Canadian Woodworking

Build a hidden hinged spice rack

Author: Rob Brown
Published: February 2015

This under-cabinet spice storage rack will work wonders to organize that cluttered spice storage area in one of your kitchen cabinets. It can be customized to fit under any cabinet you have.


  • COST

If your kitchen’s spice area is even remotely similar to mine, this project should make your mouth water, just like the exotic spices we love so much. I’ve been fumbling with, and searching for spice jars for years, but now I actually look forward to reaching for some spice. The dimensions for this specific project are for an upper cabinet with an area underneath it 14-7/8″ wide by 11-1/8″ deep, but you can adjust it to whatever size you need.

If your kitchen’s spice area is even remotely similar to mine, this project should make your mouth water, just like the exotic spices we love so much. I’ve been fumbling with, and searching for spice jars for years, but now I actually look forward to reaching for some spice. The dimensions for this specific project are for an upper cabinet with an area underneath it 14-7/8″ wide by 11-1/8″ deep, but you can adjust it to whatever size you need.

Full-Sized Drawing
Designing from the outside inward, Brown draws the spice rack on plywood. This project requires the user to be able to grasp and return the spice jars easily, so spacing is important.

Spice rack

Glue the Mitres
Brown applies a very light coat of glue to the mitred faces then rubs it in. This saturates the end-grain pores with glue, so the second coat will not sink into the wood. He also applies tape across the adjoining face of the mitre joint (above), so when the joint is folded together (below) the glue doesn’t get onto the wood. Wait 20 minutes then remove the tape – the glue almost always gets removed with the tape.

Glue the Mitres

Initial Installation

Rout Grooves
With the first groove machined, Brown marks the placement of the “L”-guide for the rest of the grooves. For his specific rack, he spaced the grooves 2 1/4 apart, on center.

Rout Grooves

Sanding, Made Easier
A small drum sander is slightly smaller in diameter than the grooves, so Brown covers it in sandpaper and smoothes the grooves before separating the parts.

Sanding, Made Easier

Glue Together
To attach the base strip to the upper grooved strip, apply a bit of glue and clamp the pieces together. A couple of nails, driven just proud of the base strip, will help keep the parts from moving while you apply the clamps.

Glue Together

Eased Edge
The underside, front of the base strip gets its edge eased to lessen the chance of catching a finger on it when reaching for a spice jar.

Eased Edge

Install the Hinges
Attach the rack to the hanging strip with the hinges. Now the rack can be test installed and fitted to the space, if need be.

Install the Hinges

Initial Installation
Position the hanging strip in place and screw up into the underside of the upper cabinet, and possibly through the hanging strip, into a stud. You could also try a few screws down from inside the cabinet, into the hanging strip, if you need some added insurance.

Initial Installation


spice rack

Material list

spice rack materials list

Full-size drawing

With the spice bottles at my side, I drew the spice rack and hanging strip full-size on a piece of 1/4″ plywood. There was just enough space to fit two rows of spice jars, with a bit of room to grasp the jars, so space had to be used carefully. I worked from the outside inwards when designing, as the exterior of the rack was the only fixed dimension. I could have squeezed one more spice jar into each row, but felt it might be tough to easily grasp each jar if I did.

Assemble your ingredients

Minimal lumber is required for this project. I would also recommend you have the hardware on hand before starting. I broke out the walnut stock for the sides, front and back, and milled them to size. Mitres were cut onto their ends with my cross cut mitre sled, but a mitre saw would also do the job. I chose to use a mitre joint for the corners as it finishes cleanly, with no visible joint. The outside of my rack will be painted white, to match my kitchen cabinets.

After running rabbets to accept the bottom in the four parts, I sanded the inner surfaces. I used masking tape to join their ends together, then added a bit of glue and folded the parts together, taping the final joint tight. I immediately cut the plywood bottom to size and installed it, making sure everything was square.

Rout some grooves

I broke out material for the grooved strips wide enough to obtain both strips from one blank. The 5-1/2″ wide piece I used was just wide enough for me to machine the grooves, clean up both outer edges and rip the workpiece in half. I also worked with a thicker piece than I needed, as I wasn’t sure how much thickness I was going to need.

The radius of the spice jars is 7/8″. I have a set of router bits from Busy Bee Tools with a 5/8″ radius core box bit. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s the closest I had.

Alternatively, you have many options: use a smaller bit with multiple passes, remove the majority of material at some point with a dado blade and fine tune the fit with hand tools or use a round-bottom hand plane to create the groove, to name a few. As long as there’s a positive fit between the groove and the spice jars all is good. With my bit chucked in the router, I set its depth to make a 1/4″ deep cut.

I used a shop-made “L”-guide, clamped to the workpiece, to guide my router and bit and create the series of grooves across the workpiece. I made sure to move the router in the proper direction, in order to ensure the router’s base stays firmly against the guide as I make the pass. Get this detail wrong and you’ll know it.

After I made the first pass, I marked where the edge of the “L”-guide was on the workpiece, then added a series of lines across the stock at 2-1/4″ intervals. I was then able to quickly run grooves across the rest of the workpiece without thinking about spacing.

With the grooves complete, I sanded the grooves to remove any milling marks. I happened to have a small drum sander, slightly smaller than the bit I routed the grooves with. I wrapped sandpaper around it and smoothed the grooves. I then cut the strips to rough length and planed them to 9/16″ thick. Finally, I cut them to final length and width.

Base strip

When the rack is opened, the lower row of spice jars is held up by the front. The upper row of jars needs a base strip to keep them up. I machine it to its finished dimensions, then round its lower, front corner with a block plane. This makes grasping the lower row of spice jars slightly easier. After a quick sanding, the base strip gets glued flush with the back face of the upper groove strip.

Install the strips and magnets

With the two groove strips in place, drill small pilot holes through the underside of the bottom panel, into the groove strips. When the spice rack is complete, small screws will hold these two parts in place.

I added two magnets to the upper edge of the sides. The mating metal plates will be added to the underside of the cabinet once I bring the rack into my kitchen to install it.

Hanging strip

Machine the hanging strip to finished size and temporarily join it to the main rack with two hinges. The hanging strip and main rack should finish flush on their undersides, but the hanging strip should finish about 1/16″ above the top edge of the main rack. With screw locations determined, remove the hinges and fasten the hanging strip to the underside of the cabinet.

Position the main section of the rack in place under the cabinet and install a few screws. In a perfect world, your rack opens and closes with ease. If the fit isn’t perfect you can either adjust the dimensions of the hanging strip, adjust its location or remove material from the back of the main section. I had to remove some material from one end of the hanging strip to allow the rack to open properly.

Functional details

Before removing the hanging strip and spice rack, I installed the magnets in the underside of the cabinet and tested they were strong enough to hold the full rack closed. If you aren’t confident about their strength, add a few more. Better to be safe than sorry. If you want a bomb-proof solution, attach a simple latch.

Apply a finish

We recently refinished our kitchen in a nice, simple white, so I had to finish the outside of this spice rack to match. The interior was finished with clear polyurethane, adding some much-needed wood grain to this woodworkers’ kitchen. I applied a few coats of poly to the inner surfaces of the box and the grooved strips with the parts apart, then let everything dry thoroughly. It was easier to finish the individual parts, rather than the entire project. With the inside complete, I primed and painted the outer edges of the spice rack and hanging strip.

Final Installation

Install the hanging strip for the final time, and fix the rack to it. The final task is to add the chain stay to stop the hinged rack from swinging too far downward, which would cause the spice jars to fall out of their homes. I was sure to fix the upper end of the chain above the interior area of the compartment when it’s closed, so slack chain would fall into it while raising it.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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