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Thread: critique on light weight collapsible portable stair case -please

  1. #1

    critique on light weight collapsible portable stair case -please

    Hey all

    Long time lurker, first post. Reading the forums has helped me innumerable times.

    I am what I call a hack. I can visualize, design, and build rough structures. Decks, rough-in framing, cabinetry carcasses, shelving units etc with no problem.

    However I have just been volun"told" for 2 small projects that have me at a loss.

    The first is below, the second I will post in the appropriate area of the forums.

    My mother in-law requires a collapsible set of stairs to allow her 12yo bernese mountain dog to get in and out of her car.

    Criteria is;
    1) light enough for a 75yo 90lb woman to maneuver/operate
    2) sturdy enough for a 120lb arthritic pup
    3) folds or collapses for storage in the car, without taking room away from the dog

    My first thought was to build nesting boxes, when stood on a side could be steps. I immediately built a set out of my last slab of WRC. Only to discover dogs do not have the same body mechanics we have. Making the steps wobbly and unsafe.

    Before I ruin anymore lumber I'd like feedback on my next idea.

    1/2" plywood construction. 20x24" main panel supporting 2 hinged 18x24" stringers . Removable treads that lock the stringers in place and lock the whole piece together when collapsed. Not a great description but hopefully good enough to get the idea across.

    Critiques? Suggestions?
    All appreciated. Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    southeast Michigan
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    Hello Kris, welcome to SMC. Sounds like a fun project you volunteered for. Since this is a car you're talking about I assume the threshold is not too high off the ground. And you mention collapsible but I'm thinking something small and light enough to fit in her trunk.

    I can tell you that dogs don't always need steps to go up and sometimes it is better for them to go up a ramp. A few years ago when I was still volunteering for Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan, I made them a "special" piece that could be used as steps or a ramp for dogs to get up or down in a full size van.

    It also needed to be light weight and strong. I've attached a couple of pictures just to give some ideas. The steps are 1/2 inch plywood and the sides and vertical step support pieces are cedar. Your's doesn't have to be convertible and I think you might be better off with just making a ramp covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting for traction. On this project I thought about using a couple of legs at the van that would swivel for storage, but realized an additional problem of locking them securely when in use. In the end I decided to just have the end sit on the van threshold and used recessed rubber feet at both end to keep it from slipping while in use. The handle is at the balance point and only on one side.

    Good luck with your project and let us know what you come up with (and pictures too).
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Challenging design. My first thought, lightweight, collapsable? - make it from aluminum. But that's not wood and would require special tools and skills, cutting, welding, perhaps machining.

    Before building the next one I'd calculate what it will weigh to make sure she can lift and fold it.

    Could it be a ramp? You didn't give specs (type of car, area of entry, width and height of entry) but a long enough ramp should be easier than steps for a dog. Non-skid surface, say covered with carpet. Maybe several sections that lock securely together so they can be handled and stored easier. Better if the car can be adapted to add attachment points.

    This idea may be totally impractical, but things might get a LOT easier for everyone if she could acquire a mini van. Some have a wide side door with a floor low to the ground, have removable seats. I had a quadriplegic friend who used a variety of vans over the years, at first with removable ramps for his wheelchair, then electric lifts. He eventually bought one modified to pneumatically lower one side and electrically extend a ramp. Wouldn't that be fantastic for an aging canine friend!

    JKJ

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Carrollton, Georgia
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    Wood is not really a good workable material for such a project, in my opinion. My wife and I had the same dilemma and found there are not any really good solutions.

    I built a simple box, a half way step, but even that turned out to be too heavy and cumbersome. Here's a commercially made one, which might be the best of all the bad solutions. We got one similar but unfortunately, our dogs would not go up it. As much as we hated to do it, we found leaving the dog at home was the least stressful for both canines and humans.

  5. #5
    Love that design. Maybe hinging it half way along the length would make it a bit easier to stow away.

    Your right I did neglect to give some important criteria. The mother inlaws car is a hatchback with 24"

  6. #6
    John, I agree that just the ramp would be fine. But when you are picking up Lassie or Rin Tin Tin at the airport ....I'm sure they feel special! That would be a good old age thing for people, climb up,slide down!

  7. #7
    20170716_083233.jpgreally rough sketch of what I was thinking about.
    24" tall, 20 wide and folds out to 19". 6" treads 6" rise
    the treads with either a dado or cleats to lock the stringers into place

    May be able to get away with 3/8 ply for the back and stringers, to lighten it up a bit

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Rochester, MN
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    Could a simple ramp work? Maybe like this with folding side rails?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Richards View Post
    Could a simple ramp work? Maybe like this with folding side rails?
    I like this design. You could make it easier to store by adding a piano hinge so the ramp bottom folds down and by making each side rail in two pieces that would flip up and but together when the ramp is unfolded. Add some rubber feet on the bottom so sliding would be minimized. Maybe Dave could alter his drawing....
    Lee Schierer - McKean, PA

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Contribute

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Schierer View Post
    IMaybe Dave could alter his drawing....
    Maybe like this?

  11. #11
    You know what. I think I'll abandon my folding step idea and build off of this drawing. It folds completely flat, easier on poor puppy joints etc.
    Appreciate it.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    McKinney, TX
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    My brother had a Honda Pilot and an older arthritic dog. I don't know where he got it but had an aluminum ramp that just layed loose on the back and pulled one end out to the ground when he needed it.
    Steve Jenkins, McKinney, TX. 469 742-9694
    Always use the word "impossible" with extreme caution

  13. #13
    Yeah, we have a lot of friends that have ORV'S that I could grab a ramp from. (Somehow after a good ride and a few wobblies one always goes missing from a set). Unfortunately that are too narrow for Rico nor will they fit in the back of a VW hatchback.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    southeast Michigan
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    Dave's ramp design is a good idea, but I would forgo the hinged sides and affix them permanently for strength. A 120 pound dog is heavier than most people realize. The sides do not have to be very tall; 3 inches of 3/4 inch wood, like cedar should be sufficient. The slotted holes would help lighten it some and provide a handhold.

    A ramp for a dog, even a large one, does not have to be very wide. 15-16 inches would suffice, but no matter the width the dog would likely have to be guided up and down the ramp at least until he/she gets used to it. And with a narrower ramp you should be able to use 3/8 plywood. Do not use traction strips as you do not know where the dog will be placing it's paws and those strips are meant more for horizontal surfaces. Thin carpeting for a ramp like this will weigh less than a pound.

    The angle of the ramp needs to be considered, especially in this case for an arthritic dog. Needing to go up 24 inches means the ramp should be at least 5 feet long which gives a 23.6 degree angle. Much more and the dog will not want to go up it. I realize storage may be a problem but a one piece ramp would be simple, solid and the least weight. I would not even consider a hinged ramp unless there was some sort of vertical support below the hinged area. And this not only complicates the design and build for you but actual use of it for your MIL. Plus it would be disastrous if an unsupported ramp failed or was "bouncy". The dog would never use a ramp again.

    As someone mentioned, convince your MIL to get a minivan. More room for the dog and easier for both of them to get in and out of. I have a minivan and my 9 year old, 90 pound, arthritic German Shepherd gets in fairly easy on the side. He does have to "contemplate" the jump for a couple of seconds first though.

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    My drawings were only intended to illustrate the concept of a folding ramp and not as a construction plan. With a appropriate hinges, the ramp will be more than strong enough for a 120 pound pooch. The rails were drawn as 1x4 (3/4 in. thick by 3-1/2 in. wide). I'd add some 1x4 material on either side of the seam line to add some meat for screws or better, short carriage bolts. It would make the ramp a little thicker when folded but add strength.

    I agree that carpet (boat carpet would be good) would be better than the friction tape. Again, I just intended it for the concept.

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