Copper Pipe Hi-Fi Shelf


The steel pipe fixture craze was cool, but sometimes over-kill for small spaces and also fittings can get expensive. If you’re looking for a smaller scale shelf, love the look of copper and playing with fire… here’s your DIY.

My friend (and W&F alumni), Ali Brislin, was in need of a small shelf setup for her Hi-Fi. She’d looked at some vintage cabinets, but nothing was perfect. I’d told her of my idea for a simple copper pipe shelf unit and she was intrigued. Since we have a very similar aesthetic, she trusted me and agreed to accept whatever creation was in my head. I tried to sketch it out, but nothing beats filling a basked full of copper fittings and just going for it.

Part of the fun here is playing with a torch. You’ll want to review some how-to videos on sweating copper pipe. It’s pretty easy to do, but seriously an art form when done by an experienced plumber. There’s a lot steps involved to make it clean and water-tight, however, since we won’t be using it for a pressured water supply, you can make it a little messy. With practice it’ll look better and better with each fitting.

Tools involved are a propane torch, solder and flux (or instant solder), pipe cutter or hacksaw, sandpaper, measuring tape, sharpie marker. You’ll need some half-inch copper pipe, plenty of fittings and some boards.

  • six t-fittings and eight elbow fittings
  • six 14” cut copper
  • six 1.5” cut copper
  • two 7.5” cut copper
  • two 5.5” cut copper
  • one 28” cut copper (determines your width)
  • wood to create two 14”x30” shelves

The first step is to cut all your copper pipe down into pieces using the pipe cutter. This can also be done with a hack-saw, but for the cost, a pipe cutter is a cheap investment. The cut list I’ve provided will be plenty large enough for a vintage receiver and more, but it can always be customized for your own needs.

After all parts are cut, test fit everything. Make sure all your fittings are correct, then disassemble and prep your pipes by cleaning/sanding all the fitting areas. Once prepped, add your flux (or instant solder formula) and re-assemble. I soldered things in sections, and that might make more sense unless you have lots of clamps and a metal bench to do everything at once. I soldered up the sides, leaving the cross piece loose until the end, so it can be assembled square. Copper does bend easily, but it’s always good to have your pieces square before forcing into shape later.

Once the assembly is done and cooled, I drilled some mounting holes for wall attachment. For strength purposes, I drilled though fittings. Also, since copper is soft, use washers on your mounting screws where necessary. Four screws were enough going into a thick plywood backed wall, but if you don’t have that, try and find a stud.

Lastly, it’s time to slide your shelf boards into the frame. You can drill through the copper to screw your boards in place, but I decided to just leave them loose. There’s not much danger at Ali’s house of them being knocked. Once the stereo is in place, put on your favorite records and load the rest of your shelf up with plants and tchotchkes!

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The Cheeseboard in Three Steps


There’s practically no steps to this. I feel almost silly even writing it, but there’s some small knowledge here that can make a big difference if you make one, and that’s why I’m gonna be talking about it. The key is in the sanding.

First of all, why the hell didn’t I have a cheeseboard until now? I love cheese! I’ve been cutting the stuff on plates and that’s just dumb. I’ve broken plates this way and certainly dulled my knives. The best thing to cut on while look like a classy son-of-a-gun in the process is definitely real wood.

I’m using Walnut because it’s super sexy, but also is really good to work with and will give a great finish. Step one is obviously to just cut your board. I’m gonna use a live edge because I have access to great pieces of wood, but you can make a fancy shape, leave it square, or anything really. Whatever your shape, I say simpler the better, because the faster you’re done, the quicker you can load it up with cheese and meats.

After the shape is established, it’s time for the un-fun and necessary… lots of sanding. Don’t skimp on this part, and don’t think you can get away with one grit and make it nice. You really have to step down with the grit, and this will make not only a better product, but it’ll go faster too. If your board is relatively smooth from a planer, then start with about a 80 grit on an orbital sander. After you have sufficiently smoothed out any major imperfections, it’s time to change the grit. Next hit it with some 120, then 220, then 320, and if you’re really going for that silky feel – 400 with a hand block sanding in the direction of the grain. At this point, the bare wood will be so smooth you won’t want to stop touching it.

Next blow the dust off with a compressor or use a tack cloth to get the dust off. If you’re sanding furniture, I like a little dust in my finish to fill the grain… But we’re going to oil this piece to make if food safe, and I don’t want any dust in my cheese.

Apply some mineral oil to the wood with a soft cloth and then remove any excess with another cloth. You can apply a few coats, making sure it soaks into the wood plenty. After a cure period of a couple days, you’re ready to use it. You can reapply oil every once-in-a-while to keep it looking good… and if you’re doing tons of cutting, you can always re-sand to get it back to the original condition.

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Folding Tripod Camp Stool

You’ll need some tools:
  • Sander
  • Center-finder (optional, but helps)
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Small socket wrench to fit acorn nuts
  • Rags
  • Knife
You’ll need a few materials:
  • Three 1 1/8” Birch hardwood dowels - enough for three 24” pieces
  • One steel 2.75” bolt - UPDATED, the brass is too soft for structural stress
  • One 1.5” eyehole bolt
  • Two brass acorn nuts
  • Three brass washers
  • Three brass finishing washers
  • Three brass 1” wood screws (big enough not to slip through the finishing washer)
  • Finish - I used Osmo PolyX-Oil
  • Leather or other heavy material for seat

In honor of this month’s Design*Sponge theme of the outdoors, how about we build an old-fashioned camping stool? First of all, have you seen modern folding tripod stools? They are ugly as sin and your grandpa would be ASHAMED if you bought one. With the help of some hefty dowels, a little hardware and a piece of leather or heavy canvas – you’ll be sitting by the campfire in style. Also, the materials will only set you back about $25.

In addition, I’ve got to give proper respect to the super creative Kate Pruitt at Design*Sponge for sparking this idea… It’s great to work with her and the D*S crew.


1. Start by cutting your dowels to 24” or closest to that. I bought two 48” dowels, so each leg is about 23 7/8 after the saw blade’s share. Drill a hole completely through each one, 10.5” from the top of each leg. Find the center of each leg’s top, and drill a small pilot hole for your seat mounting screws. You’ll need this pilot hole to prevent your legs from splitting. Sand each of the legs smooth, and a little around the edge of the tops, and a good amount on each bottom to round it out more. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just make sure you don’t shorten any leg with too much rounding.

2. After the legs are cut, drilled and sanded, apply your choice of finish and set aside to dry. As they are drying, you can work on the seat material. I’m including a downloadable template for you to create your seat with. I chose leather because I have plenty of it around, but you could sew up a heavy canvas seat or any number of materials. Make sure it’s heavy and sufficiently reinforced since there will be a good amount of stress on each corner.

On one corner of the seat, I left a tab for the carry strap, but this is optional. Mine’s attached to a closure strap, which I recommend having regardless of a carry strap. It’ll keep your stool from popping open in storage or carrying. I edged my leather pieces and treated the smooth surfaces with carnauba wax.

3. Once the legs are dry, assemble the structure assembly by threading two of the legs together with the bolt, with the eyehole bolt in the middle. Use washers on both ends, and attach the acorn nut. I actually cut my bolt down a little bit with a hacksaw, so it fit close. You’ll need a little play in the assembly to move, but it shouldn’t be gaping. Once those two legs are secure, feed the eyehole bolt (which I cut down a little too) into the third leg and attach with a washer and acorn nut. Tighten both acorns securely with a socket wrench.

4. After the base is complete, attach your seat to each leg using a large finishing washer and the wood screw. Don’t over-tighten and strip out your holes, for you’ll need all the strength on these mounting points. After everything is secure, you can take a seat. The main bolt might bend a little to the stress, but that’s fine, it keep its bend permanently and that shape will aid in the folding-up state. Now you’re ready for your next campfire sitting in distinguished comfort.

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Maple Salt Cellar


After my first attempt at making a salt cellar / vessel for Design*Sponge, I figured I wanted to try some more styles. The first one was going to be a gift for my Mom, but after finishing it, I realized it was too modern for her home aesthetic. So, I gave her the walnut one as a ‘placeholder’ gift and said I’d be making her one that better suited her place. I ventured out to the amazing Goby Walnut in search of some boards, and came across a couple maple boards that I couldn’t live without.

Working with maple, I found it to be a little more tricky than walnut. Both are hardwoods, but maple seems REALLY hard. And with the figure in the grain, it was even more challenging. Sanding went well, but turning the cellar on the lathe was interesting. True, you’re not supposed to be really turning wood in that direction of the grain, and it definitely left some tear-out… but I just kept sanding and sanding. Eventually I removed most of the tear-out and got the wood to a smooth point.

After forming, I used OSMO again and I love that stuff more each time. This time I used matte clear Polyx-Oil. If you want to review the instructions, you can check out my walnut cellar post.

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Salt Cellar Project

You’ll need some tools:
  • A belt sander with heavy grit paper
  • Orbital or palm sander with finer grit paper
  • Drill press and forstner bit
  • OSMO finish
  • Soft cloths
You’ll need a few materials:
  • Block of wood –I used walnut
  • Glass vessels –

My latest DIY for Design*Sponge just went live, so I wanted to share with you here as well. I was hesitant to embrace their May theme of flowers, but after some thought, I started thinking… What would I make my Mom for Mother’s Day in a kind of “middle-school shop class” style?

I’ve had some interesting apothecary-type glass bottles laying around from an impulse purchase at American Science and Surplus, and some rough Walnut stashed in the shop. What if I use them both to make a small flower vessel centerpiece? Maybe I add a little salt cellar to it as well? This project goes much easier if you have the right tools, but could be accomplished with lesser machinery with some modifications.

From my rough of Walnut, I cut a piece off and started some rough sanding on the belt sander. You can use a palm sander, but it’s certainly going to take longer. I started out in a conventional shape, but decided to experiment with some facets and angles… just free-form sanding, but making sure my surfaces are all flat. You have lots of ways to experiment here – all square edges, angles, facets, live edges, bark edges… you can pretty much try anything. Rough sand with a heavy grit (60-80) to get the general shape you want.

From there, I mounted the block on the lathe to cut a cellar out of it. I know lathes aren’t readily available in most homes, but you can carve this with hand tools, or even just drill out a surface. Maybe drill out a surface for a ceramic salt cellar to be placed in it? If you’re turning on the lathe, make sure you do it a the slowest possible speed. Since the carving is not centered, it’s going to wobble for sure.

Once having the cellar shape cut and sanded on the lathe, I used my drill press and a forstner bit to cut the vessel holes. Measure your vessel and cut a hole just slightly larger. Decide how deep or high you want them sitting… and you could even angle them in for an interesting look. Please be careful if you’re using a hand-held drill and a forstner bit… they usually get unwieldy very quickly.

After all my cuts and holes have been made, It’s time for finish sanding. This is the part I always want to rush, and it pays to relax and go slow. The more sanding you do, the better your surface will feel. I used my orbital sander with grits from 120, 180, 260, and 320. By then, you’re getting wood incredibly smooth, and I further worked the surface with a hand sanding block and 400 grit ultra-fine paper. With that last pass, you’ve got VERY fine dust everywhere, so make sure you either blow it all off with compressed air, or use a tack cloth to clean the wood.

After sanding is complete, you can apply some finish. Since this will be touching something edible, make sure you pick a food-safe product. I have been using OSMO lately and I think it’s great. It’s low VOC and made from vegetable oils and waxes. Apply some OSMO thinly with a soft cloth and follow up with a clean cloth. Then just let it cure for 12 hours. Once cured, you can buff for a little more shine.

Last step – add your favorite finishing salt, and pick a small flower or twig from your yard to complete!


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W&F Project for Design*Sponge

You’ll need some tools:
  • Pocket screw guide
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Square
  • Sandpaper
  • Rags to apply finish
You’ll need a few materials:
  • #6 carpet or upholstery tacks
  • Strap material, leather or upholstery webbing
  • 2x2 oak for legs
  • 1x2 oak for stringers
  • Pocket screws
  • Danish oil

Just wanted to welcome any new readers visiting from my project post over at Design*Sponge this morning! For those who haven’t seen it, I was kindly asked to create a project for them, and I hope it leads to some more. Thought I’d re-cap things here, but you can see the original post with this link – Matt’s Woven Leather Stool

Measure your leg height and mark the boards with a square. Perfectly square cuts will ensure you don’t create a wobbly bench. I cut mine for a fifteen inch height. Next cut all your stinger boards. To make a rectangular bench, I cut four eighteen inches in length and four at twelve inches.

Next, I drilled all my pocket screw guide holes. You can find an inexpensive pocket guide at most hardware stores. I use a Kreg model. Clamp it to the board and drill all your holes.

After all boards are cut and drilled, sand them to a smooth finish. It’s much easier to sand now than after it’s assembled. Sanding to at least a 220 grit will give you a furniture-grade surface.

Now it’s time to assemble. I cut a couple 3/8 pieces of scrap board to help position the stringers in the center of the leg pieces before attaching. I also used some scraps to uniformly space the lower stringers from the top. Now a complete side can positioned on your work surface before driving all the screws. Assemble both complete ends and then attach the two with your remaining stringer boards.

Now you have your complete frame to apply finish. I love using danish oil because it’s so easy to apply for a beautiful finish. Follow the instructions on the can and make sure it’s completely dry before adding your straps.

I had a bunch of short leather 1 1/2 inch straps from a previous project, so it was the perfect choice for the woven top. Otherwise you can use seatbelt webbing or upholstery straps. Cut your straps long enough to wrap completely around your boards. Using a tack hammer, I attached all the long pieces first and then weaved the remaining ones in and attached one by one. Because the leather straps were such thick material, its necessary to have gaps between them so they can be woven. The thinner your strap material, the closer they can be woven.

I chose to leave the leather natural and used light walnut colored Danish oil -but any number of stains, finishes or waxes can be used to create yours.

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Wooden Crate Headboard

You’ll need some tools:
  • Hand saw or electric saw
  • Drill with phillips bit
  • Sandpaper and sanding block
  • Orbital electric sander with 60 grit paper
  • Rags for stain
  • Brush for poly
You’ll need a few materials:
  • 4 qty 8ft long 2x4s
  • 8 qty 8ft x 5.5in x .5in cedar fence planks
  • 3in drywall screws
  • 1.25in finish nails
  • water based stain
  • water based polyurethane

Bedrooms in my house are very, very small. A queen-sized bed fits – but without much room on either side for nightstands or storage. I had a small nightstand, but after piling a large alarm clock and lamp and anything else on it and it looked ridiculous. After pouring over ideas, I thought about making a built-in solution. Now I have a huge shelf to stack my junk, extra books, lamps, blankets, trinkets, whatever! Also, figured if I was building it, why not give it some doors and use it for extra blanket/pillow/sleeping bag storage? This works great for me, and maybe it would for you too.

Plans are based on my build, but you can surely adapt them for any configuration. For facing boards, I used cedar fence planks, mainly because they are readily available and inexpensive. I would have loved to have built this with some reclaimed Fir, but I was impatient and started building and couldn’t find what I wanted to finish the job over the weekend. If you want antique wood, search some out before beginning your project – however here’s my plan based on 8ft x 5.5in x .5in cedar planks.

First step: Measure your space and sketch it out. I always recommend a sketch for built-in projects. If you plan this part correctly you’ll limit the amount of lumber you use and have less cuts to make. As I built, my plan kind-of adapted, and I had more cuts to make, but I’ll give you hints to avoid this. Things to remember: 2x4s are actually 1.5 x 3.5 inches – so note actual lumber size when formulating.

Build the facing frame: If you have uneven walls like mine, measure and cut your floor-length board first. Measure and cut your verticals, and make sure they are close enough together for decent support – no further than 18″ apart. I cut five verticals, 24.5″ each. Lay your verticals on the floor, then screw your floor-facing board to them with your screws. Once assembled, set your frame in place, and measure and cut your top board. Because my walls bow, it was important to cut this board to it’s location height. If you have plumb walls, you can completely built out the frame and set in place. Before screwing the ends of the top boards, level your frame and screw the end boards into the wall. Make sure you’re anchoring to a stud, because this is your main support/anchor points. I chose to not screw the frame into my floors, and the wall mounts were secure enough to accomplish this. After your facing fame is in place, I attached 2x4s to the back wall as supports for my top doors. Make these even height with your top frame board. I left space between boards to feed electrical cords behind the doors easily. Then for added strength, I attached the facing frame to the back wall with a 2×4. This board also helps support the door tops, which will rest on the facing frame top and the back wall boards.

Facing boards: Now your frame is complete and secure, you can begin the facing. My cedar fence boards are VERY rough, so I sanded the harsh surface with an orbital sander and heavy grit paper. This left them still rough in a rustic way, but not splintery. After sanding, sweep off the sawdust. Between the boards and the frame, I attached heavy plastic, so when I stored things inside, they wouldn’t catch on the board surface. This is just an option if you use rough boards and don’t want to snag anything that might rest against them. Then nail your boards over the plastic covered front frame. I used small finish nails that would be easily hidden. Make sure your boards are level and then nail them in place. If you’ve measured correctly, your top facing board should come above your frame top by 1″ so your doors will be counter sunk. (I did not make this important calculation before-hand, so I had to attach a cut trim piece to take up the gap.)

Top doors: Once your facing boards are in place, you can measure you top door depth. Again, my walls are un-even, so each one is different and cut accordingly. Don’t make them too snug either, mine each have a small gap at the back, so I can easily feed my lamp/clock electrical cords though. The top boards are just made with the fence planks, two support boards each, glued and attached with small screws. For handles, I drilled holes and used scrap leather strips, fed through and knotted. You could use drawer handles, rope, large finger holes, whatever you like.

Finishing: You can finish your facing boards and doors before attaching, but I finished in place. I used water based stain to darken the boards, let dry and then coated with water-based poly. I used water based products since I’ll be sleeping in here, and the fumes are way less noxious. Because the boards are very coarse, I used three coats of poly with a vigorous hand sanding in between. It was more about building up a thick finish to prevent splinters than creating a smooth topcoat for me. After a day or two drying, I could place move everything back in place.

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