Instructables

81 Can FIFO - Bulk Can Dispenser / Organizer

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INTRODUCTION

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.

DISCLAIMER
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).
 
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In this case, isn't it First In Last Out? I would think you'd want the latest addition to the stack to be the last one to be pulled, same theory as stock rotation in a grocery store. Just curious...

dirty_valentine (author)  craftclarity17 days ago
You have the theory right, but you are getting caught in semantics. Think of it this way: If you stacked your cans in a line, the first one you bought would be at the front of the line (First In). When you go to choose from that line you will pull front the front and it will be the "First Out". The next one you use would be the second one you bought (Second In - Second Out). "First In - Last Out" would mean that the first can you put in would be the last can you used (not what you want). Hopefully this makes sense.
Catley2 months ago

I love this, but it may be some time until hubby can make one.
Meanwhile, I find myself stumped with only 1 "collection" and that is
for accessories. How do I make a new collection?

dirty_valentine (author)  Catley2 months ago
I don't understand the question. Are you sure you are commenting on the right instructable? There are no accessories with my 81 can fifo.
I know that your can dispenser has no accessories! lol
My problem was that right after joining the site, I had created a collection with the title of accessories and when I wanted to save your instructions, I got stuck with putting them in my collection for accessories because I couldn't figure out how to create a new one, which I would have called "household," or something like that. After writing for help, I did finally succeed in finding out how to make a new collection, but the method was different from what I had expected.

Anyway, I'm OK now, so thanks.
I have been wanting to make one and I like your design.
pchistorian10 months ago
Actually you would lose some space from a perfect stack to use this, The advantages come in from not toppling the stacks by accident and the FIFO design automatically rotates your stock, rather than having to clear a stack to check dates. My problem is that I use the stacking metal shelves that are 36" wide, so I'd have to rearrange the 4'x8' usage and change my shelf height for the double high idea but this would transfer the weight on the shelf to the corners instead of stressing the center of these shelves with huge stacks of cans. I do like the center lift idea to keep them rolling straight. I was thinking I might even go with thinner plywood but cut pieces to glue under the rolling surface at the "landing point" to reinforce those spots. By assembling the rolling surfaces then the landing zone reinforcements, I could fore go the need to anchor the walls to the shelf surface through the edge as the reinforcements could be the right width to keep the walls in place. Maybe use the strap idea to pop the front can to double as the drop through gate if not present, Just cut a slot near the front of the bottom shelf to put the strap through and have a hook to hold the strap over the front wall so that I can grab the hook and pull up to grab the front can. If no strap present then the can falls. A hinged upward plate might work too but it would have to be hinged at the front to hinge up for the can or up and out of the way so the can may fall unobstructed at the next level. (If I hinge away from the front the gate would get in the way for a drop through arrangement.)
Rather than "poke" the cans from the bottom to remove them you could cut a half round, about half a can diameter, cutout on each side panel where the can sits. You could then easily grasp the ends of a can with your finger and thumb and pull it out.
BTW, a great build.
bwest121 year ago
This is a great idea man! With winter coming, and eventually tornado (think long power outages) season after that, I wanted a way to be able to rotate and hold my canned goods. I like your idea very much! I think you've done a wonderful job and I'll probably use your design when I build mine. Only change I may make is widening some of the can bays for the larger cans (family sized), other than that, it's superb. Thanks for the instructable!!! :)
Eye Poker2 years ago
This is just begging to get the Kreg Jig treatment.
arz1gwa2 years ago
Just a thought for the jams, try placing a thin runner dow the center of each slot so the lip doesn't touch the surface. You could even incorporate jenicrowe's ideal and leave the end hanging out to pop out cans. I'm going to make a similar one but it will be on a roll-out pantry.
pam8192 years ago
Great idea, I know what I'm putting on my
Honey do List. : )
louis4962 years ago
Awesome! Never would have considered this even though I see this every time I go to the store. I'm consider something like this for my canned food that I keep in my pantry now! Will definitely free up some space.
brianfss2 years ago
Very well done!
You said you aren't a pro woodworker but your work is excellent. I know what I'm doing tonight in my shop.
I'll paint mine instead of poly but other than that, I'm copying your design.
Ghalko2 years ago
You could stack these with a bit of a redesign so that they feed through or not depending if you have a gate open or not. Then items that are eaten often can have more than one tier and ones that aren't stick to the 9 cans.
dirty_valentine (author)  Ghalko2 years ago
Great idea! I had not thought of that, but it would be a simple mod.
Topcat20212 years ago
Great work; This looks like a well though out and executed plan. looking at your dimensional measurements I believe that this is something that I can incorporate into my pantry (shorter in length and stacked for the most used items) weight won't be a problem as the shelves I have now have legs that transfer the force to the floor and not on the walls.
Again Great Job, now it's off to the shop to see what I can do with this idea.
Dan

P.S. a plunge router and table saw will make short work of the cuts.
dirty_valentine (author)  Topcat20212 years ago
The plunge router would definitely be a welcome addition to the build. Cutting all the slots in the interior walls with my drill and saber saw took a lot of time. I've gotten pretty good at free-handing my circular saw, but a table saw would definitely be the prefered tool if available. As for planning I would say that I spent more time on that than the entire build. Measure twice, cut once only works if all the calculations are correct! Thanks for the comments.
jeanicrowe2 years ago
I also love this and think it was excellently thought through and executed. I'm going to stat the husband on this right away. But I think I will add thin strips of nylon cloth or something equally sturdy and flat, attached in each can row to go under the can and hang over the edge to just pop that baby out. I have seen tight battery cases with this handy little attachment to remove the batteries. I think I might experiment with making it from laminated layers of cardboard as well, maybe using layers folded accordian style for strength. Brovo for a great job.
dirty_valentine (author)  jeanicrowe2 years ago
The strap is an excellent idea if you can not get your hand under to pop one out. Thanks for the comment!
seamster2 years ago
Very well done! I've been wanting to make one of these for a while, and you've shared a lot of great info here that will make this project much quicker for me.

I like how you put the poly on before assembling. That's a a great idea for this particular project. The only thing I will probably do different is use screws instead of nails (along with glue still, of course).

Very nicely done though, thanks for posting this!
dirty_valentine (author)  seamster2 years ago
Thanks for the comment. I like the idea of using screws if they are small enough and you drill first. My stash of wood screws mostly consists of drywall screws which are really too big for driving into the end of 3/8" plywood. I had not thought to buy smaller wood screws so I used nails.

i could not find drywall screws smaller than 1-1/8", so I resorted to put them in on an angle. Meanwhile, a friend was driving in 3" screws until flush, and then taking a hammer to the protruding tip. They broke off cleanly.

Now if I need a 3/4" wood screw, I'll nick a drywall screw and snap it off in the vice. You have to pre-drill the holes in this case without a point, but it works out otherwise OK.

Nails, on the other hand will bend, rather than break off cleanly due to the lack of hardness if you try to shorten them this way.
Your comment reminded me I wanted some drywall screws smaller than the 1-1/8" found in retail hardware stores… I'll share my results: http://www.filmtools.com/3drsc1.html Brought a smile to this ol' DIYer!
Cool, I would instantly order these if shipping didn't totally kill the deal. Bookmarked for my next project, but hopefully I can find them someplace like Amazon w/ free super-saver shipping.

The other problem is that they don't seem to have the deep and aggressive thread profile that I prefer in my drywall/decking screws. It's a small picture though.
If you do find them on Amazon etc… please remember to share ;-)
Great idea. Thanks for sharing.
nice, this is going in my bomb shelter:D!
frazeeg2 years ago
I think this is about as well as it can be constructed with the amount of tools you've used.

If you had a router table or an angle-cut sled for a table saw and a dado stack, you could make the plywood joints using dadoes instead of the thru-joints you used. But with 3/8" plywood that doesn't give much room for the dadoes, so you'd have to move up to 3/4" ply, which would double the cost.

Ring-shank nails might be a good option too. They'll bite more into the wood than finish nails and shouldn't require as large a pre-drill hole as screws.

Also, if you have a decent sander, you can buy the unfinished plywood and save yourself a couple bucks. Just sand the parts where the cans would contact. If it were me I probably wouldn't put polyurethane on it, simply because poly is to help protect the wood from abuse and make it look "prettier," both of which aren't really concerns with this project IMO.

This isn't something that needs to be pretty - it sits in a pantry. It just needs to work, and work when you need it most. I think you've accomplished that, even without advanced woodworking knowledge. Kudos.
dirty_valentine (author)  frazeeg2 years ago
I like the ring-shank nail idea. I think I have some of those lying around, but I did not think to use them. I don't have a good sander or tools for making dadoes so those ideas are out for now. Thanks for the comments!
RickN2 years ago
Excellent design. I have to make one, or two. I'll experiment with cutting an arc from the bottom rail in front of the cans to make it easier to grab hold of the cans.

Thanks.
dirty_valentine (author)  RickN2 years ago
That would be a good idea if the FIFO box does not hang over the edge of the shelf. You could probably cut the lower rail down to 1 1/2" and just hike it up an inch from the bottom. The bottom inch of the rail does not do much anyway.
Excellent idea! Thank you!
DasBus2 years ago
I think I just found another project for my husband! ; )
winterfresh2 years ago
Building a dispensary!
*Clang! Clang!*
ClayChip2 years ago
Well done, and a great idea.
mikeasaurus2 years ago
Awesome, I love these can dispensers!
FoolishSage2 years ago
A simple yet functional design. Nice!
l8nite2 years ago
^5 on a well done "ible" , actually a double ^5 ! I wish I had the space for something like that in my pantry/cupboard