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This tutorial will show you how to make a hanging shelf out of rope and plywood.
This is a perfect solution if you are running out of desk space and you want to make a highly customizable unit for your documents and nicknacks.

To build this you will need:
Plywood (enough for 5 1x1ft squares)
      A table saw (or any tool for cutting wood)
      A drill (or any tool for drilling)
30 ft of strong rope (cotton works well, especially if it has a core)
      Shears (or any tool for cutting the rope)
      Tape for collecting the frayed ends (or a lighter if using synthetic rope)
A metal rod
      A clamp for bending it (or it can be done by hand)

Step 1: Cut Wood

You are going to want to end up with 5 pieces of 1ft x 1ft plywood.

Of course you should feel free to add more shelves or change the size. There are many places throughout the tutorial where you can customize the design, but I will not mention each one. It is really up to your discretion as a maker.

Step 2: Drill Holes

Each board should have three holes.
I've placed mine a half inch away from the edge and made the holes 3/8" thick which is just larger than the diameter of the rope I have.

Step 3: Cut Rope to Length

You will want to cut the rope into 15 pieces with some leftover. 
Each shelf is held up by 3 ropes, so you need 3 ropes of 5 different lengths, the difference between them being the height of each shelf.
I've made my shelf 2 ft high, but you need to leave around 4 inches for the knots on either end, so the longest rope is 32 in (24+4+4).
Therefore, I cut the rope into 3 x 32 in, 3 x 27 in, 3 x 22 in, 3 x 17 in, 3 x 12 in.

Step 4: Bend Rod

Bend the rod into approximately a 1 ft circle.

Step 5: String Rope and Tie Knots

Sand down your plywood before continuing. I used a 100 grit sandpaper just to take off the rough edges.
Next, you might find it helpful to put a loop of tape around the end of the rope if the end is fraying and the hole is a tight fit so it will feed through better. Then tie a simple overhand knot, but keep it loose in case you want to make minor adjustments later.

Step 6: Layout

The board with the longest strings is the bottom shelf. Place that board on the table, then the next shelf on top of it on an angle with the strings splayed out. Stack all 5 shelves this way with the board with the shortest strings on top.

Step 7: Attach the Ropes to the Support Rod

The most important part of this step is to make all the knots in the same direction to make a pattern along the top. You will also need to slide the knots around the rod to make it look how you want and still balance.

Step 8: Hang It Up and Balance It Out

That final stage is to attach ropes across the support bar and hang it up.
You may find that it takes some time to get it balanced (if it balances at all), but either way it will be level enough to hold anything with a flat bottom surface.

Enjoy!
If you tried something like this, with steel cables and crimps, instead of rope, it may be easier to level. Very cool idea.
That's definitely a good idea. The biggest challenge I found using rope that stretches is to level the shelves, so if your want more precision, I'd suggest taking Audrey's suggestion and using steel cables. It would probably look cool too.

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