After struggling time and again with over-packed shelves and occasional waste caused by expired food toward the back or bottom of a pile, I realized there must be a better solution. Months of searching and hardware store visits later, I found there was no easy solution. There was no pre-packaged system that I could access and buy over the counter that would meet the demand.
So I decided to build it myself.
Using the same principles of tempered glass doorway hinges and a mix of materials, this swing panel pantry storage unit allows for easy access, and a function unlike any other readily-available storage solution available. And it can be built with limited skill and a relatively small budget.
It is also scalable, and can be increased or reduced in size to accommodate the need. It can be made of reclaimed materials, such as pallet wood, scrap sheet goods, or any variety of fasteners.
I opted to structure my swing-panel storage unit to make the most of some reclaimed wood from pallets and the sides of study carrels I had laying around. The total cost after best use of the materials I had at my disposal was less than $150. If made using all-new materials it would likely cost $300-$400 (presuming you have access to the power tools needed to do the job). Still, that is less than having a custom solution installed by others, or even some over-the-counter options. And most available options still don’t allow for the same level of access or ease of use.
All instructions, photos, and videos included in this project are my own. The idea and design are my own. However, my hope in publishing this project is to provide this as a resource for others who may find value in it. Please feel free to share this with others if you find it useful.
If you find value in this guide, please support my work by purchasing a copy for yourself or a friend. The link to purchase a copy is located at the end of this guide or by clicking here: Swing Panel Pantry Storage Plans.
About the Build:
The structure includes two regions to mount swivel door panels. These door panels hinge on wooden dowels installed at the base and the top of each anchor point. The center dowels extend through the bottom door panel hinges, up through the center stud, and into the base of the door panel hinge points above. Vertical studs used for the structure may be an adjustable height as suitable for the space. Horizontal studs used to support the door panels should be no more than 5-1/2 feet. This design provides for a square surface area for storage once the hinge is mounted.
The structure is supported by anchoring directly into the studs of an inside wall corner. A free-standing version can be created by using a full-length panel secured to the right side of the structure. Wall anchors support the structure laterally from the top. Additional span or panels will likely need more structural support.
You’ll notice there is no bottom or top shelf. This is intentional. Instead, the free-swinging movement provides storage space that is inaccessible to rodents. At 24” from the ground, this allows for materials to be stored beneath the lower set of swing panels. This will accommodate other storage equipment without obstruction, such as 5- to 7-gallon buckets, carboys, oversized coolers, or open floor space. The vertical arrangement and open-yet-secure setup will limit if not eliminate rodent activity and access.
For the sake of this description, “runner” studs are horizontal along the back of the structure. Vertical studs are the vertical ends at the left and right of the structure. Vertical panel hinges are the hinges made of 2x4 wood studs at the back of each panel. Shelf material is referred to as “track,” or “trays.”
Build the Structure:
The structure consists of 2X4 wood stud framing with vertical ends and horizontal runners that span between them. The spacing of horizontal runners can be adjusted vertically to meet the panel sizes. Dimensions provided here are as-built. Expand dimensions at your own risk as the structure may not support additional materials without additional reinforcement. All stud profiles should be flush with the exception of the bottom stud used to support the bottom horizontal runner. The bottom horizontal runner is supported by another stud of equal size oriented at 90-degrees along the center of the stud. This runner support will become the stop for the bottom runner dowels.
Cutting and Prepping the Structural Wood:
Cutting wood components is the first step, then drilling holes for pins and fasteners can be done in a uniform way by stacking matched pieces. Forms and guides will help to reduce the time and help to ensure the drill holes are lined up and uniform. Be sure to cut all ends flush and square.
Step 1 – Cut the runners:
Cut top, middle and bottom runner studs, and bottom runner support stud at 62” long. Save leftover ends to be used later. You should have four.
Note: You can reduce the size of runners to 60” and substitute some of the 8-foot studs for two 10-foot studs instead. You will still need enough lumber for the panel hinges.
Step 2 – Cut the vertical studs:
Cut vertical ends to match the height of the space where you intend to build the structure. For this project, studs were cut to 82” for vertical runners. This was enough to allow a 1” gap from the ceiling so the structure had room for movement during install. You should have two.
Step 3 – Create the layout:
Lay both vertical studs on the ground, end up, about five feet apart and choose the best orientation to allow for solid fasteners. Avoid areas with knots, splits, or shorn edges, etc. Then, lay the three runners on the ground between the two vertical studs. From the top down, measure 12 inches and set the top runner in place temporarily. You can drill a 3” self-tapping screw to hold it in place. Use a speed square to mark the position of the horizontal runner on both of the vertical studs.
Repeat this process for the middle and bottom runners, marking their locations on the studs. For this project as-built, the horizontal runners should have a gap of 21-1/2” apart. A 2X4 cut to 21-1/2” can be used as a uniform spacer.
Note: This measurement can be modified to fit the height of your swing panels, but remember to allow a 1/8” gap on the top and bottom of the panels. If built following the 21-1/2” gaps, there should be 24” from the bottom runner to the end of the stud. Confirm that the gaps are uniform, and your marks are correct and square.
Once you’ve marked the vertical studs with the runner positions, put them next to each other and confirm that the marks are uniform. Correct as needed. Then set them aside. Stack three runners together on end. Make sure they are flush at both ends and cut flush if they are not. These must be the same length. Set the fourth runner aside.
With all three runners stacked together, oriented on end, measure from the right the thickness of your panel material plus 3/4" and make a mark across all three runners using a speed square. As built, this measurement was 1-1/2” back from the end to accommodate a 3/4-inch panel. This is your starting point and will be for a non-hinged shelf used for lateral support. From the mark you just made, create seven more marks just like the first one spaced 6” apart until you have a total of 8 marks on your set of runners. These are the hinge point marks for the panels.
Note: More swing panels may be added, spaced 6” apart, if you do not have obstructions on the end. However, if anything interferes with the last panel swing, you will not be able to open any in the series. The last panel in the series must be able to open at least 45-degrees for full access. This unit as-built will allow for obstructions, such as walls or other storage shelves, on both ends while maintaining operation as designed. This “unused” space will be addressed later.
Turn the three runners so they are stacked on top of each other. Make sure all ends are flush. Use the speed square to transfer all the marks you just created to the top board on the stack. Then, find the center of each line and create a cross-hair. You can do this by marking individually with a tape, using the speed square, or snapping a chalk line. (for a standard 2X4, the center mark will be at 1-3/4”)
Step 4 – Pre-drill for dowels:
Using a long 1/4” bit as a pilot, drill down through each cross-hair you created in the previous step. These must be plumb and square, so use a guide from a scrap piece of lumber if it helps. (A guide can be created by transferring a similar set of cross-hairs from top to bottom and drilling through the top. If drilled properly, the hole drilled through the cross-hairs will have an identical entry and exit point.)
By stacking these runners and drilling through, you will save some time if your drilled holes are true. If you are unsure, mark each board with cross-hairs and drill individually.
Once you’ve drilled all 24 pilot holes, increase the drill bit to 25/64” and re-drill through the holes. Step up the bits slowly if one of the pilot holes is near a knot. This will prevent the bit from kicking out or walking.
Note: These drill bit sizes can be modified to meet the dowel size you intend to use. The process above will allow a 1/64” of tolerance between the 3/8” dowels used for pivot points. This is enough to allow for a smooth install with enough freedom of movement to prevent binding. If you need to force these hinge points in, they will fail. Instead, resize the holes to match the intended dowel.
Building the Panels:
The panels as designed will swivel on hinge points mounted directly to the panel material. This design uses a 3/4" MDF panel measuring 24” deep by 21-1/8” tall. The depth and height can be adjusted to match the panel size you intend to use. The thickness should be factored into your initial drill location in the previous step. Height should be factored into your runner spacing in the previous step with at least 1/4" of room to allow for washers and free movement.
Dimensional 2X4 pieces are mounted along the full length of the back side of the panel. Holes drilled in the top and bottom receive wooden dowels to create the pivot point.
Step 1 – Cutting the hinge lumber:
Cut each piece of 2X4 material 21” in length. Make sure all cuts are square. These are slightly smaller than the swivel panel dimension and 1/2" less than the intended spacing between runners. This is intentional and will help to accommodate the installation. It will also allow enough movement to remove individual panels for repair, replacement, or maintenance. You should have 16.
Step 2 – Pre-drilling the hinge points:
Mark the center point on the top and bottom of each stud. This should create a cross-hair at 3/4" on the width and 1-3/4” on the depth. You can use a speed square, chalk line, or straight edge to mark each piece individually, or you can stack them in sets and mark several at a time.
Once you’ve marked crosshairs on both ends of each hinge point 2X4, you’re ready to start drilling the dowel receiver points. First, create a pilot hole 1-1/2” deep on both ends of the hinge.
Tip: It may be helpful to create a guide to make drilling easier and faster. To make a guide, create a plumb drill hole, then mount a 2X4 perpendicular to the guide spaced 3/4" from the hole. This can be done instead of marking every board as long as it is accurate. Place your hinge board snug up to the guide, make sure it is flush, and drill down to the proper depth. Note: to set a uniform depth, use a permanent marker or piece of tape to mark the stopping point on your drill bit and drill deep enough to meet the mark.
When you’ve drilled all pilot holes, increase the bit size to 25/64” and re-drill the holes. Again, step-up the bits if you encounter knots to prevent walking.
Step 4 – Cut the panels:
Mark out each sheet of lumber to create the panels. To do this, split lengthwise down the middle at 24”. Then, mark 21-1/8” and cut each panel. Make sure panels are uniform.
You can use a straightedge with clamps as a guide and run your saw along the edge to maintain straight, uniform cuts. Support panel wood from beneath while cutting to prevent damage to the panels or the blade. You should have 16.
Step 5 – Attach the hinges to the panels:
Begin by arranging the 2X4 hinges to each panel by placing them flush along the back (left side) and the bottom. Attach the panel to the 2X4 by drilling through the panel and into the 2X4 using 1-3/4” wood screws. Orient screws at the center and near the top and bottom of the hinge at least a few inches below the dowel recess created in the previous step. Every panel must be identical and oriented the same.
Each panel and hinge should meet flush at the lower left corner and along the left side as you’re looking at it. This will allow panels to swing to the left. If a panel is off, remove the hinge and restart.
Step 6 – Cut the storage trays:
Each panel is designed to receive three metal storage trays – one at the bottom, one near the middle, and one near the top. These trays can be installed either before or after the structure has been assembled. Make sure to wear good leather gloves when working with this material as it is easy to get cuts or punctures while working with it. Note: All of the following storage tray steps will generate extremely sharp edges.
To create the storage trays, mark and cut each metal track at 24”. To reduce cutting effort, make a single cut on each flange directly across from one another. A speed square can aid in uniformity of cuts. Be sure to cut completely to the bend where it meets the wide portion of the track. Then, bend the track back and forth a few times and it will snap apart easily. Once you’ve created one length at 24” you can use it as a template for the rest. A chop saw or circular saw with a metal cutting blade may also be used to create uniform cuts. You should have 48.
Step 7 – Bend the storage tray ends:
The front end will be the exposed side that is accessible when panels are closed together. The back end will butt up against the 2X4 hinge material and will be mounted directly to the panel. Ends must be properly fastened together and secured to the panel to maintain a rigid platform.
Create the front tray end by making a 90-degree cut at the flange like in the previous step. Measure back from the front of the track 1-1/4” or place a piece of track perpendicular in the track and make a mark. Use a speed square and create a mark to match on the opposite side if desired. Make sure both cuts are uniform and square. If cuts are not uniform or square, you may be able to make a relief cut to aid in a proper bend.
To bend the front, grip the exposed track and bend it inward in one smooth motion. Remember your gloves. The front edge should swivel at your cut points and remain somewhat in place. Repeat this process for the back end but measure cuts 2-1/2" from the back.
Repeat this process for the remaining tray sections.
Step 8 – Fasten the facing tray ends:
Orient the tray so the back end is on your left, and the front end is toward the right. This will be the side you see when the panels are open. Using a pair of vice grips, secure the exposed front and back ends at 90-degree angles. You may need to press the ends inward to make this happen. If you can’t achieve a 90-degree angle, you may need to create a relief cut.
Secure a self-tapping sheet metal screw through both pieces of metal. This process is easier if the hole is drilled near the vice grips. Repeat at both ends.
Repeat this process for the remaining trays.
Step 9 – Pre-drill the rear tray ends:
Flip the tray over from step 8. Clamp the front and back ends at 90 degrees like before. Using a 1/8” bit, drill a hole through both pieces of metal near the vice grips. Try to orient this hole as close to the top of the tray as feasible to allow room for installing fasteners.
Drill three holes: one at the back tray end where the flanges overlap, one near the center between the front and back, and one at the front of the tray where the flanges overlap.
The finished tray should have two metal screws on the face and three pre-drilled holes at the rear where it will be mounted to the panel surface.
Repeat this step for the remaining trays.
Step 10 – Install the trays:
From the bottom up, trays are spaced 7-1/2” apart. This will allow enough room for a small-mouth quart-sized mason jar to fit on the bottom and middle shelves without binding up. It will also allow for a pint-sized mason jar on the top shelf.
Starting from the bottom, secure the first tray by laying it flat on the panel and pressing it against the 2X4 hinge. Leave a small space – maybe 1/16” – beneath the tray so it has enough clearance to open properly. Secure the tray to the panel using a self-tapping metal screw starting at the center pre-drilled hole. This will allow a small amount of play if you need to adjust the back upward. Complete the installation by fastening two more screws into the pre-drilled holes at the back and front ends of the tray.
Measure up from the bottom of the tray and mark at 7-1/2” or use a few scrap pieces of lumber positioned inside the track as a template. Secure the middle tray in the same fashion as the bottom tray. Repeat this process for the top tray.
Repeat this step for the remaining panels. You should have 16 panels when complete.
Assemble the Structure:
Now that you have your materials cut and drilled, and your panels ready for installation, you can begin assembling the unit. For this portion of the build, you’ll need to decide if you will be assembling the structure in place, or building it and then moving into place.
The structure itself is relatively light but can be awkward to handle and transport. There is also not much shear strength at this stage and the assembly could shift if mishandled. It helps to have a second person to assist with positioning the structure into place. Make sure you have enough room to move the unit whole if desired. If the unit can’t be moved whole, follow the steps below and disassemble for transport, then reassemble in-place.
Step 1 – Secure the runners to the vertical studs:
Lay out the vertical studs and the horizontal runners just like before. Place them on the ground on end about five feet apart and orient the runners between the vertical studs. Make sure runners are lined up with all drilled holes on the right and no drilled holes on the left. This will ensure that the dowels are lined up properly. Then, match the runners to the lines on the vertical studs you made earlier.
Secure the top runner using three self-tapping 3” wood screws on each side. Make sure the front is flush where the boards meet, and all lumber is on-end. Pre-drilling the center screw location will make drilling easier, but it is not necessary.
Line up the middle runner to the marks on the vertical studs. To confirm your marks and proper fit, place a finished panel face up inside the gap between runners. It should not touch on both sides of the panel. There should be at least a 1/8” gap on one end. If this is not the case, adjust the runner to fit properly. Secure it in place using the same method as the first runner.
Repeat this process for the bottom runner. After the bottom runner is installed, collect the fourth support runner. Orient this 2X4 perpendicular to the bottom runner, centered along the middle. It may help to use a scrap piece of 3/4" material to help center the board. You should not be able to see through the drilled holes on the bottom runner with this support in place.
Secure the runner to the support board by fastening 3” self-tapping wood screws through the bottom runner into the support. Install one fastener in the middle, then additional fasteners spaced about 12” apart in both directions. Secure the support to the vertical runners with three 3” self-tapping wood screws on each side.
Step 2 – Create the dowels:
Wooden dowels are used as the main hinge points. These can be replaced with metal rods cut to fit, but wood dowels are adequate, cheaper, and easier to work with. Create a bundle with the three dowels and cut a series of 16 at 3” long and 8 at 4” long. There should be enough left over to create or replace dowels if damaged during the installation.
Step 3 – Secure the structure to the walls:
Place the structure against the wall and prop it up to prevent it from falling forward. Make sure the right side is tight against an inside corner of the room.
On the right side, secure the vertical stud in place by butting a scrap piece of 2X4 material against the vertical stud and securing the scrap to the wall at the nearest wall stud using at least two 3” self-tapping wood screws.
This scrap material should be at least 16” long and installed about 24” on center below the top of the structure. It should run parallel to the ceiling. Repeat this process again 48” on center from the top of the structure, making sure to push the base back toward the back of the wall until plumb.
Note: if you have base molding that is preventing the structure to align parallel to the wall behind it, you’ll need to provide the same amount of space at the top before securing the scrap 2X4 holding pieces into place. A 1/2” – 3/4” gap behind the structure is recommended to allow proper swivel without obstruction. This can be achieved by using scrap pieces of panel material as spacers at the top and bottom between the storage structure and the wall behind it.
On the left side of the structure, install a right-angle bracket near the top of the vertical stud. If you cannot find a stud in the wall behind either side of the vertical stud, you may be able to install a wall anchor, and/or install a right-angle bracket at the top of the structure along the runner. Attempt to put this bracket as far left as possible. Repeat this process for the middle and bottom runners if room allows. Do not let right angle brackets interfere with the space required for free movement of the swing panels.
Note: brackets and scrap wood supports should always be anchored directly into wall studs to maintain support and prevent failure. Do not rely on drywall for support. Improper anchor points could cause the entire unit to fall and has potential to cause damage or personal injury. Be cautious of any electrical or plumbing behind the walls where you intend to fasten anchor points.
Make sure the structure is plumb regardless of how it is secured to the walls.
Step 4 – Add the first panels:
The first panel does not pivot. It aligns with holes drilled on the far right and provides additional support by securing the structure to the wall. The first panel is installed differently than the rest and can be substituted with other material if desired to add another panel at the opposite end. An example of this would be to use peg board instead for hanging tools or supplies where the first panel would normally go.
Start by installing the bottom panel. Hold the panel in place and secure it from above by dropping a 3” dowel through the drilled hole in the middle runner and into the 2X4 hinge. If the holes do not line up, you can re-drill through the runner or skip this step.
Once the bottom right panel is pinned in place, align the bottom of the 2X4 hinge with the bottom runner and make sure it is flush at the top and bottom. Secure the hinge to the structure with three 3” self-tapping wood screws.
Locate the scrap 2X4 behind the panel which was used to support the structure in the previous step. It should be 48” from the top. Secure the panel to the hidden 2X4 using at least one 3” self-tapping wood screw. Note: you may need to add a spacer if there is a gap resulting from base molding obstruction.
Repeat this step for the panel directly above, being mindful to secure the panel where the scrap 2X4 exists 24” down from the top.
Step 5 – Add the remaining panels:
The remaining panels are designed to be removed for repair or replacement. To install the next panel, start on the bottom by inserting a 3” dowel into the first drilled hole to the left of the previously installed panel. Then, add a single nylon washer on to the dowel.
Place the panel carefully onto the exposed dowel until the panel hinge meets the nylon washer. This can be achieved by angling the panel slightly at the top until the dowel mates up with the drilled hole at the bottom of the hinge and carefully lowering it into place. Note: if this cannot be done without damaging the wooden dowel, remove the dowel and cut off 1/8” – 1/4” and reinstall the dowel.
Once the panel is properly seated on the lower dowel, secure the panel into place by inserting a 4” dowel through the drilled hole in the middle runner directly above. Repeat this process for the panel directly above. Remember to install the nylon washer at the base of each panel hinge. If the center dowel is too long, cut off 1/8” – 1/4". Secure the top panel by dropping a 3” dowel in the top runner through the drilled hole directly above. When pinned, the door should swing freely without obstruction.
Repeat this process for the remaining panels until complete. Always install the bottom panel first and work from the right side to the left side.
Step 6 – Confirm proper swing operation
Never force the panels to swing open. Proper operation for access may require that previous panels are opened in order. If any panels are not swinging freely, confirm that there is enough space behind the unit, and enough clearance at the bottom where the lower shelf meets the runner.
If the runner beneath a panel is obstructing the swing, check for interference. The tray may need to be re-formed if not square. Or it may need to be removed and reinstalled higher to clear the runner. If excessive weight is added to the bottom or the tray becomes deformed, it may need to be re-installed higher or replaced to accommodate the obstruction.
If the back of the wooden 2X4 hinge is obstructed by the wall, the structure will need to be pulled away from the wall and refastened with an adequate gap. Or, the hinge may be cut back to allow for additional clearance.
To cut back a hinge that is interfering with the swing, set the circular saw to a 30-degree angle cut and cut along the exposed edge of the 2X4 hinge. This will remove a small wedge and may allow enough clearance for proper operation. Attempt to re-install the panel. If it still doesn’t clear the back wall, remove and re-cut farther back, or adjust up to a 45-degree angle. Avoid cutting too close to the hinge cavities.
Step 7 – Add your stored goods
This is the final step. With the structure complete and all panels in place, you are now able to start loading up the trays with your mason jars and miscellaneous goods. As designed, it is possible to fit 10 quart-sized mason jars on the lower two trays and six pint-sized mason jars on the top tray of each panel.
It is important to keep in mind how much weight you distribute on each panel. Although not advised, a fully-loaded panel can reach up to 40 lbs. or more. The combined weight of all shelves if fully loaded can reach up to 740 lbs., not including the weight of the panel or the structure itself. This is another reason why proper anchor point installation is critical.
Distribute weight on each panel with heavier items toward the back and center of the panel. Keep lighter items toward the front. Also, keep in mind that heavier items on the bottom trays may bend over time and interfere with proper swing operation.
Stored goods up to 3-5/8” in diameter or width may be placed within the trays. Some mason jars, such as round quart jars, will not meet this dimension. Squircle-shaped one-quart mason jars will fit. Do not force materials into the trays or deform the sides to accommodate larger items.
Additional options and modifications
Now that you’ve built the panel system, you can modify as-needed to meet your storage needs. For example, dry-erase markers or magnets used along the track material may be used to identify shelf contents, dates, or other information. Handles or drawer pulls may be added to tray ends. The unit can be painted to match surrounding surfaces, or used for color coding your food rotation or stored items.
Peg board may be installed on the far left, or on the far-right sides. This can be a useful area to hang non-food items used in canning, such as rings and lids, tools, or hang-dried herbs or foods. Peg board installed on the left side can make good use of unused space and will also improve the shear integrity of the back structure. It can be secured easily with left-over fasteners. Keep in mind that you’ll need to avoid putting anything on the peg board that will interfere with the first panel swing and make sure that it is set back far enough to prevent any obstruction of the leftmost panel.
For added security from earthquakes or unintended access, a simple hasp can be added to lock the shelves in place.
While this unit as built is oriented with a left-hand swing, it can be reversed with slight modification of the drill holes in the runners, or by reversing the installation so the first panel is on the left instead of the far right.
Additionally, two units may be placed back-to-back if enough room and adequate anchor locations can be found to support the structure along the top and side. A properly-secured full-length 2-foot wide panel on each end can provide enough support to make the system free-standing for areas that do not allow for direct anchors into the wall.
Longer variations may be possible with additional center support between the bottom runner and the floor. Or mirrored sections of this design can be placed side-by-side with some opening left and some opening right.
A final Thought:
Thanks for taking the time to support this work by building something of your own. And thank you for supporting my work in creating this guide. Please share this with others, as it will likely help many to build and maintain a better storage solution. For a downloadable copy, complete with photos and diagrams click here.
As you comb through these instructions, I recommend reading through them once before starting and referring back to them as you progress. This project comes with no guarantees as much of the success of this storage system will rely on your ability to read and follow the instructions, and approach this with a healthy dose of common sense.
If at any point you find yourself struggling along the way, share the design with a savvy builder and get help, or contact me directly. I will do my best to help.
Above all, maintain a high level of safety awareness throughout this process. There are many opportunities for cuts, punctures, pinch points, and all-out failure. Be smart with your use of power tools and personal protective equipment. There is good reason to wear quality leather gloves, eye protection, and hearing protection. And above all, once again, make sure your anchor points are solid and secure. This is intended to be a simple solution to a long-time problem – not a source of pain or a new long-term problem.
By taking on this project, you assume all risk associated with the level of workmanship employed, along with the means and methods you intend to use.
This work and all images, drawings, diagrams and videos are copyrighted by the author as of the date of this publication. No portion of this work may be reproduced in any way without the direct written consent of the author.
11/4/2022 12:07:48 am
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