Picture of Paracord and Pulley Hanging Table
Before going to bed I often like to work on my computer, watch a movie, read a book, or just enjoy a cup of tea.  Juggling all of these things on a bouncy bed can be difficult and frustrating so I designed and built a table that can be raised and lowered over my bed to make my life easier.  When I want to do something like work on my computer I simply lower the table to the correct height and go to work, and when I'm ready to go to sleep I raise the table out of the way and hit the hay.

In this instructable you'll learn the steps and techniques needed to make your own hanging table.  This is a useful and fun project that can easily be completed over a weekend and shouldn't cost you more than 30 or 40 dollars.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials
Not to many tools or materials for this project and most of the things you will need are readily available from your local home improvement store. Overall I spent about 20 dollars to make this table but I already had many of the things I needed from previous projects, (things like stain, polyurethane, screws, etc).  If you were to start this project from scratch it would cost  just about 70 dollars for the various materials.

Paracord ($10) - Used for hanging the table, the ammount you will need will depend on the size of the table you make and the height at which you want the table to hang.  for my table I ended up using roughly 60 feet of cord.  Check out step  10 for a formula that will help you determine how much paracord you will need

Pine Board (8" wide X 10' long X 1" thick) ($20) - These are cut and combined to create the table top.  Note that you could buy a premade table top or even salvage one from an old coffee table.  doing so would save you a few steps and the use of a few tools.

4 Pulleys ($5) - The pulleys I used for this project were reclaimed from old windows which I purchased at my local construction salvage store for a few dollars.  Note that each window has 2 pulleys so you'll need 2 windows to get 4 pulleys.

8 Eye Screws ($3) - The eye screws I used were #8 X 1 5/8" but you could use any medium sized eye screws.

Masking Tape ($1) - Used for guiding the paracord through the pulleys, see step 10.

Wood Glue ($3) - Used for building the table top.

Biscuits ($10) - Used for building the table top.

Wood Stain and Polyurethane ($12) - Used for finishing the table top.  I used Minwas PolyShade Pecan which was a stain and polyurethane all in one, which worked well for this project as it saved me some time, however what stain and polyurethane you choose to use will depend on your preferences.

Screws ($3) - General Wood Screws used for mounting the pulleys to the table top.  I bought a 500 piece variety pack of screws from Harbor Freight which worked well for this project.

4 - 3/8" X 2" Lag Bolts and Washers ($2) - Used to mount the table hanger to the ceiling, these will be driven through the table hanger, through your ceiling, and into the studs.
Note, Many of these tools were used for building the table top, If you buy a premade table top you can omit tools like the table saw, and the biscuit jointer).
Table Saw
Biscuit Jointer
1/2" Plunge Cut Router bit
Combination Square (A.K.A Tri Square)
Measuring Tape
Paint Brush
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That's a great solution, I am planning on doing the same. However, the reason is different: I have a large (reeeeally large) puzzle to complete. It will take a lot of time and I don't want it to use space unnecessarily. 48"x77" is the size and to stay leveled when pulling up or letting down is crucial. If the half-completed puzzle slipped down I would go suicidal :)

Bill Planey4 months ago

Is it possible to modify this basic idea so that one end of the table ends up higher (closer to the ceiling) than the other end, even though they start out even when fully lowered? Could that be accomplished without dividing the two ends into separate pulley systems? or, would this be as simple as having slightly larger diameter pulley wheels attached to the end that needs to go higher, so that they help that end climb toward the ceiling at a faster rate?

its possible, even the arrangement mentioned in this instructable wont make the table rise up completely straight unless its heavy. You could work around with the weight ratio and the heavier side should be lower.

abm24 months ago

This is so awesome. I want to do a similiar project in my laundry to store my vacuum cleaner near the ceiling, so i'd use a topless box for that i think. Real proud of your efforts

saherr19695 months ago

I love this project, and all the other thoughts people have added to it. I haven't been able to let go of the static line issue and how to solve it. Here is a lacing idea that should use make it more stable, though it will still have the ability to matchbox some because the rope can slide through the pulleys. It uses pulleys top and bottom in the correct orientation to reduce rubbing wear on the cord because the cord changes direction . It uses approx 20% less cord for the 40 x 18 table described.

Given (all in inches)

H= Distance from Ceiling, C=Distance across ceiling, if any, D= Depth of Table (away from user), and W= Width of Table (across user)

Length (in inches) = 5H +2(SQRT(H^2 + D^2)) + SQRT(H^2 +W^2) + C + 12.

Hanging Table.jpg
saherr19695 months ago

I know someone who lives in Texas who hung their bed this way because there were a lot of spiders and scorpions that liked the floor. Obviously, they did not use paracord. With no legs on the ground and much narrower supports from the ceiling, it was a huge deterrent for the unwanted visitors.

Looking at the static line thoughts shared, I would suggest not using just Vs of rope, but X's. The idea of the static lines for stability and support requires that they carry most of the weight when the table is in the lowered position by lowering it until the lifting lines have a little slack in them. If the inverted Vs with a common apex location is used, and the lifting lines have a little slack, the table top will become a physical pendulum and will lead to the table swinging and tilting instead of being a parallelogram that swings keeping the table top parallel to the ceiling. If they were X's or inverted V's without a common attachment point, there would be no single point that the table could swing around.

The static lines attached slightly inside the lifting points also has the benefit that when the table is lifted, they would tend to collapse into the table top and be hidden when it is raised. One could also use cable for the static lines to support the weight and paracord to lift it.

One last point for those who aren't using it in the bedroom at night, remember that UV light degrades the cord, so a sunny kitchen might not be the place to use it without keeping a very close eye on it.

WPospick6 months ago

If I end up making it, I might use 2 different sheets of wood, putting the support on the inside, making a small shelf for papers and whatnot. Just a thought for anyone else lookin to make it.

stevenj598667 months ago

some one should use some thing other than paricord to do this to a bed

jakdedert7 months ago

I'll echo everyone else saying this looks great. I also wondered why you put the pulleys on top, and think they'll look just as cool inverted and counter-sunk.

I am a little concerned about the screw eyes, though. There's no reason in the design why you don't use machine-screw eyes, drilled through the wood with substantial (fender) washers to spread the load. Also, some sort of safety latch to keep the table securely in place on the ceiling would protect against falling, in case the pull-rope failed or was accidentally released. I know the working load of the paracord is substantial, but after being pulled over a screw-eye a few hundred times, that strength is bound to be substantially degraded. In fact, that rating is based on a straight pull. The bend 180 bends devalue that figure.

For that reason I'd also strongly suggest you consider using pulleys at the top as well.

Matt2 Silver (author)  jakdedert7 months ago
hell jakdedert,
You make some really great points.I chose to use screw eyes as opposed to machine-screw eyes because I knew that I would never be putting the table under an significant load, the most the table will ever need to hold for my purposes is about 10 to 15 lbs, although you are absolutely correct that machine screw eyes backed with fender washers would distribute the load more successfully. As for the safety latch, I should really upload a picture of the tie off that I use to hold the table in place, it's the same system you would use to tie off a boat to a dock and is therefore very strong. At the end of the day most of the decisions I made were based on my needs for this table (i.e. light duty use), If someone wanted to take this idea and use it for something significantly heavier, like a kitchen island or kitchen table, then all of your suggestions would be exactly what they would need to do to support the additional load.
Thanks for bringing a critical eye to this project!

You say this now, but many people will look at that and think "sex swing".

Matt, thanks for taking the comment in the spirit in which it was offered. I come at this with a background in entertainment rigging, where we hang heavy stuff (lighting trusses, speaker arrays, scenic elements) over people's heads. Safety is absolutely paramount in that discipline. Usually hang system are designed with at least a 2:1 safety factor, and materials are evaluated based on all of their parameters.

I understand this is just your bedroom, and I'm not being a purist. Many of my rigger brothers/sisters would be very critical of this. The point is, that many things here could be easily made several times safer over the long run...with very little extra cost or effort.

Given that this is such a good idea, and will likely be copied; I felt it was important to point out the safety concerns. At the very least, weekly inspections should be done of the rope and all attachment points, correcting any deficiencies as they occur.
Willy Woo7 months ago

Great idea! I wish I would have saved all the rollers that I removed when I replace my windows. I was wondering if you router completely through the table for the rollers, then make the bottom your top. this would place the roller under the table, this would keep the chance of the screws pulling out and make it stronger. On the top of the table you would only see the ropes coming through. Maybe there is a problem with this let me know. This would be great in a camper. Thanks for sharing!

Matt2 Silver (author)  Willy Woo7 months ago
Hi Willy Woo,

Routing through and placing the pulleys on the bottom is a very smart idea, it would indeed make the table a good bit stronger. The only reason I had for installing the pulleys on the top instead of the bottom is that I liked the way it looked :-)
Thanks for your great comment!
audreyobscura7 months ago

BRILlIANT! I wonder if I could make a kitchen island like this....

I would be more worried about stability. It would be pretty nerve-racking trying to slice a ham or fillet a delicious bass if your work surface is swinging/wobbling. Perhaps a few static ropes configured correctly could stabilize it adequately. Just a quick diagram attached, the static ropes are fastened at each end, so they'd just hang freely as the pulley system raises the surface... aaand you could really only use the surface from one side. But you're less likely to cut off a finger, so I think it's a fair trade.


Invert your static angles. Midpoint anchors at the ceiling with corner tied anchors at the table top would still allow for a bit of access from all sides. Better yet, four ropes from ceiling epicenter to the four corners may work like a four part sling set used in crane lifts. Great idea on the static lines!

Excellent thinking. I believe all the forces would be equal, so inverting the triangles and merging them above the table's center should have the same stabilizing effect. I wish I had room to try this!
Matt2 Silver (author)  PeterMetzger7 months ago

That is a really slick solution petermetzger, the triangular configurations of the static ropes would indeed reduce the amount of swing. Thanks for sharing your idea!

Matt2 Silver (author)  audreyobscura7 months ago

Thanks Audrey, I like the idea of a kitchen island like this, I'm imagining a butcher block top and some beefy rope to hold the additional weight, sounds like a cool idea for a future Instructable ; )

550 paracord will hold 550 lbs thus the name so unless your butcherblock is going to weigh more than 500lbs i think you would be fine

Actually it's 550lbs x 8, but I imagine screws will be the weak point...

mosmond7 months ago
awesome idea. I live in a small apartment and this would save a lot of much needed space. thanks for posting!
mr.incredible7 months ago

Looks pretty good. Does the table lift levelly or do you have to adjust the level as you go?

That's also my first thought reading through this instructable. It
seems like there is no guarantee that the table stays leveled with this string setup. This can probably be solved by using 4 separated strings for each pulley and tie them together at the end. However this will also effect the force that is needed to pull the table up as it will then be half of the table's weight (yeah, I know, one shouldn't compare foce with weight directly, but you know what I mean) compared to 1/8th of the weight of the table as in the setup of this instructable.

Matt2 Silver (author)  VirtualG7 months ago

you make some good points VirtualG, you are right that there is no guarantee that the table stays level in this configuration, save for the equal distribution of the tables weight which does help to keep things balanced. For my needs, i.e. a simple place to rest a book and a cup of coffee this isn't a problem, but for something larger like a kitchen table you would need to consider re-configuring the cords as you suggest or something like the suggestion made by PeterMetzger where static cords would be added to hold the table level once it was lowered to the correct height. Thanks for your insight and for your great comment!

Matt2 Silver (author)  mr.incredible7 months ago

It does take a bit of adjusting but nothing major, general I just place a hand on the surface of the table to hold it level as it goes up or comes down.

pumpdatbass7 months ago
awesome job. love the idea
JoLoveN7 months ago
Awesome! Definitely gunna make some if these when I build my own house. You could have a coffee table & kitchen table & have them out if the way when not using them. Wonder if you could make a setup to where it goes up & down by remote & motor.
Matt2 Silver (author)  JoLoveN7 months ago

Hi JoLoveN, Thanks for enjoying my Instructable and for your great comment! I love the idea of a kitchen table done like this and you could certainly motorize it by connecting it to something like an ATV winch. In fact that sounds like a good idea for another Instructable ; )

Great post. When I saw it, I thought the same thing as JoLoveN ("Add a motor and a remote!"). There are a few tutorials on instructables that show how to use a strong stepper motor with an arduino and others that show how to add bluetooth to an arduino project- you could control it with your phone.

Matt2 Silver (author) 7 months ago

Thanks badideasrus, don't hate to be that guy, I love when people point out issues like that because it makes the Instructables I write that much better.

Thanks for your help!

badideasrus7 months ago

i hate to be that guy but .. the 'perimeter' of the table. a parameter is something entirely different :P

OceanLady7 months ago
I've been trying to figure out how to carve wax while sitting on the couch. I've got a folding table, but I can't sit back while using it. This would be perfect! Is the para cord contest over? If not, you should enter.
Matt2 Silver (author)  OceanLady7 months ago

Thanks OceanLady, I'm glad you like my instructable and that it might help you with your wax carving, which by the way sounds interesting, are you carving for something like lost wax casting? Also, it has been entered in the paracord contest and I would certainly appreciate your vote once it's been accepted. Thank you for your post!

Yup, lost wax casting. I'm in school training to be a jeweller. I get so little downtime, though, that I try to do my carving at home and spend time with my family.
ckrill17 months ago

I had an idea for something like this but never was able to completely figure it out you did a great job with it

Matt2 Silver (author)  ckrill17 months ago

Thank you : )

steelsun7 months ago

Nice! But will it swing when you eat or drink?

Matt2 Silver (author)  steelsun7 months ago

Hello Steelsun, yes there is a bit of swing but it's not to bad, the way the paracord is laced through the pulleys and eye screws works to quickly diffuse swinging. Thanks for the good question!

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