Introduction: Zero Point Shelf

Picture of Zero Point Shelf

If putting holes in the wall was a game this shelf wouldn't net you any points. The image below is a very rough SketchUp concept drawing of a shelf I built. The concept of "clamping" shelving between the ceiling and floor isn't original to me, in fact I've see several variations of the idea; this is just my variation. The point of this method of mounting shelves is - you get the shelf without the holes in your wall, the concept also lends itself to being placed where there is no wall (stud) support.

Special Note: In the following steps I describe how I removed the lip from the flanges, if you'd rather not have to do this I've learned that Simplified Building can bore out the fittings for you (additional cost per flange).

Step 1: Parts List

x15 - type 61-6 1" Kee Klamp Flanges | Simplified Building

x3 - 10ft 1" galvanized pipe | Home Depot

x3 - 1x12x8 | shelves | Home Depot

x2 - 1x6x8 | header and footer | Home Depot

x3 - 2ft 3/4" threaded rod | clamp assembly | Home Depot

x6 - 3/4" bolts | clamp assembly | Home Depot

x6 - 3/4" flat washers | clamp assembly | Home Depot

x60 - 3/4" screws | attach flanges to shelves | Home Depot

Step 2: Remove the Flange Lip

Picture of Remove the Flange Lip

First step is to remove the lip from the 9 flanges that will be used to support the shelves so the pipe slides all the way through. I used a metal hole saw to get the majority of the lip out and then used a grinder to get the remaining.

I forget the exact size of the bit (after the 9 flanges it was useless and thrown away) but it just fit inside the flange.

The flanges were screwed down to the table to keep them secure during drilling

note: the following action likely voids any guarantee or warranty the Kee Klamps have.

Step 3: Cut the Pipe

Picture of Cut the Pipe

Using a table saw and metal cutting blade I cut the pipe to length.

The length of the pipe depends on how high your ceiling is and how long your threaded rod is, I cut mine about 9" short of the ceiling, with 2' of threaded rod this gives me plenty of playing room.

You don't want to pipe too long or short - too long and it will make adjusting the clamp difficult or impossible, too short and you wouldn't be able to clamp the shelf between the ceiling and the floor.

Step 4: Clamp Assembly

Picture of Clamp Assembly

After cutting the pipe I tried out the clamp assembly - the one shown works but I later decided that the smaller pipe (ceiling half) wasn't needed.

Step 5: Drill Holes in Shelves

Picture of Drill Holes in Shelves

After cutting the boards to length I used an adjustable hole saw and drilled out the holes in the shelves for the pipe to pass through. I eyeballed the size needed, the pipe just fits through the hole which is what I wanted.

I clamped the shelves together and marked where I wanted the holes on the top shelf. Leaving the shelves clamped together and using a standard bit (1/4" I think) I drilled a hole through all the shelves. I then un-clamped the shelves and used the smaller hole as a guide for the hole saw, so the holes ended up in the same place on all three shelves.

Using the hole placement on the shelves as a guide I marked where the flanges needed to be on the header and footer.

Step 6: Test Assembly

Picture of Test Assembly

After all the holes were drilled in the shelves there was nothing left to but test it out.

Step 7: Assembly Notes

Picture of Assembly Notes

I found the easiest way to assemble the shelf was to insert the pipe into the footer and slide on the flanges and shelves separately adding the header last.

Step 8: Sanding

Picture of Sanding

Emily, my niece helping to sand the shelves before the application of polyurethane.

Step 9: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

After the polyurethane it was put back together but with much more attention to being level than in the test assembly.

The assembly followed what was described in step 7:

1. Pipe was placed in footer flanges
2. Bottom shelf flanges were slid on
3. Bottom shelf was put in place, roughly where I wanted it
4. Middle shelf flanges were slid on
5. Middle shelf was put in place, roughly where I wanted it
6. Top shelf flanges were slid on
7. Top shelf was put in place, roughly where I wanted it
8. Header was put in place, the unit was clamped lightly
9. Final adjustments were made to the placement of the header and footer, so the pipes are straight
10. Final hight and level adjustments were made to each shelf, make sure the set screws are TIGHT
11. Clamped the shelf tighter in place, it's not moving, don't make it too tight
12. Flanges were attached to the shelves with 3/4" screws

It might seem like a lot but it's very simple and fast. I emphasize the order because I found it was the easiest way.

If you really want it here is the SketchUp file is attached.

Step 10: Notes

  • Galvanized pipe is dirty because of the oil that is on it, you’ll want to clean it off after cutting it to length, dish soap and water worked well.
  • The Home Depot grade of galvanized pipe may not be “pretty” to some people. You could use aluminum pipe or prettier galvanized pipe but it’s a bit spendy and I like the industrial look; fence post is probably to flimsy for this project.
  • The table saw and metal cutting blade I used worked but it binds easily, a chop saw would work better.
  • You want to tighten the clamp mechanism pretty tight, just not too tight as putting a hole through your ceiling would defeat the purpose of this shelf.
  • I didn’t cut the 2ft threaded rod, about 1-1/2” is inside the top flange the rest is inside the pipe. You want to make sure that there is a decent portion of the rod in the flange and the pipe to alleviate the possibility of it slipping out.


Carry Freedom (author)2014-02-03

The Screw Jack feet used in Scaffolding towers could work as the threaded adjusters at the top of these shelf posts. The Screw Jacks slide in pipe with a nominal bore of 1"1/2 or 38mm. This Pipe is 48mm in dia and is the Kee Klamp size 8 pipe.

pallaire2 (author)2013-07-01

Nice design, I want to build one for my appartement. Do you think it's possible to put the tighting part of the pole close to the ground instead of near the roof?

jakdedert (author)2008-04-24

I read at least 40 comments, but I didn't see any suggestion to use *black* pipe. IMO, it is more attractive than galvanized, just as strong, takes many different finishes, and is probably less toxic to your indoor environment.

mada (author)jakdedert2008-04-25

what do you mean less toxic? I went with galvanized because it matched other furniture in the room... if you were going to paint the pipe though, i don't think the color of the pipe woudl be a big deal...?

ledguy315 (author)mada2012-11-04

Leebryuk's right, you can lick it and no problem. However if you burn/smelt or saw galvanized metals do not breathe the fumes. They are very toxic.

leebryuk (author)mada2008-05-14

Galvanized steel is just steel coated with a blend of zinc. Don't lick it and there won't be any problems. Hell, feel free to lick it and there still won't be any problems. Now if you wanted to pole dance, there could be a problem because it's not slippery (like a chrome surface.) But at that point it's a personal problem.

mada (author)leebryuk2008-05-16

Crap... I lick mine every morning before I go to work... so it knows I love it. :)

lime3D (author)jakdedert2012-07-05

Galvanized pipe is intended for potable water.

lime3D (author)2012-07-05

I read all the comments about using PVC, and honestly, I would say that this project is just fine the way it is. Why try to use PVC? It wouldn't look as 'industrial', and certainly wouldn't be as strong.

Good job!

Ferrite (author)2008-02-25

If you wanted it to be cheaper, you could probably make it out of 1.5" PVC, it should be sturdy enough and I believe it considerably cheaper. It would also be easier to cut the pipe and take the lip off of the flanges.

mada (author)Ferrite2008-02-25

Humm... the pipe in this case is over 6ft long so I'm not sure that PVC would not be to flimsy at that length. In addition there is vertical tension being placed on the pipe so even if the PVC was rigid enough to not bend at first, I'd think it would almost certainly buckle when you started to put tension on it... I don't know it may work with (as you said) 1-1/2" PVC, still at 6ft+ it'd still be awfully flimsy.

smokehill (author)mada2008-02-29

1-1/2 or 2" PVC should be pretty strong in compression, as long as there isn't any lateral strain on it, or unusual loads. To me, the biggest hitch here is the (to me) really expensive clamps. For someone on a tight budget, it turns into a pricey set of shelves, mostly because of that. For that reason, PVC seems like a good alternative to look at, since the fittings are so much cheaper. I haven't looked at this kind of PVC fitting, just regular plumbing parts, but they should have something that would work, with some imagination. Just half-thinking here ... but maybe with PVC if you used twice the number of pipes (PVC is cheap), one at the front and one at the back at each support point? Then you could skip the clamp-type supports and use something simple -- maybe a glued-on bushing and/or a pin of some sort, thru drilled horizontal holes in each pipe, just below each shelf. Glued-on supports under each shelf would, of course, seem to make it a one-use installation, needing to be cut apart when un-installed ... you could theoretically re-use most of it, cutting off the glued parts and having shelves a bit closer together than originally. Not a perfect solution, but just food for thought if someone really needs a very low-cost set of shelves. I do like your setup, though. Very sturdy, and not necessarily "ugly." If one is offended by the industrial-looking pipe, one could always paint it, wrap wood-grain contact paper around it, etc. "Raw" galvanized pipe can be a real pain to get paint to stick to because of the oily coating, but if you clean it well (as you mention) it works fine, especially if you prime it first. If one used PVC, it would be a good idea to investigate the different types -- sched 40 or 80, and I think there are some other options, like the green stuff they use for (natural gas, I think?). Some have thicker walls than others.

mada (author)smokehill2008-02-29

sched 40 is probably the minimum you'd want to use if you were going to go with PVC.

smokehill (author)mada2008-03-01

After digging thru my box of stray PVC fittings, I found a fitting that might work for this. Not sure what it's called, but it's the usual sleeve you use to glue two pieces of pipe together. If you glued it to the top end of one piece of pipe, it should support the shelf resting on it just fine if the hole in the shelf is just big enough for the pipe to pass through. Then the next section (going upward) would slip down thru that same shelf and wedge tightly into the PVC "sleeve" supporting the shelf. With all the weight off the shelf (and the compression from the threaded rod), it seems like the vertical PVC "pole" shouldn't be too flimsy laterally. Gluing every joint would of course make it all really sturdy, but then you'd lose the (theoretical) advantage of portability (unless you used notches in the shelf rather than holes ...?) . Frankly, based on my experience with PVC, once a fitting has been jammed really tight for a long time, it isn't coming apart. If one planned on really overloading the shelves, you could always drill thru the fitting and pin it for safety. Your metal pipe still has the advantage of not really NEEDING paint, whereas few people will want to look at the naked PVC with its industrial printing. I've never painted PVC, but with cleaning & priming it should work. I believe the 1-1/2 or 2-inch PVC should be strong enough. In my business, we use 3-foot sections of both sizes as suction wands, and they get banged around pretty badly by my drivers, and dropped on concrete all the time. It takes about a year or two for the sunlight & freezing temperatures to degrade the pipe enough that it'll eventually crack when hitting the concrete. Another small advantage for PVC would be in a humid environment, like a garage, or a basement apartment, since it doesn't rust. The threaded part of iron pipe usually does. I really do like your idea of using the wooden plates to protect the ceiling & floor -- landlords can be vicious about their security deposits. I wonder if sticking a thin piece of rubber, like from roofing scraps, between the wood & the ceiling would give a "stickier" grip and prevent marks from the pressure of the wood? Most commercial roofers are happy to give you their rubber scraps after a job, and I find all manner of uses for the stuff. Some of the scraps are really large, too.

pjordan (author)smokehill2012-07-05

so what isit that ou do with pvc at your place of business cause you don't seem to be very familiar with it the fitting your refering to is called a coupling thats something you learn first week

smokehill (author)smokehill2008-03-01

Maybe I wasn't very clear in that last post. In the first paragraph, I meant to say that the hole in the shelf should be just big enough for the PVC pipe to go through, but NOT the fitting (which would basically be supporting the weight of the shelf). I should have mentioned that it isn't just the glue that holds the weight of the shelf. These fittings are a force-fit, and PVC pipe absolutely cannot be forced through the fitting. Once you see the fitting it becomes clearer.

Ferrite (author)smokehill2008-03-02

I think I know what you are talking about, and it seems like that would be easier than cutting out the center of the flanges (and cheaper, the flanges can get pretty steep I think)

smokehill (author)Ferrite2008-03-03

That was my main reason for looking toward PVC instead of metal I've seen the Kee clamps and they really are neat, strong & useful ... but they are not cheap when you start grabbing handfuls of them. It seems as if you could use my half-baked idea for PVC and standard joints in the iron pipe setup, also. Instead of having one solid pipe top-to-bottom, it'd be several screwed-together sections -- but the standard metal joints are probably a lot cheaper than Kee clamps. And, especially in metal, it still seems like it would be really strong. One downside to my approach (and it's definitely a drawback) is that you can't easily add shelves or move them around later. That's the tradeoff for the cheaper cost, but it might appeal to those on limited budgets, like students. My first, and cheapest, shelves when I was a young, poor PFC in the Army -- six slightly cracked chimney liners (BIG 18-inch wide ones) and cheap plywood, cut into shelves. The drawback was hauling those heavy liners up 2 flights of stairs and stacking them between the plywood, but ...well, there's always a tradeoff.

mada (author)smokehill2008-03-03

I'm not convinced that PVC (pipe) will work for this... I keep running the idea through the simulator (my brain) and it just seems that PVC would be too flimsy, i.e. it would bend; even if cut into sections.

I guess maybe if you used like 2" sched. 40 maybe.

It's not the vertical load of the shelves on the PVC I'm concerned with it's the clamping. You tighten the shelves between the floor and the celling pretty tight and I'm afraid that this tension would cause the PVC to bow one direction or the other.

The Kee Klamps are spendy but when you look at stuff like this my shelf starts to look pretty cheap - though maybe not as "pretty."

I used 15 Kee Klamp flanges that's $105 worth of flanges - that's the most expensive part of this shelf.

You could maybe eliminate the top flanges and probably the bottom flanges, which would bring it down to $63 for the flanges which maybe more reasonable price point. As you can see in the SketchUp drawing I originally didn't intend to use flanges on the header.

Using the same basic design, only eliminate the top flanges you could attach three pieces (square blocks) of 2x4 to the header in place of the flanges, drill a hole in the 2x4 blocks for the threaded rod to slip into. Or you could just make the entire header using a 2x4 (in place of the 1x6 I used) drill holes for the rod (not all the way through) and you have eliminated the need for three flanges.

On the footer, you do the same thing only drill your holes so the pipe can slip in. You've eliminated the need for three more flanges.

smokehill (author)mada2008-03-03

I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical myself when I first thought of it, and for sure you couldn't put the immense pressure on it that the metal pipe will take. However, I kept remembering how broke I was long ago, back when dinosaurs first roamed the earth ... and was trying to find a cheaper twist -- something different from the usual board & cinder block cheapie we were all stuck with at some point. I agree that probably 2" PVC is the minimum, and Sched 80 gives you thicker walls, up from a sixth to a fifth of an inch. Sched 120 (if you can find it) goes up to quarter-inch thick walls. Bending shouldn't be a problem. PVC is really stiff unless it's heated considerably. I'd worry more about cracking from overtightening. PVC is very strong, but brittle. And if the end wasn't cut at 90 degrees, you could get some lopsided pressures from the tightening mechanism. Cutting PVC evenly with a hacksaw, like most do, is tough. I use a chop saw since even edges are important in the pieces we glue up for suction pipes. PVC admittedly has problems, compared to metal pipe -- overtightening being at the top of my list. That's one of the reasons the layer of rubber appeals to me. If anyone tries it, they should know that any commercial hose or hydraulics place carries big thick rubber gaskets for all sizes of PVC pipe. They're usually 50 cents apiece for the 2" diameter ones I use. I wish I could play with this idea, but my floorspace is beyond used up, and new bookshelves here have to be stuck between wall studs after I rip out drywall. A pain, but it's "free space" for smaller books. Another variation I've mulled over is those adjustable support columns often used to short up sagging beams. The tightening adjustment is built in, of course, and there are often enough adjustment holes along the column to stick through some pins to support shelves. I don't have one nearby to look at, so it's only half an idea. If I remember right, those things were surprisingly cheap back when I rebuilt a couple of old houses. Did you ever consider just drilling some holes in those vertical pipes and sticking some 1-foot pieces of metal rod, or quarter-inch pipe, through it, for shelf supports? If one of the measures of an Instructable's success is how many ideas it inspires, I'd say yours was doing quite well.

mada (author)smokehill2008-03-03

"Did you ever consider just drilling some holes in those vertical pipes and sticking some 1-foot pieces of metal rod, or quarter-inch pipe, through it, for shelf supports?" I never thought about that - it's a good idea though! If anyone ever tries this using PVC I'd love to hear about it as I'm curious to know how well it works... I'm likely underestimating PVC.

smokehill (author)mada2008-03-03

PVC is very strong in compression, BUT anyone trying this must be sensible about not cranking down a lot of pressure on it, even in compression. If it should break, it will be sudden and possibly quite dramatic. Another thing (in my seemingly interminable additions) -- If you're using PVC where strength is important (like shelving supports or a potato gun), do NOT use that old scrap PVC sitting out behind your garage, left over from some plumbing job a few years back. The stuff degrades in sunlight, as does CPVC. Weeks or maybe a few months is OK ... but don't push your luck. It's cheap enough. Every piece of 2" PVC my guys have cracked (outside, getting banged around in 3" lengths) has been OLD pieces, and usually when it's cold & more brittle. I hope someone tries it and lets us know how it works.

mada (author)Ferrite2008-03-03

They (Simplified Building) can bore out the flanges for you - though obviously they charge for they service.

Ferrite (author)smokehill2008-02-29

I think that the twice as many pipes idea would work well.

Ferrite (author)mada2008-02-25

I'm not entirely sure but 1.5" pipe is sturdy, I guess I will have to try it out and get back to you.

toekneebullard (author)Ferrite2008-02-29

You can always reinforce pvc with some wooden dowels inside too.

mada (author)toekneebullard2008-02-29

if you were going to do that you might as well just use the dowels, I would think...

toekneebullard (author)mada2008-02-29

True, but PVC fittings are easier to deal with you'd use to make a 90 degree angle with two dowels.

mada (author)toekneebullard2008-03-01

there are no 90 degree angles - it's a straight pipe?

toekneebullard (author)mada2008-03-02

Forgive me, I was making a general statement about reinforcing PVC. Not necessarily just for this project.

mada (author)toekneebullard2008-03-02

i see

Ferrite (author)mada2008-02-29

Yeah, probably.

mada (author)Ferrite2008-02-25

That would be great, I'm curious to know.

therealjdb (author)mada2008-02-29

Couldn't you just use sections of PVC in between each self thus reducing it from 6 ft to around 1 1/2 - 2 ft?

Ferrite (author)therealjdb2008-02-29

Mabey, but I think you would need twice as many flanges to have support on both ends of each section.

MetaGrav (author)2012-04-18

Great 'Ible! I'm stealing your idea for my BSA Eagle Project, with some modification. I wonder though, could you get away using some plastic pipe like ABS?

Jumpin Jehosaphat (author)2010-09-11

nice ible, i like so much, ive made my own. i put a little more money into it and set springs on the inside of aluminim stopers that sit in the pips (copper/ for the look) it came out more like a poego stick, it forces it self out when pressure, a celing and a floor in this case, is applied. it just sticks there, nice and firm, i love it, ill post pick asap

tabi (author)Jumpin Jehosaphat2012-01-13

Please post pics... and an ´able if possible

tabi (author)2010-07-04

I thought of something like that, but with copper tubes ¿can it be done? my idea (just in my head) was to drill holes in the boards an separate them with wood blocks, I´ll try to make a drawing and send it but this sounds very nice.. actually I can drill hokes in MY wall (it is MINE MUAHAHAHA) but the odea was to have something very clean and lean. books being the main thing.

bvz (author)2009-08-03

This is the part that, I think, will scare a bunch of people off of this otherwise really cool instructible. I have actually cut this kind of pipe with a standard, hand pipe cutter. They aren't too expensive (shouldn't run more than $35 for a good one), very very accurate, and pretty easy to use (you just clamp it on and start twisting... but best to watch some tv while doing it because it does take a while). Just so people don't stop short at this stage. :)

Frankie Pintado (author)bvz2010-01-17

Remember "Cool Hand Luke"?  Didn't he use on of those to cut the parking meters off?

MACKattacksnipe (author)2009-10-25

Very nice job thinking out side the box ill use this for my well any were

zackthegrind (author)2009-10-20

use threaded rods in place of pipes  and nuts and washers instead of flanges. its a bit different look but accomplishing the same thing

Blackice504 (author)2009-10-06

this will be great for my server room to keep parts thanks for this.

arthessa (author)2008-02-29

I think I'd put the clamps at the bottom, so they wouldn't be as visible. Would that bring any unwanted consequences? Thanx mada! You made my day. My living room has some very ugly wall-to-wall mirrors, which I painted over, but can't screw anything on it. So this seems a wonderful wonderful solution.

mada (author)arthessa2008-03-01

Glad this is useful to you! I can't think of a reason why not... Picturing it in my head it seems that the shelf would not be as stable with the clamps at the bottom, though I can't say why exactly. It would be simple to test as your putting it together, if it does not work with the clamps at the bottom you'd just flip it around so their on the top. I always pictured it with the clamps at the top so I never thought to try putting them on the bottom because it just seemed "right" to have them on top. But that's not to say putting them on the bottom is wrong... It would just be something that would have to be tested. If you do use this idea and put the clamps on the bottom, I'd love to hear how well it works.

Wolfix (author)mada2009-09-24

I would think that clamps at the bottom would be dangerous as the load is on them. Better to have them at the top in case they don't hold for some reason. I guess this is why Ikea put their Stolmen telescoping part up the top, though they do put a small threaded bolt for adjustment at the base.

Mike SF (author)2008-03-05

Nice project....

I have toyed with ideas like this over the past few years in an effort to circumvent "no holes in the walls" lease agreements and finally settled on modifying an Ikea system (STOLMEN also mentioned by mada on March 3) This route won out for ease of construction a good cost to appearance ratio.


Ikea systems are great for their modularity and the fact that you can order pieces separately. I simple bought the posts and suspension fixtures and made the rest.



The posts are telescoping (extends with a screw mechanism) with flanges to attach to the ceiling and floor. Not wanting (or being able to) put screws in either I put a thin foam pad top and bottom and just wedged each post in place. This works fine as long as there is minimal lateral force (not to be used as a DIY stripper pole).

The suspension fixtures clamp on anywhere along the post and can be used like shaft collars for shelves or to bolt on anything that you can think of.

I am currently using one as a floor to ceiling coat / plant rack.

Wolfix (author)Mike SF2009-09-24

This is a great idea - thanks Mike SF. I would add that if you don't want to damage the floor/ceiling by the vertical force needed to hold the pipes in place, find a beam in the ceiling to push up against and use a large piece of wood between the ceiling and the pole fixture to distribute the force.

Mike SF (author)Mike SF2008-03-31

I'm not sure exactly what kind of foam it was...I got it out of a scrap pile. It was the type you can get at most fabric or craft stores. Probably 1/16" - 1/8" thick and available in colorful sheets. The key is not to use something that is too thick and would cause instability. If I was doing it today I might use one of those rubber mats that are sold as drawer liners, router/sanding mats, and anti-skid rug mats.

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