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Shortly before leaving the office Friday, I get a text from the foremost hired hand of Bolingbrook's Colonial Village, Jesse. It's two pictures of a ladder with its final rung lopped in half, and a plea for help. He asked if I could weld it back together tonight as he needs it for a big job in the morning. Aside from his drywall work and snowplow route, Jesse employs a handful of our neighbors in his seasonal gutter-cleaning business and, of course, 'tis the season! The towering maples, birches and Siberian elms (oh, the elms; they shed their limbs before their leaves!) fill blocks and blocks of uncovered gutters with their audacious deciduous behavior. The gutters have thawed and drained, leaving behind the organic muck. Be not careful to maintain your gulping culverts and with time a maple will be stretching its trunk above your tall colonial roof in its youth!

Our seasonal savior Jesse was in a pinch and I knew I had to help. Those 36 footers are dernnear $500 on the cheap! I explain to Jesse that my arc welder would surely blow holes in that costly aluminum frame, but I can certainly replace the wrecked rung with my fabricationry, or as I truly hoped it would be, with my certified blackmithery. When he arrived, I presented him with my idea of feeding a 1" piece of conduit through both side holes of the ladder legs, cutting a 1 1/2" line down the center of each end of the conduit, splaying the separated ends left and right and then bolting them through the legs. Despite the conduit being very similar in thickness and diameter to the original rungs, Jesse wouldn't have it. He explains that he wants to be able to step heavy and hard on his first step in his ascent, that he must not encounter this issue again.

"Do you have something stronger?"

With that, I lead him by light of smartphone to the oxidizing hoard of Red Shed Forge just waiting for warmth. With a smile and air of urgency, he left the selection to my imagination. And so I went to work. A long handle protruding up from the carcass of a butchered air compressor caught my eye. A 1/4" round bar bent to a 24" rectangle. The angle grinder threw bright sparks which quickly frayed and burst on end; it moved under hammer not so quickly, not so slowly. 

To commence in my smithness; to commence with the knowledge and feeling that this patron of handiworks to the villagers needs my assistance, is to commence with inspired and confident vigor. A simple ladder rung repair becomes a reinforcer of an -- unorthodox venture. A seemingly antiquated skillset remains, steadfast, a purveyor of neighborhood repairs.

My 3-hour Process:

  • 2 round bars forge welded side-by-side on each end
  • Ends forged out to rounded tabs 
  • Rounded tabs drifted, hamburger style, to avoid splitting the weld
  • Tabs twisted in vise to proper orientation 
  • 1 tab bent at an angle
  • Ladder end is dragged up onto heal of the anvil
  • Cold end is fed through bottom hole in ladder leg, while straight, heated end is fed under and through the top leg
  • With rung placed against the side of the heal, the heated end is hammered and bent down onto the side of the leg
  • As the rung cools, it grips tighter
  • Holes are drilled through the ladder legs, bolts are inserted and tightened
  • Finished with rust-preventive gray spray paint. 

 

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  Do you have comprehensive liability insurance?  I once helped a "friend" stabilize a carport after a storm.  It was heavy wood construction and was leaning over crazily.  I later got threatened with a lawsuit after tornado force winds wend through and it collapsed on his car.  I'm glad nobody was in it.   On my behalf, I don't do shoddy repair work.  I would never work on somebody else's ladder.  

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There's the buzzkill I felt was on its way! You're right, it's foolish to trust a system of community members intent on helping each other. It's far better to go about assuming the worst will happen and friends and neighbors will abandon all integrity of choices made; will point blame away from themselves and acknowledge no involvement in the matter. 

I'm sorry you're jaded by a  'friend' who sold you down the river. I do appreciate your concern and subsequent need to impart your experience, but I'm interested in what you find shoddy about this work?  When Jesse came to pick it up, he put it to his test. He stomped on it, got up on it with both feet and all his weight and bounced up and down a few times. He got down, looked at me and remarked that it had to be the strongest rung on the ladder now. He then worked on it all day and texted me another thank you for my work. 

Of course insurance is important. I'm fortunate to have it. But when I didn't have it, I was still doing work some might consider risky in the same manner. But I only ever delivered on the work if I thought the final product was up to my standards and the standards of the client. To discourage neighborly aid with the assumption that if they get the chance they will do you dirty, is to encourage community mistrust and is inherently divisive. 

Cautious, yes. And if you can afford it, get it. But I advocate for confidence in this situation. Confidence in my work to hold up, and confidence in my hardworking neighbor's integrity. 

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  Oops.  I guess you told me.  I was not trying to cast aspersions.  I guess I am jaded by life experiences.  Sometimes they have a way of doing that to one.  I will quit now with my "helpful" advise on all topics in case I am taken the wrong way.  BTW, I was saying MY work was not shoddy, causing the stupid carport to fall down in ferocious winds and destroy his car.  MY WORK....  Buzzkill.....

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It reads like you are saying your carport work WAS shoddy and your recollection of it was implying mine was also shoddy. 

I responded so harshly because I felt I was being checked for naivete of not only a risk, but of my own impression of my work. When you have given direct advice or made recommendations to me recently, I truly appreciated it and looked into making it happen. I do not ask that you stop giving me or anyone else your 2 cents. In this instance I felt wronged and driven to reply as such. 

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I am curious how the safety rules are about this kind of work in the USA. Over here it is 100% illegal to repair or change anything on a ladder (unless it is provided by the manufacturer of the ladder) Do you even have rules on that matter? I like the way you repaired it though.

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Thanks for the compliment. That's very interesting, I never would have thought to check into ladder laws. I figured it was up to the owner of the ladder to choose what to do with his ladder, especially since he didn't plan on reselling it. I will look into the discretions we have with our own ladders for possible future ladder repairs. 

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If you search ladder repair you'll find only large ladder manufacturers repair ladders and the advertise being licensed, bonded and insured to do so. 

I'd also worry about a contractor who  makes a living with a ladder that won't spend the entirely deductible $500 or replace one. What does it cost to have 3rd. story gutters cleaned? A 1 story single family ranch costs more than $200 in Wasilla, Ak. Of course that is Alaska prices. Still.

I think you took quite a risk making a repair for a "friend" who plays fast and loose with safety, insurance and who knows what else for a dollar. If anybody gets hurt on or near that ladder an insurance adjuster is going to take a look, IF he has insurance the claim will be denied regardless if your repair had anything to do with it. Just using it on the job would do it, they'll cancel his policy too. 

Whoever is injured will have to sue and he's not likely to take all the blame himself. Want to bet all you own a fellow with so little sense or regard for the law won't claim you said it was legal? 

I have a couple friends who are shade tree builders, one put a lot of work in this place and I pay the premium for saving a buck back when. He's a good enough guy, I still think of him as a friend and we see each other occasionally. I just can't afford to let him build as if he were a contractor. 

I have no bones about your repair, looks like a good enough job of work. 

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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This is how things are ruled over here. 

Everyone who works with any kind of tool MUST get a VCA certificate, those come in two versions. One for the people who work and one for the ones telling people what to do (Since I am an engineer I have the latter). First one is just the basic rules about everything safety related, the second on goes into everything a lot deeper.

To get to the point, since everyone must have a VCA, everyone knows how to work safely. So if you mess up you yourself are to blame. The VCA rules about ladders are very simple: -inspect the ladder for any kind of damage before use, if damaged it should be thrown away. -Must be placed firmly. -Cannot be on uneven ground. -Must extend above what you are climbing against for about 70cm. -If there are better ways of getting to where you need to go, don't use the ladder. -Ladders are for climbing, not working on or transporting goods, both hands are needed to climb, so no holding tools or toolboxes. (some profusions get special treatment in this since a window washer can not use a scissor lift or something like that)

If I decide to ignore any of those rules and ANYTHING happens (even if nobody gets hurt it is still an accident and it need to be reported by law) there will be a workplace inspection and if they see anything I did do wrong I could get fined up to 15000 euro, as will my boss. If what I did was something more people where doing wrong it could lead to the company being shut down until they presented a plan to get things safer.

And after everything is over, they will still visit the company, unannounced. Everything they find is fined or worse. 

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Liability law can be pretty messy. It's not your friend you have to worry about: it's their friend who borrows the ladder (maybe even without their knowledge or permission) or their employee. Someone has an accident, and they simply sue everyone in sight: you for modifying the ladder, your friend for using the modified ladder, etc.

That said, nice work. I wouldn't hesitate to make and use such a repair on one of my own.

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Alright everyone, I've learned my lesson: The risks of repairing the bottom rung of a ladder far outweigh the reward of helping your neighbor when he is in need of a quick repair. My apologies first and foremost to member No Debt for snapping back. This is not said facetiously. My apologies also to anyone who looks at my decision and acts similarly in the future; please consider the potential for expanding risk. 

Another personal lesson learned: Some things are best kept to yourself. Though it is likely already transparent to some based on my initial post, it feels good to be someone's first thought when they're in need of a repair. And 'ya know, I almost feel silly admitting this, but it feels good to have a place like IFI to share such projects/jobs to a group of people who will understand the sense of accomplishment one feels at completing a unique task like this. I've got many great friends and family in my life who support my iron and steel endeavors, but very few who really understand the endogenous drive that develops. But alas, the purpose here is more about education and practice than it is individual gratification and encouragement.

Thank you for viewing and reading my post and thank you to those who complimented my work.  

 

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The world has changed, and is still changing.  It is difficult for one fellow to keep up, but with the help of others we try. 

We want you to succeed, and try to point out potential problems at the same time.  They should come as a package so you can choose wisely.

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3 hours ago, Red Shed Forge said:

My apologies first and foremost to member No Debt for snapping back.

  No need for that RedShed.  It is all good.  I could have been more positive and clear in my reply.  Sometimes one's true intent and meaning gets lost along the way.  I am really guilty of that.  I get on a roll sometimes... You do fine work, btw.  This whole thread got me to thinking about some of the sharp, pokey junk I use in my sculptures.  I once made a huge bird with a razor sharp 3' beak made out of a scythe blade and neglected to blunt the edge.  Well, I sold it at an auction and somewhere out there is an accident waiting to happen.  I learned a lesson or two, here.  

  Scott

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Alex: There's more than trying to prevent other folk from getting into trouble or causing harm. We're concerned for YOU too. You're one of the gang and if we think you're doing something dangerous and didn't say something what kind of friends would that make us? We said something because we care.

I'd like to think that's pretty darned positive. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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In addition to what Frosty and Scott say above, there's another aspect of this that may not be immediately obvious: when we answer questions on the forum, we know that other people may be seeing this in the future as they look for answers on what they themselves should do in their own situations. In other words, we're trying both to give you good advice and to leave good reference material for others.

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Frosty,

That is certainly positive. And that's a good way to put it, you wouldn't care if you didn't feel the need to say anything. Thanks. 

John,

Yeah, I remembered that late on this post. Didn't keep it in mind, I should say. I guess that is what I was trying to apologize for when I mention "anyone who looks at my decision and acts similarly in the future." 

I appreciate you guys trying to help. And just for the record, I'm not ignoring Glenn's comment. I thought what he wrote was a good concise summation of all this and we spoke briefly via PM. 

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