I want to build a liquor shelf similar to this:

enter image description here

I've seen metal piping and flanges like this at my local big box store, and it usually comes in two flavors: galvanized steel or black iron pipe.

The problem with the black iron pipe though is that its always coated in some type of grease, which would obviously be problematic for us in furniture such as what I want to build.

So I ask: what type of black metal could I use for this, where could I find it, and does it come with fittings (such as the elbow joints and the flanges) that I could use to reproduce this liquor shelf? Also, any suggestions about attaching it to the wall?

  • 13
    Clean the grease off.
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 30, 2021 at 20:56
  • 9
    Ten to one that is painted, so any pipe will do. Choose pipe that is easiest to prepare for painting. Need to buy pipe, the fittings, and any flanges separately, they do not come in kits.
    – crip659
    Jul 30, 2021 at 21:06
  • Thanks @SolarMike (+1), any particular method/product you recommend? Jul 30, 2021 at 21:11
  • 2
    Any degreaser will do and a large tin of elbow grease.
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 30, 2021 at 21:50
  • 4
    The best way to get a good painted surface on metal is to use an electrostatic painting system, but that would be too expensive to buy to make one wall rack. Alternatively, consider buying anodized metal in whatever color you like. This is usually aluminum not steel, but steel is overkill for your drinks rack anyway.
    – alephzero
    Jul 31, 2021 at 17:09

7 Answers 7


The black iron ( carbon steel ) pipe comes with "mill varnish". I have never seen an ASTM specification for it. I understand it can be anything a mill wants . Very long ago it was probably creosote from coke ovens. You just need to try things like naphtha, paint thinner, etc to see what works. When oil companies purchase pipeline pipe, they order it bare ( no varnish) then clean it and coat it with their own material before putting it in service.

  • 1
    If it is coldforged it is also covered in whatever lubricant used.
    – Stian
    Aug 1, 2021 at 17:23

What's in the photo is painted.

Any pipe you use will require surface preparation for paint to last a long time and not chip off easily.

  • Galvanized pipe will require either the galvanizing to be removed chemically or by harsh mechanical removal... or you can leave galvanized stuff outdoors for a year, and it will gain a zinc oxide layer paint will stick to. Don't sand or scrub that oxide off!

  • Black pipe needs to have that oily anti-rust coating removed with solvent and brushing (the eco "paint thinners" are fine for this). That will leave a black mill scale, but you can ignore it if the finished product will live indoors. Just scuff-sand with a green 3M Scotchbrite pad.

And by the way, you can take a screen shot of any part of your Mac screen with command-shift-4, and immediately click-drag across the rectangle that you want a screen shot of. It lands on your Desktop as a PNG file, that can be easily posted to StackExchange with the image tool.

If the file is too big for some reason, double-click it to open it in Preview, and hit "Save As..." to save it as a JPEG. Choose quality 5 or 6 for a sane sized file. Or, use Preview's features to downscale it to half size (probably a good idea on a Retina display).

  • I've read you can use vinegar to etch galvo to help paint stick. Also, nice tip on the screenshot, that picture of the screen was really bugging me. Jul 31, 2021 at 14:45
  • Even easier, just right click on the image and save it as! We’ve got an image of a computer screen showing an image…!
    – Tim
    Aug 2, 2021 at 11:40

Frame challenge: PVC?

You do not really need iron pipes to hold in bottles. If you are using new, not salvaged pipe for the project you could make this with PVC pipe much more cheaply. You could cut the PVC much more easily. If you like the black painted look, PVC takes a coat of paint just fine.

Also (arguably) if this is to protect bottles during an earthquake, PVC retaining pipe seems to me less likely to break the bottles than iron pipe.

  • 1
    Op might get metal pipe in right size already threaded, but would not count on it. No worry if PVC pipe needs cutting to size. Just cut, glue, and slip on fitting.
    – crip659
    Jul 31, 2021 at 13:17
  • 2
    Excellent points - I'd worry about the weight causing sag if the lower rail was PVC. Each bottle looks to be 500mL to 1L and appears to be glass, weighing from 400g to 1200g empty. Worst case five full bottles of ~2 kilograms, so 10 kg of weight would cause sag over time for PVC but not be an issue for steel pipe. Maybe alleviated by a wooden shelf with a pipe retainer/balustrade.
    – Criggie
    Aug 1, 2021 at 4:08
  • Have to agree with Criggie; I have some experience with PVC pipe, and that stuff sags under even fairly minor load, at least if you're talking about anything near the size as shown in the example picture (say, 1"). Now, if you're going to paint it anyway, and can find aluminum pipe that you can match with PVC fittings, that might work, though it won't look as nice as proper metal fittings.
    – Matthew
    Aug 2, 2021 at 14:31

I made a table with pipe. I used ½" "Black Pipe" from Menards, which is steel. If you have a store close by, they should have the lengths and fittings you need in stock. While there was some oil on the pipes, a rag did a good enough job cleaning it off. The fittings are not as black as the pipe, as you can see in the photo. There are several ways to hang it. It would depend on the wall and your preference. You could dill though the back of the shelf and mount to the studs in the wall. Another option would be to use aluminum hanger strip. Not to sound like I am endorsing Menards or anything, but search "pipe shelf" on their website and they have some items for similar projects. 1/2 inch, black pipe1/2 inch, black pipe table


One technique that may give you what you're looking for is to get black iron pipe, clean it off with soap and water (this will remove the shipping oil), brush it well with a wire brush or wire wheel to remove any rust or thick black oxidation, and spray paint it with clear enamel. The enamel isn't perfectly nonpermeable, and will actually allow some oxygen through, which over time will give the iron a solid, shiny black look. I learned this by accident (i thought the enamel would keep it silvery color), but i really like the look enter image description hereenter image description here

Here's an example of something i made when i was learning to weld.


As @alephzero mentioned, you can get anodized aluminum in any color. The texture looks more like bare metal than paint if that is what you want. Here is a picture of the 2020 aluminum extrusion.

enter image description here


That photo 99% likely uses black iron gas pipe and fittings.

The bulk of the machining oil left on this pipe simply needs to be wiped off with a cloth and you can then use a degreaser to get the rest of it off.

Lightly sand away any surface rust and prime with a self-etching primer. Then use a high-quality spray paint which can stand up to the abuse of those bottles.

If you think rust adds "character" then just remove the machining oil and use the pipe+fittings as-is.

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