- A pipe wrench is not necessary, but it's a big help!
- It will probably take several trips to hardware stores before you are able to get all the supplies you need.
- Two people makes the assembly go much more smoothly
- Not all pipe is created equal- good Q.C is important.
- Clear coat or paint for weatherproofing is necessary if you're putting this outside, however rust will still happen!
- Accessorize. Like anything, the details really pull this piece together. End caps and feet are important considerations. You might want to think about putting your shelving unit on casters if you intend to move it around. If your shelves will be stationary, put them on a "coaster" like a piece of wood to stop rust from transferring to your deck surface.
- It doesn't have to be perfect like the ones from Restoration Hardware. As long as what you put on them doesn't slide off- consider it a success and be proud of it.
- While cheaper than store bought, this project still came to about $120.
Start by making a quick sketch of your design and work out the size of pipes you will need and exactly how many joints/ caps/ feet it will require. I'm a visual person and only after I was looking at my plan on paper did I notice one major oversight: I hadn't thought about how I would attach the two sides since it would be a freestanding shelf and I couldn't screw it into a wall, which is kind of a big deal...
This quick sketch illustrated this omission and saved me a (I'm ashamed to say) sixth! trip to the hardware store!
Get the materials. I used black steel pipes but there are several options available if you prefer the look of copper, grey steel etc. Finding the lengths you need in the colour you need might not be as easy as you think so save yourself a lot of trouble and look online first! Be observant when you pick your pipe as some pipes come with a bar code or brand stamped on the pipes which cannot be removed.
Stain the wood. I used pine because I really like the look of the grain. The longer you keep the stain on the darker it will be. I only let my stain dry for about 4 minutes before wiping the excess off. Apply the stain as evenly as possible and watch out for dripping and pooling. After the stain is dry, apply 3 coats of Minwax polyurethane- this part was especially important since my shelves would be living outside and I wanted to protect it as much as possible.
Assemble the frame. The pipes might have an oily coating so give them a good wipe down before you start handling them. The pipes just screw together so you don't really need tools, however a pipe wrench is really helpful to get them nice and tight as you will have to reef on them a bit- be careful as the wrench may leave scratch marks on the pipes. I figured out the assembly as I went along and once you get the hang of it goes really quickly.
Build from the bottom up.
It's somewhat tricky joining the "rectangle" (the side pieces) together since you can't turn each side of the rectangle independently. Instead, you are only screwing the shorter pipe into the T-joints that connect to the long side pieces. Clear as mud? In order to get equal tightness on each side of the rectangle screw the short pipe that will be used as the shelf support into the left side as tightly as you can first. Then, when you are screwing in the right side it will unscrew from the left. Count the threads and stop when you have equal threads on both sides. As you assemble the sides measure each length before attaching the new joint as this will help keep the sides equal and prevent your shelves from slanting. In order to join the two rectangle side pieces together (so they don't collapse) I used a long pipe that was attached at the top/back using the two elbow joints. I found that after the shelves were secured with brackets this was more than secure.
When the frame was complete I added caps to the top to finish it off. I added several coats of clear varnish to weatherize it. *** Make sure you spray the threads too! I guess I didn't spray the exposed threads well enough because they did rust a bit (the pictures were taken after 3 months outside). Next time I'll take the pictures ASAP but at least you can see an accurate depiction of how it's fared being outside so far....
Put the shelves on and secure with brackets if needed. And you will need them. I didn't put them on at first and the top shelf ended up being flipped up onto the roof on the first windy day.