Introduction: Paracord and Pulley Hanging Table

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

Step 2: Making the Table

Picture of Making the Table

The table top was made from one of the 8" wide X 8" long X 3/4" thick pine boards.  the board was cut in half to make two 40" long pieces and then the pieces were joined using biscuits and glue to form the table top.

Step 3: Preparing for Pulleys

Picture of Preparing for Pulleys

For the table to raise and lower, and hang properly the four pulleys were installed into the four corners of the table.

Installing the pulleys proved to be a little challenging.  The pulleys I used were designed in such a way that the wheel of the pulley extended below the case of the pulley, this met that I would have to remove wood from the table top in the locations where I wanted to install the pulleys so that they would fit properly.  To remove the wood I used a plunge router equipped with a 1/2" plunge cutting bit.

After routing room for each of the 4 pulleys you could potentially install the pulleys however I suggest that you wait to install them until after you have applied finish to the table as it will make finishing  much easier.

Step 4: Adding Rails

Picture of Adding Rails

After routing the grooves for the pulleys I added a few rails to the table on the sides and back.  These rails serve two purposes, first they will keep things from sliding off the table if it is bumped and second they will help to keep the table from bowing from time and use.  The supports were cut from scraps of pine board and were fixed into place using wood glue.

Step 5: Making the Table Hanger

Picture of Making the Table Hanger

With the table basically ready for finishing, I turned my attention to the table hanger.  the table hanger is mounted to the ceiling and holds the eye screws that that the paracord runs through to hold the table.  As noted in the picture, the dimensions of the wood that the table hanger is made from can vary (I used 3" wide lengths of 3/4" thick pine) but it's important that the overall dimensions of the hanger are the same as the table (for my table this means a hanger that is 40" long by 18" wide).  The reason the hanger needs to be the same size as the table is that the eye screws installed in the hanger need to be installed so that they are the same distance apart as the pulleys.  Keeping the spacing the same will help to keep the paracord from slipping off the pulleys as the table is raised and lowered.  more information will be given on the process of installing the pulleys and eye screws in step 8.

Step 6: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

Finishing will largely depend on your personal preferences.  Personally I prefer to stick with a two part finishing of stain then polyurethane but for this project I decided to break out of my comfort zone and tried Minwax polyshades, an all in one stain and polyurethane finish.  Overall I thought this finish worked well for this project, although I don't think I would use it on something with more vertical parts as I did have some trouble with leveling and runs and drips on the sides of the table and table hanger.

Step 7: Installing Pulleys

Picture of Installing Pulleys

With everything finished you are now ready to install the pulleys.  Install them as shown in the pictures and remember to use good quality wood screws as the pulleys and the screws that hold them will be what supports the table top and anything placed on it.

Step 8: Installing Eye Screws

Picture of Installing Eye Screws

When installing the eye screws in the table hanger it is very important to consider spacing and the orientation of the screw eyes.  consult the pictures and reference the tips below for information on installing the eye screws.

In total you will be installing 8 eye screws into the table hanger, 2 eye screws into each of the four corners.  the idea here is that the paracord travels trough one eye screw, then down through the pulley on the table top, and then back up through the other eye screw in each corner.  for more information on how to lace the paracord through the pulleys and eye screws please check out the next step.

Note the orientation of the screw eyes, move of them are facing the same direction except for the two on the left end of the hanger  in the picture.  these two are turned 45 degrees as this will be helpful when lacing the paracord in the next step.

Lastly note the distances (14.5" and 30"), these are the exact distances between the pulleys installed on the table top.  it is very important that the eye screws are installed at the same distances as the distances between the pulleys as doing so will help to keep the paracord from slipping free of the pulley wheels.

Step 9: Testing It Out

Picture of Testing It Out

With the table top and table hanger complete the next step is to give everything a test.  I wanted to test the table to make sure it worked before drilling holes in the ceiling of my bedroom so I did a test hang in the stud ceiling of my workshop.  Doing a test hang is advisable as it will give you an opportunity to check and make sure everything works prior to installation.

Step 10: Installation

Picture of Installation

After a successful test hang the table was ready for installation.  The 40" length of the table hanger allowed me to span it over 3 studs (16" centers), making for a very strong connection i.e. I won't have to worry about having a table fall on me while I sleep.  To attach the table hanger to the ceiling I used 2" long by 1/4" round hex screws  equipped with large washers.

With the table hanger installed over the bed the next step was to start lacing the paracord through the eye screws and pulleys.  Before lacing I estimated the amount of paracord I would need using this formula:

(the distance from the ceiling to the height where you want the table to hang expressed in inches times 9) + (the perimeter of the table minus one of the short sides expressed in inches) + (2 times the number of pulleys) + (12 to give you room for error) = the amount of cord you need.

When I plugged the numbers in it looked like this:

(60 X 9) + (98) + (2 X 4) + (12) = 658" which is equal to about 55 feet of paracord!

 (Yes you will get a big number, this is because the paracord has to travel between the table and the ceiling 9 times and it also travels around the parameter of the table and through the pulleys )  If you do the math and you get something in the ballpark of 50 or 60 feet of paracord you're in the right area.

After you determine how much cord you need follow the last picture on this step to learn how to lace the paracord through the eye screws and pulleys.

Step 11: Finished

Picture of Finished

Thank you for taking the time to check out my Instructable on how to build a paracord and pulley hanging table. I hope you enjoyed this project and found the information presented here to be useful and informative.  If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.

Best Regards!


Taiecosell (author)2017-08-14

hi Matt, not sure if you are still getting the responses, but this is a great idea and has given me the inspiration I need to create a lifting platform in my workshop/shed. I need a flat area to store large sheets of HIPS plastic and somewhere (off the floor) to keep my 1 square meter CNC table. I will create a larger platform than you have used, with a shelf underneath it. The plastic sheets will go in the shelf and my CNC table will go on top of the shelf.

I will add hinged legs, which I can drop down to put the platform on a secure footing when using the CNC - i.e. no weight on the lifting system.

Thank you so much for the inspiration. I will add to the "I made it" link, once I am finished, but it might take a while - life/work balance issue :-)

DavidR867 (author)2017-05-30

This is super cool - I love it. I have a couple of safety suggestions
while I'm here. Seems like it would be better to use bolts, with fender
washers and nuts on the opposite side of the table, instead of wood
screws on step 7. That way the wood screws holding the pulleys to the
table don't eventually pull out of the wood and drop the table on your
bed. Same goes for the eyebolts on step 8 - seems like it would be safer
if you used machine threaded eyebolts, bolted through the table hanger
to nuts and washers on the ceiling side. (Even safer would probably be
pulleys on the ceiling instead of eyebolts, so the rope doesn't fray as
easily, with bolts going through the table hanger to fender washers and
nuts, to hold the pulleys in place.)
I'm not trying to give you a hard time - I think this is an awesome invention and I'm trying to build something similar!

gravityisweak (author)2017-03-07

Man I sure do love the way those pulleys look! Anyone know the name for it so I can search for some?

dankitchens (author)2017-03-07

Perfect! I will show this to my paps.

RandyPerson (author)2017-03-03

Here's a suggestion for the leveling issue. Check out sites discussing Kite Aerial Photography (KAP). In the days before cheap drones, that was the way to get views from above. Anyway, they need to sling cameras on a platform that stays level as the kite, and the line it's attached to, moves through a range of angles. They long ago came up with a clever system of lines and eyes or pulleys that achieves this. Your answer may be waiting for you from an unexpected source!

SherylinRM (author)2016-09-10

I like this idea. However I have a question.

Wouldn't the eyelets cause friction and fray the rope?

As for those who worry about it self leveling.

Why not use one rope for each corner?

Then connecting them together you can pull one rope and up and down it goes without a problem AND SELF LEVELING.

Having done this before [using all pulleys and no eyelets] for a train table, I know it works.

Thanks for a swift reply to my question :)

Also thanks for this ible :)

BobN28 (author)2016-03-15

I am using a 2' x 4' piece of plywood o-i mounted my chop saw and bench grinder on and going to use the pulleys to store it up twds the cieling to save room to work - I to am haveing an issue with when i pull the end line to pull table up only the rear pulleys are pulling the table - I have used eye bolts to run the rope thru using pulleys on each corner of the table

wsimetin grenon (author)2015-12-09

I was wondering if there is any mechanical advantage to the system? I want to use this for storage. Thanks !

JakeR23 (author)2015-10-29

Wouldn't it be a bazillion times easier to just put it on hinges on the wall and have it fold across the bed, rather than dealing with all the pulleys and cord and such?

mericamay (author)2015-05-14

hi! just tried mocking up this idea but my contraption isn't self leveling.. am I doing something thing wrong?

Matt2 Silver (author)mericamay2015-09-02

Sorry for the delay in responding back to you. You're not doing anything wrong your just dealing with physics and friction. The pulleys help to reduce the friction on the cord as it travels through the system but they don't eliminate it so the pulleys near the front of the rig move more freely than the pulleys at the back. All I do to correct this is to put a hand on the table surface to help hold it level as it moves up and down. Check out the comments for some additional solutions to help the table hang true once it is lowered.

colleenwalsh11 (author)2015-04-17

This is EXACTLY what I'm looking for for a pull down bed. Awesome!!! Might do a couple smaller pull down tables for above my couch using this system as well. Really cool.

westfields (author)2015-03-13

These are great ideas and I'm loving this forum. I'm going to use a couple of these above a model gaming table to lower down different scenes/games. For the version above the bed you could add a polystyrene bead filled pillow underneath to provide stability on the bed (it'll fit over your lap). Also adds that little extra bit of safety should the worst happen...

ET3 (author)2015-01-10

Thats a great ideaI just have worries about stability like PeterMetzger. But all in all really nice design. If I do such kinda thing as kitchen island I might consider adding some foldable or semi hidden hooks to make a triangle stabilisation points to ground. Thanks for sharing :)

Bill Planey (author)2014-06-10

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?

roysh1 (author)Bill Planey2014-12-14

correct me if I'm wrong, but you mean that you have a ceiling that is in an angle so you want to make it so the end point would be higher on one side?
you can do it by changing the size of the pulley wheels, but you would have to measure it really good so you will find the correct wheel size (or just retry every time :D )

jayeshshinai (author)Bill Planey2014-09-09

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.

spidermike18 (author)2014-09-18

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 :)

abm2 (author)2014-06-14

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

saherr1969 (author)2014-04-27

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.

saherr1969 (author)2014-04-27

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.

WPospick (author)2014-04-14

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.

stevenj59866 (author)2014-03-24

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

jakdedert (author)2014-03-08

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)jakdedert2014-03-09

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!

jcook20 (author)Matt2 Silver2014-03-13

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

jakdedert (author)Matt2 Silver2014-03-09

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 Woo (author)2014-03-06

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 Woo2014-03-06

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!

audreyobscura (author)2014-02-25

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.

TrailH4x (author)PeterMetzger2014-03-03

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!

PeterMetzger (author)TrailH4x2014-03-03

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!

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!

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...

mosmond (author)2014-02-28

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

mr.incredible (author)2014-02-25

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

NoPinky (author)mr.incredible2014-02-27

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)NoPinky2014-02-28

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!

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.

pumpdatbass (author)2014-02-27

awesome job. love the idea

JoLoveN (author)2014-02-25

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)JoLoveN2014-02-25

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)2014-02-26

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!

badideasrus (author)2014-02-26

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

OceanLady (author)2014-02-26

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)OceanLady2014-02-26

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!

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