Can you offer advice to build this?

homeagainAugust 26, 2011

I'm interested in building (read as having my dear hubby build) an iron and distressed wood bookcase for my office. I found this one at 1st Dibs and thought we might be able to replicate it. Black steel pipe is available at the local Home Depot and there is a reclaimed wood place near us that I can get the boards.

Two issues though. First, Hubby thinks that it would be unstable since there are no cross pieces tying the whole thing together. Two, he doesn't recognize the iron material that is used at the junction with each shelf as he hasn't done any metal working before. It has to be something that would support the weight of those quite substantial shelves.

Any ideas?

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The minimal work I have done with black iron pipe and threading is tells me that particular design is best done with very precise threading tools---like a motorized threader. Basically because pipe threading is not designed to be a precise art.

I've seen similar designs--although with much thinner wood for the shelving----done using floor flanges to connect the shelves. One design used bolts that connected the two flanges on either side of the wood. That could be built with a saw, a drill, and two wrenches.

Something like that would need to be fastened to a wall for safety.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 10:26PM
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I have to believe that the connection point between the shelving and the iron pipe is some kind odd connector that you won't find in your local home center or hardware store. Not to say that don't exist but I wouldn't know where to start looking for one.

Personally, I don't find that style attractive but I would second HandyMac's recommendation to secure the shelving unit to the wall.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 10:58PM
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No experience with iron pipe so can't be of any practical help, however... LOVE the shelving unit! Awesome project!!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 12:44AM
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I am a retired plumber and I have had extensive experience with working both black iron pipe & galvanized iron pipe however I don't recall ever seeing any fittings such as those used on the shelf in the photo.

That shelf appears to be an industrial or warehouse shelf and no doubt the fittings they used are specific to the industrial shelving industry. In fact, there is no evidence of threads on those pipe connections which leads me to believe they were either welded in or swaged & press fit.

Having said that, I would also agree that you could have great success using standard black iron pipe and floor flanges. The floor flanges are made to an industry standard so all the hole spacing is equal. That means you could use one of the flanges as a drill jig to insure all the holes in your wood shelves is spaced correctly. You could then use a long bolt that would reach down through the upper flange, through the wood and through the bottom flange with a nut on the bottom. That would make an extrememly tight joint that should afford the horizontal stability you need for your shelf.

Cutting and threading iron pipe is not difficult but you would need a pipe cutter to cut the pipe, a very rigid vise to hold the pipe while threading and a set of hand threading dies but then when you see the price of those tools you would quickly see the idea of cutting it yourself would be cost prohibitive. Now you could rent the tools, but even that is rather expensive.

On the other hand you could have the pipes custom cut & threaded at your local hardware of home supply store, but here again, that is a bit expensive too. But not to worry, there is a simpler method.

Nearly all hardware or home supply centers stock a minimal supply of precut & threaded pipes.

Precut & threaded pipes 12" or less in length are called "Pipe Nipples" and they come in sizes that start out with back-to-back threads and graduating by 1/2" in lengths up to 12"

Most hardware and home supply stores also carry "handicut" lengths that are 12", 18" 24" and sometimes 36" so you should be able to find the lengths you need already precut.

But I must warn you, iron pipe and fittings are currently rather pricey.

Also, they use a lot of oil during the cut & threading operation so I would advise you to make sure you wash all the pipe thoroughly with a good detergent soap before attempting to paint it or use it to store books and papers.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 3:05AM
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The fittings could be nothing more than a coupling, epoxied in place. After you thread the pipe in to the exact height required, drill a 1/8 hole through the whole system and drive a c-clip pin through to lock the pipe/coupling/wood together.
The shelves could be old rough-cut poplar mason's walkboards, cleaned gently and oiled. Those boards are usually 10 or 12 inches in width, anything wider and you would have to visit the sawmill/hardwood dealer and pay $$$. Try to get planks that have been band-resawed and they will have fantastic texture.
Drilling the holes for the fittings is going to be the key to success. A small drillpress would be the tool. And a template to lay it out within tolerances (the tolerances will need to be fine).
Somebody asked about these kind of shelves on GW within the last 5 years, IIRC.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 11:01AM
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Above, I meant spring pin, not c-clip pin. The spring pin looks like the letter C from the ends, made of spring steel, holds by friction, because being hollow, it can be compressed.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 1:37PM
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Wow, you guys are so great!!

HD has the pre-cut pipe in 3/4" diameter. I'd liked to stagger the distance between the shelves rather than have them all the same distance apart, similar to the one linked below...HD has the 3/4" in lengths of 24" for the bottom shelf, 18" for the next two and 12" for the final two for a total of 5 shelves 84" tall.

My original plan was to use the floor flanges below each shelf to hold it in place until I discovered this one, and it was a little more clean lined. A second possibility would be to use a three way tee below the bookcase at each junction and run a pipe from front to back which would offer more support also. I like the idea of the pins too if DH can figure that out.

The local lumber yard advertises "Reclaimed Pine planks from an old Barn threshing floor."

Thickness: 2 inch
Width: 8" - 12"
Length: mostly 10'
Grade: original barn flooring

Sounds like exactly what you are recommending sombreuil. I'm planning 42" wide.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated! and Mike, this is a complete departure from anything else in our house and not my usual style either but they just look so cool. I really like the one linked below too, especially the staggered shelves.

Here is a link that might be useful: Durham bookcase

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 2:18PM
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Form the picture, I believe they used 1" inside diameter pipe; the outside diameter of it is 1 1/4". More money, I know but 3/4" pipe might look spindly.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 11:45AM
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the durham bookcase looks like 1" square tubing all welded together.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 12:05PM
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The pipes can be all one piece. You can use shaft collars to support the shelves. Piece of cake!

Here is a link that might be useful: shaft collars

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 10:52AM
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"You can use shaft collars to support the shelves. Piece of cake!"

Unless you want to actually load the shelves with books.

Books are heavy, and I would be very leery of relying on even four shaft collars per shelf for that much weight.

You could still use them, but after getting everything how you want it drill some cross holes through the shaft collar and add some pins or screws.

A #10 machine screw is going to have more strength in shear than a clamp on collar will develop.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 11:20AM
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It occurred to me that you could build these shelves with an adjustment feature by drilling holes (whatever distance apart; 1.5"?) and using clevis pins to support the shelves.
I'm thinking those pins with the loop handles. Ah, found them; link.

Here is a link that might be useful: detent pin

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 7:43PM
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the easy way to build this item is to simply think of the pipe as spacers between the shelves. inside the pipe and passing thru each shelf is a 6' length of 1/2" threaded rod with nuts on each end. the picture seems to show a flat washer where the pipe meets the shelf. total low tech. uff-da

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 8:56PM
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"the picture seems to show a flat washer where the pipe meets the shelf."

That looks more like the collar of a female pipe fitting.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 11:31AM
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brickeye, shouldn't we see some threads if it is a pipe fitting?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 3:01PM
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