Introduction: How to Build a Fort Using 3d Printed Fort Loops

Picture of How to Build a Fort Using 3d Printed Fort Loops
Simply ask, and there are not many people that did not enjoy constructing forts during their childhood. I have a 6 year old nephew who asks almost every time I see him, "Can we build a fort?" I shamefully admit that I have occasionally neglected his requests. You see....

I was one of those kids that was always building forts out of household objects. I was one of those kids that nearly burned down the house because I draped sheets over a halogen lamp. I was one of those kids that wasn't happy with my room the way it was. Architectural and engineering insight started at a very early age for me. I was inspired by the challenge of creating something new and finding creative uses for the materials around me. At the time, I didn't know that I was a designer, but I'm well aware of it now. So I must now take the opportunity to re-visit my child hood construction site...the bedroom.

Before I started this project, I gave a lot of thought to what it means to build a fort. When I was a kid I made forts because it was fun. I loved hanging out and sleeping in the interesting enclosed spaces that I came up with. A fort was often a safe haven from your siblings. There were rules involved. You could deny access to your fort, eat your breakfast inside, or even set up traps to detect intrusion while you were away. The interesting thing about forts is that they are so individual. Each fort is a product of a child's mind, their materials and their surroundings. Each child faces design challenges and solves them the best way that they know how, given the materials they can gather in their home. Some parents are not that supportive of this process and a child's creativity can be thwarted. There are often parental rules about what materials can be used and how long your fort can stay erected. 

Now that I'm somewhat grown up, I look at forts in a different way. I have new skills and new technology that will help me take fort building to the next level. One of the biggest obstacles I faced while building forts as a child, was finding appropriate points of attachment. After doing some research about fort building systems online, I was slightly dissatisfied with the standard pvc style fort sets.

Fort Magic


It's the obvious answer, and you can build some great structures, but I just feel like these kits take away from the true nature of fort building.You have to be imaginative and take advantage of your environment. Simply making a box inside your room doesn't cut it for me. I'm looking for something different. I'm looking for something that will help me modify and manipulate the standard fort building materials. What can I add to the pile of sheets, pillows, blankets, cardboard, matresses, bed knobs, and broom sticks?

The answer is Fort Loops.......

Step 1: The Future of Fort Building

Picture of The Future of Fort Building

Fort Loops is a system that helps take fort building to the next level. As a kid, I was often frustrated by the sheets sliding off the top of my dresser. I sometimes even tucked them into the drawers of the dresser but it was never the right solution. Now that I'm partially grown up, I have the ability to solve some of the greatest fort building obstacles of my past. Having suitable points of attachment is huge part of building a successful fort. Without an appropriate way to hang or elevate roof structures, you're left doing the limbo through your front door. Having the technology to 3d print custom parts helped me to put a new spin on the art of fort building. Being able to create new points of attachment without drilling or screwing holes in the wall, makes fort builders and parents very happy. Fort Loops takes advantage of the fact that every room you'd conceivably build a fort in, has doors, outlets and switch covers. Gather up the standard fort building materials and you're ready to go.

Decora Cover Plate

The standard Decora cover plate will cover your switches and outlets. It provides 2 points of attachment at a reasonable height in your room. If you're lucky, you have a 3-way light which gives you even more points of attachment. The round style outlet cover provides 1 point of attachment. If you have Decora style outlet covers, you can use the same cover as the switch cover.

Standard Cover Plates

Standard outlet covers only have one point of attachment No big deal. Just make sure you have what you need before you get started. My sister's house had a strange combination of both decora and standard covers.

Door Hinge Hanger

Simply knock out the pin on one of your door's hinges and slide on the handy Fort Loops door hinge hanger. The beauty of this part is the ability to create a high point of attachment in your room. You can even install one on the lower hinge too. Just keep in mind that you'll likely still need to open and close your door, so pay attention to where you string your ropes.

Door Hanger

The door hanger gives you another high point of attachment in your room. This can go on a closet door or even your entry door. However, it's not a great idea to install it on a door that still needs to be opened and closed.

Sheet Conector

Need to to connect a sheet in a completely different way? Simply sandwich a sheet between the bottom and top clips of the sheet connector and you have a new way to connect materials. Maybe your fort has an awning, or maybe you need to hold the front door open occasionally. Your imagination is the only limit.

Picture Hanger

I was really trying to avoid screwing into the wall. However, if you have a picture hanging in your room anyway, why not hang it with a Fort Loops Picture Hanger. Simply screw the base plate into the wall, preferably into a stud, and hang your picture. When it comes time to build a fort, simply slide in the Fort Loop adapter. This Fort Loop didn't make it into our first fort but you can view sample pictures here.

Fort Loops Break-Away Connectors

I got a lot of attention with the release of Fort Loops. Some good and some bad. As much as you want everyone to love your project, it's important to listen to your criticism and use it to develop or defend your design. I was really happy with the results of my original Fort Loops and really didn't consider the safety concerns that some people might have. I got some good suggestions and some ridiculous ones. I decided to develop my design further to satisfy the safety concerns that people were having and to stick to the original concept of avoiding having to screw holes into the wall. Ultimately, the solution becomes more economical because I no longer have to print out an entire plate cover, and the whole system will be cheaper to buy on Shapeways. Now, why didn't I think of that in the first place? These Fort Loops didn't make it into the first fort either... you can picture one here.

Fort Loops are available in my Shapeways shop. 

I'm not out to make money on these things, but a lot of people have expressed interest in having some, so I posted them on shapeways so that people without 3d printers can order them. Have fun!

Fort Loops Door Hinge Hanger

Fort Loops Decora Cover Plate

Fort Loops Break Away Connectors are Coming Soon......

Step 2: Design

Picture of Design

There is something about 3d printing that gets my creativity boiling. The ability to think of an object and literally print it out minutes later is extremely empowering for a designer. The fort contest gave me an excuse to relive the fort building ways of my childhood and put my 3d printer to work.

The first thing to do was let the pencil hit the paper. I was hung up on pvc pipe for a while, but somewhere along the line I got the idea to somehow create points of attachment on the wall. My original idea involved rare earth magnets. I  wanted to see if I could find magnets strong enough to support sheets on a wall. I wanted to stick them to the drywall screws and to the metal corner bead. Unfortunately, I could not achieve the holding power I was looking for, and rare earth magnets are not that safe for kids to be playing with anyway. I ultimately decided to look for other ways to attach sheets to the the wall. The idea for Fort Hooks was born. (I later changed this to Fort Loops, because the design is indeed a loop and not a hook)

The printing of these parts was relatively straight forward. I used the UP 3d printer that instructables gave our school through the sponsorship program. The outlet and switch covers took about 2 hours each to print, while the hinge and door hangers took around 15 minutes. 

For those of you that do not own a 3d printer and do not want to use one of the 3d printing services on the internet, I have a viable alternative to 3d printed Fort Loops. I actually used a bunch of them myself because I have not yet printed enough Fort Loops outlet and switch covers. (they take 2 hours each to print)

Using some standard screw hooks, you can simply re-thread the ends to same size as the screws that hold your switch covers in place. It's so quick and easy. Just take out the screw and replace it with a new hook. Depending on the size of the hook you start with, you may have to use a few different sizes of dies to gradually bring the diameter down to size.

The final die should be a 6/32 UNC as shown in the picture. Simply clamp the hook in a vice and start threading. I hope you have a tap and die set or know someone that does.

Step 3: Materials

Picture of Materials
I've seen some interesting things go into a fort build on this site. Sadly, my parents never let me put the couch on end and have the TV inside any of my forts. I hope the invention of Fort Loops can help repair this hole in my childhood. 

So, the other advantage of being a little bit older than a 6 year old, is that fact that dollar stores now exist and I have the means to drive there and purchase materials. Sweet!

As with many of my instructables projects, the dollar store is an indispensable supplier for materials. I already had the following for our fort:
  1. Fort Loops
  2. Sheets
  3. Blankets
  4. Pillows
  5. A room 
I still needed:
  1. Rope
  2. Clips
  3. Adjustable paint Poles
  4. Toilet plungers
The last two items on the list from the dollar store turned out to be the holy grail of fort building items. I went looking for suction cups and broom sticks, and I pretty much hit the jack pot with this find. That is the beauty of the dollar store. You can walk up and down the aisles until the magical piece of your instructables project puzzle jumps out at you. The adjustable paint poles offered the perfect solution for tent style poles. The fact that I could screw them into plunger bases made them extremely practical and stable for fort building purposes. It's funny how many times I go to the dollar store and leave with the most random pile of products. The looks I get are priceless.

Step 4: Building the Fort

Picture of Building the Fort

Finally......It's time for the best part of all....building the fort. Luckily for me I had a crew of willing and eager volunteers with varying levels of experience. I got started with Jack, Maddy, and Angus at my side. Building a fort using Fort Loops is quite simple:

  1. Start by replacing your switch covers and outlet covers with Fort Loops. If you don't have 3d printed ones, you can use the alternative Fort Loops that I described earlier.
  2. Install Fort Loops Hinge Hangers on any appropriate doors.
  3. Install Fort Loops Door Hangers on any appropriate doors.
  4. Decide where your support poles will be positioned. Have your helpers hold them in place. If you have adjustable paint poles, it's a good idea to set the height at this time. Push down on the plunger end to hold the pole's position.
  5. Begin threading your rope from Fort Loops to other Fort Loops and any other available connection point that your environment offers.
  6. Thread your rope through the top of the poles so until it held in an upright position and supported in each direction.
  7. Additional rope can be used to create a webbing on top of the original support ropes.
  8. Once your web is complete, you can begin to add sheets and blankets.
  9. You can hold the sheets or blankets in place using varying sizes of bull dog clips.
  10. Larger clips will be needed to attach blankets to the support poles.


The crew got a great start on this fort. Angus and Maddy had to go home for dinner, but we kept on working. They were pleasantly surprised when they returned!!



Antzy Carmasaic (author)2013-08-28

Great project... Loved the videos. Favourite part:
You guys think we should put it up on intructables?
Does anyone know what instructables is?
No... :P

So glad you liked the videos. Those kids definitely know what instructables is now.

katilicous (author)2016-01-05

OMG love Shapeways and never knew about it till ur awesome Instructable. .. I am 36 and have been considering fort building for several years now as a second career. . Great Instructable

sprocketscientist (author)2015-07-31

This is so awesome! Really a cool idea and way to reimagine existing attachment points that already exist in a room.

icestorminjune (author)2014-10-20

Mr. Noack!!! You rock and are the "beatest" uncle!! :) haha!! Awesome

kdevries (author)2014-08-14

Good day! You are kind enough to provide printing files for all original Fort Loop 3D printing designs, and I thank you much for it! It's a kind and adventuresome gift to all of us who live as kids at heart. Would you be willing to offer the picture hanger and breakaway 3D printable designs as well?

Tazmjm69 (author)2014-04-03

Great idea, wish we had these when I was a kid!

BeforeTron (author)2013-11-30

Mr Noack. You are my hero. What is your day job?

Medic614 (author)2013-09-05

I know your kind. You're the "favorite Uncle." Me too, but I'm not the CLEVER favorite Uncle that you are. Well done.

Mr. Noack (author)Medic6142013-09-08


caitlinsdad (author)2013-08-26

Mr. Safety here. Great idea of wall anchor points but be aware of working around live wall sockets. Depending on the age and condition of your wall switches and outlets, pulling and tugging on the outlet box/switch can loosen the wire connections inside, fray old insulation, loosen wire nuts, cause stab-ins to pop out, tangle up with any cords plugged in or loosen the plugged in cords to cause arcing conditions, and using the screw eye method might bring out an incorrectly wired outlet to expose a live neutral/hot.

But you know me, I would use those with elastic bands to hook up a giant slingshot. Have fun and be safe.

Mr. Noack (author)caitlinsdad2013-08-31

I have tackled some or your safety concerns with the design of Fort Loops break away connectors. Check them out and let me know what you think ;) Have you been working on the giant sling shot??

Mr. Noack (author)caitlinsdad2013-08-26

All very valid points! Thanks for covering some of the obvious safety points that I should include in the instructable.

caitlinsdad (author)Mr. Noack2013-09-01

Great! Cool idea on the ball socket. The preferred breakaway fastener of choice will always be explosive bolts though.

caitlinsdad (author)Mr. Noack2013-08-26

...giant slingshot with water balloons.

Mr. Noack (author)2013-08-31

In response to some of the safety concerns people had with my original design, I have added new break away Fort Loops for cover plates.

Aremon (author)2013-08-30

Looks like parents have more fun than children :D

wkearney99 (author)2013-08-28

Tried in YOUR home does not constitute anywhere near a safe sampling of real conditions in other homes. This is not a trivial area to be, literally, playing games. Are you certain you've got the resources to withstand the potential lawsuits that would develop should someone else's outlets not demonstrate the same concepts you've seen in yours? Do you have the grasp to understand the impact of what that would have?

What you "thought" was or wasn't dangerous will be of no help to undo the suffering of someone affected by this ill-fated idea if/when it goes wrong. Nor will it help your situation when the lawsuits bleed you dry. I'm no doomsayer here to just rain on your parade. Electricity is not something to be toyed around with, there's just too much at stake.

Just get away from using electrical boxes for attaching it. They're not meant for this purpose and do truly pose an unreasonable risk for such a trivial bit of play.

Before I say my bit, i have had a good deal of experience messing with electrical boxes and rewiring home circuits.

A properly constructed electrical box should NEVER, I repeat, NEVER have 'exposed wires.' All of the ends should either be inside of wire-nuts or screwed into the interface of the outlet. Exposed wires would have a chance of contacting the frame of the outlet, which SHOULD be grounded, thus creating a free drain.

Secondly, the frame on most outlets is screwed securely into the wall studs to prevent it from coming out. The faceplate is screwed to the frame, NOT the outlet.

Finally, the author should not ever have to face any lawsuits for this, as he is not selling it or offering a warranty of any kind, simply offering the designs for free. There are millions upon millions of instructions on the internet for things you shouldn't do. If you place this in that category, simply ignore it. It's not worth your time. Personally, I think it is brilliant.

Thanks for adding your perspective!

grapenut (author)2013-08-28

Waycool; you must be the coolest parent on the block by far!
Q: How challenging was it getting those screws in, under the padeyes, on the switch covers?

Mr. Noack (author)grapenut2013-08-29

The screws are easy to get in. My original design had the loops in a different position, but I found that the abs printed loops were stronger if the the pull force was centered around the screw.

jlms (author)2013-08-28

Fire hazard. Clever but not safe. Sorry :-(

Foaly the Centaur (author)jlms2013-08-28

No more a fire hazard than using a lamp or connected table as an anchor. Last time I checked, neither plastic nor nylon rope was highly conductive. Safe if you don't have randomly exposed wires inside your outlets and flammable materials in contact with the plate. If the faceplate broke AWAY, it wouldn't be pulling anything INTO the outlet, as that is the anchor point. Looks dangerous, but isn't.

MissouriVillian (author)2013-08-28

This is the best thing my childhood never had. Considering owning some now.

As far as I'm concerned, my childhood is ongoing. Glad you like it!

Mr. Noack (author)2013-08-28

I'm getting the occasional comment about the safety of attaching these cover plates to electrical boxes. I'm not blindly ignoring these concerns. Yes, I agree that there are a lot variables at play, and I have not fully tested this concept in the way that a company bringing a product to market would. I have taken all of the wonderful comments and continue to play with this idea. It has been a lot of fun for me. Please, if you have any concerns about the safety of these items, do not try them in your home. A few people have suggested 3m command strips, which does seem to be a viable option. My original goal was to avoid sticking adhesive to the wall. 3m makes some great products, but they do still take the occasional paint chips off the wall. Thanks to everyone for you continued support and input.

Nikkisaurus (author)2013-08-27

This is genius Noack! Can we put these in the sound room? Honestly so cool, you have my votes! You're pretty cool Uncle Jay :)

Mr. Noack (author)Nikkisaurus2013-08-28

Thanks Nikki!

antioch (author)2013-08-28

Hell, nice! Thanks for not trying to turn this into an overpriced, toxic, boring, made-in-china product!

Mr. Noack (author)antioch2013-08-28

Thanks Man!

shortcircuitaz (author)2013-08-28

simply put a little hinge at the bottom of the loop so that the whole loop can break away under too much force and allow you to move the loop out of the way for mounting.... this way the cover doesn't completely become separated from the wall exposing the electrical wires Finally this will reduce the cost should one of the loops break... simply replace the loop. and keep extra's on hand.

unfortunately I can't use the coverplates in my house (mobile home all the outlets are remodel style boxes ... attached to drywall) but I like the idea of a "command strip version"

regarding all the neysayers. I think this is a wonderful design and a lot safer than having heavy books falling on your head... or burning the house down with the sheet that WAS over your lamp. Things like that are going to happen... as parents it's our job to reduce that risk by making suggestions for more appropriate, and safer design. we can never completely remove the risk, but giving the right advice we can keep everyone happy, healthy and even have some fun too!

wkearney99 (author)2013-08-27

Here's a better idea, use 3M commandstrip tape instead of screwing to an electrical faceplate. For safety's sake, both as a tripping and electrical hazard. You do not want to be using an electrical box for this sort of thing! Not at all!

You could have someone pull on the cord hard enough to break the faceplate, leaving bare wires within reach. Or cause the connections inside the box to break or otherwise loosen, leading to potential risk of an electrical fire.

I love the idea of helping kids come up with clever play ideas. Let's just do it without putting their lives or homes at risk.

McRaeD (author)2013-08-27

That's one of the world's greatest inventions! I wish I was a kid again!

Mr. Noack (author)McRaeD2013-08-27

Fort Loops are magical. Use them once and you are instantly transformed into a kid. I promise you.

gathem (author)2013-08-27

This is so fricking awesome!
I love it.
Thank you for sharing. Im sure my daughter will love these when shes a bit older

Mr. Noack (author)gathem2013-08-27

Thanks! I sure could have used them when I was a kid.

gathem (author)gathem2013-08-27

Perhaps consider posting these on thingiverse?

rattus (author)2013-08-27

Very cool. Safety issues!! BAH!! OMG how did we survive childhood? hahahha

anyways great ideas here....let me add one more. A hook on the end of a sheet connector so you can attach the sheet to one of the others easily.

Mr. Noack (author)rattus2013-08-27

That is a good idea. I just designed a picture hook that turns into a fort loop. I will be adding it soon. Thanks for your input!

ToolboxGuy (author)2013-08-27

I do like the double pin sheet connector a lot. I would like the loop part on an angle bracket, away from the wall for easier access. Use the 3M Command strips to mount them all over the room!

I see a bit of trouble with the light plates: The loops are over the screw holes. Not an easy arrangement to mount/unmount.
I also have to agree that mounting onto electrical outlets just doesn't sound like safe for children. The possibility of pulling an outlet right out of the wall, or getting wrapped around power cords and such is a real threat. I've done it with power cords.

It makes the grand assumption that kids will be cautious around them, and won't fall over anything and yank it out of the wall, or misloop that metal bungie hook so it hits a cord prong, or build a bungie trampoline (or take my truck "spiderweb") for the roof of the fort and put the strength to the test as a hammock.

rayj0007 (author)2013-08-27

The mounts for the electrical boxes are JUST A BAD IDEA!!!! Placing forces far beyond what the box mounting method was designed to carry by children who may not recognize the risks created if the box pulls out of the wall. Find a stud in the wall and put in an eye hook!

telorand (author)rayj00072013-08-27

That was one of my thoughts, as well. However, barring that particular placement, I like the idea!

johannschmidt (author)2013-08-27

nice going Mr. Noack i think you have another winner here you get my vote

Mr. Noack (author)johannschmidt2013-08-27

Thanks Cheese!

bob3030 (author)2013-08-26

Wow so much to this instructable. Any one piece is worthy of praise. Well done. You got my vote. You should check into marketing these ideas. Maybe a kick starter project in your future?

Mr. Noack (author)bob30302013-08-27

Thanks Bob! Not sure I have the time to start a business. I do this for the fun, and not for profit. I did however upload them to shapeways so that people can purchase them if they wish.

x2percentmilk (author)2013-08-27

I wish I could count how many times a pile of heavy books/toys/crap that I sat on my sheets on my dresser came down while I was in the fort. Burning brown and black holes through sheets while using lamps as columns...things tipping inwards...droopy ceilings...I guess it was all part of the fun on some level :) This is a great solution to a great problem while keeping the fun and creativity of a 'free form' fort alive. When I have kids some day this will be a must have. Thank you.

Mr. Noack (author)x2percentmilk2013-08-27

Thanks for such a great comment. P.S. you don't have to wait for kids to have fun with forts ;)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a High School Technology teacher with self-diagnosed Creativitis, a disease that doesn't let my brain sleep. I spend my days trying to ... More »
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