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)
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a13jo5 months ago
Great work man, I definitely will do this project.
JeanetteClark5 months ago

Did you create your own Visio stencils - or are these available for download somewhere?

swaxman7 months ago
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
pallc7 months ago

Way awesome! My downstairs railing was made like this as well as the sink in the basement. Thanks for sharing!

pallc pallc7 months ago

Oh yeah... so I went German style pipe engineering (same idea screw versus welded with 2" 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.

YarivA7 months ago


papagood7 months ago

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!!!

joshbranch8 months ago

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 "T" and elbow on rear-pointing shelf supports (the ones without flanges)? Thanks for the great plans!

joshbranch8 months ago

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 "T" and elbow on rear-pointing shelf supports (the ones without flanges)? Thanks for the great plans!

JimW39 months ago

This looks fantastic! You've inspired me to build a similar one. Question, tho:

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 "opposite" turn somewhere in the sequence.

WayneEarl1 year ago
one other thing. my workout routine has been revolutionized by the inclusion of thread cutting sets using manual 3/4" 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?
WayneEarl1 year ago

im building a version of this using a mix of 1/2" and 3/4" 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.

MonolithFab (author)  WayneEarl1 year ago

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.

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! ;-)
Team10361 year ago

This is amazing! Do you have rough overall dimensions of the entire unit?

MonolithFab (author)  Team10361 year ago

Thanks! The overall bounds are roughly 74" wide by 54" tall.

astrorrey1 year ago

Very nice shelving! How did you protect the pipes for not to marr them with the stillson?

MonolithFab (author)  astrorrey1 year ago

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" 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.

wc4441 year ago

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.

MonolithFab (author)  wc4441 year ago

The total came in around $300 as I recall. The cost of all those pipe fittings adds up.

I was just thinking this must have been pretty expensive - and wondered if you found a cheap source for some of those parts.

If I remember right, my local orange-signed big box Home improvement store is getting $10+ for bigger flanges. Sounds like you didn't.

Sure looks nice. Good job!

MonolithFab (author)  wdexter1 year ago

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.

Thanks for your detailed reply - makes sense.
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.
carolmac551 year ago

Absolute Lunacy in a SteamPunk style, Though the scrap yards my only viable source for this kitchen project. thanks for your insight

primosanch1 year ago
Very nice.

Some of the shelves do not have support along the back edge. Where does their strength come from?

MonolithFab (author)  thoselaings1 year ago

Good eye. You'll notice that I was sure to locate a support in each of the 4 "corners" 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" thick solid hardwood is where most of the strength comes from. The flex of a 7/8" x 10-1/2" x 36" 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.

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!

MonolithFab (author)  luckylulujoe131 year ago

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.

woodNfish1 year ago
Your shelves have a bice steam punk lok. Very nice!
t0mm0t1 year ago

oh what a great job you did there!! :O

this is not only a shelf, this is art dude. *thumbsup*

humood771 year ago
great job
bitsy1131 year ago

I absolutely LOVE the way this looks! You did such a great job!

I love it!

jarthur61 year ago
this is crazy cool I have been looking for a cool built in idea and this is by far the coolest! GREAT WORK!
MonolithFab (author) 1 year ago

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.

Verga1 year ago

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.

dimtick1 year ago

Nice Job!!!!
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.

Great Job!!!!!!!!

amjohnny1 year ago

Very good design! I like it.

action pig1 year ago

Very cool shelving! I love this look and your particular take on it is wonderful.

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