Industrial Shelving (Some Welding Required)




Introduction: Industrial Shelving (Some Welding Required)

About: I work in TV/broadcast and film, but I like to do some welding and woodworking in my "free time." Check out my blog for more camera-specific things:

When we moved into our new house from an apartment, the major changes were not just adding an infant (we moved in when our first was three months old) but adjusting the type of furnishings. It's been hard to adjust to not having to worry about attaching something to the wall, but we finally came around to it. Once the infant became a toddler and started moving around, the first things he began playing with were the DVD shelves (again, a carry-over from apartment living.)

My goal is to get everything worth keeping out of the baby's hands up about four feet, which he won't reach for at least a couple of years. The wife came in with a Pinterest of a "farmhouse" type shelving unit, constructed from wood planks and iron pipe, but pipe flanges are expensive--the size we wanted would have been over $300 in materials, plus the cost of buying a pipe threader ('cause I wasn't going to buy pre-cut pieces for all that pipe.) I came up with an alternate design, and after some hemming and hawing, we decided to go ahead with it.

This dovetails well with my side interest, which has been teaching myself arc welding. My problem is that I don't want a bunch of practice pieces that are pointless pieces of metal, so I've been designing and building projects that are low-impact, in order to practice my SMAW work. I've still got a loooooong way to go, so please don't judge these welds as any kind of example of "good" welding.

I bring that up because I used .120"-wall steel tubing, to make it easier to use the 1/16" 6013 rods I have, but also makes the structure much heavier. If you are more skilled than I am, or are using a MIG or TIG setup, then feel free to use a thinner-walled tubing. I have attached a Google SketchUp document with my plan in it, as well as a graphic representation of DVD's for you to play around with. The thickness of the walls shouldn't make a difference in terms of the general structure.

Step 1: Design/Adjust Design

I knew I had a couple hundred DVD's, so I wanted to make sure I had enough room for those. In SketchUp, I built a 1" square pipe (with the aforementioned .120" walls) and a 3/16x1" flat steel piece for the wall tabs. The spacing of the shelves was based around 16" centers, because I want anchor the heavy steel directly to the studs.

If you're using lighter steel, or are not worried about weight, you can freely adjust the width, just remember to use drywall anchors worthy of the weight you are putting on the wall.

The wife being a visual person (even more than I am,) I taped out a rough version on the wall, using a razor-blade to cut 2" painters tape down to 1" for the pipe.

Step 2: Assemble Materials, Tools

For clarity, here are the tools and materials I used/purchased for this project:


  • 1x1x11-ga. square steel tube
    • I went to for reference, and found out they were located twenty minutes away from me in Winchester, which made it much easier for me to get exactly what I needed, as well as saving me some money in shipping.
    • I bought two 12-foot pieces, and cut them down myself to save on cost.
  • 3/16x1 flat steel
    • Again, MetalsDepot. Since I had another project that needed this, I ended up getting a 10-foot piece and cutting it down. But you only need to get as much as you will need.
  • 1x8x8 pine lumber
    • If you'll look at the SketchUp document, you'll notice that my original plan was to use 1x4 furring strips with some kind of dark stain. What ended up happening (at Lowe's, mind you) was my wife deciding to go with single planks of wood, jumping the cost of wood from $1.85 a piece to $16.60, but I think we're both much happier with the end result.
  • Paint for "weathering" the boards (including Olympic stain in the #917 Barnboard Stain tint, Kilz2 primer, Valspar flat tinted "Earl Grey," and some spare black flat paint I had left over.)
    • The amount and color of paint is to create the look of layers, as though the boards had been repainted several times in different shades.
    • Weathering the boards will be addressed in Step 5, but if you want to just simply stain yours, go for it.
  • Paint for the brackets (I used Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown for the metallic look)
    • You'll want at least some kind of sealant, because the metal could rust, or at least could keep getting hands dirty if it's touched.


  • Miter saw (it would help if yours could cut the depth of boards you get, which mine could not.)
  • Arc welder (yes, it's Harbor Freight. Only way I could cheaply get into welding.)
  • Chop saw or band saw for cutting metal
  • Angle grinder
    • Abrasive wheel for cleaning up the metal
    • Wire wheel for prepping for paint
  • Drill & impact driver
  • Bit & countersink
  • Center punch
  • Screws/drywall anchors (I used 1-5/8" lumber screws to tie into the studs)
  • Self-drilling screws for metal (similar to these, but you only need it to be an inch or so.)
  • Swanson Speed Square (highly recommend getting one of these, if you don't have one)

Step 3: Cut & Prepare the Metal

If you're going off the same pattern as me, you'll need:

  • Four 48" pieces of square tube
  • Twelve 8" pieces of square tube
  • Fifteen 3" pieces of flat steel

I used a Black & Decker 14" chop saw with an abrasive cut-off wheel to cut all my steel stock. A soapstone or Sharpie mark is great for marking where the cut is, but I like to hold my measuring tape on the stock and drop the blade to see where the cut will line up.

I don't know if a bandsaw will leave the same waste as a chop saw, but especially on the bottom side of the stock, there were large leaves of waste. I used my angle grinder to get the waste off, as well as grind the metal down to shiny on the ends where I would be welding. A friend suggested this to me a while back to help, and it has done that, but I've also seen several pros who don't grind/clean their square tube, so whatever works best for you.

Working with metal, especially cutting, covers you in carbon. Expect to take a shower at several points in this build.

Step 4: Weld the Brackets, Drill the Holes

So: obviously, I need to work on my welding. Hence this project. Don't judge my welds--and they did get better as I went along, I just didn't take pictures of them. Once the welds are cool, hit 'em with the angle grinder and get them clean. If you're using the metallic spray paint, it also helps hide poorly welded joints.

I used magnets and my speed square to make sure the 8" pieces were all at right angles. You could also use clamps, as long as your ends were cut to exactly 90-degrees (my chop saw's guard was shifting on me, so I couldn't be sure.)

I welded everything first, and then drilled and countersunk. I put the screw holes at 1" down from the top and in the center of the 1" flat steel. The hole size is dependent on the screws you use--I think I used a 9/64" bit because that was the diameter that would allow the threads of my lumber screws to pass through. Use the center punch with a hammer to make a dimple on your mark, which helps prevent the bit from "walking" when starting to drill.

I had to use my impact driver to countersink, due to the 8" height of the brackets (drill was too tall.)

Step 5: Prepare the Shelves

My wife wanted a weathered, "barn wood" look for the shelves, so when I was looking for boards to use, I tried to find some with "character"--knots, holes, whatever made them not totally desirable. She found this excellent tutorial for making that look with new lumber, but here is a quick summation of what we did.

  1. Cut to length (78" total, for 6-3/4" overlap on either side of the brackets.)
  2. Beat 'em.
    • This step involves getting the beaten look. Feel free to use whatever tools you can--I found it fun and easy to use a short length of chain and beat the boards with a rotating motion. The multiple links created several varying depths of indention in a shorter time.
    • I also used my framing hammer, which has a waffle-pattern on the head.
    • Screws, hole saws, whatever--just put some dents in 'em.
    • Also consider a rasp or 30-grit sandpaper to rough up the sides.
  3. First coat of stain, let dry.
    • Don't wipe the stain off, either--put a good coat on with a large brush.
  4. Different strokes of white, gray, and black paint, using a "dry brush" technique.
    • Feel free to use a foam brush for one of the layers, to create a different look.
    • "Dry brush" is basically using very little paint on a brush stroke--dip it a little bit in the paint, wipe it off on the lid, and then brush.
    • Do the coats in whatever order you feel like--the point is to get multiple layers, to look like they've been repainted over years.
  5. Final coat of stain, dry-brushed on.

Step 6: Paint the Brackets

You could do Steps 5 and 6 in whichever order, I suppose, but this is the order in which I performed them.

I went over every metal surface with a thick wire brush, after grinding down the welds to be a little prettier. Sandpaper would also work to remove the old coating, but the wire brush helped clean up some of the little bits left over after countersinking.

A first coat was applied with each bracket lying on a piece of plywood. Once the first coats were dry, I screwed all three brackets to the plywood, leaned it up against my workbench, and emptied the rest of the spray can over all three. Having them so close together meant I didn't waste as much paint in overspray.

Step 7: Mount the Brackets, Mount the Shelves

I held up the brackets with my left hand, marked the holes on the drywall, then went through with a 1/16" bit to make sure that I was hitting studs on all marks, and whether or not I was hitting a stud in the ceiling (which I did, on the left-most bracket.) Once I was sure of their anchoring points, I used the impact driver to put the screws in each bracket's tabs.

For the ceiling tabs where they needed drywall anchors, I screwed in the second-from-the-bottom tab, then used a 5/32" bit to drill through the hole in the ceiling tab. I gently pushed the bracket out of the way a bit, screwed in the anchor, then repositioned the bracket over the anchor, attaching it with the provided screw.

Once the brackets were on the wall, I put all four shelves on loose, just to see how they'd look. What I realised at this point was that I had gotten 1/2" off on the center bracket's mounts for shelves 3 & 4. I measured the gap, cut and stained a piece of whitewood scrap to fit the gap, and it's hardly noticeable.

To attach the shelves to the brackets, I marked 1" and 6" back from the leading edge, with my square up against the bracket front. I removed the shelf from the bracket, measured over 1/2" from the line, and drilled a hole for my self-drilling screw to go through and drill into the metal. I then used a 3/8" forstner bit to counterbore the hole, so the head of that screw wouldn't stick out. If you're using pan-head self-drilling screws, you could use the countersink again, or if you're using hex-head screws, just be sure you have enough room with your counterbore to get your socket in and out.

Again, I had to use my impact driver to drill through the shelves, because my shelf height of 10" was still too small for my full drill. If your shelves are taller or your drill is smaller, then you should be able to use that tool--the impact driver isn't necessary as a tool itself.

Step 8: Enjoy!

This is not how the shelves will end up (once my wife gets done adding some decorations) but I wanted to make sure it would hold all of our DVD's. All of our movies fit on the top two shelves, and the third shelf has TV collections, as well as workout and other miscellaneous discs.

But the baby can't reach them! Which was the goal all along.

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    7 years ago on Step 8

    I like the design and the look. A thoroughly documented well composed first article, nice job.


    Reply 7 years ago

    Thank you, sir!