Add character and bonus storage to any space by making this freestanding industrial modern bookcase. This bookcase design requires precut lumber and plumbing pipe fittings, all of which can be found at your hardware store, and can be customized to fit your space.
Things You’ll Need
- 5 untreated lumber boards, precut to 12 inches by 2 inches by 52 inches
- Medium-grit sandpaper, #60
- Wood finish interior wood stain
- Paintbrush and/or cotton rag
- Clear multisurface waterproofer (optional)
- Felt or foam rounds, 3-inch diameter
- Multisurface glue
- ½-inch floor flanges, 4
- ½-inch by 12-inch pipe nipples, 30
- ½-inch by 24-inch pipe nipples, 4
- ½-inch close nipples, 6
- ½-inch threaded tee pipe fittings, 24
- ½-inch 90-degree pipe elbows, 4
- ½-inch by 42-inch pipe nipples, 2
- ½-inch 2-hole straps, 20
- #8 by 1-inch wood screws, 40
Notes on supplies:
Pipes: We used ½-inch round black steel finished metal pipes that can be found in the plumbing aisle at most hardware stores; the finish and pipe size can be changed depending on your tastes for this project. If you prefer a completely different metal finish, the pipes will take well to spray paint. Some hardware stores will make custom pipe cuts free of charge; take advantage of this service for the two 42-inch pipe nipples, because this isn’t a standard pipe size.
Lumber: We used 12-inch by 2-inch by 52-inch untreated lumber boards for this bookcase design. We like the look of the thicker, 2-inch slab, and the 52-inch width was a custom measurement for our space. Using thicker lumber allows for a lengthier shelf span, also helping to prevent sagging under heavy-weight objects like books over time. Each shelf in this design should be able to hold an even distribution of 60 pounds. Look for lumber that can be cut to size, another service most hardware stores will offer free of charge.
Tip: Customize the width of this bookcase by having longer or shorter boards cut to best fit the needs of your space. Every other component of the design will remain the same, except for the two 42-inch pipe nipples, which would also need to be custom cut.
First sand the boards smooth, freeing them from debris and splintered edges.
In a well-ventilated area, apply a stain for interior wood finishes (we used Minwax brand in the Early American finish) using a paintbrush or by wiping into the wood with a cotton rag. Wipe away excess stain to help bring out the natural variations in the woodgrain. Allow stain to fully dry (at least eight hours).
For added protection and sealing, we applied a coat of a clear multisurface waterproofer, allowing it to fully dry before bringing the boards indoors to work with.
After all the supplies are gathered, piecing together these bookcases is like a step-by-step puzzle. To assemble the bookcase, you’ll first build out each of the two side shelf supports before laying out the wood shelves and completing the piece with cross pipe supports.
Adhere felt or foam rounds to the bottom of each floor flange using multipurpose glue. These flanges will act as the feet of the bookcase, supporting the weight. The foam will help provide a protective barrier between the metal and floor to prevent scratching.
Assemble the pipe fittings starting from the bottom of the shelves. Pipe fittings come with a steel residue which can be wiped clean with a cloth rag. Wearing gloves while assembling the structure will help from transferring any residual mess onto your hands and clothing.
First attach a close nipple to each of the four floor flanges, followed by a tee fitting to make the feet for the bookcase.
Using four of the 12-inch pipe nipples and two more of the tee fittings on each, make two freestanding square shapes. These will act as the starting points for each side of the bookcase shelf supports.
From here, continue to build upward, creating a row of three squares using the 12-inch pipe nipples and tee fittings. Each side will begin to resemble a ladder — can you see it starting to come together?
To add variation in height and a little interest to the bookcase, attach the 24-inch pipe nipples before completing each side with a final “square” of the 12-inch pipe nipples.
Lay the boards one at a time, measuring a 4-inch overhang on each side of the shelf. Attach two 2-hole straps along the pipe underneath the board, screwing them into the wood for added support and security.
Tip: While laying the boards, choose the sides with interesting variations or knots along the wood grain for areas you’ll see. Similarly, if there are portions of the boards you’re not as fond of, easily conceal them from sight by laying them on the flip side.
After each board is installed, complete the bookcase by adding the final cross supports along the top. First attach the remaining two close nipples inside the front-facing tee fittings at the top of the shelves, and then attach the remaining two 12-inch pipe nipples in back. Attach the four 90-degree elbows to each of these four points, and connect with the two 42-inch pipe nipples across the top, twisting securely into each elbow.
Vary up a normal bookcase display by stacking books on their side and organizing by color. Among the books, work in framed photos and treasured collectibles to add personality.
Looking for more project ideas? If you’re a fan of industrial style, learn how to make a simple garment rack using pipe fittings or these industrial modern sconces. Love working with reclaimed wood? See how we designed and installed an exposed kithen shelf made of reclaimed wood and learn how to make a reclaimed wood bath caddy in this tutorial.
Mary & Tim
Keep up with Mary and Tim’s adventures in DIY, home and gardening on their collaborative lifestyle blog, 17Apart. Find them on Instagram (@17Apart) and page through delicious recipes on Tim’s food blog, E.A.T.
Photo credits: Mary & Tim Vidra