Introduction: 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
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).
1/2" Plunge Cut Router bit
Combination Square (A.K.A Tri Square)
Step 2: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Second Prize in the
Participated in the
Question 2 years ago on Step 11
I'm having some trouble getting the table to hang level. The friction from eye hooks seems to be catching the rope, requiring more force to move the rope from "point a to point b" within the system of pulleys. I bought more pulleys to mount to-/hang from- the ceiling, hoping this will reduce friction along the path. Anyone have any suggestions for the configuration that'll help self-level as i pull/release the rope?
3 years ago on Step 11
I did the same configuration but mine doesn't lift the table equally. Infact , it lifts sideways .
Any suggestions on how to calibrate it ?
Question 3 years ago on Introduction
Hola, se puede tomar idea de subir una cama, y luego por la noche bajarla. ¿hay que hacer muchos cambios? Ojalá me lean, y me contesten, muchas gracias. Me encanta la idea
Question 4 years ago on Step 7
This is AMAZING.
May I copy one or two pictures for an article I'm writing about creative space saving? I'll include the website name.
Thanks in advance.
6 years ago
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 :)
Reply 4 years ago
Thanx me too planning for train layout. Can u send pictures and parts/ items used to hang,I can order online these parts
Question 4 years ago on Introduction
Can u give pully etc product name or number to order on line?Thickness of wire? I am installing 8 by 4 board 9mm thick.
5 years ago
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 :-)
5 years ago
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!
6 years ago
Man I sure do love the way those pulleys look! Anyone know the name for it so I can search for some?
6 years ago
Perfect! I will show this to my paps.
6 years ago
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!
7 years ago
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
7 years ago
I was wondering if there is any mechanical advantage to the system? I want to use this for storage. Thanks !
7 years ago
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?
7 years ago
hi! just tried mocking up this idea but my contraption isn't self leveling.. am I doing something thing wrong?
Reply 7 years ago on Introduction
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.
7 years ago on Introduction
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.
8 years ago
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...
8 years ago on Introduction
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 :)