It’s spring cleaning time, everyone! So what better excuse to sort through and organize your spices? Looking for spice storage can be extremely frustrating. (Too big! Not enough jars! Don’t even think of taking up my counter space!) So I schemed up my own more flexible storage system. And it’s sooooo simple: just tins, glue and magnets. Ample (and attractive) spice storage can be found on your wall or fridge, leaving your cupboards and counter blessedly free of those pesky little spice tubs. And did I mention that storing your spices in tins will help them keep their flavor longer than in glass or plastic jars?

The problem

I loved the idea of the magnetic spice rack for two key reasons. 1:  It is an open system, so you could potentially add more spice jars as needed without having to overflow storage into a cabinet. 2: Magnets mean that you can put the spices on the fridge or wall, freeing up that most-valuable-of-all real estate, counter space. I did, in fact, buy some of these jars, but they had a few design problems that irked me. The biggest one was light. Sure, it’s pretty to see through to the spices inside, but light damages spices, an unacceptable tradeoff in my book. The second problem was the tins themselves. The tub proportions were okay, but they still stick out 3 or 4 inches, which is just long enough to knock them off the fridge when walking by. I also don’t need the same shapes or amount for every type of spice, so the one-size-fits-all tin was not so great. And the magnet sheets they were mounted to gradually lost their magnetism, which made them fall off my fridge more and more frequently.

The solution

I tried to keep this really simple.  Glue a label on the front of a shallow tin and a strong magnet on the back, that’s it! Then stick the magnets on your fridge or to any metal surface. I’m quite sure that for each of these elements, you could find a variety of products that would work well. So pick and choose you want, but I’ll give the information for the selections that I used, and some relevant reasons why.

Before you start


Selecting tins

I like to have a wide variety of spices on hand. So I knew that I wanted lots of tins, and in several different sizes. I ended up buying my tins from specialtybottle.com. I have no affiliation with them, they were just the best option I found for reasonably priced,  food-grade tins in a variety of sizes and shapes. (I’m still looking for a few long pencil case-type tins for vanilla beans and licorice.) I bought mostly 4 oz. (78 cents ea.) and 2 oz.(51 cents ea.) flat containers.

Quantity of tins

Make a list of the spices that you like to keep around. For the spices that I use most, I like to have separate containers for the whole spice, and for a small portion of the spice ground. (See storing spices for more info). So if you want doubles be sure to count that in. Just for good measure, add 10-20% more tins to your list. If you’re ordering them online, it’s definitely cheaper to order a few extras rather than to make a separate order later. Make a few extra tins and you’ll be ready to slap a label on your tin when you get a new spice.

Where to put your spice rack

First, pick a location for your spices. Mine works great on large, exposed side of my fridge, but that may not work for your kitchen. If you buy a cheap metal shelf support, your spices could be organized in a line almost anywhere in your kitchen. So think about accessibility and appearance when deciding where to put your spices, but also think about heat. Opaque tins will keep your spices safe from light damage,  but exposure to heat can be equally damaging. So avoid placing your spices near your oven or on a wall that gets hours of direct sunlight.

Magnets

The black sheets of magnet that you get at a craft store eventually lose their strength. And when you look at getting enough for a big spice rack project, they’re not that cheap either. So I turned to rare earth magnets. Rare earth magnets do not lose their strength with time and they are really, really strong magnets. This also means they can really, really, destroy your electronics. So keep them far away from your fancy gadgets. Amazon has several sources to order large quantities of rare earth magnets. I ordered 1/2″ disks that are 1/17″ thick, but any flat type of rare earth magnet would work for this project. I got a pack of 100 (around 10$) and figured that I’ll be set in the magnet department for good.

Glue

Attaching the magnets well to the tins is nearly as important as having strong magnets. If the magnets just pull off, then the system is a fail. I used a super-strong two part epoxy.

Labels

Because I’m a card carrying food nerd, I wanted to have a botanical illustration of the plant that the spice came from on the front of each tin. I printed the labels onto thick matte paper and glued them to the surface of each tin with craft glue. I love my nerdy-plant jar labels, but I’m sure that equally attractive labels could be made by cutting up magazines and adding a label, or even just printing out simple text labels on quality paper.

Assembly


Equipment:

Tins
2 part Epoxy
1/2″ rare earth magnets
Steel wool or fine grit sandpaper
a small stick (for mixing epoxy)
a circle cutter, or sharp scissors
craft glue or double sided tape (for attaching labels to the outside of tins)
1/2″ metal shelf support (optional, this is only if you want to mount your spice rack on the wall. Mine is on the side of my fridge.)

Glue magnets to tins.

Use steel wool or sandpaper to rough up the center of tin and one side of the magnet (Don’t clean off surface). Squeeze out epoxy and hardener on to the roughed up surface. Use a stick to mix the epoxy and hardener together, then carefully place the magnet in the glue. It is important to use enough glue so that it will squish out around the sides of the magnet– not tidy, I know, but the extra epoxy on the side keeps the magnet firmly attached. Otherwise the magnets tend to peel off after a while. So let the glue be a little messy, and take comfort that no one will be looking at the back of them anyway. Leave the tins to dry undisturbed, as per the directions on your epoxy.

A 4oz. tin will need 1 or 2 magnets to hold it up, depending on what you’re storing in it. The heaviest spice I’ve found is whole nutmeg, a 4 oz. nutmeg tin needs 3 magnets, whole seeds like pepper, cloves generally need 2 magnets. Powders and dried leaves will be fine with just one magnet. If you plan to stick your spice tins on a metal shelf support , be sure that your magnets are glued exactly in the center of the tin. If you are using more than one, the magnets should be spaced out to either side, but  in line with the center of the tin.

Attach labels to tins

Depending on the type of paper you use for your labels, you might need to adjust your adhesive strategy. I used a thick matte printer paper, and I was able to attach the labels to the tins with a thin coat of craft glue. Using a sticky-back printer paper would also work quite nicely.

Finishing adjustments:

If any of the lids on your tins are a little loose (a few of mine were), then just cut a small (1/2″) piece of masking tape and affix it to the inside of the tin’s lid. This little adjustment provides a little more grip and resistance if it seems like there is any danger of your lid slipping off too easily. I also like to put a little label on the inside of the tin to note when I bought that particular spice.

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