Our living room always had somewhat of a space issue. After rotating the TV to be on the longer wall, we didn’t have a great solution for our books. We ended up moving an old IKEA 2×6 bookcase over there, and left the old mounted one in place. This sorta bugged me for years.

Eventually, we planned on buying a new set of bookshelves for that wall. Most of the options we could find were okay, but not really what we needed. I was going to pull the trigger on a couple of these ones from CB2, but they were backordered for months. I’m actually really glad they were.

After talking about it, Kaitlin was like “what if we built our own?”. I initially dismissed it because I didn’t think I had the space/tools/experience to make anything that looked good. Then I realized that people can actually make some really nice shelving out of steel pipe & some minor woodworking.

So, I started mapping out the shelf in OmniGraffle. This made it a lot easier to plan out which length of shelving would actually fit on the wall, and some of the other details that are hard to ballpark. That said, once I got down to building it the whole plan shifted significantly.

Shelf Plan

Raw steel pipes + the fittings to connect them don’t exactly round down to even numbers, so most measurements had to be adjusted on the fly.

I bought some lumber at a lumberyard here in town, and had them cut the main shelf pieces down to 12”×80” & 16”×80”. They weren’t exact, but they didn’t really need to be.

Then I went and bought some sawhorses, a jigsaw & a bunch of other crap to start piecing this all together. Using our covered garage area actually wasn’t too bad for the week I was out there. I think it only rained on one of the days, but even then water never got close to my stuff.

The bad parts

  • Removing all of the packaging tape & stickers from 60 different pipe pieces was awful.
  • Hand-sanding the 6 shelves was a total pain in the ass. I probably should have just rented some sort of sander to do that part. It would have been easier to get the shelves down to a finer finish, too.
  • I did most of the wood preparation on the floor, so eventually my back started to kill me.
  • While assembling the shelves, I had the great idea of drilling in the top wall flanges first. Turns out that because of the way the threads go, it then became impossible to finish assembling. So, I had to take it all out & re-drill ?

The good parts

  • Using the jigsaw to make some wire cutouts along the back edge was totally worth it. It’s hard to see, but its my favorite detail.


  • I’m glad I recessed the pipes into the shelves a little bit. This took some doing, but I think the outcome was worth it. A lot of pipe shelving people make just has the planks sitting on the shelves with the pipes out front. Not as nice.
  • Making the bottom 3 shelves 16” deep was a last minute change, and I’m really glad we did it. The records & turntable fit really well, and I think it makes the whole shelf look more stable. Also the cats really like sleeping on blankets on the bottom shelf.

All in all, I think the shelf came in around $600. Which, compared to how basic the ones I was about to buy were, seems like a pretty good deal.