Simple Hanging Shelves (folding)




These are far from the prettiest hanging shelves on instructables, but they may be the simplest.

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Step 1: Materials


  • a board or flat object that you can drill holes in
  • string that will hold a knot
  • two screws, 1 1/2" or longer
  • two washers big enough to go over the shaft of the screw and the string
  • a smaller screw (only needed if you want to fold the shelf up)
  • rare earth magnet with diameter similar to the larger screw head (only needed if you want to fold the shelf up)


  • studfinder or rare earth magnet
  • drill

Step 2: Drill Holes in the Corners of Your Shelf

Drill a hole in each corner of your shelf. 1/2" from each side is fine, but it doesn't really matter.

More important is the size of the hole. You want it to be just big enough for your string.

Step 3: Cut String

You can use one long piece of string or two shorter pieces. I'm going to describe how to do it with one long piece because it's easier.

Measure your string using the board for your shelf. You want your string to be as long as one length plus four widths.

My shelf was 17" long and 9" wide, so I cut my string to be 17" + 4*9" = 53". This will likely be longer than necessary.

Step 4: Thread Strings Through Shelf

My string likes to fray, so I put scotch tape on one end. Tie a knot in the other end of the string. Start with the figure 8 knot shown above. Test the knot by trying to pull it through one of the holes you drilled in the corner. If it won't go through, you're good. If it squeezes through then try a larger stopper such as the oysterman's.

Step 5: Threading String Through Shelf, Part 1

Starting from the bottom side of the shelf, push the taped side of the string through one of the corner holes (1). If you care which side is the front, start from one of the front holes. Pull the string all the way through until the knot stops hits the bottom. Thread a washer onto the string, then run the string down the nearest corner hole (2). One side of your shelf is just about done.

Step 6: Threading String Through Shelf, Part 2

Run the taped end of the string up the hole on the opposite side (3). Thread the second washer on the string then run the string down through the last hole (4).

Step 7: Tying the Second Knot

Estimate how low you'd like the shelf to hang and make both sides about equal length.

Flip the board over and tie a knot in the dangling piece of string. If you're not sure how low you'd like your shelf to hang, start with a slipknot. That way you can easily untie it to test different heights before tying your final figure 8 knot.

Step 8: Find Yourself a Stud, or Use a Wall Anchor

My favorite stud finder is a rare earth magnet. I slide it over the wall until it sticks. It finds the screws that attach the drywall to the studs. For plaster walls, a magnet will not work, and an electronic studfinder may or may not work.

Step 9: Mount One Side of Your Shelf

Hold the shelf up so the knots are in the front. Thread a screw through one of the washers and drive it into the wall. Almost all the way, but you don't want it pinching yet. I like to predrill with a 3/32" bit.

Step 10: Mount the Other Side of Your Shelf

Find another stud or get another anchor ready. If you have a level, you could use it to mark the height of the second screw. If not, you can eyeball it. Thread the screw through the washer and drive it into the wall. Again, don't pinch the string yet.

Step 11: Make Your Final Adjustments

You want to adjust the shelf front to back as well as side to side. You can also use a level or eyeball it. Drive the screws all the way in, pinching the string with the washer. Note this pinching does slightly weaken the string, so no need to overdo it.

Step 12: How Strong Is It?

What is the weakest link? The bailing twine I used here will support my weight (175 lbs).

I tested the pinching system by suspending 5 gallons of water and 35 lbs of metal, which is a little shy of 80 lbs. I used a 2" drywall screw, and hung it from only one of the pieces of twine. After a day, the only visible change was that the drywall screw had sagged down about 2 mm.

When I removed the weights and tested it with my body weight, the twine snapped at the screw, indicating that the pinching does weaken it. So the capacity for a single string is somewhere between 80-175 lbs.

Step 13: What About Making It Fold Up?

Here's one of the many ways you could make it fold up and stay up.

Fold it up and mark where the shelf hits the drywall screw. Drill a little hole next to your mark from the top of the shelf. Not all the way through!

Take your little screw (it has to be smaller than your drywall screw) and snap it so that you can screw it into your shelf and it won't poke through. Screw it into the hole you just drilled.

Step 14: Making It Fold Up

Place your magnet on the drywall screw.

Push the shelf up so that the little screw meets the magnet. With any luck, it should stay.

Trim the extra string.

Step 15: Shabby to Chic

Possibilities are endless.

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15 Discussions


5 years ago on Introduction

Very clever and I like the optical illusion of them as they definitely look like they shouldn't work. They should also work if you replace the screws with hooks attached to the strings to hook over something, such as a door top, a bathroom wall mirror or a radiator.


5 years ago on Introduction

simple and cheap with few tools. perfect for renters and students!


5 years ago on Introduction

I like the look and foldability, but since most studs are placed 16" apart, that could be an issue if you want a shelf that doesn't match those dimensions or that exact place on the wall. Maybe there's an easier way (I'm definitely an amateur!), but what I usually do is lag bolt a 1x2 into the wall, paint it to match the wall, then attach shelves to that.

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I never trusted expanding drywall anchors until I tested a bunch recently. They can be really strong when installed correctly, but not as strong as your 1x2.


5 years ago on Introduction

#1: no such thing as too many shelves! :)

#2: i cannot make many things without frustration, but i KNOW i can & WILL make these super-cool, FANTASTIC shelves; THANK-YOU!! :D


5 years ago on Introduction

I have seen some of these made with push pins instead of the screws. I never did figure how they lasted, but they did! They held more weight and lasted longer than I thought they should have! I don't recommend that version, but it was a mystery! Might be worth testing out with light non-breakables.


5 years ago on Introduction

Simple! Cheap! Genius!

And great instructible! You're the man! Put this in the next best contest or I will cry and flail!

(Dat awesome string technique mechanism thing made my day!)


5 years ago on Introduction

Actually, with some rustic wood, heavy jute/hemp rope, these are very attractive...


5 years ago on Introduction

Thanks, this just answered a question about where I was going to put "junk" that's on my bench that might or might not be in the way! :)


5 years ago

Oooo this is simple. And is perfect for those of us who are severely space-challenged lol