The drop line

The choice of material used for your drop line depends on the kind of art you are installing. Heavy gauge stainless steel boat cable is typically too heavy and too inflexible for most temporary art installations. Lighter more flexible gauges are more suitable. A fine gauge 1/16” stainless steel cable can easily support a 100-lb tapestry and is superior to the galvanized kind of cable frequently used for picture hanging.

Larry Hoy, of Lawrence Hoy Studios strongly cautions against using galvanized cable because it is weaker and prone to breaking. Hoy also likes monofilament fishing line because it comes in several gauges (which translates into strength), is transparent and easy to cut and work with. [1]

Nancy Chinn prefers to use braided nylon cord, also known as mason’s snap line but she also recommends using monofilament, Fireline® (a braided fishing line), and trick line, which can be found in theater supply houses. Chinn adds that trick line’s visual advantage is that its black matte color makes it seem to disappear, plus it is easy to tie.

Some Line Options:

  • Stainless steel cable
  • Monofilament fishing line
  • Braided nylon cord (mason’s snap line)
  • Braided fishing line (Fireline®)
  • Trick line

planning_droplines_chinnSafety first:
How much weight can your cable or line actually support? Nancy Chinn says “with each edge the cord goes over, the weight that it can hold is divided by ten. That is, 65-lb rope will hold 6.5 pounds safely if it has to go around one edge of resistance.”[2]

The illustration shown above is taken from Chinn’s book on creating liturgical art, Spaces for Spirit: Adorning the Church.[3] It represents the type of drop line system she utilizes in many installations.

A bit of common sense:
When installing heavy objects over any seating area, or any public space, it is in your interest to secure the services of professionals.


[1] Larry Hoy (President at Renovata Studios Inc., at the time), in discussion with the author, April, 2014.

[2] Nancy Chinn, in discussion with the author, April, 2014

[3] Nancy Chinn, Spaces for Sprit: Adorning the Church,  First Edition (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 1998) 62.