DIY FIFO Can Rack

The can rack in use.

This DIY FIFO can rack can save valuable shelf space.  It only uses up 2 square feet of floor space and holds up to 120 cans.  The concept is simple.  You place the new can on the top shelf.  The can rolls back, falls to the lower shelf and rolls forward.  This way your cans always stay rotated without having to take them all out and place the new ones under or behind the old ones.

I did research buying a FIFO can rack before deciding to make one, but found they were too big, too expensive, or a very poor design. So, I made this entire rack out of 2 sheets of 3/8″ plywood.  This shelf was made to be 5′ tall as that was the distance from the floor to the shelf in the corner of our pantry.  But it can be made to whatever height you have space for.  It is for this reason that this is a general guideline about making your own can rack rather than step by step instructions on how to build this exact can rack.

The first step is to cut out two pieces of plywood to be the sides.  Mine were 18″ x 5′ as that was the depth and height of the space I had to fit it into.  Next, I cut groves into the sides.  These groves are where the shelves will be slid into later.  The groves are slanted to allow the cans to roll.  The slope should be at least 1″ drop per 1′ depth to keep the cans rolling.  The depth of this rack is 18″ so I had a 1 1/2″ drop on each shelf.  Also, as you can see in the picture the top shelf does not go all the way to the back edge.  This gap needs to be slightly larger than the cans you intend to store to allow them to freely drop to the lower shelf.

Use a router bit the size of the plywood to cut the groves.

Next, cut matching groves into the other side.  These should be mirror images of each other.  I used the first side to mark where the groves go on the other side to eliminate any measurement or calculation errors.

Then cut the shelves to the proper size.  There are two different sizes, one for the top shelf and one for the bottom shelf.  I had 5 pair of shelves over the 5′ height of the rack, so that was 5 upper shelves and 5 lower shelves.  Cut a grove down the center of the top of each shelf, this is where the dividers will go if you are making your rack more than one can wide.  It is very important that these groves match up to each other otherwise the can will get caught on the divider of the lower shelf when it falls.  Cut 1 1/2″ strips the length of the depth of each shelf for the dividers.  Then glue the dividers into the groves on each shelf.

Now comes the fun part.  Getting 12 pieces of wood to go together at the same time before the glue dries.  I found the best way to accomplish this was to put the topmost and bottom shelves in with the sides laying on the floor.  Then clamp the top and bottom and stand the shelf up.  From here just add glue to the grooves and slide the shelves in from the front of the rack.  (By slide I mean gently pound if necessary, or use a scrap block of wood to wail on with the hammer to not scuff up your shelves).

Almost done.

Apply clamps as necessary and allow the glue to dry.  Then add the back piece to the can rack with more glue and a few nails.  Lastly, add a stop block to each of the bottom shelves to keep the cans from rolling out the front.

The finished FIFO can rack.

This basic concept can be adapted to what ever space you have to squeeze it into, or made wider to accept more cans per shelf.  However, I wouldn’t advise going more than 3 or 4 cans wide without adding some support to each shelf as the thin plywood shelves can only hold so much weight.  You could also adapt it to larger cans such as #10 cans or smaller cans if need be.

A tight squeeze into our pantry.