How to Build Your Own Industrial Bookshelf

Updated on May 13, 2019
hellovictoria profile image

Tori is a 28-year-old, three-time animal mom and DIYer living in Northern Atlanta with her boyfriend.


My boyfriend and I have very different design aesthetics when it comes to interior decorating. One thing we both agree on is how much we like wood and metal together. We both appreciate a great piece of furniture that adds a little bit of the unexpected, and industrial style furniture does just that.

We moved into a new apartment a little while ago, and needed a solution for our books. I had been looking online at bookshelves for about a month and just wasn't loving any of the options that I found online. The ones that I did like had a price tag that was completely unmanageable. We wanted something that met our simple requirements:

  • More unique than a typical Ikea bookshelf.
  • Wouldn't cost an arm and a leg (no more than $200).
  • Built out of more than just particle board or heavy dark wood.

Or maybe that was too much to ask because I couldn't find anything that I loved that fit our aesthetic! I started complaining about it, and my boyfriend decided to do some online research himself. He found a couple of tutorial videos on YouTube on how to build a bookshelf, and we decided building it was the way to go—it seemed to be the only way we could get everything we wanted. We sketched out a quick design, and made our way to Home Depot for supplies.

Before You Begin

This project could be completed in a weekend as it is a pretty simple design. There are also other design decisions you could make that vary from this tutorial! Here are some tips to make your life easier and also give you some project inspiration in case you want this bookshelf but made slightly differently.

Make-Your-Life-Easier Tips:

  • Home Depot can cut your boards to the right length for you. Therefore if you don't have a circle saw, you aren't screwed - have them do it!
  • You will definitely need sawhorses. Don't try to balance wood on your kitchen table while you're trying to drill the holes into the wood. We have this set of sawhorses from Harbor Freight. They are cheap, lightweight, and easy to store in our 1300 square foot apartment.
  • If you have children or animals that like to climb shelves, it may also be a great idea to add wall straps to the back of the bookshelf to keep it from tipping, because it is a very heavy piece. I have used these wall straps from Amazon in the past for some rickety furniture and they work very well at keeping the furniture in place in case something happens.

Design and Style Tips

  • There are many kinds of pipe you can purchase for this project! We used black iron, but you could also use steel or copper pipes for a different finish. Alternatively, you can just buy the cheapest pipe and spray paint it to get the finish and/or color that you want. Rustoleum has an amazing line of spray paints in different colors, textures, and finishes to help you get what you're looking for.
  • Not a fan of pine, or want to use a more exotic-looking type of wood? Switch it out with what you like. I think this bookshelf would look amazing with some kind of live edge slab. Zebra wood is also beautiful!
  • You don't have to leave the pine as-is. You can stain or paint it any color you want!

Have You Ever Built Your Own Furniture?

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Supplies We Used

(click column header to sort results)
Hardware Store Department  
Supplies Needed  
Price We Paid For Total # of Pieces  
Four 1/2 inch Black Floor Flanges
Twenty 1/2 inch x 12 inch Black Nipple (Pipes)
Twenty 1/2 inch Black Couplings
Four 1/2 inch x 3 inch Black Nipple (Pipes)
Four 1x2 inch Black Iron Pipe Caps
Two 5/4 x 8 Ft Unfinished Pine Stair Treads, cut into six 32 inch pieces
3/4 Inch Forstner Drill Bit
1/2 inch Steel Rotary Rasp File
Power Drill
Palm Sander
Two Sawhorses
Wooster 2 in. Polyester Angle Sash Paint Brush
Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane
120 grit or higher sandpaper
$2 to $5
About $235

Step 1: Prepare Your Supplies

Before you can start drilling and assembling, everything will need a preliminary level of preparation, particularly the pipes and their accessories. The flanges we bought were a bit greasy so we washed them before using them. All of the pipes had price tag stickers that were taped on, and we had used acetone and sand paper to remove all of the sticky residue.

At this point, if you'd like the pipes to be another color other than what they are, after you get the price tags off you can spray paint them and let them dry. Same thing for all the connectors, caps, and flanges.

For the boards, you can get them pre-cut at Home Depot when you buy them. If you did not do that, you'll need to use a circle saw to cut them into 32 inch pieces. you'll end up with an extra board, which you can use for practice or testing your drill bits before you drill your holes. The particular board we used for this project was perfect. It's typically used for stairs, so it has a curved edge on one side and a flat edge on the other, which fit the look we were going for.

Step 2: Measure and Cut the Holes for the Pipes

First, you'll need to measure and mark where you want your holes to be. This must be precise, or else you risk your bookshelf being lopsided and the pipes not matching up when you screw everything together.

  1. Measure in each corner of the board to a spot that is 1 inch away from every edge.
  2. Draw a small X, and put the center of the x where the center of the hole should be.

The pipe that you're working with is a 1/2 inch thick—but that 1/2 inch refers to the inside of the pipe - not the outside. We used a 7/8 inch Forstner Bit to drill our holes, and it was just a tad too snug to fit the pipes in easily - but we couldn't move up to the 1 inch because it would be way too big. So, we brought in a rotary rasp file bit for the drill. It works just like a rotary tool or dremel, but without having to buy a dremel set because it fits into your drill. We used that to sand out the inside of the hole.

  1. Practice a few times on your extra board making holes with the Forstner bit if you've never used it before. You will either need a 2nd person or clamps to hold the board down while you're drilling.
  2. Once you're confident, place the center of the Forstner bit into the center of each X you drew. Drill all the way to the other side of the board.
  3. Follow up with the rotary rasp file and file the inside of the hole until it is just big enough to get the pipe to slide through without a ton of extra movement.

The holes you cut will look a little something like this one we drilled in our test wood.
The holes you cut will look a little something like this one we drilled in our test wood. | Source
On the left, you'll see the Forstner bit, which cuts the holes. on the right is a rotary rasp file, which you can use to sand the inside of the hole to the right width.
On the left, you'll see the Forstner bit, which cuts the holes. on the right is a rotary rasp file, which you can use to sand the inside of the hole to the right width. | Source

Step 3: Sand and Stain the Wood

After your holes are cut, it's time to sand and finish your wood. We liked the way the pine looked without a stain, so we chose to just use semi-gloss polyurethane.

  1. Sand the wood down with 120 grit or higher sand paper in a palm sander, making sure to sand edges too. You could do this by hand, too, but the palm sander makes it work a little faster with less effort.
  2. Wipe down the board with a wet cloth to remove all sawdust particles, and allow it to dry before moving on to the next step.
  3. If you're staining and using an oil based stain, I highly recommend wiping the wood down with Minwax PreStain Wood Conditioner first. Allow this to dry. If you're only using polyurethane, skip this step.
  4. If you're using stain, make sure it is stirred up completely so that color can be evenly distributed. Use your paint brush to apply a thin coat of either stain or polyurethane to the wood.
  5. Allow the stain or polyurethane to dry according to package directions, and sand it down lightly with a high grit sand paper to remove any bumps. Apply a second coat of stain if desired - if you're not applying a second coat of stain, move on to your polyurethane coat.
  6. I like to put down three coats of polyurethane. This process can take a long time just because you have to wait for each coat to dry completely before you can apply the next one. Sand in between each layer of polyurethane to remove any bumps.
  7. Once you have finished staining and applying polyurethane, use the rotary rasp file to sand out any dried drips that may have fallen into the drilled holes.

Step 4: Put Everything Together

Start from the bottom and work your way up. This step is the fun part because you'll have a finished product in no time!

  1. Screw in each of your four floor flanges into the bottom of four of the 12 inch pipes.
  2. On the opposite end of the pipe, screw on a coupling.
  3. Stand up all four legs, and place a board on top of the legs.
  4. Take four more 12 inch pipes, slide them through each hole, and screw them in to the couplings attached to each leg.
  5. Once it is screwed in and tight, repeat steps 1-4 until you reach your top shelf.
  6. Once you've gotten to your top shelf, you'll use the 3.5 inch pipes. Slide them through the holes on the top shelf and screw them in to the coupling below.
  7. Screw the four pipe caps onto the top, and you are all done!

Here's what the first few steps will look like attached!
Here's what the first few steps will look like attached! | Source
Here's what the last step will look like: 3 inch pipe slid through and screwed in to coupling, then capped on the other end.
Here's what the last step will look like: 3 inch pipe slid through and screwed in to coupling, then capped on the other end. | Source

Now you've made your own industrial bookshelf, just like we did. If you did complete this project, I'd love to see pictures of how yours turned out. Leave me a comment if you liked this DIY Industrial Bookshelf Tutorial!

Here's the empty, finished bookshelf....
Here's the empty, finished bookshelf.... | Source
...And here's the full finished bookshelf!
...And here's the full finished bookshelf! | Source

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        15 months ago

        Very nice and wise collection of words to describe the importance of topic.

        Very grateful for this clearly written information! Thanks.

        Interior Designer:

      • techygran profile image

        Cynthia Zirkwitz 

        23 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

        Very inspiring article! I have some renos in mind and your tutorials have helped to flesh out the vision! Thank you.

      • Manuel Jaylo profile image

        Manuel Jaylo 

        23 months ago




      • profile image


        23 months ago

        Such a nicely done post on this fun bookcase. Your guide with good pictures and tips work together to make up a useful DIY article. Learning from this allows anyone to design a project to suit their space and shelving needs.


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