Introduction: Portable Beach Shade

I LOVE THE BEACH! Like a lot. My skin however, is slightly less enthusiastic. No matter how much sunscreen I put on, I still feel like I've had too much sun after a day long seaside session. The Portable Beach Shade is my answer to this burning problem. It's simple to make, lightweight, and allows me to take breaks from the sun while still getting to watch the waves. That's a lot of winning if you ask me.

Wanna get made in the shade? I've got you covered. (snicker) Let's go!

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies


  • 9' x 12' heavy duty canvas drop cloth
  • off-white thread
  • 32' of cotton clothesline rope
  • (x2) 4' x 3/4" wooden dowels*
  • (x4) 3' x 3/4" wooden dowels*
  • (x8) 1/2" ID grommets
  • (x3) 1/2" Electric Metallic Tube (EMT) set screw couplings*
  • (x2) 1/2" EMT to EMT pull elbows*
  • (x10) 10-24 1/2" thumb screws
  • (x4) long tent stakes

*If you live somewhere known to get pretty windy, I'd suggest going for thicker 1" dowels and 3/4" EMT fittings to make a beefier support frame.


  • sewing machine
  • cutting mat
  • exacto knife
  • drill with 5/32 drill bit
  • grommet setting tools
  • block of wood or hard work surface
  • hammer
  • pen
  • sand paper
  • philips head screwdriver
  • scissors
  • whittling/pocket knife

Step 2: Preparing the Canvas Shade

Picture of Preparing the Canvas Shade

I decided to go the route of using a drop cloth because it's a super easy and inexpensive way of ending up with a large piece of fabric.

It is already the correct length, so it just needs to be cut lengthwise and sewn down one side. Open up the drop cloth and cut the width down from 9' to 6'2".

*I did this ahead of time in our sewing room, before heading to the beach to make everything else!

Step 3: So Sew

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Double fold over the beginning of the cut edge (approx. 3/8" - 1/2" folds) and sew a straight stitch seam down the entire side, doing the double fold as you go.

And that's it!

If you'd like to add a bit of color to your shade, feel free to dye the fabric or stamp it with fabric paint. There's a lot of fun things you could do to customize. Maybe even tassel trim along the edge! Get wild.

Step 4: Good Grommet!

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Now it's time to put the grommets in the canvas. These will be used to tie the rope to for securing the shade.

You will be putting one in each corner, one on each side mid way up the length (6" from each end, where it folds in half).

The first step to installing the grommets, is to place one of the halves where you want the grommet to go. Take a pen and trace the interior circle onto the fabric to mark it.

Then, using a fresh blade, cut out the circle with the exact knife.

Step 5: Go Grommets!

Picture of Go Grommets!

Place the metal grommet setter (looks like a bit like a metal donut) on your hard work surface.

Put the back half of the grommet (the one with the tallest center) through the hole from the backside.

Place the top half over the bottom half, with the fabric in between them.

Hold the two pieces together in place and put the grommet backside into the metal grommet setter (donut).

Set the grommet punch (long cylindrical metal tool) into the center of the top half of the grommet.

With a few good whacks, hammer the grommet until the tall part has been hammer down and is securing the two halves together without any distance between them. They should be snuggly pressed together with the fabric in between them.

Repeat for the remaining 5 grommets.

*For more detailed grommet setting instructions, please read the how-to that comes with the grommet setting tools.

Step 6: Cutting the Rope

Picture of Cutting the Rope

Using scissors, cut the rope into four 8' lengths.

Step 7: Get Roped In

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Tie one of the 8' rope lengths to each corner grommet. If you have a knot you like to use, go for it! If not, follow along with the knot tying steps in the photos above.

Step 8: Prepping the Connectors

Picture of Prepping the Connectors

It's amazing that the electrical fittings already have set screws in them, but to make it easier to tighten them, we are going to replace the set screws with thumb screws.

Use a phillips head screwdriver to remove the set screws that came with the fittings.

Replace them with the thumb screws, only screwing them in a little bit, so the dowels can be inserted.

Step 9: Fitting the Fittings

Picture of Fitting the Fittings

The dowels, as they come, are just a little too big to fit into the fittings.

To fix this, they need to be sanded down.

Take a section of sand paper and fold it around one inch of the dowel end, twisting the dowel back and forth. As you sand, keep testing the dowel in the fitting until you are able to inset it with only a small amount of resistance.

*Alternatively, if you have a disc or belt sander, you can use that to make this part go faster. Just be careful not to remove too much material, which would create a loose connection.

Do this to all the ends except one end on each of the 4' dowels.

Step 10: Securing the Fittings

Picture of Securing the Fittings

To make sure that the fittings stay put, we're going to drill shallow holes (3/16") into the dowel ends where the thumb screw will go in.

To find out where to drill, insert each dowel end (except the two un-sanded ends) into a fitting and tighten the corresponding thumb screw down tightly to mark the place. Remove the fitting and drill a shallow hole in each.

Step 11: Whittle While You Work

Picture of Whittle While You Work

This is an optional step. If you'd like to make it easier to push the bottom dowels into the sand when constructing the shade, use a sharp pocket knife to whittle the ends a little bit. (It's the two ends that you didn't sand on the 4' lengths.)

Why? Because whittling is awesome.

If you do this, please just be careful to cut away from yourself. Safety first.

Step 12: Getting Connected

Picture of Getting Connected

Now it's time to put it all together, starting with the dowel frame.

Connect each 4' dowel to one of the 3 footers using a coupling (straight fitting). Line the thumb screws up so that they end up in the holes you drilled. Then connect the remaining two 3' dowels together with the last coupling.

Attach the pull elbows to the tops of two 3' dowels that are connected to the 4' ones.

Step 13: The Final Connections

Picture of The Final Connections

Lay out your pieces so that you've created a 'U' shape with the shorter cross section at the pull elbows end.

Attach the shorter cross piece to the uprights via the pull elbows.

Step 14: Putting It All Together

Picture of Putting It All Together

Have a friend help you lay out the canvas on top of the frame.

Hook the middle grommets over the top thumb screws of the pull elbows.

Lift the frame up, pick an orientation that makes sense for direction of the sun, and push the frame down into the sand about a foot, or as far as it will go.

Step 15: Batten Down the Hatches

Picture of Batten Down the Hatches

While your friend kindly holds the frame upright, one at a time, pull each corner rope away from the frame until it's taught, and tying a knot, use a tent stake to secure each rope down.

TIP: You'll want to make the first rope slightly less taught so it doesn't pull the frame over. Next do one on the opposite side so they are pulling in opposite directions, supporting the frame. Then once the remaining two are secured, go back and tighten that first one.

Step 16: Gimme Shelter

Picture of Gimme Shelter

And voila! You've just created a re-usable and lightweight beach shade that will give you respite from the sun, allowing you to stay and play all day!


Pizzaface (author)2016-05-25

If it's THAT windy I don't go to the beach.

IronMuttCustoms made it! (author)2015-09-18

Thanks for the inspiration for this build! I modified the design a little bit and I'll do an Instructable soon. Mine uses tent poles, pvc pipe and a white bed sheet.

That's awesome IronMuttCustoms! I look forward to seeing your instructable. :)

charles543 (author)2014-09-11

Why not use 1/2" EMT instead of dowels. It will fit the connectors, and will save a lot of work.

This shelter can be setup by 1 person without pushing the poles into the sand. You need grommets at the ridge so you can tie the tarp to the ridge pole. Lay the structure on it's leeward side. drive the stakes. Tie the leeward side ropes guessing at how much slack to leave. Pull the structure up by the windward side ropes, and tie to the stakes. Adjust ropes. Your done.

pucksurfer (author)2014-09-08

That's great but it can get quite windy at the beach. Enough to blow out stakes

Paige Russell (author)pucksurfer2014-09-09

It's definitely not a fool proof project. Mighty winds can for sure put a damper on the shady fun. But I ended up getting even longer tent stakes after I shot this project (14") and they work really well. I also want to try making the shade from a fine mesh to see if the wind pushes that around less.

pucksurfer (author)Paige Russell2014-09-10

I think that the sand bag ideas suggested by rf and EvilBunnySlipper are probably your best options

Wazzupdoc (author)pucksurfer2014-09-11

Ditto. The bags are lighter too!

rf (author)Paige Russell2014-09-09

Some folks around here use small sand bags instead of stakes. They fill them up with sand when they get to the beach.

EvilBunnySlipper (author)rf2014-09-10

I used to just use four plastic shopping bags and fill them up with sand right there on the beach...I then later made four canvas bags with loops on so it looks "better" when I'm there..

the_joat (author)Paige Russell2014-09-09

In the sand, a deadman anchor works better than a stake. Tie the guyline to the middle of a stick a foot or so long, then lay the stick horizontally in a hole, at right angles to the direction of pull and bury it

the_joat (author)Paige Russell2014-09-09

In the sand, a deadman anchor works better than a stake. Tie the guyline to the middle of a stick a foot or so long, then lay the stick horizontally in a hole, at right angles to the direction of pull and bury it

the_joat (author)Paige Russell2014-09-09

In the sand, a deadman anchor works better than a stake. Tie the guyline to the middle of a stick a foot or so long, then lay the stick horizontally in a hole, at right angles to the direction of pull and bury it

garykarm (author)2014-09-10

I love your ShadE deal what I find difficult is why not PVC pipe ..?

There are much longer stakes available.. A shade product, yet unrevealed, made out of BOPET film ? xo

flyingace (author)2014-09-09

I love this idea and have long thought of making something similar. However, the thing that always comes up for me is that the wind can be very strong, easily strong enough in my experience to pull up tent stakes. Can anyone suggest a lightweight anchor that could be used in their stead?

Helder4u (author)flyingace2014-09-10

You can always sew big enough sand-pocketsd/bags at the lower parts where the canvas touch the earth. then fill as much sand as needed to keep stable.

When going home - just empty the pockets of sand :)

Crucio (author)flyingace2014-09-09

What's becoming popular now are lightweight bags that you take to the beach and fill with sand to use as anchors.

Paige Russell (author)Crucio2014-09-09


nikoladifiore (author)2014-09-10

I made the same but in ultralight version, using pvc pipes and an old spinnaker.

HarveyS (author)2014-09-09

Nicely done.

The only thing I would add is some colorful streamers at the corners or on the rope. That will help to keep people from triping over the rope and stakes.

Paige Russell (author)HarveyS2014-09-09

Great idea!

nealbirch (author)2014-09-09


nealbirch (author)2014-09-09

taught = taut

mikecz (author)2014-09-09

Nice overall design, but why not just use 1/2" or 3/4" EMT (conduit)? You're using the couplings & elbows for it anyway and I think you'll find it is cheaper than the dowels (especially 4 foot ones) and is probably stronger at about the same weight.

Paige Russell (author)mikecz2014-09-09

I think if I redid this project, I would try that. I used the wood for the look, but think that over time the conduit would hold up better. Thanks for sharing!

Jbeazer98 (author)2014-09-09

Well done. Excellent instructions.

Paige Russell (author)Jbeazer982014-09-09


HollyHarken (author)2014-09-09

What an ingenious design! I would use bungee cords instead of ropes so that they have some give in the wind. I really like your instructable!!

Interesting suggestion! That could totally work.

cavalaxis (author)2014-09-09

Great instructable. Old costumer's trick: Use an awl to separate the weave of the drop cloth and insert the grommet through the weave instead of cutting the fabric. This will allow the structural integrity of the fabric to remain intact when the grommet starts taking the weight of the lines.

Paige Russell (author)cavalaxis2014-09-09

Such a great suggestion cavalaxis!! I'm sure that with enough windy beach trips, I'll have to remake the shade and will totally try that.

loompiggytutorials (author)2014-09-08

Best idea ever! I love that it's portable, too!

Yay, thanks!

BLR_RAVI (author)2014-09-08

very nicely built....also i like the way you wrote it

Paige Russell (author)BLR_RAVI2014-09-09

Thank you BLR_RAVI. : )

shambuda2000 made it! (author)2014-09-08

Excellent Instructable. I made something very similar this last summer. My only advice is 1. wash the canvas prior to use (drop clothes tend to shrink) 2. use a grommet tool like the one in the picture to speed up the process (they cost about 20-25 dollars)

Awesome work shambuda2000! And great advice too. Thanks for taking the time to read this one and for sharing!

PhilTee (author)2014-09-08

I love that you take a drill and hammer to the beach! Most folk take a bucket and spade, now we know why you needed the beach ball bag ;-)

Paige Russell (author)PhilTee2014-09-09

: )

Daveallnight (author)2014-09-09

I am somewhat surprised you were able to find thumbscrews that fit the EMT fittings, a lot of these have proprietary thread.

RMPEDRA (author)2014-09-09


1olovia1 (author)2014-09-08

I brak a buma

About This Instructable




Bio: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design ... More »
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