Friday, July 6, 2012

Home Improvement #1

One of the advantages about living somewhere more permanently, is the fact that you can really make it your home.  We have a long checklist of things we'd like to do and buy, and we set a certain amount of money aside each month to do so.

This month, I (Simon) made the first of three pipe shelves.  I have to give credit to my friend Ben, who we met at First Colony Church of Christ in Sugarland, TX.  He showed me a few shelves he made from black iron pipe, and Sarah and I both loved them!  I even told him that, one day, I would copy his idea and make one for ourself.  And we did!

Pipe Shelf Made from 1/2" Black Iron Pipe

The idea was to replace the bookshelf we previously had next to our desk.  An idea I had early on, was to have some sort of horizontal surface right next to the door to put outgoing mail, a check that needs to be deposited, or things of that sort.  When I go to work in the morning, I also tend to load up both hands with lunch, a drink, or whatever, and then don't have a hand free to grab my keys and lock the door.  So I knew I wanted some kind of table there.  


To keep with the rustic look, we bought an old section of 2"x10" from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $2.  I cut it to length with a circular saw, and drilled the holes for the pipe with a 7/8" Forstner bit.  

Detail View of the Wooden Board

The easiest aspect of using pipe to make a shelf is also a challenge: infinite possibilities.  You can virtually do any shape and anything you want, so it took us a little bit to decide on the design for our bookshelf.  One thing you have to make sure of, is to screw the flange into a stud.  Because black iron pipe is exclusively used for gas, they don't make black iron floor flanges.  So I bought silver looking galvanized iron flange and painted it with a metallic Rustoleum spray paint.  It's not an exact match to the nipples, but close enough for me.  Some people spray paint all nipples and connectors to get a unified look, but  I had no intention of spending the time and money on that.  Besides, I live in an apartment, where would I do that!?

Mounted to the Wall Using a Flange
The individual pipes are called nipples.  You can buy nipples at your local hardware store in all kinds of sizes.  Starting at 2", they go all the way up to 6 feet.  I think that using shorter nipples and then connecting them with a coupling looks better than using one longer nipple.  This is probably the more expensive route to take, and some people might want a "flat" shelf without any couplings, so it's up to the designer what to do.
Detail View of Nipples and Couplings

The wooden board on top makes the whole shelf more substantial, I think.  As I previously said, I just drilled a whole for the pipe, and then sandwiched the board in between a coupling (shown in the picture below) and an end cap (shown in the detail view of the wooden board).

Detail View of How the Board Is Attached
I just kinda threw our books onto the shelf, so Sarah will probably rearrange them once she has time, but this is what the shelf looks like with books on it.  Again, this is only the first of three pipe shelves, but as they are not super cheap (this one was about $140), we're gonna have to make them one by one over the next few months. 
One more thing I'd like to mention:  because all nipples are screwed together, it's almost impossible to add or take away any part once it's on the wall, which means, the whole shelf needs to be assembled and then attached to the wall in one piece.  
Completed Shelf!



  1. It looks great! Thanks for all the info!

  2. Thanks, guys! There are gonna be 2 more shelves coming within the next months, so I'll keep you posted. And Grant, looking forward to your clock that has been in the making for -what?- year and a half!? It's gonna be awesome!