It is always a good idea to have bulk food supplies available in case of an emergency. There are a couple challenges to keeping a well stocked emergency food supply. One challenge is how to minimize the space required to store the food supplies. Another challange is how to turn over your emergency food supply. Ideally you want to eat the oldest items and replace them with new items. Without a good strategy for turning over your food supply you could (and probably will) end up with a lot of expired food.
Canned goods make good emergency food supplies. The shelf life of most can goods is in excess of a year and most can goods can be eaten cold. There are a couple issues with storing can goods. First, most commercially available metal or plastic shelving has a shelf space of 12-18". Even stacking cans 2 high leaves a lot of unusable space above the cans, and cans stacked 2 high are unstable without some base material (such as cardboard) between them. Bumping the shelving can cause cans to fall and become damaged, significantly shorting the can's shelf life. Another issue is turning over your can stock. Ideally you would use the oldest cans and replace them with new cans. Minimizing the unusable space above the cans makes it a pain to get at the oldest cans which typically end up at the back of the shelf when fresh stock is place in the front.
This is where the gravity fed can FIFO (First In First Out) helps. The can FIFO works by dropping new cans in the top which work their way to the bottom (via gravity) as the oldest cans are pulled out the bottom. There are many different commercially available can FIFOs typically made of plastic or plastic coated wires. I found the commercially available can FIFOs to be very cheep in construction and some what expensive at $1 or more per can stored. Additionally, I did not find any FIFO can storage systems that would allow the area above the cans to be used without iminent collapse of the cheep plastic. Thus, I decide to make my own.
NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR and THIS PROJECT
I am not a wood worker by trade or by hobby. I have hacked many functional items from wood, but do not have extensive wood working tools or training. I would be very interested to hear how this project could be made better from individuals with more wood working experience. Ultimately, the can FIFO presented here, though not a work of art, is very strong, functional and can be made with some simple wood working tools.
This project requires the use of tools. You can hurt yourself with tools if not used correctly. By attempting this project you are taking sole responsibility of your actions. The author holds no responsibility for any positive or negative consequences of your actions if you attempt this Instructable. Use your head, if something does not seem safe DON'T DO IT! If you fail to use your head and things go bad, then man up and accept responsibility for your actions. I HATE HATE HATE that I even need a disclaimer but we live in a litigious society for better or worse (mostly worst IMHO).
Step 1: Items Required
One 4'x8' sheet of 3/8" or 11/32" finished plywood
Small 9/16" nails or staple gun with small brads (see pic above)
4d finishing nails
1/8" and 3/8" drill bits
Circular Saw (optional)
Polyurethane (Spray or brush)
Make sure the plywood surface is sanded and smooth. A rough surface and knot holes may keep cans from rolling smoothly causing them to jam rather than roll. I purchased a 4' x 8' sheet of "Finished" birch plywood for less than $20. It was more than double the cost of the cheapest grade 3/8" plywood, but I think it was worth the extra cost.
Step 2: Cut Out the Plywood Pieces
You will also need to cut 9 pieces that measure 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" (not shown in picture) for step 7 of the project.
Step 3: Cut Inside Pannels
IMPORTANT NOTE: The two remaining 9" x 14" plywood pieces will be used for the ends and do not get cut in the next step so set them aside.
Use the board you just cut out as a pattern and mark up 7 of the 9" x 14" plywood pieces as shown in the final photo. Cut these 7 pieces out using the same method you used to cut the first one. Remember to test fit each piece as instructed earlier before moving on.
Step 4: Finish the Wood
Note the knot holes in the surface of the 11" x 44 5/8" piece shown in the first photo. This side will be used as the bottom and the cans will roll on the other side. Once the polyurethane is dry, you need to mark the bottom the 11" x 44 5/8" piece. Starting from one end draw lines parallel to the 11" side every 5". After drawing each line draw an arrow pointing toward the side you started measuring from. The arrow is very important because this is the side that will align with the inside panels. If you have marked the piece correctly, the last box (opposite side you measured from) will only be 4 5/8". This is on purpose, because once the inner walls are all placed each can opening will be 4 5/8". Mark the 9 1/2" x 44 5/8" piece in the same manner. Don't forget to include the arrows!
Step 5: Assemble Inner Panels and Ramps
NOTES: 1: Do not skip drilling the pilot hole as the plywood is very thin and will crack and bulge if nailing without drilling. This bulge will cause the cans to catch and not roll down the ramp. Also the top ramp should still be floating in the inner panel slot once all inner panels are nailed.
Step 6: Attach Ends
NOTE: This step is tricky. Be very careful to drill all holes as perpendicular as possible. If the holes not aligned well you risk splitting the ramps which could cause the cans to get stuck and not roll down the ramp. Since the end is getting glued you could potentially just use small brads to attach the end and skip all the drilling, but that is not how I did mine.
Step 7: Attach Back
From the plywood scraps left over, cut 9 pieces that measure 4 1/2" x 2 1/2". Attach 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" pieces to inside of back plywood you just attached. The small 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" blocks lined up with bottom edge of the back. Use wood glue and small brads to attach the 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" blocks as shown in the last two photos. I actually added these blocks at the end when I found that the cans could get stuck if the drop and don't roll forward before the next can drops. The small block kicks the can forward so that it can not get stuck by the next can. The last photo in the series shows the view from above where the cans will fall from the top ramp.
Step 8: Attach Top and Front Rails
Now place the lower rail (2 1/2" x 44 5/8" piece) on the front of the assembly flush with the bottom (see fourth photo). Mark along the top of the rail on each inner panel as you did with the top. Now remove the lower rail and put a bead of wood glue along each inner and end panel where you just marked. Then put the lower rail back in place and attach with small brads to each panel.
Now place the upper rail (2" x 44 5/8" piece) on the front of the assembly flush with the top (see last photo). Mark along the bottom of the rail on each inner panel as you did with the top. Now remove the upper rail and put a bead of wood glue along each inner and end panel where you just marked. Then put the upper rail back in place and attach with small brads to each panel.
Now wait the requisite amount of time for the glue to dry and you are done! Time to go shopping...
Step 9: Concluding Remarks
Overall I am really happy with the can FIFO. The cans drop in and roll down very well. It is actually kind of fun filling it. The rolling and clunking sound it makes when I remove a can is satisfying to my inner child too. For the most part the cans rarely jam, but when they do it is easy to reach in and unjam the offending can. I did notice that symmetrical cans tend to jam less than unsymmetrical cans. In the photo showing two cans, the Del Monte can is unsymmetrical while the Swanson can is symmetrical. The Swanson can has a lip around the top and bottom of the can while the Del Monte can has a lip around the top but the bottom is actually depressed into the can. This tends to make the Del Monte not want to roll straight, which I think attributes to the occasional jam.