Instructables

Industrial Conduit-Shelving

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So we have a blank wall at the FloweringElbow workshop we have been making, which needs some shelving and power outlets. As we are all about the upcycling jazz, we obviously want to make something with reclaimed materials. In this project we make a set of shelves who's frame also acts as a protective conduit for mains wiring. 

What are our requirements here?  

1. Make some massively strong shelving that can hold exceptionally heavy workshop related jazz.
2. On the same wall, rout a new ring circuit providing three normal (for the UK) 13A 240V sockets and 3 high power 32A 240V plug sockets. 
3. Use up some of the scrap metal piping and reclaimed timber we have knocking about.
4. Improve welding and metal fabrication skills. 


 
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Step 1: Planning

Warning! 

It is at about this point that we should have a warning about electricity and its general badass nature. We use electricity to weld together this project which itself is used to protect electric cables which carry currents that can kill. Pretty much any of the tools and processes involved can badly injure you, and many of them can kill. We'll try and highlight some particular safety concerns as we go along, but don't expect a recitation of the exhaustive warnings in, for example, your welders manual ("do not microwave oven this product" and other common warnings will be absent!).
If you don't know exactly what your doing, mains electricity can kill you. If in doubt ask and get knowledgeable help!  


Materials and Tools

If you set about making something similar to this, the materials and tools available to you will be different to what we had to hand. We, for example, used old pressure pipe for this project, because it is what we had (it was dug out of our friend Dave's back garden). Being round it required different and more complicated fabrication techniques than say square stock (which would be our preference for a project like this).

Here are a few general things you will need if you want to make something like this:

1. Lengths of hollow metal. Needs to be sturdy enough (adequate wall thickness) and large enough to accommodate you cable - work out cable sizing first, and remember that sections of conduit may be carrying two cables even if you are not wiring up a ring main (pulling/feeding cable through conduit in which they only just fit can be frustrating and it can also damage the cable's insulation!).

2. Something to cut metal. We use our cool power hacksaw, but a metal mitre saw or an angle grinder with a guide would do the job well. A plain old hacksaw or careful freehand angle grinding is possible in a pinch. Wear eye protection, even if hand hacksawing. 

3. Something to cut holes in the tubing. We used a drill with a hole saw, and various standard metal drill bits. If using round stock like we were a fine toothed hole saw is way better than a regular one, which will be catch-tastic.  

4. A de-burring tool. Exceptionally important for the holes which cable is routed through. We tried using a 'proper' de-burring tool, a variety of hand files and a rotary tool like a dremal.

5. A welder, and all associated safety kit. Though I feel compelled to mention it would be possible to do a project like this with heavy duty pipe threading kit and fittings. But that would usually usually involve buying tools and new angle and t-pieces, and it wouldn't be as fun and wouldn't be an much of an upcycling project ;)

6. Something to clean up the areas to be welded will almost always be needed on reclaimed scrap metal. Before welding anything you need clean and bright bare metal. We usually use a 115 or 125mm angle grinder with flap disk - works a treat. Acetone is also useful to remove oily residue before welding. Remember eye and ear protection!

7. Workholding kit - magnetic angle clamps designed for welding are especially useful.    

8. A spirit level or plumb line or techy laser - whatever you have for getting things straight. 

9. Electricians tools. If you don't know exactly what they are, get trained help (hmmm, that feels patronising and unhelpful. Sorry about that, I just don't want to be responsible for teaching you mains wiring safety).
vincent75208 months ago
Very nice project.

My only question is : why did you choose round tubing ? Square tubes would have been more easy to work with on this specific project.
(Unless of course that you already had round tubing at hand).

Then again, don't you think that putting the wiring inside the tubes is somewhat overdone : Wiring outside the tube with their specific protection would have been easier and faster and as safe.
But maybe you had the pleasure of doing so, and this is priceless.
bongodrummer (author)  vincent75208 months ago
Hay Vincent, thanks for the comment.

The round tubing was not by choice. I think I mentioned in the 'able that square stock would defiantly be easier to work - we just happened to be given a load of scrap steel pipe...

Wiring wise: here in the UK wiring has to be in conduit (unless it is armoured cable). In this case the pipe/conduit prevents accidental damage to the cables' insulation - from flying workshop shrapnel and the like ;)
Thanks !
kenbob1 year ago
I love the design, and all the reuse! This is a great instructable!
bongodrummer (author)  kenbob1 year ago
Thanks! Using the reclaimed stuff was a LOT of extra work, though obviously cheaper... Need to make some kind of pipe abrading machine, to quickly prep lengths of old pipe for welding ;)
Still, I think the patchy angle-grinded weld patches look kinda cool in there own special way...
What an awesome way to combine two basic needs. Genius!
bongodrummer (author)  jessyratfink1 year ago
Hay thanks Jessyratfink!
Is it a good idea to use metal tubing? If the wire insulation is compromised the whole metal frame could turn live.
bongodrummer (author)  danger_mouseUK1 year ago
It is quite common to use metal conduit in industrial settings - it is stronger and more resistant to being accidentally damaged when things fly about the shop (not that that ever happens to me). The point of metal conduit (especially thick stuff like this is to ensure that the insulation is never compromised except in the most exceptional circumstance. Obviously the conduit must be grounded, so that if that should ever happen, you are protected. 
Boost1 year ago
Cool project. Please connect ground to that metal conduit so if something short the whole conduit will not become a conductor.
bongodrummer (author)  Boost1 year ago
Thanks. Yep, that's worth noting: as is always the case any metal conduit does have to be grounded!
mr_chris1 year ago
sorry I just realised how daft I am sometimes.
mr_chris1 year ago
when you say hi power 240 v sockets, are you talking about the 120 v safety equipment sockets?