Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Problem(s) with Can Rotators

I'm always looking for pantry solutions to maximize my canned food storage and make it easier to use. Keep in mind that I have U-shaped shelves with enclosed ends in my walk-in pantry, so I can't do the more common style of storage shelves where you load on one (high) side, the cans roll down (perpendicular to the wall) and unload from the other (low) end. My solution has to work back to front (parallel to the wall).

So, this winter I played around with two different styles of can organizers: an angled shelf, and a can rotator. Eventually, I want to make custom "cassettes" for each of the foods that I regularly stock so that they fit my particular can and shelf sizes, similar to "suitcase" boxes you get canned fruit & veg cases in from bulk stores (that are always the WRONG size for MY shelves!!). I wanted to fiddle with the two units to see which functionality I preferred, so I got (or made) a few different kinds in each of the two designs.

Surprisingly, I actually found that I didn't like the can rotators as much as I thought I would.

Firstly, you get less cans for the space with the rotators because the reverse angles eat up at least 1.5" for each turn with average soup and veg cans. You need to add at least 4" of height to get the same number of cans. This might not make much difference if you have tons of space, but when every inch counts, it gets to be a real problem. In my opinion, the auto-fed rotation functionality doesn't justify losing up to 25% of my precious shelf space... I have more time than space!

The following is an illustration of this, using a 3" diameter x 4" tall can in a cubic foot of space (remember that you need at least 1" drop every 12" to make a can roll):

Secondly, unless you have an even number of shelves in the rotator, you STILL have to load them from the BACK. You can see this on the above illustration. Pretty much reduces the cool factor of auto-fed rotation to moderately tepid.

Thirdly, unless the chutes are curved (which reduces the number of cans by at least 1 for each curve) or you put angled blocks at the bottom of every turn, the stupid %#$%! cans drop weird and get jammed up. This is especially true if any of the cans are dented even the slightest bit.

Fourthly, these don't work at all for funky shaped cans that won't roll. So no hams, no SPAM, no sardines, no corned beef....

Conversely, I found there were really only two true drawbacks to plain angled shelves:

Because the shelf must be angled, in order to get the same number of cans you do need to increase the height, BUT only as much as the back angle (1" up for 12" out)... not the full diameter of the can!

You always have to load from the back, which would be a PITA if you have to take everything out first one-by-one, but not as much of a hardship if everything is in "cassette". The cans still roll from back to front, you just have to work out a system for using up a vertical column because it doesn't autofeed the whole lot to the bottom slot.

There are two major benefits to the angled shelves though:

You can still use them with a can placed upright (slide on their bottom instead of rolling on the side) which also allows you to use them with jars, boxes or odd-shaped cans.

When you have extra deep shelves, you can make a single column cassette and put something different in each row (or just make individual staking modules) which lets you utilize the full depth without stuff getting lost the back.

So, it looks like I'll be designing and fabricating my cassettes to be angled shelves loadable from the rear. I made a rotator out of heavy cardboard and that held up fairly well, but I think I'll need something sturdier if I'm going to be pulling these off the shelf a couple times a year... maybe hardboard or acrylic.

I'll post my results and plans when I finally get to that project ROFL!!


Janet...Jersehykat said...

I've always watched this video and thought I would love to build something similar to this but not as deep. Interesting idea if can be placed behind a couch or headboard.

Plickety Cat said...

Yes, that's the type that I can't use brcause my ends are enclosed... but they do work great under tables, and behind sofas or bookcases.

Here's a couple vertical ones for tall skinny spaces, like behind doors or the sides of closets... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLouoGGI6ok

Janet..Jerseykat said...

thanks! Live in an itty bitty house so always looking for ways to save space and stash stuff.

Plickety Cat said...

I did see one nifty solution for can rotation using the high-end/low-end type of can storage. They used a 2-can wide (or 1 #10 can) end-to-end rotator unit as the trestle running under their 8 foot dining table... I think it stowed over 200 cans.

Anonymous said...

I agree most can rotation systems take up too much precious space. 25% is a lot of space when you have limited space to start with. Instead I use my time to pull things out and put the new in behind the older.