DIY Pipe Shelves

We've built a shelving unit in our kitchen out of plumbing pipes.  As you might imagine, it's very strong, which is good because we have a lot of cookbooks.  Alice had seen it done elsewhere, and we couldn't find a prefab bookcase for the space, so we decided to modify the design and give it a try.

We pretty much cleaned out our local Lowe's and Home Depot of 3/4" black pipe tees, flanges, and nipples.  (Tell your inner 10-year-old that a nipple, in this context, is a short length of pipe with threads on both ends.)  The pipe and fittings came to over $300, and the wood and stain came to another $100 or so.  Not cheap, but it would probably survive a tornado.

Black pipe comes with a film of greasy grime all over it, so the project began with an hour or so of scrubbing with Goo Gone.  After that we could handle the parts without looking like we'd robbed a bank.  Here are the two uprights mostly assembled:
Standard practice with black pipe is to put Teflon tape on the threads before assembly to make a good seal.  I did that here even though these pipes obviously don't need to hold pressure; I wanted it to be easy to disassemble and adjust.

I had to make a lot of things happen:  the uprights couldn't look bent or crooked even though there are fourteen joints from top to bottom; the tees all had to point in the same direction; and the flanges (that's the flat round things) all had to touch the wall at the same time.  And to make that more complicated, the walls of this 100-year-old house ain't flat.  Yet here they are, mounted:
Yes, we plan to leave some empty space on that middle shelf so we can reach the light switch.

The left upright luckily was fastened directly to a stud, so it's not going anywhere.  With the right one, I thought 28 drywall screws would hold it in place, but the matchy-matchy black-headed drywall screws I bought are too thick and tend to strip their holes, so they don't have much holding power.  I used some plastic wall anchors and some Molly bolts to secure each flange and it's as strong as the other.

My pride was tempered with dismay when I noticed that the shelves were going to be way off level.  Of course the floor isn't level (duh) but the weird thing is that the left upright is longer than the right one.  I must not have tightened the left one's joints as many turns as the right one.  Oh well:  they go from leaning to the left at the bottom to perfectly level in the middle to leaning to the right at the top.  I'll shim them.  It could be worse.

Meanwhile Alice honed her staining skills on the shelves.  I had bought two 10' 1"x8" boards of southern yellow pine, which I cut into eight 30" shelf lengths.  Alice then sanded them and applied some kind of stinky hydrocarbon pretreatment the store had sold her to prep the surface for stain.  The stain went on pretty evenly and it actually almost matches our cabinets.  Here they are, stained and waiting for polyurethane:
I wasn't thrilled with the unevenness of the spray polyurethane, but it's not like the shelves are going to be outdoors.  Here's the whole assembly:
And finally, below, with cookbooks.  We used to have about twice this many but we edited the library down pretty severely before moving.

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