Galvanized pipe and 2x lumber make beefy “industrial” shelves.
By Matthew Weber
My four-year-old son may be too young for a man cave, but he’s big on having a “kid cave.” Having outgrown the decorative theme of his baby room (sheep—my wife’s idea), he now favors dinosaurs, Godzilla and other “boyish” things like that. To maintain the rough-and-tough aesthetic he prefers, I installed distressed pine flooring in his bedroom and built him a rustic-looking bed frame from reclaimed lumber. When it came time to install some new shelving, I wanted the addition to match the existing décor. My wife found the inspiration for this project on Pinterest: Simple wood shelving supported by galvanized pipe brackets. Combined with distressed wood and a quality stain, the shelves provide a rugged, industrial look while offering ample storage space.
Here’s how I made them.
The shelving for this project was cut from simple 2×10 lumber. The 1-1/2-in. thickness of the boards looks nice and beefy on the wall and complements the hefty appearance of the steel brackets. The softwood pine (maybe fir or spruce in your area) is also receptive to distressing the surface, unlike hardwood which is naturally more resistant to showing the aged texture that I wanted to impart. Another advantage of simple 2-by lumber is that it’s inexpensive to purchase.
Price is also something to consider when purchasing your pipe and fittings, because the material cost can vary dramatically from supplier to supplier. Galvanized pipe is available in a range of diameters, and each shelf bracket consists of one 10-in. pipe (threaded on both ends), an end cap and a floor flange. I settled on using 3/4-in. pipe for a strong, sturdy look, and each of my four 30-in. shelves required two brackets. This means I needed eight pipes, eight caps and eight floor flanges, the cost of which can add up quickly. When you realize that both Lowes and Home Depot charge more than $11 for a single 3/4-in. galvanized floor flange, the sticker price might even discourage your enthusiasm for the project. It did mine.
However, with a little telephone research I found a plumbing supplier nearby that was unaffiliated with the large national chains and offered substantially lower prices. For example, at Long-Lewis Hardware in Birmingham, Alabama, I found those 3/4-in. floor flanges for only $3.80 each. By calling around and comparing costs, I was able to cut my expense by roughly a third of the cost.
To paint the pipe brackets I used a black Rustoleum spray paint (and primer in one) that offers a special hammered texture to the metal finish. You’ll also need wood stain in your tone of choice, polyurethane for a protective top coat, and heavy-duty screws to mount the brackets into the wall studs.
The pipes and fittings have matching threads, so they simply screw together for assembly. I recommend assembling the brackets prior to spray-painting to conceal the “active” part of the threads that would otherwise clog with paint. I also recommend washing the pipes and fittings with water and dish detergent prior to painting. The detergent will cut through any grease or oil on the pipe and promote better paint adhesion. Dry them thoroughly then coat with repeat applications of the metal paint, allowing time to dry between coats, until you’re satisfied with the look and depth of the finish. The hammered paint texture gives the steel a nice “wrought iron” appearance.