This instructable will show you how to make strong, attractive and low cost curtain rods out of metal conduit. My goal was to make curtain rods similar to the Pottery Barn Standard Drape Rod but at a much lower cost. My biggest window needed a 106 inch bar which would have set me back $50 from Pottery Barn. Making my own rod using widely available EMT conduit ended up costing me less than $6. Your biggest variance of cost will be determined by your method of making or purchasing the finials.
Step 1: Materials
The materials for this project are pretty simple and inexpensive:
- 1/2 inch EMT conduit, available in 10 or 5 foot lengths (also available in 3/4 inch diameter)
- 1/2 inch conduit straps, 2 per window or 3 if it's a big window
- L brackets, 2 per window or 3 if it's a big window
- one small nut and bolt to attach each strap to an L bracket
- two 1/2 inch pieces of 5/8 inch dowel rod
- cheap/used/salvaged kitchen cabinet knobs for the finials
- flat black spray paint
Here is my cost breakdown:
- (10ft.) 1/2 inch EMT conduit = $1.97
- (3) 2.5 inch L brackets = ($0.70*3) = $2.10
- (3) conduit straps = $0.10*3 = $0.30 (pack of 25 - $2.54 / 25 = $0.10 per unit)
- (3) screws and nuts = $0.08*3 = $0.24 (pack of 12 - 0.98 / 12 = $0.08 per unit)
- (2) 1/2 inch stubs of 5/8 inch dowel rod = $0.04*
- (1) can of generic black spray paint = $0.98
- (2) surplus cabinet knobs or other creative object for finials = ???
Total: $5.63, not counting the finials.
I had surplus cabinet knobs from when I replaced them in my kitchen. If you don't have any laying around you should be able to salvage or scavenge some at the usual places: thrift stores, yard sales, auctions, surplus construction material liquidators, or even curbside. If you actually have to buy some new they shouldn't cost much more than a dollar a piece. Of course, a truly Creative Person would create stylish finials from scratch. Maybe someone else can contribute a specific Instructable showing how to make prettier finials... Worked metal finials would be really sweet! Or if you had a lathe handy I suppose you could turn out nice wooden finials.
(*I already had surplus 5/8 inch dowel rod on hand but a new 4 foot dowel rod would only cost $1.98 or about $0.02 per 1/2 inch unit)
Pretty basic: drill, hacksaw, screwdriver, sandpaper
Step 2: A Rough Preview
In these pictures you can see a rough preview of the curtain rod and brackets (unpainted) as they are intended to fit together. (Note that I'm using a very short scrap piece of conduit just to make the rod a little easier to fit in the photo.)
Step 3: Assemble the Support Bracket
This is pretty straight forward. Just bolt the conduit strap to the L angle. You may also want to saw off the tip of the bolt that sticks out. I sawed the bolt tip off with my hacksaw but it wasn't nearly as easy as sawing the conduit.
Step 4: Do Some Cutting With Your Hacksaw
Measure your windows carefully and then add 6-8 inches so that your rod extends several inches past your trim on both sides of the window. I measured 100.5 inches from trim edge to edge so I added 6 inches and cut at 106.5 inches to give me 3 inches of overhang on each side. Mark and cut your conduit, (it's really pretty easy to cut with a hacksaw,) then sand or grind off the rough edges.
Now try twisting your 5/8 inch dowel rod into the conduit. It will probably be a little tight so you may need to sand it just a little. Don't try to use 1/2 inch dowel or it will be way too loose. Once you have a good fit, clamp it down and saw off two little 1/2 inch stubs. These will be used to attach the finials to the conduit.
Step 5: Drill a Couple Holes
Drill a hole through each dowel rod stub. The hole size should match the screw that goes into your cabinet knob. Try to drill the hole exactly in the center of the stub and as vertical as possible. It helps to use a drill press but you can do it with a hand drill too.
Once you have the hole drilled you should be able to insert the cabinet knob screw and attach the cabinet knob to the stub.
Step 6: Spray Some Paint
When spray painting the pieces, it helps to mount them on some scrap wood to keep them from constantly falling over or sticking to your newspaper/cardboard spray mat. Personally I like flat black the best, (it helps hide minor scratches.) but there's no reason you can't choose whatever color you prefer. A little paint makes a huge difference in how finished the project looks! You may also want to put a final clear coat over the colored paint as I've noticed over time that normal friction will rub the paint onto the curtain sleeve. (This isn't as much of an issue if you hang your curtain with rings.)
Step 7: Hang Your Curtain Rod on the Wall
Once your paint is completely dry (24 hours) you just have to screw your brackets to the wall, stick your finials in the rod and clip the rod into the brackets. It's best to screw into a stud, of course, and generally there will be a stud (or two) right beside the window. Also, be careful to line the rod up right in the middle BEFORE you clip it into the brackets because the little bump on the brackets will scratch the paint off the rod if you try to move it after it's clipped in.
That's it! Now we just need someone to create an Instructable on how to make no-sew $5 curtains... ;)