The repetition and need to go up and down the ladder sparked an idea in an area man that he later turned into his own invention he called the Ladder Companion.
Frank Leuthner, of Elder Township, rigged up something to hold his paint tray to make his projects easier. When a storm blew off his barn door, he used it again.
He figured if he had use for a product that would help him paint his house and do other projects with a ladder, other people also would need it.
Frank Leuthner, of Elder Township, developed the Ladder Companion, above, which helps keep tools or paint close when using a ladder, with assistance from Keystone Innovation Zone coordinator Katie Bell.
Leuthner took his idea to Katie Bell, Keystone Innovation Zone coordinator, in Nov. 2005. They did a survey through Pennsylvania College of Technology about potential customers.
"We wanted to see if anyone had seen anything like it," Leuthner said. "There were some for a step ladder, but nothing for a big ladder."
Other questions involved how much people would pay for the product and, even more important, if they would buy it.
Throughout the process of making the mold, Leuthner strove to keep production in the country.
One of the biggest challenges he faced came from finding someone to bend the pipe. He looked all around the country and then happened to stumble upon a company in South Williamsport that would do it.
There were three main prototypes until he finally received the product he wanted, which included a bar to hook onto ladders and a tray with slots for tools.
"It's virtually indestructable," Leuthner said. "I didn't want it to be too light so you can drop it and it'll flex, but I didn't want it to be too heavy."
Another requirement Leuthner wanted to see his product do was adjust to ladders. He said he wanted to make sure it would work whether people had their ladders straight or at an angle.
"I experimented with a lot of things," he said. "I didn't want it to fall on someone's head."
The holes on the tray can hold a variety of items.
"You see a lot of guys with things on their waist," Leuthner said. "A screw gun is too big to strap to the waist. (The Ladder Companion will) hold comfortably about 20 pounds. A full gallon of paint is 9 or 10 pounds. A screw gun is 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. A hammer is 8 or 9 ounces."
While it could hold the full gallon-sized can of paint, Leuthner said most people would only use a throwaway paint tray, which also fits.
The skills Leuthner said he used to design the Ladder Companion were just gained from the projects he did over the years.
"I just picked it up."
What surprised him the most was the length of the process.
"It was a longer process than I thought," Leuthner said. "Costly. It was a fairly costly process. I got discouraged once or twice. Katie Bell always encouraged me. My wife and daughter were supportive. In the middle of dinner, I would go down to the work cellar to try something new. Can we do this? Can we do that?"
Bell said making a new product can be challenging.
"It's definitely not an easy road," she said. "Frank's ability to navigate it over the years shows that. ... It's a challenging road, but a rewarding road."
Still, Leuthner said his product is coming out at the right time. He said the unemployment rate of craftsmen reached 36 percent because more people want to do products themselves.
For more information, visit laddercompanion.com.