Excellent Hanging Shelf Hardware

My architects like hanging shelves and I do too. They often take the “cowboy” approach of using galvanized threaded rod and nuts and washers to support the shelving. I wanted something a little more refined, but didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for fussy little European hardware bits. Here’s a solution I came up with, which has proven to be excellent in all respects.

Here’s a detail of the hardware:

You need some tubing, some clamp collars, tube connecting nuts, and hanger bolts. I’ll show photos and then provide suppliers at the end.

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OK, here’s where you get the stuff:

Tubing: I used 304 Stainless Steel, which runs about $9/ft for the polished seamless version or $3/ft for the plain-finish welded-seam version (which looks “satin” and is perfectly nice). You can, of course, use plain steel, which would be really cheap. I used 3/4″ diameter with 0.049″ wall thickness, which is quite standard. You can order it from McMaster-Carr.

Hanger bolts: I used 1/4-20 x 3″ and bought them at Home Depot. (McFeely’s and Rockler also have them.)

Tube Connecting Nuts: I bought these from McMaster as well. They are designed to fit the inside diameter of the tube, which is 0.652″

Double-split Clamp Collar: I bought these from McMaster in stainless. These are pricey…about $10 each. The plain steel ones are about $4 each.

A set up with two 36″ rods and 4 clamps in stainless steel would cost about $70 for the hardware ($100 if you use the polished tubing). In plain steel, it would probably cost about $30.

I used the hanging rods for just the front support. In most cases, my shelves were 1-1/2″ thick (2 sheets of 3/4″ plywood). My finish carpenter routed a 3/4″ dado in the back and side edges of the shelves. He nailed or screwed a 3/4″ wide cleat onto the wall and then installed the shelves over that cleat, holding them in place with a few finish nails.

11 thoughts on “Excellent Hanging Shelf Hardware

  1. Jf

    Hi,

    Nice !

    I had the same idea for my living room audio/video module, but found the stainless collars a bit pricey… especialy that I needed 20 of them! Instead I’m going with wood pucks that I will drill through and then use an insert and a bolt. I will have to drill through my tubes as well, but they are aluminum (proud Quebecois!) and thicker (120 mil) so it should’nt be a problem.

    Can send you pictures if you wish.

    Jf.

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    1. KTU Post author

      You might consider using an aluminum shaft collar. McMaster has them for about $3 each, and you can get them cheaper elsewhere I’m sure. Those aluminum tubes will oxidize to a darker gray over time. You can clean them up before installation with a green Scotchbrite pad — when “brushed” with the pad, the surface looks nice and uniform, and the natural finish lasts a bit longer.

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    1. KTU Post author

      I think the limiting factor would be the pull-out strength of the star-nuts that you press into the ends of the tubes. My guess is that they pull out of a 3/4″ stainless tube at 200 – 500 lbs. That would be per tube. You probably get higher values for plain steel tubes and lower for aluminum tubes. Still, you’re likely good for a couple of hundred pounds of load per tube, which would be quite a lot, especially given you are likely supporting the back edge with a wall.

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  2. Candice

    I’m curious if this will work free hanging (without a wall behind). So for instance, could I use this method to have a free-hanging shelf with 4 tubes? How strong would this be? I plan on screwing the hanger bolt into beams in the ceiling.

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    1. KTU Post author

      Should work fine. However, there is no cross-bracing in this design, so the shelves may wobble a bit when nudged. Probably not a great design for a shelf to store champagne flutes.

      I believe each star-nut inserted in a 3/4 tube will support a couple of hundred pounds, so unless you are planning on storing your rock collection, the strength should be fine.

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  3. Douglas S. Raymond

    We are planning on following your plan, but there is one thing that is not addressed – a covering for the end of the tube. Our shelf would only come down a few feet from the ceiling. As a result, the end of the tubing would show. How would we finish off the end of the tubing so there is not just an open tube showing?

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