Industrial shelving is one of the most popular DIY projects right now, and it is easy to see why! Traditional bookcases and cabinets require a more advanced skill set that many of us casual “fixer uppers” have not yet acquired. Industrial shelves require a bit of patience, some basic skills and typically tools that any self-proclaimed DIY’er probably already has on hand.
My husband and I have a wall in our family room (that I call the study), where we have wanted built in bookshelves since purchasing our home. The debate has been on the look and type of shelving to use.
After some research, we decided on floor to ceiling industrial pipe bookshelves with dark walnut stained shelving. There was some discussion between using galvanized or copper piping, but we picked copper in the long run. This final decision was based on the feeling that copper pipes would add more warmth to the room. Since the room is large, we decided to make two large bookcases, both 9-foot-tall and 4-foot-wide with 6 shelves each.
As with most things, our project had a few minor setbacks and surprises. However, now that this project is done, we are absolutely in love with the bookshelves and the look they provide in this room.
Materials you will need for one floor to ceiling shelf:
We bought 11 ¾“ copper pipes in 10 foot lengths
You’ll need two ¾” T-connectors, two ¾” threaded connectors and two ¾” flanges for the wall, and for each shelf. Add an additional two ¾” threaded connectors and two ¾” flanges for both the floor and ceiling.
We had 6 shelves, so we had a total of 12 T’s, 16 threaded connectors, and 16 flanges.
Step by Step Process:
- We wanted our shelves to go floor to ceiling, so we began with cutting, brushing and soldering all of the copper. The ceilings in our room are 9’ tall and we wanted 6 shelves on each bookcase. We figured out the measurements for all the cuts, in order to have the shelf fit tightly from floor to ceiling and cut everything prior to brushing and soldering. When figuring out your measurements, keep in mind that the copper pipe fits into the T connector approximately ¾” deep. This means that your vertical cuts at each section will be approximately 1 ½” longer than your desired length.
Our cut list was as follows:
Horizontal lengths were cut to 10 ¾”, 12 per bookcase
Vertical uprights were cut to 13 ¾”, 10 per bookcase
Bottom vertical uprights were cut to 13 ¼”, 2 per bookcase
Top vertical uprights were cut to 17 ¾”, 2 per bookcase
- Once the cuts were made, we brushed all the ends of the copper using a copper pipe brush. Then we began the soldering. Apply a coating of flux to each part of the joint and then fit the pipes together. Make sure that all of your joints are level, square, and in line with one another. We laid the shelf on the concrete in our garage for each new joint to ensure this. Then, using a propane torch, heat the joint until the flux begins to bubble and smoke. Gently apply the solder and it should melt and flow into the joint. There some excellent videos online explaining the process in greater detail.
- Horizontal pieces had a threaded connector and flange added on one end and were fitted in to the middle portion of a T connector on the other. Vertical uprights were fitted in to the T connectors on both ends, with the exception of the top and bottom, which received a threaded connector and flange on the top and bottom, respectfully.
- Once soldered, the shelves were polished. A wire brush was used and some copper patina applied on each of the solder joints. The patina was applied with a Q-tip, so the solder color would match the copper.
- The shelves were mounted to the wall, floor, and ceiling using 1 ¼” screws with wall anchors.
- The shelving planks were 4 feet long, so we set the copper shelves 36” apart. This left 6” of overhang for the shelves on each side of the copper poles.
Preparing the wood for the shelves was another small project! We decided to use a dark wood to contrast with the copper. My husband insisted on a hardwood, so the shelves wouldn’t sag over time. We chose Mahogany, which is a bit more expensive. We purchased the Mahogany at a local lumber yard, rough cut. Because we bought it rough cut, it was less expensive. Due to this, it required more work to prepare the shelves.
My husband jointed each board, cut each board to length, and then planed each board to the same thickness. Once this was done, I sanded and stained each board with a dark walnut stain.
The boards were then simply laid across the copper shelves for the finishing touch!