Paracord Shelves




Introduction: Paracord Shelves

About: I'm basically a mild mannered Engineering student by day but a Free lance Ninja consultant by night. To fund my Time-travelling dino hunting to halt the ascendancy of Raptor Jesus. Also in the next couple of m…

Tiny room with too many books, comics, cameras and other assorted miscellany. I like the idea of building my own furniture but as a Systems Engineer by trade I am far more at home with Matlab than a tenon saw (what is a tenon saw). I also have no technical knowledge of wood and related paraphernalia required to turn it into stuff.

To build easy a set of simple to construct low cost collapsible shelves to keep my stuff off the floor.

This design doesn't use nails or screws and doesn't require any sawing.
Instead the design uses 22 holes threaded with paracord inorder to suspend the shelves.

Note: As I've mention I have no technical knowledge of carpentry, and a hazy recollection of 3rd Year Structural Mechanics so any corrections or tips no matter how trivial would be greatly appreciated.


Step 1: Materials

Power drill with 5mm bit 
30cm Ruler

4 x Hardwood dowls (2.5 cm dia x 100 cm)
3 x Hardwood Wood Planks (100cm x 22cm x 2cm)
Sticky Tape
Paracord or similar 

Note: My material choice was probably a bit conservative lighter thinner planks could probably be used just as effectively. 

Step 2: How It Works

The design uses two dowl crosses to provide vertical support which the shelves are suspended from.
A rear 'X' shear web provides a shear support to stop the shelves from folding over sideways.

Step 3: Drill the Holes

There are 22 holes in total. Four in each of the planks and Five in each of the wooden dowls.

First take your 5mm drill bit and starting with the Planks drill a hole in each of the four corners of each of the planks approximately 3cm from the edge.

The dowl have 2 holes at the bottom and 3 holes at the top.

The top holes starting about 3cm from the top of the dowl drill each hole through the centre of the the dowl with a 3cm separation between each one.

Reversing the process start at the bottom holes 3cm from the base and repeat for a further two hole. Ensure the top and bottom holes are lined up.

Tip: You can use two planks to support the dowls while you drill saving the need for a bench top or vice (see pictures)

Step 4: Tying and Threading the Dowls (1)

This step creates the dowl crosses that will provide the vertical support for the shelves.

First step is to tie the dowl rods together. For this first step you'll need cut a length of paracord about 3.5m (12ft) long.

This step is difficult to describe so best bet is to look at the pictures.

Take two dowls and about halfway down and begin by wrapping the dowls around with paracord using approximately half the length. Then used the remaining length to wrap vertically over the cord between the dowls and tie this off. This will form the hinge to make the dowl crosses.

Note: There is probably a technical name for this kind of knot, but I don't know what it's called. Any comments would be appreciated :)

Tip: I tended to use multiples of ft to measure out the paracord. You can use a ruler wrap the cord lengthwise around it. Every loop is double the length of the ruler so easy to work out how much cord you need. (see pic)

Step 5: Tying and Threading the Dowls (2)

In this step you tie off the top and bottom of the dowl rods. Under the weight of the shelves this stops the dowl crosses from being pulled apart.

You will need to cut the paracord to approximately 80cm (2.5 ft) lengths
or however how long to sufficient so the crosses are held at a maximum width slightly larger than the the widths of the shelves.

At the top thread the paracord through the middle hole in loop and tie off.

At the bottom take the top hole and repeat

Step 6: Tying and Threading the Planks

In this step we thread the planks which will form the shelves.

For this you will need about 5m (16ft) of paracord for each of the ends of the shelves.

To thread and tie on one end end of the shelves. Lay the threes planks on top of each other thread the paracord through the holes under the bottom shelf. Make sure that shelf is half way along the length of paracord.

Measure 30cm (12in) along the paracord from the top of the bottom shelf and tie a knot in the string. Repeat this for both halves, this knot will support the shelf above. Next tread the second shelve and measure another 30cm before tying a knot this will support the top shelf.

Repeat for both ends.

Step 7: Tying the Shelves to the Dowls

Nearly done.

In this step you tie the shelves to the dowls crosses.

Thread the dowl through the top hole on the dowl. Measure 30cm from the top shelf to the hole and tie off the paracord. 

The next step is to raise the shelves. This can be a little tricky so a helper can be useful for this step.

Step 8:

Now that the dowl crosses are tied to the shelve we can raise the shelves into a vertical position.

The tricky part.
Take one end and lift the dowl cross into a vertical position. Pull the length of paracord that attaches the shelves to the dowl tight, so the shelves at one are supported by the paracord. Tie each end off using the bottom hole at the bottom of the cross. Repeat for both sides.

The shelves should be free standing but they have no shear stiffness. Make two lengths about 2m (6ft) of paracord and diagonally thread the paracord through the remaining top and bottom holes to form an X, this shear web provides the shear stiffness that stops the shelves folding over sideways.

Step 9:

You're done.

You've transformed a couple of planks or wood and some string into shelves. I recommend a cup of  tea and crumpets to mark the occasion of your victory over home build super simple furniture.

Note: Yes I am a grown man with a P-8A Poseidon poster in my room (ladies).

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    3 Discussions

    Bill WW
    Bill WW

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice, dandroid. Great that you use cord fr suspesion, cross bracing, etc rather than the ordinary screws.
    What is a tenon saw? No, the question is: What is matlab? If I did this right, you will see I tenon saw. I will now look up Matlab.

    tenon saw.jpg

    7 years ago on Introduction

    So what is that drill if you don't have any woodworking tools? ;D I didn't understand it at first but I looked through it and that's a pretty interesting design you got there with a nice result, although I'd sooner use screws and a few more boards for more stability. It looks like it's leaning against the wall though, can it stand up by itself?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    A drill is a pretty standard power tool, before this I only used my electric drill to drill into walls.
    Where would you use the boards and screws?
    It stands up by itself but you have to be precised with the cord to get it to stand up completely straight.