GLOWING 5 Tier Desktop Pipe Shelving



Introduction: GLOWING 5 Tier Desktop Pipe Shelving

About: Professional Educator for over 25 years. Avid DIYer! Why pay somebody to do what you can do yourself? Active in web design and development for over 20 years. After discovering have starte...

This Instructable was inspired by the need my "Tweener" daughter has to have somewhere to display and put her stuff. Another inspiration has been what I believe is a very cool use of black pipe fittings for furniture. Here are just a few other Instructables where I remixed some of their ideas into my own design.

I will show how I made a Glowing 5 Tier Desktop Shelving Unit.

A couple years ago she started accumulating "stuff" that was important to her. This stuff has basically been cluttering a dresser top and small vanity or stuffed into drawers.

Well the vanity was replaced with a large DIY desktop made of a 60 inch wide sheet of MDF and some filing cabinets.. In time she wanted shelves to put more stuff. Well, Mom got involved and purchased some of those dinky little cutsie wall shelves you buy from some trendy home decor store.

My experience with store bought anything that mounts to a wall comes with some of the least effective and cheap mounting systems ever designed. These mounting systems are usually designed with drywall in mind and not plaster walls. Since this room is plaster on all sides, I knew I would have to build something custom over using poorly designed mounting systems.

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Step 1: The Plan and Materials

The plan is fairly simple. Since you will probably have a need for custom dimensions, I will simply list parts and dimensions below rather than including in the diagram.

MDF Boards:

  • (B) Qty (3) 48" x 7 1/4" x 5/8"
  • (A) Qty (2) 36" x 7 1/4" x 5/8"
  • (not pictured) Qty (2) 24" x 7 1/4" x 5/8" (these were used to make a smaller unit)

Black Pipe:

  • (D) Qty (6) 3/8" x 12" NPT Threaded Black Pipe Nipple
  • (C) Qty (6) 3/8" x 8" NPT Threaded Black Pipe Nipple (2 were used for smaller unit)
  • (not pictured) Qth (24) 3/8" FNPT Black Malleable Iron Floor Flange (4 were used for smaller unit)

Wood Screws:

  • Qty (24) #10 3/4" wood screws

Mounting Bolts:

  • Qty (4) 5/16 X 2 inch hex bolts.


  • Backsides of MDF were not pre-primed. So, I primed bare sides plus pre-primed sides


  • Used spare paint that matched the wood work in the room

Step 2: Tools

Here is a basic list of tools used for this job.

  • Measuring tape.. to measure things of course.
  • Speed square for drawing straight and square lines.
  • Straight edge for long and straight lines.
  • Bucket to clean and degrease pipe.
  • Drop cloth to protect my filthy garage floor from paint.
  • Circular saw for cutting MDF boards.
  • Electric and old fashioned manual screwdriver for driving screws.
  • Drill press for drilling pilot holes.
  • Paint pan and roller for priming and painting.
  • Power drill and hole cut saw for drilling hole in desktop.
  • Broom and vacuum to clean up my mess.

Step 3: Cleaning Black Pipe

Purchased all pipe and flanges from an Ebay seller for a fraction of the cost of what the DIY stores were asking. In addition to the cost savings, they had the quantities I needed in 3/8" size. Stock is very low in the 3/8" size pipe and flanges in my area. Probably not in very high demand in the plumbing world, but perfect for this project.

The pipe and flanges came with a film of machining oil on them. The oil needed to be removed due to my plan to give them a coat of paint.

  • Throw all pipe and flanges into a 5 gallon bucket.
  • Fill with warm water just above top of pipe.
  • Add a cup of cleaner/degreaser of your choice.
  • Give everything a good mix.
  • Let stand for about 15 minutes.
  • Rinse everything thoroughly.
  • Wipe all pieces dry.
  • Air dry for a couple hours.

Step 4: Painting Pipe

As you will notice there is some flash rust appearing on the pipe and flanges only a short time exposed to the air after degreasing. Simply wipe off before painting.

  • Layout a drop cloth.
  • Layout your pipe and flanges.
  • Use your favorite primer/spray paint to give color and protection.
  • I gave 3 coats of a flat black to match the desktop where this would be mounted.

Step 5: Assembling Pipe Supports and Flanges

Once you start working with the flanges and pipe you will notice that there is a natural stopping point for each flange. This being due to either the threading or the paint on the threading. If you simply stop where the flange wants, you will have supports of different length. The difference could be 1/16 - 1/4 inch. You need all support/flange assemblies to be as close in length as possible. You might need to muscle some of these flanges to ensure a consistent length.

Assemble all pipe and flanges to the same length. Use muscle as needed.

Step 6: Cut and Mark Boards

After cutting all boards to length, mark where all the flanges will be fastened to each board.

Per my designs and plans...

For the 48" boards, flanges were placed at 6, 24 and 42 inches. In other words, at center and 6 inches in from each end. I placed a center support for these boards to help prevent sagging and warping.

For the 36" boards flanges were placed at 6 and 30 inches. No center support.

Images show the center point of where flange will be mounted. A flange was then placed at this center point to mark where pilot holes would be drilled.

Step 7: Drill Pilot Holes

Start drilling pilot holes where you marked in previous step. The pilot hole is a good idea as wood screws can really tear up MDF without one making your job messy and inaccurate.

Step 8: Pre Assemble

In this next step I pre assembled the entire unit. Good thing I did, because I discovered a problem in my original thoughts. Originally I was going to use 4 screws per flanges. But, with stacking the supports on top of each other, I discovered I would then be driving screws into screws from top and bottom sides.

Well, that won't work!

So, after further consideration I figured out that 2 screws per flange would be sufficient for this project. Therefore, I alternated screws on the X and Y axis between top and bottom of boards where supports would be in alignment with each other.

Final dimensions are 48 inches wide X 45 1/2 inches high. That covers lots of wall space! Just what we need!

Before disassembling, mark your boards.

Step 9: Label Boards

Before disassembling to prepare for paint and primer I recommend labeling your boards. Otherwise, I think you might have a difficult time matching up your pre drilled holes to fit exact as you did in pre assembly.

Throughout the prime and paint process you will probably have to relabel as needed. I used some painters tape to label sides as I moved through the process.

Step 10: Prime and Paint

Prime and paint your boards.

Even though 5 sides of the boards were pre primed, I went ahead and primed all sides to ensure a good seal and adhesion surface for paint.

NOTE: In the process of the build I remembered a cutout in the desktop for electrical cords. This image shows that cutout hole.

Step 11: Reassemble

Go back to Step 7 and reassemble your unit. Pay attention to your labeling of shelves to make the job go fast, fun, and easy.

Step 12: Install Unit

Here we see the before installation. As you can see quite the wall space just screaming for shelves.

I found a packet of nuts and bolts in my garage perfect for the project to mount to desktop. Perhaps I could have used panhead bolts or countersunk the heads? Eh.... good enough for these people. :-)

Had to drill a new hole for electrical cords in desktop as the original hole was directly under the center supports of the shelving unit.

Step 13: DONE!

Well here it is folks! Within an hour my "Tweener" had stuff pulled out of drawers and up on the shelves. It will be interesting to see how her organization evolves over the years.


I did add a little bling with some mini-LED lights. Just a little glow to the project with a remote control set of lights I found on Amazon.

This was my first involved project with MDF. I made the decision to go with MDF rather than wood based on cost and availability of quality stock. The cost of MDF is about 1/3 that of wood. And, it was difficult to find truly straight and untwisted wood boards at my local DIY store.

Hope you enjoyed and find some information in this Instructable valuable to you.

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Shelving Contest 2016

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Make it Glow Contest 2016

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