on the ground below my back deck, which allows me to stay it with cables I loop around each side rail just below the first climbing rung.
  7. I made the cable with loops at each end, fixed with cylinder clamps. You form the loop and hammer the clamp flat to secure it, with a little stopper cylinder added to the loose end of the cable. If you use a plastic covered cable, the cylinder clamp must be the next size up— i.e., a ⅜” clamp for a ¼” coated cable. Then I put an overhand-on-a-bight in the just-created loop so the knot takes the pull before the clamp does. Insurance!
  1. The exact length of your cable stay will be a function of your available anchor and the angle you want. Figure it out before you cut and loop the cable. Make the loops big enough to take the knots.
  1. Set it all up, with carabiners to secure the cable to each rail.
  1. If your ladder rails are soft wood, like mine, you may choose to pad the cable ends.
  1. Brace the ladder feet (I’ve got a retaining wall below my back deck), lean the ladder out against the taut cables. You’re good to go !

Using it

You can do flying pull-ups. Eventually you can skip rungs or wear a weight vest

It’s also great for regular pull-ups and variations. The metal rungs should withstand ice tools, too. 

You can do leg lifts, hanging windshield-wipers and other core exercises.

Flip the ladder and you can swing from what was the bottom-most foot rung. Maybe you can do muscle-ups.

You can unhook the ladder from the anchor cables, then lower it and load heavy things (like sand bags, a growing calf or a sofa-full of people) on some of the rungs and use it like a long lever to do dead lifts or rows.

It’s a one-piece gym ! In between workouts, you can rescue kittens from trees.

Send photos, please.

And be warned: Climbing can be dangerous and it’s your responsibility to safely anchor and secure the ladder and to use it sensibly. I make no warranties with these instructions!

Bill Alpert 

William.alpert@barrons.com

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