As part of our Star Wars nursery, we wanted some shelves that are reminiscent of spaceship part, so we decided to DIY some industrial pipe shelves because they look like they might have been made from pieces of an old spaceship. They are also very sturdy and strong. And since our little boy likes to climb, that was an important feature.
If you didn’t see my first post about our Star Wars nursery, take a look at Wayne’s Lego Star Wars mobile and the Wampa rug.
In figuring out how to build the shelves, I noticed that every set of industrial pipe shelves I saw online were constructed in a slightly different way. Here’s how we built ours
These shelves have a lot of galvanized pipe parts, including floor flanges, elbows, tee fittings, 8-inch threaded pipes, and 12-inch threaded pipes. Plus I added a black 3-inch threaded pipe and a coupling at the top of the shelves to add interest. All of these pieces are threaded, so the whole system can be put together without any glue or adhesive. I also ended up needing 6 unthreaded flanges. More on that later.
Several of these pipes had very sticky price tag residue. It was easy to get the residue off with Goo Gone, which didn’t affect the shiny finish at all.
We had a large, 3/4 thick plywood board that had been painted black sitting in our garage. Using a friend’s table saw, I cut the board into 1 X 3 feet shelves. I left the edges raw to expose the plywood layers. I also sanded the boards slightly to give them a more worn-in look. The black paint had always been slightly tacky, so I coated the whole board with paste wax.
With all that galvanized pipe, these are heavy shelves. I didn’t want to put the whole thing together and then try to attach it to the wall while holding it up. I wanted to put it up in pieces. To do that, I had to measure the whole thing first so it would fit correctly on the wall.
I put together one of the sides of pipe and measured the height. It was 47 inches, about 4 feet. Since I built the shelves from the bottom up, I started the first attachment more than 4 feet below the ceiling.
The shelves are 3 feet wide. Since the pipes need to go through the board, I figured the pipes should be 32 inches apart, leaving a generous 2 inches of board outside the pipe.
Constructing the shelves
Putting Up the First Pieces
I drew a 32-inch line on the wall 50 inches down from the ceiling. I used a level to make sure the line was straight. I attached the first two flanges, lining up the center of the flange with the end of the pencil line.
With such heavy shelves, these floor flanges needed to be anchored securely to the wall. Each of the four holes has a #8 triple grip wall anchor and screw, which hold up to 50lbs. The inside screws on the right flange actually go into a wall stud, so I didn’t need to use anchors on those.
I attached an 8-inch pipe to the flanges on the wall, then an elbow, then a 12-inch pipe. By attached, I mean I screwed the piece on tightly with my hands.
I wanted the pipes to go through each shelf so they would be sturdy. Several of the shelves I’ve seen online just have the board sit on top of the pipes. That would not work with my little climber.
The vertical (12-inch) pipe is 10 inches away from the wall, so I marked the shelf at 10 inches from the back and 2 inches from the sides. I drilled a 1-inch hole, which is large enough for the pipe to fit through, but not large enough for the elbow to go through. I drilled the 2 other shelves at the same time. I slipped the first shelf onto the vertical pipe and slid it down to sit on top of the elbow piece.
Problem #1 + Awesome Solution
The shelf fit perfectly sitting on top of the elbow and the flange, just like I’d planned. Unfortunately, the elbow and the flange are not level. The elbow is lower, so the shelf sloped forward.
After considering several solutions (including just giving up), I went back to the hardware store and found the unthreaded flanges.
The flange sits on top of the elbow joint and adds height to make the front and back of the shelf even. I love how the flanges look. They add visual weight and make the shelves look more like finished furniture.
After being so impressed with my solution, I continued with the second shelf. I added a tee fitting to the vertical pipe and attached an 8-inch pipe with a threaded flange horizontally and another 12-inch pipe vertically.
Problem #2 + Livable Solution
I slipped the second shelf on just like the first and hit my second snag: the shelf didn’t reach the wall. I had assumed, when I drilled holes in all three shelves, that the measurements should all be the same. Now, my second shelf was almost half an inch from the wall. Not enough to be noticeable, but enough of a gap that it didn’t sit on top of the flange. The shelf slipped down in back.
If I were to redo this project, I would drill the hole in each shelf as I got to it. But, since I wasn’t going to start all over, I had to find another solution.
I found these little metal pieces (I’m not even sure what they were for) in our junk drawer that I attached to the back of the two shelves on the bottom just above the flanges. It added that extra half an inch towards the wall that the shelf needed to sit stably on top of the flanges. They didn’t improve the look of the shelves like my last solution, so I painted them black, and used black screws to hide them.
Duly humbled, I continued and finished the shelves.
Finishing the Top
I attached the top shelf just like the second. Then I added a coupling and the 3-inch black galvanized pipe before attaching the elbow. This little dark piece added something visually interesting at the top of the shelves. It’s not necessary at all, I just like the way it looks. Plus, if my measurements had accidentally been a little off, I could have just removed that piece and the shelves would still fit in a smaller space.
Here’s the finished shelves. We’ve started adding Legos and other Star Wars toys. I’ll share updates as we get more Lego Star Wars built and on the shelves. There are still a few more parts of our Star Wars nursery to finish. Hopefully, I can post about those soon!
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