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We have a relatively small kitchen and having appliances like the microwave on the benchtop takes up space all the time when they're not being used. What I'd like to do is build some pull-down shelves that normally sit high up but can be pulled down and locked when in use, preferably with a spring, pneumatic or similar mechanism so they will return to the high position when unlocked.

I've tried searching online but only found pull-down-and-out shelves that are designed to be mounted inside a cupboard (e.g. Rev-A-Shelf). Can anyone recommend any alternatives, either complete systems or parts that I could use?

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You need a variation on a shoe carosel: it has shelves that pivot from an overhead bar. The bars are connected via a pair of chains to motor driven sprockets over and below. They can even go into the floor above and below to increase storage. I've always figured it would be computerized (a la ASRS). –  HerrBag Apr 26 '13 at 14:54
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I've always wanted to do something with a shelf attached with cables to pulley blocks with counterweights. Kind of old school, but would do the job for you. Using counterweights is good in your situation, because the weight of the empty appliance (microwave with no food) is constant. The downside is you must spent a good deal of time designing the system to the fit and finish of your kitchen. It looks like you can get the cable and pulley blocks from amazonsupply.com.

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99% sure no one makes a shelf that slides up or down. That would be a custom job from the mind of a master carpenter/engineer. Google "flipper door cabinet". I used to have one of these at my old office and the door is similar to a garage door. It would probably need to be customized because most are only 12" deep. If get the hardware you can just make one of any size because its just a simple box with a movable front door.

fancy horizontal flipper door cabinet vertical flipper door cabinet

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How would this help move the appliance out of the way when not being used? –  parsley72 Apr 27 '13 at 4:42
    
it would slide up into the soffit above –  HerrBag Jun 25 '13 at 15:05
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