➊Sand each wood shelf to smooth and round the edges. Then paint or stain as
you wish, making sure each piece fully dries
before you apply the next coat. Finish with a
clear coat to protect the wood, and then let
dry fully. While the wood is drying, clean each
pipe and flange with soap and water.
➋Spread a drop cloth out to protect your floor, and then put down the wood plank
that will be the bottom shelf. Place one flange
on top of each corner of the plank, approximately a half-inch from the edge of the wood.
If you’re making a wide piece (more than 3 or
4 feet), you may want to put an extra set of
flanges and pipes in the center for support,
for a total of six pipes supporting each level
rather than four. (Or you may do this simply
because you like the look of the extra pipes.)
➌Holding each flange in place, drill into the wood about a half-inch through
each flange’s four holes. Then secure a screw
in each hole. Once all of the flanges on that
level are solidly secured, screw a pipe fully
into each one and then screw another flange
to the top of each pipe.
➍Place the wood that will form your second shelf upside down on the drop
cloth, and place the bottom shelf upside down
on top of that second shelf. (It’s easier to drill
down rather than up, which is why you flip the
piece here.) Carefully drill holes and secure
the flanges to what will be the underside
of the second shelf. You now will have two
shelves securely attached to each other. Set
this piece aside.
➎Repeat this process with the other two pieces of wood so that you have
two sets of shelves secured. Now it’s time to
➏Place the bottom section on your drop cloth and arrange flanges along the
surface. Before drilling and screwing the
flanges to the wood, make sure the holes for
the top flanges don’t match up exactly with
the holes for the flanges already secured
underneath that shelf. (If necessary, adjust
the top layer of flanges so the screws from
one layer of flanges won’t hit the screws from
the layer below them.) Then drill and screw in
➐Screw pipes into the flanges on top of the second shelf, and then screw the
final layer of flanges into the top of these
pipes. With help from another person, lift
the assembled top two shelves and place
them on top of the pipes and flanges that are
extending above the second shelf. Now you’ll
need to drill upward, unless your piece is
small enough that you can flip it over entirely.
Before drilling holes, again check that this
final layer of flanges does not have its holes
matching up directly to the holes in the layer
above. If necessary, twist the flanges just
slightly to avoid having the two sets of screws
bump into each other inside the wood. Then
drill the holes and screw those flanges to the
➑Because planks sold at home improve- ment stores are not always perfectly
level, you may find that your bookcase is
slightly uneven on the bottom. If necessary,
use the small adhesive furniture pads on one
or several corners to make the piece level. You
also may wish to buy a safety tether to attach
the bookcase to a wall.
Wood planks: Reclaimed wood is a great choice but can
be hard to find. To get this project done in a weekend,
visit a home-improvement store to have wood cut to
size. Choose deep planks — 2 inches by 12 inches by
12 feet is deep enough to comfortably display books or
other items. For a 3-foot-wide bookshelf with four levels,
have that 2-by-12-by- 12 plank cut in four equal pieces.
Steel pipes (also called nipples) and floor flanges:
Available in gray or black steel, pipes of a given thickness (1/2-inch, 3/4-inch or 1-inch) can be attached to
flanges of the same thickness. Thicker pipes will give
a more industrial look, but thinner pipes result in a
slightly more delicate piece. These will be the most expensive components of your project, with each costing
several dollars. ( You can also get creative and vary the
thicknesses of the pipes on each level.) For a four-level
bookshelf, buy 12 pipes (either 10 or 12 inches long)
so you’ll have four between each level. Then buy 24
flanges in the corresponding size.
Wood screws: Use flat-head Phillips screws. Size depends
on the size of the holes in the flanges you’ve chosen.
Wood stain or paint, and/or a layer of clear polyure-
thane to seal the wood
Adhesive furniture pads and wall straps: Optional,
but the pads may help to make the finished bookcase
perfectly level. Also, the straps can securely attach
your finished piece to a wall if it’s tall and you’re con-
cerned about it tipping.
Electric sander. (You can sand the planks by hand, but
an electric sander will save time and effort.)
Electric screwdriver (optional, but also a big time and
Industrial shelving units are built to hold heavy loads and last for decades. But a vintage piece that’s the right size isn’t always easy to ;nd, and ordering custom-made items
can be expensive. ;e solution?
Spend a Saturday making your own
from planks of wood and plumbing
parts. No furniture-making experience necessary.