I am constantly amazed to discover new subcultures on planet Earth that I had no idea existed. Such was the case when someone asked me if I could build a dog ramp for a woman who had had a stroke. I had never heard of a dog ramp. Was it like an exit ramp on the highway but for dogs to get off a walking trail after a long hike? Boat ramps let you back a trailer down into the water so that you can slide the boat into the lake. Maybe a dog ramp makes it easier for Fido to go for a swim without having to take a flying leap off the dock.
Google enlightened me that a dog ramp lets “athletically challenged” dogs get up onto a bed. Why that would be a desirable thing is not clear to me. I thought the idea was to keep animals off the furniture but I’m not a pet owner so what do I know. Anyway my job was not to ask questions but to build the ramp.
A doggie ramp has two main parts: the platform, which should be about even with the top of the bed mattress, and the ramp up to the platform. In this case, the mattress was 27” off the floor. The ramp itself needed to have a gradual slope so that the aforementioned athletically challenged dog could climb it. I thought it would be very entertaining to wax the ramp and put the dog on it like a Slip ‘N Slide but my ever-loving wife, “Gertrude” (not her real name), put her hands on her hips and said, “Zat is not funny.” Although I might have detected a little snicker, I decided to play it safe and make it a non-slip surface with some leftover carpet.
Then there is the question of how close to put the ramp to the bed. Too close and you can’t make the bed or change the sheets. Too far and Rover might tumble off and get even more challenged. Ideally, the gap should be easily adjustable to avoid both problems.
The solution was to connect the ramp to the platform with a French cleat, which is a pair of beveled pieces of wood that nest together. One piece goes on the ramp and the other on the front side of the platform. Gravity holds them together. I set the table saw at 15 degrees and ripped a 2” x 4” that was 24” long, which was the width of the platform. Since the ramp was only 12” wide, I cut its half of the cleat to 12”. Here’s the nice part about the French cleat: the ramp piece can slide sideways while still holding the ramp to the platform. For normal operation, the ramp can be right next to the bed, but when you want to change the sheets you can easily slide the ramp out of the way without disconnecting it.
I made the ramp and platform out of one sheet of ½” plywood and glued and screwed all of the joints. I ripped the plywood into two 6” wide pieces for the ramp sides and another 6” wide piece for making the “rungs” of the ramp frame. To figure out the angle of the ramp side pieces where they sat on the floor, I put one lying flat on my worktable with the “pointy” floor corner of the side on the edge of the table and adjusted the other end until it was 26½” (27” minus the thickness of the plywood that would go on top) from the edge and drew a pencil line along the edge on the bottom of the side piece. Without moving the side piece, I drew a line for the other end perpendicular to the edge of the worktable to make it parallel to the platform. Then I cut the ramp sides along those angled lines.
Since I needed about 1” of room for stapling the carpet on the underside of the ramp, I made the ramp frame only 10” wide because the ramp top was 12” wide. This meant the ramp crosspiece rungs should be 9” wide because they were inside the ½” thick sides. I glued and screwed the ramp frame together and then glued and screwed on the 12” wide ramp top.
The platform frame was a simple 24” x 24” x 26½” box of plywood without a bottom. The top was at least an inch larger all the way around to allow for stapling the carpet on the underside. I assembled three sides of the box and attached the cleat while I had easy access to the inside. After attaching the last side and the top, I cut the carpet to size and stapled it with a pneumatic stapler. (See Coming to a big screen near you.)
I’m adding “doggie ramp builder” to my resume. It can’t hurt.
Don’t tell Gertrude, but I still think it would have been funny to wax the ramp.