Rolling shelves are a system of shelves where cans are entered at one end and emerge at the other end. In this way, newly purchased cans can be entered and fall into place behind cans that were purchased previously. The oldest cans will always be removed before the newest cans. Keeping food storage rotated is easy.
There are many commercially built rolling shelves which are quite nice. Most of them are also quite expensive.* There are at least two alternatives. The first is to build shelves from wood. (See the April 2009 post on this blog for a photo of rolling shelves made from wood).(I will someday post a tutorial for those, too).
And, there is another option: Build your own rolling shelves using cardboard! These custom-built shelves are easy to make, very inexpensive (you can practically build them for free if you can find a store or business to give you their used boxes).
- Use two-ply cardboard (sturdier cardboard with two rows of corrugated material).
- Cut pieces from the cardboard (a razor blade or x-acto knife works well for cutting). The sizes needed are: 2 pieces for the sides (16 3/4 inches long by 8 3/4 inches tall), 1 piece for the back (5 1/4 inches long by 8 3/4 inches tall), 3 pieces for shelves (one piece should be 4 3/4 inches wide by 16 1/2 inches long, one piece should be 4 3/4 inches wide by 13 inches long, one piece should be 4 3/4 inches wide by 10 3/4 inches long), 1 piece for the upper front brace (8 1/4 inches long by 2 1/2 inches tall) and 1 piece for the lower front brace (8 1/4 inches long by 1 1/2 inches tall)
- Measure and mark the sides for the shelves. Mark the line for the bottom shelf: Place a mark 1 1/4 inches up on the back of a side shelf; draw a line from that mark to the front bottom corner of the shelf; mark the other side shelf the same way. (The bottom shelf, when installed, will incline from the back to the front--the bottom shelf dispenses the canned goods from the front). Next, mark the line for the middle shelf: place the mark 5 1/2 inches up from the bottom on the front end. Place a mark 4 1/4 inches up from the bottom on the back end. Draw a line connecting these two marks. (Note: the middle shelf will not actually extend all the way to the back. There will be an opening for the cans to roll through). There is no need to mark a place for the top shelf because it will be flush with the top edge of the sides.
- Glue shelves to one side: Use a thick bead of glue from a hot glue gun (don't skimp on the glue). Place a side piece on a flat surface. For the bottom shelf: Place a thick strip of glue all along the line you drew for the bottom shelf. Quickly place the bottom shelf on the glue. Hold firm for 30 seconds or until the glue is set. For the middle shelf: Hold the middle shelf along the line you drew. Note where it should end (it should not extend all the way to the back end of the side piece. Then lift up the middle shelf piece and place a thick strip of glue along the line. Quickly place the middle shelf on the glue. Hold firm until glue is set. For the top shelf: Hold the top shelf flush with the top and back of the side piece. Note where it should end. Glue along the top edge of the side piece to where the top shelf will stop. Quickly place shelf on glue. Hod firm until set.
- Glue shelves to the other side. Place a thick strip of glue along the edge of each shelf. Quickly press the side onto the three shelves. Hold firm until glue is set. Next, reinforce individual shelves as necessary by placing a thick strip of glue around each joint.
- Glue the back piece to the back of the shelves.
- Glue the front pieces to the front of the shelves. First, bend the front braces to extend around the front corners. Second, glue the top brace so that the bottom of the brace is flush with the bottom of the middle shelf. Third, glue the bottom brace so that the bottom of the brace is flush with the bottom of the bottom shelf.
- Optional: Create a ramp. If the cans don't roll from the back of the bottom shelf, cut a notch in the back of the bottom shelf, bend the cardboard upward, and glue the cardboard in place to create a little ramp to force cans to roll toward the front.
- Optional: Create a grip: Cut a notch on both sides of the shelf near the front just above the bottom brace to allow easier grip of cans when removing from shelf.
- Optional: Reinforce glued seams with Gorilla Glue.
- Optional: Paint shelves.
This picture shows the flattened cardboard box.We placed a can on the box to decide what size to cut the cardboard. The measurements given in the "assembly instructions" above are for a standard size can, but if you want to make custom shelves for larger or smaller cans, you can easily do it by measuring the can and customizing the width (and possibly the height) of the shelves.
This shows the cardboard box after we have cut a few of the pieces.(We thought it was nice that "Advanced Manufacturing Corporation" happened to be printed on the side of this cardboard box :) ).
This picture shows the shelves after being glued to the side piece ( "step 4" from the "assembly instructions" above).
This picture shows the notch cut in the bottom shelf to aid the cans in rolling forward ("optional step 8" from the "assembly instruction").
This is the finished shelf. The cans are loaded from the top front. Each can will roll down toward the back, then drop through the opening on the middle shelf and then roll toward the front on the bottom shelf where it can be removed.
This picture shows the shelf loaded with cans. This shelf will hold 12 cans. However, after you have made one shelf, you can customize your own shelves by cutting longer, shorter or taller side pieces. You can customize your rolling shelves to fit the shelves or cupboards where you will be using them. The front braces can also be used for labeling each shelf.
This is another view of the finished rolling shelf.
Original Website and Inventor
This idea originally came from another food storage blog, which a friend told me about. Click on the link below to go to that blog. You will see a picture of the blog author's own food storage room which has several of these cardboard rolling shelves. The shelves have been painted white and labeled. This food storage room is well-organized! The blog also has a diagram for building the food storage shelves, some instructions, and measurements for building different size shelves.
The Pantry Panel Blog
Another blogger posted more instructions and a video for making these shelves.
* Food Storage Made Easy has a link to a site that sells rolling shelves fairly inexpensively. I've never purchased anything from this company, so I can't vouch for them, but their shelves look good and the price is the lowest I've ever seen for rolling shelves. Here's the link: