Introduction: Shipping Container Shelves

I've been looking for a way to install permanent shelves in my shipping container without having to bolt them in from the outside. I looked around the internet, but I didn't find anyone with a workable solution. Since the shipping container has loops on top and bottom, I decided I'd need to anchor to those, but I had to puzzle out how to make strong shelves that could hang from a loop. I saw a pot shelf someone put over their sink using rope and realized I could do a similar thing in my shipping container if I used the right materials. I put together a design and started collecting said materials. I thought I'd share the concept in case anyone else finds themselves needing to do this and can't find any online solutions.

Tools used: Table saw, drill (1/2 drill bit, Phillips bit, 7mm socket bit), rubber mallet, pipe cutter, bolt cutter, swaging tool, stepladder, level, measuring tape, a helper (to hang them)

Materials used: 2 4x8 particle boards, 6 10' 2x4s, 18 17" 2x3s, 100ish 2" drywall screws, 2 2' 1/2" copper pipes, 100' of 3/16" steel cable, 12 swage sleeves, 12 cable thimbles, 18 cable clamps

Notes: For the wood, I would have used solid wood rather than reinforced particle board, but particle board, 2x4s and 2x3s are what I had in the garage, so that's what I used. Also, the hole I made were bigger than I would have liked, but I couldn't find thinner piping. Also, the girl in the picture was NOT my helper. You'll want to find an adult to help you.

Step 1: Assemble Shelves

I cut up 2 4x8 particle boards to fit onto a frame I made using the 10' 2x4s and a few dozen short lengths of 2x3s I found in the garage. If I would have bought it new, I would probably choose the simpler option of buying planks of 2x10 1" wood, but I worked with what I had to keep costs low. I drilled drywall screws from the underside to keep the shelf surface looking clean.

Step 2: Make the Holes

Next, I drilled holes. My loops are about 4' 7" apart in my shipping container, so I drilled holes in the center of my 10' shelves and then measured out to either side to make the others. There are six holes per shelf (three in back and three in front). I wanted to make sure that the steel cable didn't eat its way through the wood some day, so rather than stopping there I used a pipe cutter to cut down some copper piping and used a mallet to force the pipes into place. The holes and pipes are 1/2", the smallest diameter I could find.

Step 3: Hang the Shelves

I hung the cables up first, using thimbles inside the loop and a swaging tool to crimp the sleeves (Note: it was tough to get the right angle in the corner). I cut more than enough cable, 12' each for my 9' 6" tall container. Next, I held the shelfs up on my shoulders while a helper fastened the steel cable clamps into place (top to bottom). A drill with torque set low and a socket fitting works fantastic for this. I used a level to make sure the shelves were in place, then went through and checked that the tension was good on all the cables. The weight of the shelves and the items I'll place onto them will ensure the stability, but I figure that in the event I want to move the container I will want to hold them into place by anchoring them into the bottom loops.

Step 4: Conclusion

These shelves are tough. The capacity of the cable is almost 4000 lbs, and the shelves themselves couldn't weigh more than 100 lbs each, meaning I should be able to put as much weight on them as I desire. This basically means that the integrity of the wood in the shelves defines the capacity. You can get solid wood or metal shelves and add on to the concept for a greater weight capacity.