Wood storage

I got into the shop for a solid and blissful day this weekend to finish an organizing project. Spare wood I’ve been hoarding has been threatening to take over my small space for some time now. I finally got around to building a good solution.




  • 3 x 4″ by 4″x 8ft. ($10 each at Seattle Reuse)
  • 12 x 3/4″ diam. x 18″ precut black steel pipe ($5 each at Home Depot)
  • 6 x 3/8″ x 5″ lagbolts ($2 each)


Drill the holes for the pipes in each upright. The holes should match the diameter of the pipe and go about 3/4 of the way through each 4×4.

The tricky thing is that the outer diameter of these cheap pipes is not that consistent. I was hoping to use 3/4 holes and press-fit the pipes into the holes. Nuh-uh. The pipes were about 0.83 in diameter and were in no way going into 0.75 inch holes. I tried a 13/16″ (0.8125″) bit, and at this size the threaded ends of the pipes bit into the soft wood just enough that I could screw them in using a vise grips and get a tight fit. Now that I have a better idea of the tolerances involved, I could take a calipers to the store and come up with a solid plan for the pipe I’m buying. This time I lucked out.

Countersink holes for the two lagbolts in each upright, 1/2″ diam. by 1/4″ deep. Position the holes somewhere near the top and somewhere near the bottom.

Drill through-holes in each countersunk hole for the lagbolts, just under 3/8″ diam.

I used a bit that was 3/8″ minus 1/64″, or 23/64″.  The right hole size for the right amount of bite may depend on the softness of the wood. I drilled a couple of holes at exactly 3/8″ and though the bolts could not be pulled out of the holes, they could be rotated with a socket wrench when in all the way—not what you want.

Find the studs in the wall and bolt each upright to a stud. Then screw the pipes into the uprights, with a vise grips or pipe wrench, making sure to get each pipe at least two inches into the upright. That’s it.


I was using reclaimed lumber for this project. If I did it again I might look for high-quality, new uprights. The reason is that each pipe is acting like a knife when the shelf is loaded up with a weight. It’s a very dull knife, but nonetheless one that’s trying to split the upright in two. With good wood this should not be possible but I could see any pre-existing cracks around the hole getting wider until the upright breaks.

So structurally it’s a little on the funky side but practically I don’t think it will ever fail given the intended use. Once I had the pipes screwed in I lifted myself up on the low ones and bounced up and down a little, and they didn’t seem to give. Good enough for me.

I left the orange plastic caps on the end of each pipe to avoid scratching my wood supply on the threads.

Getting the holes straight is important. I started each hole on my small drill press, which only has about a 2 1/2″ throw. Then I made them deeper with a hand drill.

If I had it to do over I might go just 1/64″ larger on the pipe holes, then drill through the entire upright and screw each pipe all the way through until it reaches the other side. With the 13/16″ bit, the pipes were getting very difficult to screw in any farther after about 2″ of depth.