Introduction: Combo Miter Saw Station Lumber Rack
This miter saw station does double duty as a lumber storage rack with room for long boards underneath and 4' x 8' sheet goods in the back. I looked around for a long time online for plans for something like this and all I was able to come up with was a hand drawn sketch in an old Fine Woodworking magazine. I adapted the drawing a bit to create the following Step-by-Step Instructable, adding in easier to use see-through bins for cut-offs in the front instead of solid panels, and adapting the rail-style bed pictured in the drawing for stock to be a bit simpler and deeper so it could serve as a functional work surface as well.
I'm really happy with how this project turned out, in part because I wasn't following any plans, and that can sometimes lead to a wonky build, but also because it's a fully functional semi-portable (has casters but is heavy to move when fully loaded) miter saw station that has tons of additional storage.
Unless you are storing loads of wood in your shop, in which case you'd want dedicated lumber storage, I don't see any reason why anyone wouldn't combine these two pieces of shop infrastructure ever again.
Step 1: Plans
I'd like to offer a huge thank you to Wood Chuck for drawing up some plans for this project!
Here is the sketchup file.
It's not an exact reproduction of what I built, but it's pretty darn close and even has some improvements included in the design.
Step 2: Materials
- 3/4" sanded plywood 4' x 8' sheets (4 or 5 depending on how cuts are made)
- 1.5" x 1.5" x 8' square wood stock (8)
- 2" x 4" x 8' (3)
- 1" iron pipe (16')
- 1.5" PVC pipe (16')
- 1.5" galvanized pipe (8')
- 1/4" steel rod (20')
- wood screws (assorted sizes)
- 4 heavy duty locking casters
- 3 light duty casters
- electrical power strip and extension cord
Step 3: Build a Torsion Box
The base of the miter saw station is a very simple torsion box. Torsion boxes are ways to make stiff platforms by skinning thin materials over a network of stronger ones.
Cut the plywood sheet into a 32" x 8' panel and build a support structure of 2"x4"s beneath it. The more 2"x4"s you run beneath the plywood the more rigid and stiff the torsion box will be. I didn't go too crazy and the cart is plenty strong since it's going to get a lot of additional reinforcement.
Cut large triangular plywood pieces and screw them into the four corners so that you have a surface to mount the heavy duty locking casters to when the time comes.
Step 4: Build Sheet Storage Channel
The sheet storage support channel is like a little sidecar that hangs off of the torsion box. First, cut a small panel which I'll call the channel hanger that's 8' long by however high your castors make your torsion box, subtracting for the height of your other light duty casters. See image note for greater clarity on this dimension.
Screw the channel hanger into the back of the torsion box.
Next, cut two strips of plywood that are 8' x 3" on the table saw. Place them back to back and then drill through them with a spade or forstner bit in a regular interval to create the mounting holes for the "rollers" that will go under the panels. The galvanized steel tube acts as stationary rollers to reduce the friction on the edge of sheet in storage so that they are easier to pull out, which is to say that they don't turn in place, but they are slick and provide a limited friction surface for the plywood to rest on.
Cut the galvanized tube down to however deep you'd like your sheet storage support channel to be. I cut mine to around 8", which allows for 8 +/- sheets of 3/4" material when stored at a slight angle so they don't tip over. A wider channel will accomodate more wood, but it will also push your miter saw station further away from the wall.
Then, grab some of the 1.5" x 1.5" wood stock and cut it into whatever length you just cut your galvanized pipe to, but subtract 1.5" to account for the 3/4" on each side that the galvanized pipe will stick into the plywood retaining holes that will hold it in place. I cut mine down to 6.5" (8' - 1.5" = 6.5").
Start assembling the channel by first screwing one of the strips you drilled the holes in onto the plywood hanger that got attached to the torsion box at the beginning of this step. Insert galvanized pipes into the holes. Drill 1.5" square bars into position inbetween the steel tubes, locating them beneath the tops of steel pipe so that the plywood will sit on the pipes, and not the square bars. The square stock ties the whole support channel together - the pipes simply support the stored sheet goods. I put some glue on the square bars and then screwed them into position from the back side of the hanger strip. Once all that's in place put on the second strip of plywood that you drilled holes in by screwing it into the tops of the square wood bars. Again, more glue. Then, using glue and screws, attach a new strip of plywood that will serve as a retaining wall for the storage channel and cap off the holes for the steel pipe. This piece needs to be 8' long by however high you'd like to retaining wall to be - mine is around 6" tall.
The finishing touch on the sheet storage channel is to simply drill holes for your medium duty casters, in my case, old casters I took off an free chair on the street, and insert them into the outer boards of the channel. These auxiliary casters help take the load of the stored plywood. At first I considered cantilevering the channel off of the main torsion box without any additional support, however, upon doing some initial testing, I quickly discovered that there was no real way the channel could support the potentially hundreds of pounds of wood without casters of their own.
If you've measured correctly on the height of your channel hanger panel, the support should be rock solid and not add any stress on the torsion box, even while jumping on it with full body weight in order to test it out.
Step 5: Add Panel Support
In order to add the back of the miter saw station and sheet good vertical panel support, you need to figure out a safe angle to store sheet goods at. I decided to store them 8 degrees off of perpendicular to the floor for two reasons. 1) It's not too steep of an angle to store sheets at so they won't tip over, and 2) it's the steepest angle to store material in this design, which is to say, if you draw a triangle that has the bottom of the support channel as its bottom leg, the panel being stored as the hypotenuse and the vertical leg as the steepest angle possible when leaning the panel back in the channel, you get a corner angle of 98 degrees.
Now that you know that, set the angle of the table saw blade to 8 degrees and cut one of the 8' 1.5" x 1.5" square wood stock at that angle. The width doesn't matter, just take off a thin angled slice so that you're left with a corner cleat block that has that 8 degree angle on it.
Screw that angled piece into the top of the torsion box creating a cleat for the vertical support panel. Cut a new 4' x 8' sheet of plywood down a bit in width so that the depth of the channel, plus the height of your vertical support will be just an inch or two more than your 48" stored panel. This panel is your vertical panel support. Screw it into the cleat you just screwed into the torsion box and use some 2x4's to support it while you build out the rest of the saw station. See photos.
Cut two more large plywood panels to create the top and front of the miter saw station and use 2x4's for bracing throughout to hold everything together. Pick dimensions for these cuts that makes sense. I'm a 6' foot tall guy, and I hate to wash dishes at the standard counter height because it hurts my back. Take the opportunity here to pick dimensions that will fit your needs. The depth of the top work surface is also pretty variable based upon how much room you've got. That being said, you're tied to whatever depth your torsion box was cut to...so best to plan ahead and pick a depth from the beginning that you can support.
Everywhere a 3/4" plywood panel meets another panel, I put a 1.5" square stock at the joint and screwed the adjoining panels into the square stock, rather than the other 3/4" plywood panel, so there would be a bit more material for the screws to hold on to. I did this specifically where the top meets the vertical support panel, where the top meets the front panel, and where the front panel meets the torsion box. These are called cleats, and they make joining thin panels together easier and stronger.
Step 6: Add Panel Support Bracing
Brace the vertical panel support at the both of it's ends with a piece of plywood. First just tack it in place with a screw or two, and then scribe a line at angle where the stored sheet goods meet the support panel. This line is set by the back of your panel storage support which should already be in place.
Take the panel off and then use a jig saw to cut along the line you scribed which will trim the panel flush with the vertical support panel so you can easily load sheets on and off.
This side bracing holds the vertical panel support in place.
Step 7: Build Under Table Storage Rails
The inside of the cart is where the long board storage will be. To accomodate the boards I built a very simple lumber rack consisting of some scrap 1" iron pipe I had lying around and 1.5" PVC pipe that I put around it as a sleeve so the wood wouldn't get scratched on the rough iron bars. Cut the iron pipe to just shy of the inside depth of the lumber cart. Cut the PVC pipe to be 3"+ shorter than that to accomodate for the 2x4 supports which will hold up the pipe.
The whole network of iron and PVC pipe is held up by 2"x4"s that are screwed into the front and back panel that have large diameter holes drilled in them to accept the pipe that were made on a drill press. Mark the holes on the two support brackets and drill them out using a forstner bit.
Locating the supports for the wood storage depends on the following decision...
The chop saw isn't centered in my miter saw station - this was done deliberately. After thinking about most of the cuts I've made on a miter saw, I came to realize that rarely was a cutting something perfectly in half, like say, an 8' 2x4 into two 4' sections, such that I would need two 4' support tables. More often than not, I was cutting something small off of something large, in a scenario where I'd want one outfeed table to be bigger than the other. There's more on this in the next step, but it's necessary to mention it here because it effects the spacing of the under-storage lumber supports and their brackets. Pick a location for your miter saw, either in the middle of your station, or off to one third of the cart.
Then, space the brackets accordingly to accomodate for the inset of the saw since it will block the top shelf of the lumber storage system.
In short, don't place the support brackets evenly every 2' along the cart. Instead, make a short 2' section on one side of your saw, then have the indentation for the saw, then have medium storage on the other side of your saw which will be a remaining 3' section, and finally, you've got 8' storage the entire width of the lumber cart for the shelves that are beneath the indentation of the miter saw (shelves 2 and 3), since as I said before, the saw indention only blocks the top shelf.
Step 8: Cut Out Recess for Miter Saw
It would probably be easier to cut these pieces ahead of time and assemble a pieced-together top surface instead of one entire continuous sheet that then needs to be cut apart in place, but this is just how it worked out for me. You can absolutely plan ahead for this and make these cuts on the table saw and box out the recess for the miter saw before you screw down your top panel.
The dimensions of your recess are dictated by the height of the bed on your miter saw and the room that the saw needs as it swings through it's entire range of motion and miter. My 12" sliding compound miter saw needs almost 3 full feet to move freely, so that's the size section that I cut out from the work surface.
Cuts were made with a circular saw and then cleaned up with a hand saw and jig saw to get into the hard to reach places.
Take care to measure the exact recess that your saw will need from your top work surface so that the saw bed is exactly flush with the height of your side supports. OR, don't worry about it too much and make sure that you cut DEEPER than your saw bed and prop up the saw on some shims later. I went this route, planing down stock to the exact height that my saw would need to be perfectly flush with my top work surface. I think this is the way to go rather than trying to make precision cuts with a circular saw.
Once the cuts are made, box out the sides of the recess and screw in a bottom. The bottom I used was part of an old desktop. It's very heavy and solid, and what's more, has a nicely curved front edge which was perfect for me since it nicely mimics the arc that the saw makes when it's adjusted to make miter cuts.
I supported the bottom of the recess with a single cleat in the back that was cut with that same 8 degree bevel since it's mounted onto the angled vertical panel support. The front of the recess bottom panel is screwed directly onto the front vertical panel of the station that it rests upon.
Step 9: Build Out Shelving
Next up is making some very simple and organizational shelving.
Cut trapezoids that contour to the 8 degree beveled back panel. These will become the support brackets for the accessory shelving. Cut short cleats to support the shelves and screw them onto the brackets. Then, cut the shelves themselves to fit between your brackets. My shelves are 3' long and run on the "long" side of my saw. I've got a toolbox to put on the "short" side so no shelves were necessary there, but of course this process could easily be repeated in a narrower version on the other side.
I used 1/4" steel rod to make some simple retaining bars for items on the shelf. Not that it's necessary, but hey, I live in Oakland, what with the earthquakes and all, I don't want my tape measure falling off the shelf. (That was a joke).
Drill 5/16" holes in the side of the brackets in front of each of your shelves and run the steel rod through the holes to create the retaining bars.
Step 10: Build Out Scrap Bins
The scrap bins are an essential piece of this project. Miter saws create odd length cut-offs constantly. If you're mostly cutting cheap woods like plywood and 2x4's, saving scrap is perhaps not the biggest priority, however, if you're cutting fine hard woods, you're going to want to hold on to those scraps to make things like Scrap Wood Cutting Boards and to have small stock on hand for custom inlays and so forth. Choose dimensions for your bins that make sense for you. My bins are as tall as my miter saw station and as wide as possible on both the "long", and "short" sides of my saw. They should be between 7-9 inches deep. Any shallower and you won't be able to hold much stock. Any deeper and they'll make your cart very very large.
Cut the sides of the bin with a jig saw or on a scroll saw, place them side by side, and then sand them on a belt sander so they match perfectly.
Then, cut a bottom for the bin and small lip to retain the wood once it's in there. Assemble everything with screws, and cleats on the brackets where they will be hung onto the miter saw station.
I used more 1/4" rod to create the front of the bin. I really like this adaptation of the original sketch because it allows me to easily see what's inside the bin without doing a lot of fishing with my hands at the bottom of a dark bin. Plus, it gives what is otherwise a very solid and massive project a lighter and more open feel.
Step 11: Square and Level Saw
With most of the build-out done it's time for the most important part of this whole process. Squaring and leveling the saw to the cart. As I said in step 7 when I was building the recess for the miter saw, I didn't worry too much about making the recess be the perfect depth for my miter saw so that the bed of the saw would align perfectly with my work surface. Instead, I cut the recess a bit deeper by about 3/4" and figured I'd use shims and supports to level and align my saw later.
Well, that was now and so here's how to level and square the saw.
Place the miter saw directly on your recess support and grab a large level. Place the level across the bed of your miter saw station and then using a calipers, measure the distance from the level to the top of the saw bed on both sides of the saw, directly over the spot where the feet of the miter saw get screwed into position.
Then, head on over to the planer and mill two pieces of scrap lumber (I used an extra 2x4 I had) to those exact two dimensions. Ideally they're the same, but just in case something wasn't completely level in your cart build, this will account for a small difference and will give you an 8' long bed that's absolutely flat and true to your saw.
With the custom shims planed down to the perfect height, slip them underneath the feet of your miter saw. The saw should now be level - check again with long level or another reliable straight edge to make sure.
Square the fence, or blade, on your saw to the front and back of your cart using a large t-square. The saw should now be square.
then drill holes for some large lag bolts and washers down through the holes on the feet of the saw, through the shims and through the bottom of the recess so that you can then bolt your saw down into position. Tighten the lag bolts with a ratchet or impact wrench and your saw should be firmly mounted in place.
Step 12: Add Power
I added power to the cart by mounting a simple power strip on the side. I use a small shopvac for dust collection on my saw and the worksurfaces are great places to sand or do small projects, so all those tools can now be plugged in here easily instead of bending over to a power strip sitting on the floor every time.
A short extension cord connects the saw to this strip underneath the miter saw station. I brought power up to the saw by drilling a small hole at the back of the recess for the saw so that the plug could be passed through to the interior of the cart.
Step 13: Accesorize
Accessorizing the miter saw station is fun final step. This is obviously different for everyone, but the preliminary accessories I came up with were a pencil holder, a hook to hang my safety gear, and a permanent adhesive backed tape measure to make quick cuts on non-essential lumber without grabbing the tape measure, pencil, and square.
The pencil holder was made by angling the bed of the drill press and then drilling holes into a scrap piece of 2x4 from the build. I'm always searching for a pencil, having three permanent ones located by the miter saw will hopefully help.
The hook is a simple coat hook from the hardware store. On it hangs a dedicated pair of safety goggles and ear protection. I'm notorious for not always wearing goggles and ear protection as often as I should, and it's something I'm really trying to be more diligent about, so hopefully the dedicated hook will also help.
Finally, I used an adhesive backed tape measure to create a quick and dirty measurement guide right on the table so that in a pinch if I was cutting a non-essential piece of stock down, I could make a quick ballpark cut without marking it up formally. You can buy left to right and right to left tape measures online, so simply order the kind that works for your station.
That's pretty much the entire project - hope it's useful to anyone building their own combo miter saw station lumber rack. If you've got suggestions, questions, or comments, please leave them below and I'll get right back to you. As always, if you make your own or have other ideas of how I could improve on this, please post pictures of what you've come up with as well.