Saturday, December 20, 2008

magnetic spice rack

I finally finished the implementation of my new spice storage system. The objectives were to free up some kitchen space, extend herb/spice lifespan through light and temperature control, improve accessibility, and look fairly nice. Here it is, inside a cupboard door.

This is my second try. The first attempt was a flop. The original idea was to glue strong magnets to the backs of outward-facing aluminum containers with clear glass lids. The magnets turned out to be less powerful than I expected, the epoxy did not work well at all, the lids were not nearly tight enough to reliably stay in place, and baking to cure the epoxy weakened the magnets.

Now I'm using different containers, different magnets, and am not (at this point) permanently affixing the magnets to the containers. One tradeoff is that I can't readily see into these jars when they are hanging up so some of the aesthetic charm is lost, but simply labeling them should be acceptable.

Steel sheets are from Home Depot. Sufficiently magnetic stainless steel containers with clear plastic lids and really nice silicone seals are from The Seattle Restaurant Store. Epoxy-coated rare earth magnets are from Applied Magnets.

Magnets placed in groups of four deliver very firm attachment. Even two will do but four makes me quite comfortable. I can pretty much slam the cupboard door closed without worrying about anything being dislodged. I probably won't store my liquid mercury or finely ground plutonium here, but the mass of any common spice poses no problem at all.

The whole thing is dynamically reconfigurable, just not quite as quickly as if the magnets were glued to the containers. On the other hand, the containers remain unblemished and can still be used in the rotating metal racks they came in. And it's always going to be easier to glue than to unglue, should the need arise. If the containers weren't sufficiently magnetic I'd just go ahead and glue the magnets and be just as happy.

Lessons learned from the first try:
  • Neodymium magnets can be weakened or demagnetized by high temperatures.
  • I would use JB Weld if I were to again glue magnets to metal.
  • If the containers are going to be in a horizontal orientation then the lids need to screw on or have very tight friction fittings, or they will sooner or later pop loose and provoke foul kitchen language.
  • The ineluctable fate of glass lids is to fall and shatter.
Some of the original containers are at the top left. They'll be coming down now.

This post is linked on
Spice Rack on Foodista


Carol Peterman said...

Steve, I have gone through many similar exercises trying to keep my spices organized and accessible. I finally got so frustrated with knowing what I wanted, but not being able to find it on the market, I decided to design and manufacture the spice container system of my dreams. It has been two years in the making, and we finally just launched the product last week at the International Housewares Show. I hope your clever system has held up and worked for you, but if you need any additional storage you can take a look at what I came up with at You have a really nice blog. I am very intrigued with the popcorn popper coffee bean roasting.

Steve Poole said...

Carol, that is a very cool system. It's evident that much thought has gone into its design. I hope it does well for you!