Tater + Onion Dispenser System





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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    23 Discussions

    Awesome! Very cool! Thanks for sharing! I'd love to build this!

    I will get right on this. I was worried I would have lots of spoilage. This is great. Air gets in and the FIFO system here is perfect. Thank you!

    Just curiosity... could you use some 'slatted' doors, like those used on closets, to make these much easier? Most of them are 18" wide, the angled slats would allow air to pass through but not the veggies inside, and all that slat cutting would become unnecessary. I picked up some used closet doors from Habitat for Humanity and used them to build bins like this. I'll have to make more so I can add photos and write up an Instructable or two. Those closet doors make lots of things, I've made a linen closet, shoe racks, veggie bin, laundry hamper..... You can find used ones at most flea markets and re-sale shops for very little money (I paid $5 each for mine!). I love your idea... just so much extra work!

    1 reply

    Cool idea, but I've always heard that storing onions and potatoes together makes them both go bad faster.

    1 reply

    It does. It's a bad idea to keep them within a few feet of each other. The onions need maximum dryness and the potatoes give off quite a bit of humidity

    You could also make a slant so that the potatoes are about 1-2 width on bottom and more and more width as you go up. This could also prove as an easy way to catch the dirt that falls out, as it would fall into the somewhat large area beneath the slant. (provided your slant wasn't solid, of course.)

    full to the top: 48"x24"x16"= 18,432 cubic inches which converts to aprox. 9 US Bushels of Onions and 48"x24"x28"= 32,256 cubic inches converts to aprox 15 US Bushels of potatoes :-) not sure I could eat that much but I could give some away

    2 replies

    Yeah! Thanks for the hint!

    With a little googling I found:

    So combined with your measurements that works out to:
    750 pounds (340kg) of potatoes (going off 50lbs/bushel)
    513 pounds (233kg) of onions

    Hmmm... Is that right? That seems like a lot more than it looks. Oh well. :}

    That does seem a bit high to me too... will your rig support that much weight? I reran the numbers using: http://convert-to.com/conversion/volume/convert-in3-to-bu-us.html and get 8.6 bu Onions and 15.0 bu of Potatoes and at 50 lbs/bushel (lots of moisture makes heavy) your calcs are good.

    The slope at the bottom of your rig may reduce the overall volume but not by much.

    Thanks for the opportunity to do math in public :)

    Congratulations on being a finalist in the be prepare contest!

    part 2 other than that is a very nice set up and I am gonna build one for our taters

    besides the FIFO issue for some reason when you place onions and potatoes next to each other they tend to sprout faster than if the are separated by more distance. that's why the old potato/onion bends people use to use were only about a weeks work of both in size

    its a brilliant idea but maybe it would benefit from an opaque covering because potatoes start to germinate when in sunlight and also to make sure it really is FIFO you could make the bottom tilt towards the front then the ones at the back would fall down ...maybe that would work :D good idea

    Don't they get bruised or weirdo mold growing on them? Or is that just the store bought ones because those have been sitting around for a while since they were harvested?

    BTW, somebody pointed out that this might not be a perfect FIFO system. Since the potatoes are always taken from the front, and the ones above want to fall straight down, then those in the back corner may not cycle through. I'm not sure if that's going to happen in practice or not, but certainly something to keep an eye on!

    2 replies

    Make a baffle to push them back first and that would fix that problem.

    I'll keep an eye out for a few months, but if I start having problems I may jsut take that advice. Thanks!

    Would the slats be strong enough? The price for store bought slats would probably double the price of this project... Unless you don't have a way to accurately cut the slats out or the time to do so. Personally, my time is worthless (::grin::) so if you are like me, the benefit wouldn't outweigh the cost.

    It looks like you ripped the 2X4 into half inch thick sections for your slats. Is that accurate?