Introduction: Wood and Steel Shelving Unit

The Idea:

Some time ago I found a photo on Pinterest of some shelves which I totally loved (second photo). I immediately knew that I wanted to make some like that.

Also, our home is quite small, so I needed some kind of shelving unit that would provide some decent storage space.

So I had the opportunity to build something I wanted to build, while fulfilling a real world need. A win-win situation!

The Design:

The photo I had found showed no detail at all, so I had to come up with my own design.

I decided to go with sliding brackets, held in place by a pin (sitting on it really).

These brackets are made of a length of 25x25 angle welded to a 50 mm length of 60x60 mm square tube.

The shelves attach to the brackets with screws through holes on the bottom of the angle part of the bracket.

The posts are 50x50 mm square tube, with 8 mm wholes spaced 100 mm centres, to hold the pins.

The floor and ceiling brackets are made of a 100x100 mm 4mm plate, welded to a length of 60x60 mm square tube, with a hole which is tapped to receive a bolt. The posts slide into the brackets and the bolt clamps them in place.

Skill level:

Before starting this project I had no metal working experience and very little woodworking experience, so I believe anyone can tackle a project like this.


  • Steel:
    • 25x25mm square steel tube
    • 50x50mm square steel tube
    • 60x60mm square steel tube
    • 20x20 steel angle
    • 100 mm steel plate
    • 8 mm stainless rod
  • Some kind of paint for the steel (or you can have it powder coated);
  • Wood: Anything you want, really. I used the cheapest timber I could get a hold of (because I wasn't sure how much I was going to stuff up and have to re-do). In my case, that was 140x45mm untreated pine, "boxing" grade.
  • Wood glue


  • Something to cut the steel with:
    • hack saw(and lots of elbow grease)
    • band saw
    • cold saw
    • even an angle grinder with a cut-off disk will do
  • Files
  • Angle grinder
  • Some kind of welder (I borrowed a MIG off a friend)
  • Drill
  • Table saw; Jointer; Thicknesser (or you can buy D4S timber and saved yourself a lot of work!)
  • Hand planes
  • Sander
  • Router
  • Screw driver

Step 1: Get Some Steel and Start Cutting

First step is to source the steel you are going to use, clean it up and start cutting the different parts.

I started with the brackets, but the order doesn't really matter.

I used a metal band saw, which is really awesome for this work as you set them up to start cutting and they shut off by themselves when they finish.

I used a wirebrush on my angle grinder to clean up the steel (though later I discovered the strip-it disks which really make much faster work of cleaning) and files to clean up the edges.

Step 2: Start Welding

This was my first attempt at welding, so I did a couple of test tries and then got busy. I had to make 24 shelf brackets, and 6 floor/ceiling brackets... so it was a bit of welding (and grinding).

Unfortunately, I don't have any good photos of the floor/ceiling brackets (the last one is a bad photo of one). However, these are just a square bit of plate with a length of the 60x60 square tube welded onto it (see sketch).

Two of my ceiling brackets have an angle, because I have cathedral ceilings at home. I just used a sliding bevel square to get the angle and transferred it to my saw, then welded the tube with the angle against the plate.

Grind the weld, and sand the steel to the desired smoothness.

I discovered that the more you grind and clean the steel of imperfections, the shinier it's going to be when you paint it. In my case I did some tests and preferred the matt look, so I refrained from grinding and sanding the steel too much (one of the photos shows one of shiny tests).

Step 3: Drill...

My design called for a lot of holes, so I set up the drill press and drilled them all. I don't have any photos of this step, but you can imagine what it looks like :D

I drilled holes on two opposite sides of the posts, at 100 mm centres, to accept the pins that would hold the shelf brackets in place;

I drilled holes on all four corners of the floor/ceiling brackets, plus one on the tube, near the top;

I drilled more holes on the bottom of the angle part of the shelf brackets, to attach the shelves.

And finally I drilled holes on two opposite sides of the 20x20 tube: first I drilled a 3 mm hole through both sides, and then enlarged all of the holes on one side to 6 mm. (this is so the screws are hidden on the inside of the tube).

Step 4: Paint...

I painted all the steel using spray cans.

I used a high-build, anti-corrosive primer and a satin black paint.

Powder coating would probably make a better finish, but it was easy enough to do it myself, and it made touch-ups easier.

Step 5: Attach the Posts and Add the Brackets

In my design, the brackets slide along the posts and are locked in place by a pin.

So I temporarily attached the posts without any brackets, to get the correct location and make sure they were plumb, and then took them off and added the brackets.

Because the middle post supports the brackets for the right and left shelves, I had to make sure I had the right order.

The pins are made of 8 mm stainless rod (I like the contrast of the black steel with the stainless rod)

Something I should mention in this step is that, even though I'd checked the fit of the smaller tube inside of the larger one when I chose it, it still was a bit sloppy. I just glued some bits of thin plastic on the inside (I happened to have some shower liner lying around). Next time I do something like this I'll make sure the fit is a bit tighter.

Step 6: Shelves!

This was really the biggest part of the project, because I decided to do all the milling myself.

Mill the timber and glue it up in panels sized to fit your design.

In my case, the right side shelves where about 900 mm long and the left side ones about 1800 mm long. The thickness was around 40 mm for all (though the first ones came up a bit skinnier :)) and the depth, 420 mm.

Because the shelves span fairly large distances, I added a length of 20x20 mm square steel tube to the underside of the shelves, in a 20x20 mm grove made with a router.

Step 7: Attach Your Shelves and Load Them Up!

To attach the shelves to the brackets, I drilled holes along the base of the brackets.

When it came to attaching them, I simply put them on the brackets, squared them up and ensured a consistent reveal around the brackets (shelves overhang the brackets by about 10 mm front and back), marked, pre-drilled and screwed on.

Mine were loaded up as they were going up, because I was replacing old furniture.

That's it!

I must say I am super happy with the way this turned out. It is super functional, with a huge amount of storage space and also looks nice! It did take some time to build, due to a serious lack of time, but I reckon if you have everything you need it can be completed in a couple of weeks (working flat out!).

Thanks for reading!

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