Simple DIY Pantry Shelf (Holds 24 Quart Mason Jars!)
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Do you have a love/hate relationship with your pantry? Are you constantly digging through bags and jars and boxes of foodstuffs every time you meal plan or cook in an utterly infuriating attempt to find what you need? If so, I get it, and I totally feel your pain. When we bought our house, I could hardly wait to organize the kitchen (yeah, I know… kinda dorky, but I LOVE to organize… no shame here) and fill our nice big pantry with all sorts of dry goods, cans, and baking supplies. It started out well, and we maintained some semblance or order initially, but as our staples supply grew again and our free time dwindled, it became more and more difficult to keep the pantry organized.
First, being short (and lazy) I abandoned everything on the top shelf; if I can’t see it from the ground, it’s dead to me. I refuse to drag a step stool or a chair over every time I need to check what we have, so that shelf is now Cory’s realm/the shelf of forgotten food items, where canned goods go to expire and extra spices live out their lives, forgotten and lonely until discovered and discarded during spring cleaning.
Having given up on the top shelf, I figured I’d settle for maintaining order on the remaining shelves, but alas, the effort quickly overwhelmed me (I clearly tried so hard…). I would come home from work and hurriedly and haphazardly toss groceries in the pantry before turning around to teach lessons for the evening, silently assuring myself “I’ll reorder it later,” knowing later would never come. I dreaded digging through through countless jars and boxes and tupperwares of random dry goods every week while making a grocery list.
Eventually I stopped searching and started guessing at what we had; clearly not the most effective plan, but I grew tired of emptying half the stupid pantry every week just wondering if we had black beans buried somewhere in its depths. Finally I just started adding staples to the list instead of making the effort to search. I mean at this point, the freakin’ passageway to Narnia might be back there and I wouldn’t have a clue.
We had talked since we moved in about redoing the kitchen and adding a shelf outside of the pantry to allow us to see all our dry goods at once, alleviating my frustrations and opening up more space in the pantry itself, but life kept interrupting our plans, throwing other problems at us to take care of first… like fixing the flooding basement and replacing the entire sewer line. Oh homeownership… Finally, we decided we couldn’t wait for the kitchen redo to make the pantry shelf, so even though it’s unfinished (no sense in staining it to match the cabinetry when any month now we’re really going to paint the cabinets, right?!), I absolutely love it! We decluttered the pantry, and now I can see 24 of my basic pantry staples all at once!
Don’t let the instruction length intimidate you; I promise this project comes together pretty quickly and easily. In fact, it only took us an afternoon start to finish! You will need some basic tools and a pocket jig system for this pantry shelf, but if you have any interest in simple woodworking projects for your home, you’ll find these come in handy quite often anyway. Happy woodworking/organizing!
- 3 1x4x6ft boards in wood of choice (OR 1 1x4x12ft & 1 1x4x6ft boards)
- 2 6ft (or 1 12ft) trim pieces (we used lattice moulding) 1/4 “ thick and 1 ½” or 1 ⅜” wide
**Look for flat, not bowed, boards with few (ideally no) damaged areas. The smoother the better, as it will minimize needed sanding!
- 8 Wire Nails 1 ¼” x 17
- 20 1-1/4-Inch 8 Coarse Pocket Hole Screws
- 8 1″ Corner Braces with Included Screws
- 220 Grit sandpaper/Orbital Sanding Pads (for hand sanding trim; optional orbital sanding for sides/shelves). If your boards are rougher,you may need a medium grit as well.
- Liquid Nails/Wood Glue
- Circular Saw (or table saw, etc.)
- Kreg Jig Pocket System
- Kreg Right Angle Clamp
- Random Orbit Sander, optional
This makes a pantry shelf with 4-shelves, each able to hold 6 Quart Mason Jars and with finished dimensions of 43 ¾” tall and 24” wide. Feel free to adjust measurements to fit your particular space and needs; just remember to account for your cuts prior to purchasing your lumber! In order to remove the quart jars comfortably and without straining the front trim/label piece that keeps the jars from falling out, you need just a touch of extra space, so we cut “bump out” pieces from trim boards to glue between the frame and the front trim/label pieces to give us that perfect bit of extra wiggle room. If you plan to use smaller jars, you can likely omit the bump outs; just measure first to make sure!
Also, we have chosen not to finish this in any way, as we’re hoping to get around to a kitchen makeover sometime in the nearish future with painted cabinets. However, you can certainly paint or stain/poly this if you’d like to match your current cabinetry! It may look a little odd right now against our cabinets, but I don’t want to have to strip it and redo it later; besides, I’m just thrilled with the extra space and the ability to see, quickly and easily with no digging, what I actually have for dry goods!
Get your Project Materials Here!
Measuring & Cutting:
1. Measure and cut lumber for 2 sides (43 ¾” each) and 5 shelves/top piece (22 ½” each) from the 1×4 boards.If you purchased 6ft boards, you can get one side and one shelf from one board, the same from the second, and the remaining 3 shelves/top piece from the final board. If you purchased a 12ft board, you can get 1 side and 4 shelves from it and the remaining side and shelf/top piece from the 6ft board.
Make sure to measure carefully as you go (the old “measure twice cut once” saying!), and remember, don’t measure all your cuts before you start; cut and measure as you go for all cuts to properly account for the extra removed by the saw blade!
2. Measure and cut 8 bump out pieces, each ¾” long, from the lattice moulding trim boards. This small piece will attach between the frame and the front label/trim piece in order to allow the necessary space to remove the quart jars without straining the front trim pieces.
3. Measure and cut 4 front trim pieces, each 24” long, from the lattice moulding trim boards. (these keep the jars from falling off the shelves and can hold labels later if desired). With your pieces all cut, you can put away the saw; on to sanding and assembly!
4. Using the Kreg Pocket Jig system, cut two pocket holes on each end of each of the 5 shelf/top boards (on the same side). To do this, first set the stop collar to the correct depth, based on the thickness of your wood using the template on the jig; remember to use the actual (not nominal) thickness, which is ¾” for our 1×4 boards. Next set the drill guide block to the same thickness. Double check your setup by placing the drill bit into the guide block (without wood); the stop collar should keep the drill bit itself from actually hitting the base of the jig. With the pocket jig clamped to your worktable, center the board into the jig, clamp the board to the jig, and drill into the two outermost holes (A & C). Repeat this process on the other end (same side!) of the board, and repeat for the remaining 4 shelf/top boards.
5. Sand all wood with 220 grit sandpaper. We choose boards that were pretty smooth to start with, so 220 sufficed for us. If your boards seem a bit rougher, you may want to start with a medium grit paper first, then move on to fine. The orbital sander definitely cut down the time and effort needed to sand the sides and shelves, but we recommend doing the trim pieces by hand, since those are so thin.
6. Measure and mark shelf placements. Start by measuring ¾” from the bottom of one of the side pieces; mark a line at that placement all the way across the board (this is the depth of the bottom shelf). Next, measure up 10” from that line (enough space for the quart jars to clear the front pieces upon removal) and mark all the way across the board again. From there, measure and mark another ¾” (you should now see where the second lowest shelf will sit). Measure and mark another 10” up for that, then another ¾”, and keep repeating this process until you reach the top of the side piece. Repeat on the other side piece (or do them side by side).
7. Assemble the pantry rack, beginning with bottom shelf and working upward. For stronger joints (and/or limited visibility), the pocket holes on the very bottom shelf should be on the bottom, facing the ground; on the remaining shelves and the very top, the pocket holes will face upward toward the ceiling!Start by clamping one side piece to your worktable; use the right angle pocket clamp to clamp the bottom shelf (holes downward!) to the side using one of the pocket holes. Screw the pieces together through the open pocket hole; remove the right angle clamp, and screw into the side piece through that pocket hole.
Repeat this process to attach the shelf to the other side. Repeat for the remaining shelves and top piece, but remember the pocket holes should face upward for the remaining shelves!
If you would like, you can fill any of the pocket holes with kreg pocket hole fillers by glueing them in then sanding them flush. However, we didn’t bother with this step; jars cover the holes on the center 3 shelves, and the other holes would either require us to bend down to see at the bottom or (especially for me…) to hop on a ladder to see the top ones.
8. Next, glue and nail the bump out and front trim pieces to the side pieces. Measure 1 ½” up from the top of the bottom shelf, and and mark on both side pieces (we actually had a scrap piece of wood this width, which we used as a guide/template for marking as we went). This line is where the bottom edge of the bump out piece will sit. Wood glue or liquid nail the bump out pieces for the lowest shelf to the sides, with the bottom edge of the bump out piece resting against the marked line. Immediately glue the front trim piece on top of the bump outs, and drive a nail through the front piece and the bump out into each side piece. Repeat on the remaining 3 shelves.
9. After allowing the liquid nails or wood glue to dry the appropriate amount of time as indicated on the packaging, attach the corner braces to the pantry shelf. First, place one brace about 1” from the side piece on the underside of the top shelf; mark the hole, and repeat on the other edge. Then, place two more braces about equidistant between those first two and mark those holes as well; you should end up with four holes marked under the top shelf. First drill pilot holes; then screw the braces on with the included screws, but don’t screw them fully tight yet. Repeat on the second shelf from the top/third shelf from the bottom (the middle of the 5 shelf/top piece boards).
10. Hold your pantry shelf up to your pantry (ideally with an extra pair of hands to help you out!), and mark where the holes in the corner braces. Drill pilot holes first; then, attach the pantry shelf to your pantry with the included screws, and fully tighten the screws holding the corner braces to the pantry shelf as well. (If you plan to finish the shelf now, we recommend doing so before attaching the corner braces.)
11. Fill your jars, and enjoy your newfound pantry space and your fabulous dry goods organization!
Want more great DIY projects? Head over to our DIY Tie Storage Rack and our Bottle Cap Sofa Table. Are you looking for ways to use up extra pantry staples? Try our Clean out the Pantry Crockpot Ham and Bean Soup, Better Than Takeout Hawaiian Fried Rice, and our Coconut Chips 5 Ways!
Do you have any other organizational struggles in your home you’d like to improve? Let us know in the comments section, and perhaps we can create something that will help! Remember to subscribe to Our Sweetly Spiced Life to keep the tasty recipes and helpful DIY projects coming your way!