They say necessity is the mother of invention.  A recent necessity of mine was to make a shelving unit that could support (literally) and organize my growing book addiction.  After spending a few weeks looking at various shelving ideas online, I found that I kept getting drawn back to the pipe and wood shelves that have become popular and decided to put my own spin on the genre.  The finished product turned out better than I could have expected.  Not only does this shelf provide a place to put my books, it is so expansive and robust that it has also become the organizational center for just about everything else in our living room including books, pictures, antiques and collectibles, video games, tv remotes and game controllers, art, as well as providing an attractive place to hang items like stockings and other seasonal decor.

Project Description
Make a built-in, wall-mounted shelving unit with an industrial chic aesthetic.  Designed on site to mount directly to wall studs, the finished shelving unit will perfectly fit the formerly barren space on your wall, and will be capable of effortlessly supporting hundreds of pounds in high style.

Required Tools
-Stud Finder
-Level (several lengths ideal - 12", 24", 48")
-Layout Tools (pencil, ruler, t-square/combo square, chalk line (optional))
-Hand Drill
-Table Saw
-Miter Saw
-7/8" Spade or Forstner Bit
-Random Orbit Sander & Sand Paper (120, 150, 180, and 220 grit typically required)
-Disposable Gloves for staining and finishing wood
-Brushes and/or Rags for staining and finishing wood
-Drop Cloth
-Painters Pyramids (to help speed up wood finishing process)

Required Materials

1/2" Pipe and Pipe Fittings (Can be found at any local hardware store)

*Note: The specific lengths, fittings, and quantity of pipe used will vary depending on the specifics of the built-in.  The best way to avoid multiple trips to the hardware store is to buy more than you need of a good variety of pipe and fittings, and then return unused items once the project is completed.  See Step 2 for details on creating the pipe framework.  The fittings and quantities I used to complete my project are as follows:

Flanges: qty 10
Elbows (90s): qty 21
3-Way Tees: qty 16
Round Caps: qty 7
Square Caps: qty 2
Couplers: qty 3
1-1/2" long sections: qty 15
2" long sections: qty 2
3" long sections: qty 2
3-1/2" long sections: qty 3
4" long sections: qty 1
4-1/2" long sections: qty 3
5" long sections: qty 2
6" long sections: qty 11
9" long sections: qty 3
10" long sections: qty 3
12" long sections: qty 1
18" long sections: qty 1
24" long sections: qty 1

Hardwood or High Grade Plywood

*30 linear feet of 3/4" to 1" thick x 10-1/2" wide hardwood or high grade plywood (Pine, Maple, Poplar, Walnut, etc).  Avoid construction grade lumber which has not been dried and therefore will likely warp after installation.

*Note: The specific quantity of wood required will vary depending on the specifics of the built-in.  The easiest way to accurately estimate the amount of wood required is to wait until the initial layout has been completed in Step 2.  Otherwise, apply a 15-20% scrap factor to the amount determined after completing the design in Step 1. 

Primer & Spray Paint for pipes
Wood Stain
Clear Coat such as oil, varnish, or lacquer
Wood Screws (I used #8 x 2" to get a good bite into the wall studs)
Drywall Anchors (optional; required if flanges are not anchored to studs)

Step 1: Conceptualizing the Design

To get my conceptual design off the ground I created a basic file in Visio that helped me to visualize the proportions and see how the shelves might layout within the bounds of the wall space that I had to work with.  The attached picture is as finished as the "plans" ever got which was perfectly adequate for this project.  Since the robustness of the shelf hinges upon the pipe flanges being attached to the wall studs, which never seem to consistently be 16" like they're suppose to be, it's important to maintain flexibility in the design.
<p>Finally finished! I didn't quite reach your level of Rube Goldberg intricacy/goodness, but I'm happy with the result. Thanks for the inspiration!</p>
<p>What a fun email to get out of the blue on a Sat afternoon. Nice work! I like the way used two to frame the bar. That looks like a solid place to pour a proper drink and make some memories. Thanks for the shout!</p>
<p>Do you have the dimensions on where you places all the flanges/pipes?</p>
Great work man, I definitely will do this project.
<p>Did you create your own Visio stencils - or are these available for download somewhere?</p>
You Da man ! wicked . back in the old days in particular Bathrooms and laundrys plumbers would run hot water exposed copper pipework along the walls, , creating radiant heating and warm towl rails, they were Sustainable installations, anyway very cool
<p>Way awesome! My downstairs railing was made like this as well as the sink in the basement. Thanks for sharing!</p>
<p>Oh yeah... so I went German style pipe engineering (same idea screw versus welded with 2&quot; galvanized piped piled and framed along the shore and going back under the first terrace) on the seawall when I restored along with using rebar stepped footing going up the hill to restore the retaining walls. I also used a few pipes sticking up for railing... though never finished the railing. Was armed robbed and shot so moved away and have to sell the house now. Still, you have a way cool design and looks aesthetically appealing and inspiring. </p>
<p>Very nice work...I've been drawing up plans with something similar but using the same idea to expand across an entire room for a home office. I've thought of the pipe coming down from the ceiling to the floor...give give the office kind of like an upscale hardware feel. Keep up with the post if you do add more...one of the best builds I've seen of this idea, keep it up!!!</p>
<p>Great project and nice detail! I'm in the process of building an exact replica of your design and am having a hard time finding exactly which pipe lengths go where. Could you tell me what length is used between the &quot;T&quot; and elbow on rear-pointing shelf supports (the ones without flanges)? Thanks for the great plans!</p>
<p>Great project and nice detail! I'm in the process of building an exact replica of your design and am having a hard time finding exactly which pipe lengths go where. Could you tell me what length is used between the &quot;T&quot; and elbow on rear-pointing shelf supports (the ones without flanges)? Thanks for the great plans!</p>
<p>This looks fantastic! You've inspired me to build a similar one. Question, tho:</p><p>How did you assemble the bottom right corner, where you have the bottom two shelves connected? It seems it's not possible, given there's no junction to assist with a necessary &quot;opposite&quot; turn somewhere in the sequence.</p>
one other thing. my workout routine has been revolutionized by the inclusion of thread cutting sets using manual 3/4&quot; pipe dies. It's like a new pair of shoulders! i could buy the threaded nipples or pay and have the big box store cut the threads, but whats the fun in that?
<p>im building a version of this using a mix of 1/2&quot; and 3/4&quot; pipe, but with the pipe conceiling wiring. im creating pipe styled light fixtures as part of this as well. will post pics once ive got something im happy with.</p>
<p>Very nice. There's definitely a strong case to be made for integrated wiring and lighting since the conduit is already there. Can't wait to see how it turns out.</p>
yes, exactly. and its possible to keep low voltage and 120v wiring seperate from each other, simply by hiding the use of the piping as conduit withen a shelving/lighting installation - looks cool, and complies with electrical codes. bonus! ;-)
<p>This is amazing! Do you have rough overall dimensions of the entire unit?</p>
<p>Thanks! The overall bounds are roughly 74&quot; wide by 54&quot; tall.</p>
<p>Very nice shelving! How did you protect the pipes for not to marr them with the stillson?</p>
<p>No pipe wrench necessary, ideally. Any mates that needed to be torqued tightly seemed to have an elbow somewhere in the assembly which provides a nice place to attach a 6-10&quot; temporary pipe and use the leverage to multiply my hand strength. There was one or two instances where I inadvertently over-tightened a mate before the final assembly and had to use a pair of vice grips with a kitchen towel wrapped around the pipe to loosen the fittings. The towel never protects the pipe perfectly so there were a few marks that I filed down a bit, but definitely nothing major. I would probably invest in a pair of soft jaw pliers if I were going to do many more of these pipe projects.</p>
<p>These look awesome! I saw an online ad for a company selling a shelving unit like this with only ONE shelf for $250.00. I'm guessing this entire project costs just a fraction of that.</p>
<p>The total came in around $300 as I recall. The cost of all those pipe fittings adds up.</p>
<p>I was just thinking this must have been pretty expensive - and wondered if you found a cheap source for some of those parts. </p><p>If I remember right, my local orange-signed big box Home improvement store is getting $10+ for bigger flanges. Sounds like you didn't.</p><p>Sure looks nice. Good job!</p>
<p>I really don't remember the exact price, but recall tallying the final price at a little over $300. I did buy all the pipe fittings at the Home Despot you've made reference to, but could not have gotten away with it at $10 a flange so that sounds a little steep. I'm always looking for ways to buy in bulk or find a back door for wholesale prices so I get where you're coming from, but personally didn't think it was worth spending the time to contact local plumbing supply specialists to potentially save a few dollars. I can't remember if the big boxes offer any carton discounts, but that may have helped at the quantities I ended up using for a few of the fittings.</p>
Thanks for your detailed reply - makes sense.<br>I neglected to mention how beautiful I think this project is. I really enjoy using industrial-grade materials in innovative ways, and repurposing discarded stuff. I mounted my chop saw on an old B-B-Q stand, and it works great - I can wheel it to wherever I need it.
<p>Absolute Lunacy in a SteamPunk style, Though the scrap yards my only viable source for this kitchen project. thanks for your insight</p>
Very nice.
<p>Some of the shelves do not have support along the back edge. Where does their strength come from?</p>
<p>Good eye. You'll notice that I was sure to locate a support in each of the 4 &quot;corners&quot; on the larger shelves with lots of height clearance that I knew would be supporting large loads. There are a few shelves only supported in 3 corners and one shelf only supported by 2 pipes toward the front corners. For these shelves the round caps help by providing a downward force on top of the boards that keeps the shelves from sagging or tilting if they are loaded at the back where there is no support directly underneath. The fact that the holes in the boards have a relatively tight clearance around the pipes going through the shelves also helps in this regard. Most importantly, the rigidity of the 7/8&quot; thick solid hardwood is where most of the strength comes from. The flex of a 7/8&quot; x 10-1/2&quot; x 36&quot; piece of hardwood is so minimal that it's not even a factor as long as the shelves are receiving good support in a few locations. I'm still amazed at the strength of wood every time I build a new project. So few consumer products are made out of solid wood or a high grade plywood that it's easy to forget the inherent strength and robustness of high quality materials. Initially I thought that the shelves with fewer supports would be for lighter weight items, but the end result is that there is no practical difference between the strength of any given board. I don't hesitate to put any item on any given shelf without thinking twice about it.</p>
<p>Howdy, My friend and I made a 1/4 inch water pipe skateboard rack where we used 1/4 turn shutoff valves to retain the boards against the wall! Your shelves look great!</p>
<p>Nice! You have reminded me that I played around with the aesthetic of a few water valve fittings when designing this shelf, but ultimately opted out because they made the framework look too much like a sprinkler system. I like your idea of the 1/4 turn shutoffs though. Sounds like a killer skateboard rack.</p>
Your shelves have a bice steam punk lok. Very nice!
<p>oh what a great job you did there!! :O</p><p>this is not only a shelf, this is art dude. *thumbsup*</p>
great job
<p>I absolutely LOVE the way this looks! You did such a great job!</p>
<p>I love it!</p>
this is crazy cool I have been looking for a cool built in idea and this is by far the coolest! GREAT WORK!
<p>Thank you all for the positive feedback! It's very gratifying to see others enjoying the Instructable. While it is true that this project requires some handy work with a tape measure and level due to self-inflicted complexity, the finished product is great proof that the details are not the details. They really do make the design.</p>
<p>What a great steampunk design. Excellent instructions and great pictures. I have got to talk my wife in doing this in at least one room of our house.</p>
<p>Nice Job!!!!<br>I've seen pipe shelves before but they always tried to disguise the fact that they were made of pipes. I love this because instead of trying to hide anything you really celebrate the fact that it's made from pipes.</p><p>Great Job!!!!!!!!</p>
<p>Very good design! I like it.</p>
<p>Very cool shelving! I love this look and your particular take on it is wonderful.</p>
<p>Looks fantastic! Very steampunk. :)</p>
Cool concept. I live in an old house, and there was actually a blank wall where I was planning on installing pretty standard shelving, but after seeing this, I've completely changed my mind! Thanks!
<p>That's awesome!!</p>
<p>Love how the arrangement of shelves is something completely custom and could be made custom by anyone doing this for themselves!</p>
<p>This is such a beautiful shelving unit! I'm thinking of making something similar for my record collection. Thanks for the great instructions!</p>
<p>The setup looks so complicated, but you have such wonderful directions! Awesome job :D</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: An electrical engineer by trade and a creator by DNA, Monolith Fab is my outlet for a creative addiction a long time in the making ... More »
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