Spicing it up!


Create a spice dispenser that can save space in cramped kitchen corners and simplify the cooking process

Created: May 4th, 2019



Create something practical that can be used in a kitchen. A big problem I have in the kitchen is finding the right spice in a clustered shelf, measuring the right amount, and getting it to the stovetop within a few seconds.

Every place I’ve lived in the past 4 years of my undergrad have been incredibly small and I’ve had to make many adjustments to how I live and use my space. A spice organizer that fits into existing shelves would be really useful. Additional features of interest are:

  • Compact
  • Multiple tiers to allow for use of whole shelf space
  • Customizable for different spices
  • Easily made and fixed

I decided to make something that specifically fit within the spice and sauces lazy susan in my partner’s family kitchen.



The customer lives in small apartments, or places with small kitchens and really cares about cooking. They want to make the best use of the little space they have and refuse to allow physical constraints impact their quality of life. They are creative people who own a lot of different kitchen tools and ingredients. The kitchen can be a social place to enjoy with family/friends or a private place to unwind. 


The inspiration for this project is from the cramped nature of my own kitchen, but this has only made me want to explore creative routes to effectively use space. Existing dispensers don't incorporate designs for lazy susans well. I personally love cooing, which is why my handle projects were for kitchen knives as well. 



Step 1: Brainstorming and Market Research

Spice dispensers and organizers that exist now look like those in the Inspiration Moodboard directly above. 

There are a lot of designs for normal, horizontal and hanging shelves, but few for lazy susans that have a particular rounded shape.

I imagined something that would fit well within the the curved shelves of the lazy susan like this, and was assemblable so users could decide exactly how many units/how much space they want to dedicate to the dispensers: 


Step 2: Mechanism Research

Key Mechanical Design Decisions include:

1.) Design an outer shell, dispensing mechanism and mechanism to hold a spice bottle in place, all integrated into one piece

1a.) Design should accommodate spice bottles of different sizes without having to move the spice into a different container first

1b.) Achieve relatively accurate volumetric output of 1 or ½ teaspoons of spice per use

2.) Shelves to raise the dispensers above the shelf and allow for space for a spoon to catch the spice

For 1a.)
An iris mechanism would means that we can adjust for different diameter bottles. Since most spice bottles are plastic and lightweight, this mechanism could hold up the container adequately. Other ideas, including using rubber bands to fasten bottles into a pocketed lid, or just letting the bottle rest without secure grips were also considered.

For the iris mechanism:

The average dimensions of a spice container are 2’’ in diameter according to Vertical Spice (https://www.verticalspice.com/standard-spice-jar/)  


  A webapp called Iris Calculator was used to generate an aperture that can hold bottles with diameters ranging from 1.5’’ to 2.75’’. Originally, the aperture was 3D printed, but the calculator had adjusted my outer diameter dimensions to be about 6 inches, much larger than what was needed, based off of other parameters. A second aperture mechanism was made that was about 3.7 inches in diameter. I lasercut the DXF files from the webapp instead of 3D printing for a better finish (3D printed parts had coarse surfaces) and would be faster to manufacture.   



Part 1: Designing an outer shell/housing for the entire mechanism 


The shown shape of the dispenser’s outer shell means that the bearings (cylindrical with flat circular faces, visualized as the grey outline of a circle above) would be fit into a curved surface. Aesthetically, this means the edges of the bearing would be shown and the unit would look poorly designed.

The purpose of the curved faces in the current design as shown above are to allow the user to put several of these units, side by side, around the base (metal pole in the middle of the white kidney lazy susan shown to the right) of an in-unit spice carousel such as this one:


My options are:

  1. Make the highlighted arc of a greater radius, and flatten the curved face to diminish the amount of bearing that would be shown

  2. Change the model to have a flat face instead of a curved face as highlighted

Since the highlighted arc is fairly small (radius = 1 inch), option 2 was chosen without compromising the option to fit multiple units side by side in the lazy susan, against the pole. Designing was done in predominantly SolidWorks and designs were 3D printed to best create a stable curved face on the exterior.


Part 2: Designing different dispensing mechanisms that delivered accurate volumes

Design 1: "Rotary" Design


Originally, when creating this rotating part, the idea was to allow the spice to fall into the pocket, the user will turn the part and the pocket will move 180 degrees to let gravity pull the spice out through a hole in the bottom of the shell to the user. The issue in all the designs considered where that it would be difficult to control and stop the spice from dispensing after enough spice has filled the pocket.

The entire part was redesigned to have longer rods connecting it to the bearings at each end, and include 4 wider but shallower pockets, which were made by reference planes surrounding the cylinder. Making 4 pockets were an attempt to mimic this dispensing mechanism commonly used in candy shop and cereal bars:


However, it became clear that this mechanism served a dual purpose: to measure out enough product and control flow as a stopcock (like one would find in a scientific buret). Because there were fins (on the white rotating part of the dispensers shown above) that were the diameter of the channel, between uses, the product would be sealed from freely flowing out the bottom of the container.

This design was not used because there is no simple way to stop the flow of product when not in use while still allowing for accurately measured ½ or 1 teaspoon in volume outputs in use. 


Design 2: "Disk" Design

When in use the user can align the cavity with spices with the hole in the plate, the channel through which the product falls to reach the dispensing mechanism, and finally, the hole in the bottom of the shell of the entire dispenser. The dispensing mechanism is circular, and turns side to side as opposed to clockwise in operation. This motion decreases the number of bearings needed from 2 to 1, from Design 1 as well.

These two variations, the rotary and disk designs, of the rotating part that will catch the spice in its pockets from the spice bottle and move it to the user were made and tested for ⅜’’ inner diameter bearings. 


2.) Creating a shelf to allow full use of cabinet space

This shelf will raise the dispenser off the lazy susan to allow users to place more things in tight cabinets. The shelf was designed to have the same shape as the dispensing unit so users can buy several, and put then adjacent to each other. 

The shelf is fabricated from acrylic and heat formed. 


Final Product and Demonstration of Function:

Notably, the red disk is mounted to a bearing through the bottom of the dispenser shell and through the shelf to keep the unit stable. Each hole in the disk is measured to be 1 teaspoon. When the hole is filled, it will stop the flow of spices from the funnel attached to the lid. 

The lid for the dispenser also features a press fit to the shell and the mentioned funnel that allows for transfer of the spices from the cavity under the iris mechanism to the iris. The bottom of the funnel sits flush with the disk to allow for stop of spice flow when obstructed. 


The iris mechanism allows for accommodation of spice bottles of different diameter.

The first step is to remove the caps of the spices to move them into the cavity of the iris mechanism. Adjust the diameter of the iris mechanism by moving the grey tab back and forth until the bottle is secured. 


Product Poster

Share this Project

This project is only listed in this pool. Be considerate and think twice before sharing.

Found In

24-672 Special Topics in DIY Design and Fabrication

· 22 members

Offers students hands-on experience in DIY product design and fabrication processes. Students work individually or in small groups to design customized and personalized products of their own and bu...more


Create a spice dispenser that can save space in cramped kitchen corners and simplify the cooking process