Introduction: Tater + Onion Dispenser System

About: I do stuff. Sometimes. Except when I don't.

So here's the situation. It is fall. The harvest rolls in. Now you've got a whole pile of potatoes and onions. What do you do with them all winter? You could use some bags or crates, but that tends to get dirt everywhere, always be in the way, and makes hard to get a few out when dinner calls.

Here's the design I came up with to solve that problem. It consists of a large, divided crate capable of handling several hundred pounds of ground-grown goodness. But unlike a crate there's a hopper on the bottom so you can easily just grab a few and since it's a FIFO (first in, first out) arrangement, you use up your oldest food first to help prevent spoilage.

I think what I came up with is an elegant and easily constructed solution to these problems.
(Even if I do say so mesself...)

Enough teaser. Let's get started!

NOTE: This is also found on my project blog here and on LumberJocks, here.

Step 1: What You Need

* 6 2x2's
* lots of lattice slats - you know, that stuff the hardware store sells for around the bottom of decks and gazebos.  I cut my own down from 2x4's because I didn't want to run into town.  Not really worth it.  Just buy the slats.
* lots of 1 inch brads
* a few grabber screws
* some OSB chip-board

* a saw of some kind
* screwdriver, drill, and optionally a countersink for the screws
* a 16ga brad nailer or stapler - yeah, I know, usually I try and write these instructables so that you can get by without special tools.  This time, however, you really need something that can lay down some nails fast and easy or you'll go crazy.

* It may seem hard to believe, but a reasonably competent person could knock one of these out in an evening after work!  (Took me two.)

Step 2: Front and Back Frame

First do some measuring and determine what size your bin will be. 

Mine was 4 feet high, 2 feet deep, and 44 inches wide (because it had to fit in between two other shelves in my root cellar).  I chose to allot 16 inches for onions and allow the potatoes to take up the rest.  My uprights I ran all the way to the ceiling so I can add some drawers later for apples and walnuts and stuff like that.  Also, I figured the hopper would be 8 1/2 inches high.

Knowing all that, you can make a front an back side for your bin by nailing the top and bottom horizontal slats across the 2x2's.  Here's a hint.  Only put one nail in each end for now.

The important thing to remember is that the slats are all going on the inside of the bin.  That way when the force of the potatoes is pushing out it is pushing the wood together rather than apart.

Step 3: Attach Front and Back

Now that you have a front and a back you can attach them together using the slats that go in the other (depth-wise) direction.

To get the slatted box we're going for, the idea is to do a row of slats one direction, then on top of those, a row in the other direction.  Almost like you're building a log cabin.

Once the front and back are attached together, put the bin where it goes make all the posts level (I guess the more accurate term is "plumb") and add a second nail to all joints to hold them that way.

Might as well attach this thing to the wall while you're at it.  We won't need to get behind it.

Step 4: The Hopper

Next I added a few rows of alternating slats, but that's not really necessary.  In fact, if you add too many working on the hopper will be difficult because you'll have to reach down inside.

Unlike other potato bins, this one's bottom has one important feature.  Not only is it slanted to dispense your items, but I designed it solid instead of slats.  That way instead of falling underneath where it would be hard to get to, all the dirt, onion peels, etc, automatically pile themselves in a neat little pile in front.  See the "finished" pic below.  I was pleased how well this feature worked.

Anyway, let's build it.  Construction is pretty simple.  It's just an OSB ramp with triangular OSB sides.

One kicker, though. Since the separator only has slats on the one (potato) side, that means that there is a gap on the onion side where the legs are between the slat and the ramp.  For that I cut a shorter piece of lattice to go inside the bin and act as a deflector.

Once the ramps are made, screw a block of wood to the back legs for them to rest on.  To hold the ramps in, screw two pieces of width-wise lattice to the legs in front of them.  Also, don't forget to leave a big gap underneath to allow dirt to escape.

(BTW, the reason for attaching the ramps like this is so that if you ever get a major jam and especially when it's time to clean, the front slats can be un-screwed and the whole ramp slides out.)

Step 5: Build the Log Cabin

Now it's just a matter of  doing alternate courses of width-wise and depth-wise slats.

Fast, fun, and easy with a nail gun.  It would be so tedious otherwise!  I seriously recommend at least borrowing one for this.

Step 6: Fill It Up!

Unfortunately I can't give you a very accurate estimate of how much this holds.  I had different sized bags of potatoes and onions all over my garage, many of which had been opened and partially used for cooking.   This does hold much, much more than I expected as it handled the whole mess and was still not even half full.

Either way, I think the chaotic state of things before does help to illustrate why something like this was needed.

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