Industrial Pipe and Wood Bookshelves

Remember our posts on Achieving an Industrial Décor with Black Iron Pipe – Part I, Part II, and Part III?  In this post, Brianna and I are back for more tips on adding functional industrial décor with a quick tutorial for building some pretty awesome industrial pipe bookshelves with – you guessed it – black iron pipe and spare lumber.

Using pipe to make industrial brackets for shelves.

Throughout our travels, Brianna and I have collected knick knacks from across the globe to remind us of where we’ve been, what we’re capable of, and where we can go if we put in the effort.  Unfortunately, these precious mementos rarely have a place in our home at the time of purchase.  This can lead to what might as well be a four-letter word: CLUTTER. (gasp)

Trying to get a handle on cleaning and clutter management in the new year, I can’t tell you the number of clickbait posts we’ve admittedly clicked on this January claiming hold the secrets to the latest storage and organization techniques that will completely transform your home.  Let me save you the trouble of clicking through the masses and boil everything down into one simple point for you:  Everything has a place.   If your clutter isn’t in it’s place, put it there.

Our problem?  We’d run out of space.  The solution?  Build more space! (In the form of bookshelves in our master bedroom)

Supplies

You can take a lot of liberties on how you attack this project.  Styles and wall sizes vary, and the supplies listed below are those used for this particular adaptation.

Industrial pipe bookshelves from pipe tutorial with step by step how to

In this project, we built 4 industrial pipe bookshelves in three different styles:

Short Shelves (times 2):

Long Shelf (Standard)

Long Shelf (Over Desk):

Craft Thyme

For each shelf, the basic steps are the same:

  1. Select your lumber,
  2. Cut your lumber to size,
  3. Sand, rough, and buff,
  4. Cut your mounting holes,
  5. Test fit,
  6. Stain and poly,
  7. Assemble, Mark, Disassemble, Install, and Reassemble

Select Your Lumber

Selecting your lumber is strictly a matter of personal preference.  You’ll do best to find a piece of wood that speaks to you.  Spend time digging through the lumber stocks searching for that perfect knot, grain, or imperfection.  For this order, I decided to leave the lumber we used up to the random choosing of a Lowe’s employee by ordering online for in-store pickup.

Cut your Lumber to Size

Each wall we were looking to fill was 62″ wide.  Not wanting to fill the space from edge-to-edge, we chose 46″ for the widest (bottom) shelf and a smaller 20″ shelf to be placed as a higher accent piece.  Cut your lumber to size using whatever mechanism you have at your disposal.  We used our smaller miter saw to make the cuts.

Sand, Rough, and Buff

Once your cuts have been made, you’re going to want to distress your wood a bit.  Why?  1) It looks cool, and 2) SAFETY!  The way we’re going to mount the shelves will leave them sticking out 8″ from the wall.  Sharp, fresh cut lumber corners jutting out from a wall are just an accident waiting to happen.

Industrial shelves from pipe tutorial with step by step how to

Take some time to sand down your newly cut corners and edges.  Feel free to be overly drastic in how you do this – it will surely make your end result that much better!  And leave those imperfections there for everyone to see.

Cut your Mounting Holes

Symmetry comes naturally to me; it’s just the way my mind thinks.  (Brianna loves and hates this about me all at the same time.)  For this project, I chose to drill out the mounting holes in the same position on either side of the shelves-to-be.  Symmetry could be optional for you, just ensure that your shelf is properly supported in the design you chose to go with.

Industrial shelves from pipe tutorial with step by step how to

Use a 1-1/8″ hole saw or drill bit to cut the holes for your 3/4″ wide pipe.  I’ve tried this many different ways (including rocking a 1″ bit when drilling) in an attempt to find the perfect hole size.  Trust me, 1-1/8″ is the way to go.  There’s no need to sand these cuts (unless you’re more of a perfectionist than I am), because the actual opening will be hidden in the final product.

Test Fit

It goes without saying that you should test fit your pipe into your newly drilled holes.  Use the 2″ nipples to make sure that they fit well.

Industrial shelves from pipe tutorial with step by step how to

If they fall right through, don’t worry and remember that you’ll have a pipe cap and an elbow or tee on the other end for support.  If the opposite happens and you find that your pipe doesn’t fit into your hole, you can either try the rocking method mentioned earlier (not recommended – you can hurt yourself if you aren’t careful), or use a rubber mallet to tap the nipple into place.

Stain and Poly

Once your lumber has been properly cut, sanded, and drilled, break out your favorite stain and polyurethane finish.  For this application, we used Minwax Early American as the stain, and Minwax Semi-Gloss Polyurethane as a finish.  Apply the stain, let it dry overnight if possible, and apply the poly the next day.  Waiting for everything to dry is the hardest part, but the end result is well worth the wait.

Assemble, Mark, Disassemble, Install, and Reassemble

Yes, it sounds like a lot of steps in one, but at least they’re simple:

  1. Go ahead and assemble each shelf as you intend.  HAND TIGHTEN ONLY.   (Interested in what we did? See the final orientation of parts in the photos below.)
  2. With a partner, hold and level the shelf where you’d like it to hang.
  3. Mark the holes in the flanges with a pencil.  (Pro tip: Have two pencils – one for each of you.  You’ll avoid yelling about loosing level status this way)
  4. Pull the shelf down, and disassemble.
  5. Install your drywall anchors where your marked your flange holes.  (I go over the top here and use anchors capable of supporting 143 lbs each)
  6. Install your flanges (only) using your freshly installed anchors and provided screws.
  7. Into the flanges, install all of the hardware you plan to install besides the shelf itself and the black pipe caps.
  8. Install your shelf over the nipples that you test fitted earlier.
  9. Secure your shelf by adding the black pipe caps to the nipple peering out of your shelf.  A strong hand-tightening should be sufficient to ensure stability.

The Final  Industrial Pipe Bookshelves

DIY pipe shelf tutorial with directions

 

DIY pipe shelf tutorial with directions

 

Industrial shelf made from pipe.

 

DIY industrial shelves. Tutorial and instructions.

 

DIY pipe shelf tutorial with directions

 

DIY industrial shelves and pipe desk. Tutorial and instructions.

 

How to make diy industrial shelves from black iron pipe.

33 thoughts on “Industrial Pipe and Wood Bookshelves

  1. Love this! Your instructions are so clear and helpful.

    I priced the hardware at Lowe’s and was shocked at the prices. The on-line retailers are less than half the cost. Is there a huge difference in the look and/or quality of the on-line supplies?

    Thanks!

    • The products from Zoro have always met or exceeded the quality of what you’ll find at Lowe’s. The price difference is unbelievable. We’re constant and repeat customers and have now outfit two separate homes with their products.

  2. Any pictures or ideas on how to do bath towel holders? I love your stuff!! You finally gave me a TP holder idea that I love!! Thank you!

    • There are TONS of great options for bath towel holders! You can build a simple towel bar by using two flanges, two close nipples, two elbows, and a length of pipe to fit the space. Think of it as a very wide and short letter U. You could make multi-tiered bars, towel hooks, towel pegs – the options are endless! If you want to discuss your particular space more and have us give you feedback on potential designs for your space, write us at brianna@craftthyme.com and we’d be glad to chat!

  3. For the longer shelves, where the flanges are underneath the shelf, does the flange actually bear some of the shelf weight? (i.e. does the shelf actually sit on the flange at all?) Or is all the weight still just on the tee?

    Thanks!

    • The shelves do not rest on the flange, so all the weight is on the tee. Make sure you cap the tee and screw it down as far as it goes, as this acts as the primary stabilization for the shelf.

      • Thanks for the reply, Adam. I’m just about to order my hardware and I noticed that for the short shelf you have 2″ and 2.5″ Welded Steel Nipples, while for the longer shelves you have 2″ and 3″. If you’re using 2x8s for all the shelves, why are the parts different sizes? Did you cut the holes closer to the wall for the shorter shelf?

        Almost there! Thanks for all your help and for the detailed instructions!

        • The difference between the 2.5″ and 3″ nipples was simply a design choice. In our application, the short shelves were on top, and we wanted them to appear closer to the wall, hence the use of the 2.5″ nipples. Feel free to use whichever you like for your build. The 3″ is probably the better choice for greater shelf support, as the combination of that and the elbow will provide a more centralized hole location when using a 2″x8″.

  4. For the long shelf with the hanging bar at the bottom, how in the world did you get the full bar attached to the flanges once they were mounted on the wall? Worked on this project yesterday and trying to figure out how to screw the whole thing together on the wall was quite the brain bender, couldn’t help but feel like we were missing a key step.

    • Indeed, this is a super tricky step…. Sorry for the lack of instruction!

      To install the hanging bar, first turn one of your reducing elbows so that it points straight out from the wall. Into this elbow, screw in one end of the hanging bar as far as you can without having to strong-hand it to go in any further (you’ll need to be able to loosen it easily in a second). Screwing it in this far SHOULD provide you with enough clearance to now rotate the elbow/bar back in alignment with your wall and fit into the elbow on the opposite side. From here, you should be able to screw the other end of the bar into the fitting and complete the installation. As you do this, you’re actually unscrewing from the first elbow, hence the mention about not overdoing it when attaching to the first elbow. Let us know how it goes!

    • It all depends on the studs/anchors used for installation. We used 150lb anchors because that’s what we had on hand at the time. Would we ever try putting 150 lbs on them? Probably not. But, we used the same anchors for our pipe banisters, and they have held the weight our four kiddos (at the same time) with no problem.

  5. Nice variation on the iron pipe shelf theme. I particularly like the upside down bracket idea, it works really well, I’ve got to try that. I have a few tips to pass on (and a little plug).

    If you going to make a few of these then the price of the pipe and fittings at your local big box hardware store will quickly add up. Try a local plumbing supply house instead. No guarantees but they can be a lot cheaper. Pipe and fittings come in two types: galvanised and ‘black pipe’. Galvanized is silvery, won’t rust, but is more expensive. If you plan on painting them anyway, look for black pipe. The downside is black pipe is usually greasy and nasty. Which brings me to my plug: my little company Blackfriars Ironworks has all these parts, pre-cleaned, degreased, deburred and electrostatically painted (tough as nails), all for less than you’d pay in Lowes or Home Depot. Happy to help with custom projects too. https://blackfriarsironworks.com or https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlackfriarsIronworks

  6. I am so amazed by these shelves…and your tutorial is just perfect! I am going to feature your project on my weekly newsletter for my email subscribers. Please sign up if you haven’t already so you can see your feature! Thank you so much for sharing this on Friday Favorites at Must Love Home!! – Christine

  7. Your shelves, OMG! I have seen them before and they are on my wish list, but you did them using less plumbing fixtures than the norm. Loved that! I also giggled when you talked about symmetry, I know exactly what you mean, my brain needs it for home decor and sometimes it’s so hard to find for specific projects or rooms.

    You did a fantastic job, so glad you shared this!

    • Thanks for the great feedback! You wouldn’t believe the conversations we have around symmetry… Brianna lets out an exasperated ::sigh:: every time I mention the concept in relation to decorating, gardening, construction, etc. It’s a ton of fun and we laugh throughout!

  8. I love how these came out, they are so my style! All of the pipe projects you’ve created are so inventive, my in-laws were looking for a stair rail option for their garage entry and couldn’t figure out how to go about it, I shared your pipe stair railing post and they loved it, it will work perfect for them! Thanks so much for posting your ideas with great step by step tutorials!

    • We have a house full of boys as well. Only me and the chickens holding it down for the females. I like the fact that they are just kind of gender neutral shelves. They look good with all my weck jars but would look just as nice with boys toys or large leather bound books.

Leave a Comment