For the last four months, the kitchen has been going through some major changes. My recipe books have needed a new home, and I thought some DIY kitchen shelves would be a great way to add space.
I’ve been eyeing some of the really cute diy shelf ideas I’ve seen in blogs and on pinterest for a long time, but finally decided to dive into a shelf project myself.
I loved this project and will be making these again, so I wanted to document it for future reference. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try too.
I know, you’re used to food pictures and recipes here.
Think of this as a DIY kitchen shelf recipe? No?
Okay, okay, I’ll add a picture for you of my breakfast at the bottom, deal?
DIY Kitchen Shelves: Supply List
Safety first, y’all.
SAFETY GEAR: gloves, safety glasses, dust mask
- 2 pieces 2x12x6′ cost me about $17 at Menards
- box cutter & random tools for distressing wood
- strong black tea
- fine steel wool – I got mine on Amazon, couldn’t find steel wool this fine
- distilled white vinegar
- quart-sized Mason jar (one you don’t care about)
- cheap paintbrush
- furniture wax, I used Annie Sloan Clear and Dark, $30 each
- cloth for applying & buffing wax
4 of each below came to $33 at Menards
- 3/4″ x 12″ black nipple
- 3/4″ black cap
- 3/4″ black floor flange
- matte black spray paint (I had leftover from another project)
DIY Kitchen Shelves: Process
Distress New Lumber
First I took the new lumber outside and banged it up with a variety of tools, screws, bits, a box cutter, and anything else I could find laying around.
“Anything else” included a paint lid, some broken trim, and a crummy old 2×4 with some rusty nails sticking out of it that I thought fondly of as my zombie-killing bat.
Don’t judge me.
I pounded, hammered, scratched, and gouged these new boards until they looked a lot less perfect.
It started off fun and energetic, but I got tired quickly, and was sore the next day. Haha.
I went around the edges and cut them down with the box cutter. The next time I do a distressing project, I will take more time on this step to give them even more character. After finishing, I notice that the cut up edges are my favorite parts.
So after all the banging and distressing, I used an orbital sander to sand down the boards. Not enough sanding to remove any of the hard work I just put in, just enough sanding to make the shelves smooth to the touch. No slivers here.
Apply a Coat of Strong Black Tea
I made a quart-sized jar of black tea (about 6 teabags) the night before I was ready to apply.
Apparently this is an important step because not all wood has tannin. There is tannin in black tea, and this helps the vinegar stain the wood.
Use the cheap paintbrush to coat the entire surface with tea, and let it dry completely. Flip and do the same on the other side. Each side dried in about an hour. So the tea step took me about 2 hours.
Making the Steel Wool/Vinegar Stain
This steel wool was so fine it was practically airborne when I was ripping it apart to stuff in the jar. I wore gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask and did this step in the garage.
I opened the package (ended up throwing out my kitchen scissors because they were covered with steel wool slivers after just opening the bag) and took out one steel wool pad.
With gloves on, I ripped it into pieces and put it in the mason jar. Then poured vinegar to fill the jar.
At first, I had the jar sealed tight, but there were bubbles forming around the wool, and when I opened the lid, there was a lot of pressure building up.
DO NOT SEAL THE JAR TIGHT, IT WILL EXPLODE. From then on, I lightly set the lid on top of the jar.
I let the jar sit for 4 days with no changes before I started researching more about this process. The steel wool did not dissolve, and the vinegar did not turn darker or brown.
There was some oxidation on the jar where the vinegar met the air, but other than that the vinegar was clear.
The vinegar is still clear, and it’s been about 3 weeks.
Applying Steel Wool/Vinegar Stain
I decided to leave the steel wool in the jar and just dip the paintbrush in. (I didn’t want to ruin my strainer, and I didn’t want the extra step/mess.)
Dipping my paintbrush in the vinegar, I painted a coat of stain over the boards. And then cried because it looked like nothing was happening.
From start to finish, it took me 8 minutes to apply on the first side, and in that time you can already see the wood changing color.
I waited a few hours, then flipped the boards and did the same thing on the other side, making sure not to forget the ends. Then left them overnight to dry.
This is what they looked like the next morning, both sides stained, and dried completely.
I was pretty impressed. Really impressed actually.
Especially after I was freaking out that my vinegar was clear and “this is never going to work like they said it would.”
Sorry, patient and lovely husband.
Applying the Clear Wax
I kept reading rave reviews about this Annie Sloan wax, so I found an antique store that sells it and grabbed both the dark and the clear.
I think that was the most expensive part of the whole project. I plan to use this steel wool/vinegar and wax combination on a few more projects in the future, so I will get good use out of this waxy investment.
I used a cloth (Better than Cheesecloth, although, I’m not sure I would say that.) to dab some clear wax, and rubbed it on the board. It was a pretty fast process, and I didn’t have to use as much as I thought I would.
Working in 1 foot sections, I would wax on, wax off. Really. That fast.
Left is without clear wax, right is with clear wax. It definitely added more depth and contrast.
I applied the clear wax to both boards, wiped it off, then buffed it a bit with the cloth, waited an hour or two, then flipped them and repeated that process on the other sides.
Applying the Dark Wax
I really liked the look that these boards were growing into. I didn’t want to completely cover them with the dark wax, so I went around with the cloth and added dark streaks where I thought it could use more depth. Wax on, wax off. Fast.
You can see how the stain and wax built up in the spots where I banged, scratched, and punctured the lumber.
Can you believe this stuff started out so new and fresh like 3 days ago?
This is optional, but after bringing my pipe home, I removed all the stickers and decided to wash all the oil off and spray paint it.
The oil (used so the pipe doesn’t rust) grossed me out and I had some matte black spray paint from another project.
I spray painted them on one side, let them dry for a few hours, then rolled them to the other side and sprayed again.
I found the studs in the walls (safety first), and used a level to make sure everything was even.
I only put a screw in the top and bottom holes of the flanges because those were the only screws that would make it into the stud. (And because lazy.)
After the flanges were mounted to the studs, I threaded the nipple to the flange, then the cap to the nipple. And kept laughing that they are called nipples. I know. Grow up, me.
Then it was finally time to put the shelves together. Yay. At long last.
After putting the boards on the shelves and assessing how I would be using the shelves, I decided that they were sturdy enough just resting on the pipe.
There is not a huge load on the boards and the shelves will carry an even weight. The boards aren’t going anywhere for how I am using them.
If you make these yourself, depending on what you use them for, you might want to secure the boards to the pipe with a clamp or something. Just be smart and be safe.
DIY Kitchen Shelves Lessons
So there it is, start to finish. My experience making these shelves. I would totally make these again with a few things to keep in mind.
- the steel wool did not dissolve
- the vinegar did not turn brown
- DO NOT seal lid completely on steel wool/vinegar, it will explode
- maybe try steel wool/vinegar stain after only 24 hours instead of 4 days?
- the stain will darken, don’t freak out
- do the wax outside, (garage or sunroom) the can looks all sweet and innocent, but that stuff’ll make you woozy it smells so bad
- the wax has a 5 – 21 day curing time, it smells for a while before the solvents in it evaporate…but after they evaporate, it says that it is food-safe (I let them sit in the basement for about a week.)
Resources & Inspiration
The first shelves I saw made from pipe and lumber were on Kristy Dickerson’s blog. I’ve seen about 4,893 other projects like this since then, but I still remembered the first place I saw this idea that I would eventually turn into this diy kitchen shelf.
I read about dissolving steel wool in vinegar to make a ‘stain’ that ages new lumber and decided to give that a try and see how it works. I basically followed this blog post about steel wool/vinegar staining, but experienced some major differences in the process.
The big difference being that the steel wool didn’t dissolve…and still hasn’t dissolved three weeks later while the vinegar is evaporating around it.
One more thing
Oh, and here is that bagel picture I promised you: