Doorframe Chin-up Bar




Introduction: Doorframe Chin-up Bar

About: I'm an engineer in the renewable energy world, and help run a cooperative workshop makerspace in Boulder, CO called the Phoenix Asylum.
Lets build a chinup bar! You do need to get in shape. Chinups are great, because they work your upper body, as well as your core (by requiring that you hold your balance while you lift yourself).

There are a number of commercial designs that mimic the general design of this chinup bar - the benefit of this design is that it is incredibly sturdy, low cost, and adaptable to many door frame designs. This design is intended to work with very deep frames, as commonly found in older buildings. These deep frames are often incompatible with the commercial chin-up bars.

We will be building out of 1" Schedule 40 Steel Pipe (actual outer diameter is closer to 1.315"), and EasyFit structural pipe fittings. There are a number of structural pipe fittings available out there, all of which would be acceptable, but EasyFit is about the cheapest, and still high quality.

Refer to the attached Sketchup file for details as you work through the design!

Some design goals:
  1. Sturdy!
  2. Adaptable to many door frames
  3. Multiple grips for different workouts
  4. Enough extension away from the doorframe that you don't bonk yourself while lifting
  5. Solid grip for the hands
  6. Inexpensive
  7. Attractive

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Step 1: Make Your Measurements

While each chinup bar you make will have a lot of adjustability, they are fundamentally made for your specific doorframe. I had to make my own specifically because my doorframe was too odd to fit any commercial products.

There are four critical measurements:
  1. The depth of the doorframe, measured from the outermost edges of the trim on both sides.
  2. The width of the doorframe, measured from inside edge to inside edge.
  3. The width of your door trim.
  4. the thickness of your door trim.
These measurements will drive the final dimensions of your chin-up bar. Most adaptations will be obvious, but here are some suggestions:
  1. Make the rear vertical supports about 5" longer than the trim is wide - that wil give it enough room to pivot and slide into place with the rear brace in place.
  2. Make the rear brace about 1.5" tall, and slightly deeper than your trim is deep (I used 3/4" MDF).
  3. Make the length of the bars going under the doorframe about 7.5" longer than the frame is deep - that will give you enough room to mount the front braces such that the bar will have enough clearance to slip up into place, but still leave enough front extension that the actual chinup bar will be extended about 6.5" from the doorframe.
  4. Make the width of the main chinup bar at least 7" wider than the doorframe, giving yourself a wide enough bar for wide grips. 36" would be a good minimum, with up to 44" being useful for your workout.
  5. The front support braces should be wide enough to completely cover the trim, at least 5" minimum.

Step 2: Acquire and Assemble!

Here is what you will need...
  1. At least one 10' stick of 1" Schedule 40 Black Steel pipe, ~$20 (some designs may require slightly more)
  2. Six Easy-Fit "Short Tee" fittings, EF03G-25, or equivalent 1" nominal short tee fittings. ~$5.76 each
  3. Paint of some kind (optional). I used Duplicolor Graphite Wheel Paint, since I had some around.
  4. Wood for rear brace - I used 3/4" MDF cut into a strip 1-1/2" wide, and long enough to fully span the rear braces.
  5. 1" Schedule 40 pipe straps to attach the wood brace to the pipe. ~$3
  6. Bicycle Handlebar Tape, optional to create a good grip. ~$10
  7. Foam Pipe Insulation, to prevent marring the wood. ~$5
Total cost ~$70-$80.

Assembly is easy:
  1. Cut the pipe to the required lengths and deburr the pipes with a file.
  2. Cut wood strip to required length.
  3. Paint all pieces if desired.
  4. Assemble loosely, verify dimensions as assembled.
  5. Attach wood strip with pipe straps.
  6. Crank down all setscrews to lock in place.
  7. Put foam insulation on front braces and rear wood brace to prevent marring. I used a self-adhesive variety, though others would work as well.
  8. Apply bicycle handlebar tape to the front of the bar. One bicycle's worth was about perfect for this 37" wide bar. Apply the tape with about 30% overlap, keeping the tension high. Secure at the beginning and end with electrical tape.
  9. Hang the bar, settle it into place, making sure everything is even.
  10. Get working out!
Tips for working out with a chin-up bar:
  1. Start with a close grip, palms toward you - this is your strongest chin-up grip.
  2. If you can't do more than 5 in a row, consider getting a booster strap - a rubber strap that hangs from the chinup bar - you rest your knees in them and they take some of your weight off your arms. No shame in starting with one of these! You get a better workout from 10 reps with a booster strap than just one rep without it. Available at workout equipment shops, and probably a fun DIY project!
  3. As you improve, try varying your grip, both in width and palms in or out. Try mixed grips with one palm in and the other out!
  4. If your doorframe is too low for your body to hang all the way down with arms extended you may need to tuck your legs back while doing chinups. This will make them more challenging, but you'll get a better core workout!
  5. Don't give up!

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    6 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 2

    FYI: While Schedule 40 black pipe / galvanized steel will do just fine, is it total overkill for a max load of a 200-300 pound person. And more importantly, more expensive.

    Google search "structural pipe" and you will find better options. Steel structural pipe is the common term for pipe used for hand rails, guard rails on play grounds, and light to medium duty weight-bearing support structures. Perfect for our application.

    McMaster-Carr has everything a diy'er could want.
    Steel Structural Framing Pipe (2534T11):
    1" diameter, 4' length - $5.82 each
    Steel Clamp-On Tee (2534T21): $2.50 each

    Get 3 x steel pipe, for 12' total length. Plenty. $18.
    Get 6 x steel pipe tee. $15.

    Shipping will be close to $10, because of the weight. But that's still only $42. And less than buying galvanized steel and the Easy-Fit tee's that the OP suggests. (No disrespect intended OP, this is the best DIY Pull up bar I've seen)

    Make a run by Home Depot to pickup some pipe straps and a small piece of wood for a door brace, and you're not too far from the cost of an off the shelf, Wal-Mart brand pull up bar. Except this one is custom, and will fit any door!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I also decided to try the alternative materials kindly suggested by sleeplessenfuego, and can report that unfortunately those brackets from McMaster-Carr aren't even close to being suitable.

    I spent a day taping and drilling and strapping and trying all sorts of ways to make them work, but they just twist and bend under my 165b weight. I'm throwing them out and ordering the original materials mentioned in the article.

    (FWIW I agree that the alternative metal bar I ordered is more than strong enough, but unfortunately its diameter is too small for the Easy-Fit brackets, so the heavier Schedule 40 pipe is also needed.)


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Just tried this; thanks for the tips. McMaster-Carr is awesome; my order arrived in less than 24 hours and shipping was only $6!

    The clamp-on fittings aren't up to par for the two brace lengths, though. I might try the EasyFit, if I can figure out whether they'll fit these pipes properly.


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

    Forgot to mention- The main concern beside cost is Overall Weight. Black pipe / galvanized steel is thick, heavy duty steel. Great for its intended purpose - transporting pressurized steam or air, water, gas, etc. But overkill for ours.

    Black pipe makes for a ~20 lb pull up bar
    Structural pipe is probably 10 lbs
    (Less stress on the door frame too)


    7 years ago on Step 2

    Thanks for the tips! You are right, there are lighter weight fittings out there - these are just ones I had and went with, and with my inordinately thick door frame there are high cantilever loads on a few of the fittings that won't apply to most people. Appreciate the detailed recommendations for future builders!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great idea and I'll be making one soon...a pricelist will be posted once I'm done (at least from Big Box hardware stores here in Atlanta, Ga)