How To Make Your Own Pantry Furniture

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How to Build a Rotating Canned Food Shelf Last Saturday, I was woken up by this loud noise that made my entire house sound like it was crashing under a huge tin meteor. I can’t even describe you what it was like to get out of bed and run down the stairs like a madman, dragging my wife to the front door and yelling at her “Get out of the house!”, while running towards what seemed to be the source of the noise: the kitchen.

There was no WWIII in my kitchen, but there was a full riot going on in the pantry. I opened the door — half-awake and panicked like hell — and about two dozen cans rolled over my feet and then all over the kitchen floor. It took me a few seconds to get what happened. The wooden cabinet had crashed. It was pretty old, indeed, and I might have overloaded it, poor bastard. The result? One beautiful morning spent chasing cans around the kitchen and carefully collecting broken glass off the pantry floor (among the victims were a few glass jars, as well).

So here I am today, looking for an easy DIY project to build myself a brand new solid cabinet for all the runaway cans. I found quite a lot of them, actually: small ones that you fix on the wall, tall ones that take up an entire wall and even an amazing idea for shoving a whole pantry in the tiniest place you can imagine:

DIY Canned Food Cabinet


I love how ingenious this is! I haven’t starting working on this one yet, I have to get the other one done, but I have to admit this looks very promising. And the site offers you all the information you need to build it, like the Shopping List, Tools and Supplies and detailed Directions. You can find all this here, if you want to build one for your kitchen (or any other space that’s proper for a tiny pantry).

Now let me get back to my aching problem: a good, solid cabinet that can hold all my canned foods. I don’t have an astronomical budget and I’m not a master at woodworking either, so my mission was quite difficult. Thank God, a friend of mine ended my misery and sent me a wikihow link that proved to be my solution. A DIY Rotating Canned Food Shelf project that he built last year and held all the cans he’s stuffed in there ever since. Plus, it takes the whole rotation process off your back.

DIY Rotating Canned Food Shelf


That’s how it’s supposed to look at the end. Until you get here, there are 14 steps you need to take:

1. Decide the size and number of shelves you need. This article will cover a 5-shelf system that is 32 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 64 inches tall.

2. Cut the plywood on a table saw or with a circular saw.

  • Cut one full sheet in half length-wise. From each half, cut a shelf at 32 inches (should leave 64 inches for the sides).
  • Cut the other full sheet in half length-wise also. Cut each half in thirds at 32 inches each.
  • Cut the half-sheet of plywood at 32 inches. Cut the 32×48 piece in half (24×32). Set the remaining 16×48 piece aside for later. You should have 2-24×64 and 10-24×32.

3. Using a router and straight edge, rout slots into the sides 3/4 inch wide and 1/4 inch deep. (An alternative is to attach rails that the shelves will rest on. The slot method is stronger and will not interfere with the rolling cans.)


  • The shelves need to have a 1:12 slope (1 inch drop for each 12 inches run).
  • For standard cans, the distance from the top of the input shelf to the top of the corresponding output shelf is 8 inches.
  • For standard cans, the distance from the top of the input shelf, to the top of the nextoutput shelf is 4 inches.
  • For standard cans, the input shelf is 3.5 inches shorter than the output shelf.
  • For larger cans, add 1 inch to these dimensions.
  • Draw outlines for all slots.

4. Trim the shelves. The finished outside width of the shelf system will be 32 inches. The shelves will fit in a slot 1/4 inch deep. Therefore, the width of the shelves is actually 31 inches. Each input shelf also needs to be trimmed on the back to allow a space for the can to drop. For standard cans, this gap needs to be 3.5 inches.

5. Lay one side flat on the ground with the slots facing up. Insert the shelves into the slots and place the other side on top.

6. Drive 2 inch screws through the side and into the edge of the shelf. Put two screws in each shelf.

7. Turn the unit over and drive screws in this side also.

8. Turn the unit over so the back is facing up. Attach the pieces that were cut from the input shelves to prevent the cans from falling off the back.


9. From the 16×48 scrap plywood, cut 5 pieces 2×32 inch. Turn the unit over so the front is facing up. Attach the 2×32 inch pieces to block the cans from falling out the front.


10. With the remaining plywood and/or additional scrap you have laying around, build a base that the casters will attach to. Stand the unit upright and attach it to the base.

11. Decide the configuration of cans that you need. Each row will need to be about 1/2 inch wider than the can. On the table saw, rip 1/4 inch-wide strips from plywood, MDF, or dimensional lumber. MDF and lumber work best. Attach them to the shelves with wood glue.

12. One problem you may have is the cans getting misaligned when they drop down.


A solution for this is to add a divider connecting the row dividing strips, filling the gap. Cut cardboard in a trapezoidal shape to fit over the two row dividers. Cut out the center material of the cardboard and glue the flaps to the row dividers.


13. Another problem occurs when the gap is too large for the cans. The can can get blocked, preventing other cans from dropping down.


A solution for this problem is to glue wedges at the back of the lower shelf. This will cause the can to roll forward before the next one locks it in. The wedges can be cut from the same material used for the row dividers. They should be large enough to move the can forward.


14. Start using the rotating canned food shelf. Add labels to the front of each row to identify the contents and load cans in the top portion of each shelf. (

Hope this will help you someday, it looks like the best kind of cabinet for canned goods. If you already have one of these, do share your opinion about its functionality in the comments section. Also, if you’ve built it yourself, some tips would be most welcome. I’m sure everyone would appreciate them.

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1 Comment

  • By Charles~Humble Mechanic, January 30, 2013 @ 13:44

    Great build! I love that you updated with some issues that you ran into and how to fix them.

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