Plumbing Pipe Shelf

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Overview

Black iron pipe bookshelves are a hot trend in decorating. One outstanding feature of the method is its flexibility. You can fit pipe shelves into spaces where no commercially available shelving unit would ever fit. Take, for example the space between two doors in an already cramped home office. Build the shelves with recycled lumber and you're not only trendy, you're going green in a big way.

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Clean and Inspect Your Lumber

Remove all nails and other foreign objects from your lumber. To keep the weathered look, use a wire brush to clean dirt, old paint and crud off the lumber. Assume any paint you're dealing with is lead-based and take appropriate precautions when handling. Find the best sections and cut 4 boards to length (26 inches or whatever is appropriate for your space).

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Lay Out Holes

Mark a line 1 3/4 inches from both ends of the boards. The wall flanges are 1 3/4 inches from the edge to the center. This will place the hole for the pipe to pass through at the exact center of the wall flange. Mark an intersecting line 1 1/8" from the front edge.

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Drill Holes

Drill 1 inch holes centered on the marked intersections on both ends of all 4 shelves. Use a hole saw in a drill press, if you have one available. A hand drill will work, but make sure you keep the hole vertical and precisely on the mark.

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Finish Shelves

Apply an oil finish to the shelves per manufacturer's directions.

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Clean Pipe

Clean all the pipe and all the fittings with grease-cutting cleaner and paper towels. Be thorough, the packing film on the pipe smears on everything it touches unless it is cleaned off.

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Assemble Wall Brackets

The lower wall brackets consist of a wall flange, a 1/2 inch pipe section, a tee joint, a 4 inch pipe section and an elbow, in that order. The tee joint and the elbow need to point in the same direction when tightened, and the overall length of the assembly needs to be the same as the upper bracket, which has a 6 inch pipe and no tee joint.

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Equalize Wall Brackets

This is the only part of the project where the fittings need to be tightened more than hand tight. The lower bracket assembly will need to be tightened very tight to get it as short as the upper assembly. A vise will make the job much easier, if you have one. Tighten all the lower bracket fittings until the assembly appears to be the same length as an assembled upper bracket. Place a 12 inch pipe between an upper and a lower bracket. If the wall flanges sit flat, your brackets are close enough to even in length.

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Install Lower Brackets

Determine where you want the lowest shelf to be and position the center of a wall flange 2 inches below the desired shelf level. Mark the screw holes in the flange on the wall. If you are centered over a stud, screw the wall flange to the stud with wood screws. Alternatively, use hollow wall anchors. In most cases, you will need a combination of the two. Use a level to position the second lower bracket perfectly level to the first.

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Assemble Shelves

Thread 12 inch pipe sections into the elbows of the lower brackets. Fit the holes in a shelf over the pipes and lower the shelf onto the fittings in the lower bracket. Thread tee joints onto the just installed pipe. Thread elbows onto two 4 inch pipes and thread those assemblies into the horizontal openings of the tee joints. Repeat for the remaining shelves.