Move Banquet Tables With a Single Hand





Introduction: Move Banquet Tables With a Single Hand

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

Rectangular banquet tables frequently need be moved. Often only one person is available to move them, especially in church basements. They are too heavy to lift and carry far. Dragging them, whether folded or open, is hard on the person, on the floor, and on the table. The device described in this Instructable will allow one person to move a banquet table easily with one hand. I call it a table mover. 

Two versions of the table mover are presented here. The first comes from the days before I had a welder and relied on simple tools. The second includes stronger parts of steel at key points in the device. The photos and commentary related to the second version follow in the second half of this Instructable.

Step 1: Materials Needed

The minimum needed for making a table mover is:
  • 3 feet - 2 inch x 2 inch pine or fir
  • 30 inches - 2 inch x 4 inch pine or fir
  • 2 pieces of 3/4 inch plywood 4 inches x 4 inches
  • 3 lag screws 1/4 inch in diameter and 3 to 4 inches long
  • 5 washers with 1/4 inch holes (Fender washers would be preferred.)

On the second version I also used:
  • 3/8 inch steel rod
  • angle iron
  • push caps

You may wish to substitute lawnmower wheels for the wheels made from 3/4 inch plywood. Those would also require 1/2 inch bolts or rod for axles and a more substantial way of attaching them, which could involve welding.

Step 2: Make the Bed (main Piece)

Start with a piece of 2 x 4 that is 30 inches long. A piece of 2 x 6 instead of 2 x 4 has some advantages, but 2 x 4 will do.

Make a recess a quarter inch deep or more at each end as near to one edge as possible. Do this with a router, or use a hammer and a chisel. The legs of the table will rest in these recesses. The recessed areas are intended to keep the table legs from sipping off of the table mover when in use. The distance between the legs on different tables is not standard, so just drilling a hole 2 inches in diameter is not a satisfactory solution.

Step 3: Attach the Handle

A welded bracket of angle iron would be the ideal way to attach the handle, but not everyone has access to a welder. An acceptable way to attach the handle is to cut a notch at an angle and fasten the handle in place with a washer and a lag screw. The angle of the notch is about 30 degrees off of the vertical or 60 degrees off of the horizontal.

Step 4: Make the Wheels

Scribe two equal circles about 4 inches in diameter on some 3/4 inch plywood. Turn them on a lathe or cut them as smoothly as possible with a bandsaw. A jigsaw will do the job, too.

Drill a hole at the center of each 1/4 inch in diameter.

Step 5: Attach the Wheels

Drill a 1/4 inch hole directly into the end of the bed for lag screws to serve as axles. These holes should be fairly low and as far toward the side of the 2 x 4 on which the handle mounts as possible.

Place a washer on each lag bolt. Slide a wheel onto each lag screw. Follow it with another washer. Screw the lag screws into the bed tightly enough that the wheels do not wobble, but loose enough that the wheels can turn. The wheels may resist turning easily until the table mover has been used and the axle holes loosen a little.

Step 6: Using the Table Mover

With one hand lift the end of a table. With the other hand slide the table mover under the table. Lower the table legs onto the recessed areas. Allow the weight of the table to cause the handle to rotate toward the table so it comes to rest against the edge of the table. Go around to the other end of the table. Lift it and drag or push the table where you want it.

If you run into a narrow area and cannot get enough turning radius to make a corner, etc.; manually swing the table end as needed and set the table mover under the table again. Sometimes you can get out of a tight spot by placing the table mover under the opposite end of the table and dragging or pushing the table to get it where you want it.

Not only is this an easier way to move six and eight foot long banquet tables, but it saves time because it is not necessary to take each table down, move it, and then set it back up. Just move the tables while they are already set up.

The next steps illustrate variations I used to make a sturdier version of the table mover with some welded steel parts at key points.

Step 7: Steel Axle Assembly

I cut a piece of angle iron from an old bed frame and welded a piece of 3/8 inch rod to it. To hold the pieces in place, I placed the angle iron into the jaws of a vise and rested the steel rod next to the corner of the angle iron. A magnetic corner for welding held the rod in place until I could tack weld the rod to the angle iron. Then I removed the magnet and finished the weld. 

Step 8: Handle Bracket

With more angle iron from an old bed frame I made a bracket for securing the 2 x 2 handle to the 2 x 4 bed. I cut the angle iron at about 20 degrees and welded the two pieces together. This piece makes a big improvement over the all wood version in the first half of this Instructable. In the wooden version, the handle can develop some looseness, but this steel bracket makes for a much more durable product. (The hole was part of the original bedframe and has no relevance for this project.)

Step 9: Attach the Bracket to the Bed

The bed of the table mover is a 2 x 4 that is 30 inches in length. Drill holes for sheet metal screws in the bracket. Position the bracket so it is centered on the bed. Drill into the wood for the screws and attach.

Step 10: Attach the Axle Assemblies

Drill the angle iron on the axle assemblies. Fit them onto the ends of the bed and drill into the wood. Attach with sheet metal screws. Add a washer as shown.

Step 11: Wheels

I did not want to spend extra money for commercial lawnmower wheels, so I made wheels from some old oak nearly 7/8 inch thick. (When I welded the steel rod to the angle iron for the axle assemblies I included the thickness of the wheels in determining how much rod to extend beyond the end of the angle iron.) I cut the wheels on a bandsaw.

Step 12: Drill for the Axle

I used a drill press to make holes for the axle. It is important that they be as precisely centered as possible. I reamed the hole with the drill bit a little so the wheel will turn freely on the axle. I also used some motor oil to lubricate the wheel on the axle. Let the oil soak into the wood so it becomes its own oil impregnated bearing.

Step 13: Assembly and Last Things

I put the wheels onto the axles and retained them with push caps. Rather than use a router to inlet a place to retain the table legs, I used wood cleats to make a recess six inches long on each end of the bed. I attached the handle to the metal bracket with screws.

See step 6 again for how to use the table mover.



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    16 Discussions

    this is clever, was wondering if this can be used to move table with stuff on it like in a yard sale? Thanks

    1 reply

    Thank you for your interest. I once made a heavier duty version of this for use in the main lodge at a camp. A number of groups use that camp for retreats and meetings. There is often a need to move quite a few tables. Your question describes a slightly different situation, but I think it could work. The heavier version I built for the camp used ball-bearing steel lawnmower wheels about 5 - 6" in diameter. The axles were 1/2" bolts welded to angle iron securely screwed to a 2 x 6 rather than a 2 x 4. The attachment for holding the handle to the 2 x 6 was a welded "T" from two pieces of angle iron. I would want to be quite careful during use so items for sale at your sale did not tumble off of the table and onto the lawn.

    I really like this 'ible. I don't move a lot of tables but I could use this idea in my shop. I don't have a lot of space and frequently need to move things around (tools on stands) to make space to work. Thanks!

    2 replies

    Thanks. Naturally, you will need to build a heavy-duty version of my table mover. Your tools weigh more than a folding banquet table. I looked at your profile. You have two of my Instructables marked as favorites: egg-shaped yoke holes on a Craftsman radial arm saw and using a sanding drum in place of a planer-joiner. Thanks. I have been concerned that the one about restoring the yoke holes in the radial arm saw might not be sufficiently clear to someone.

    Yeah, it seemed clear to me -- although I'm used to dealing with power tools so I can't speak for others who haven't. You've shared some really good ideas, Phil. My name's Greg, by the way :-)

    Thank you. I am glad you like it. If your parents move tables even occasionally they will appreciate it, too. If you do not have a router or a chisel to plough out the areas for the table legs to rest on the table mover's bed, you can always simply tack and glue some strips of 1/4 or 1/2 inch wood onto the 2 x 4.

    Pretty slick. Just draw you stick figure on the top flat of the 2x4 along with a catchy name. The back saver table mover perhaps? Hoping it would be enough to prevent someone from putting it in the trash. Getting others to use it before you move on may insure they will make sure it stays around.

    1 reply

    Thanks. That is a good idea. When dealing with a public environment you never know who will go on a clean up and out crusade.

    That's a GREAT idea! I used to move those things all the time, and it can be a real burden for just one person. Now we usually have several people to do it, but I'm still going to try and make one. It'd fit easy in the closet, and could save somebody a strained back someday.

    1 reply

    I made one of these at our church. I try to explain it to as many people as I can, lest someone think it is a piece of junk to be discarded. I also used a marking pen to write some basic instructions on the bed and the handle for the day when I am no longer at this church and no one remembers what this thing does. If something goes wrong with with your first attempt at making one of these, you can always make a revised version while salvaging the parts that do not need revision. But, it is pretty easy to make one that works well on the first attempt.

    Our banquet rooms at the couple hotels I worked last year - had round tables :D made life better. This would work okay for the rectangular ones we used rarely.

    1 reply

    I have seen round tables in a couple of church basements. But, the preponderance of the tables owned by churches are the rectangular tables that are a bit of a pain to move.

    This is cool, but having worked in banquet set-up for a few years; I can tell you how the pros move these tables. they fold the legs in, tip them up on one end, grab with one arm and tip it up onto your shoulder. you can carry it with one hand and this way you can go up and down stairs. never would 2 people be allowed to move one table unless it was already set up and skirted. while it looks like this would be difficult the trick is to have the tables center of gravity in the right spot. I did this for a living for 2 years and while I'm a big guy I worked with plenty 130lbs or so guys who did the same thing every day. I think this is a neat device but I just don't think the industry would use it unless it allowed 1 person to move several tables at once.

    2 replies

    My frame of reference is the average church where a woman may be the one who finds herself moving five to ten tables for a function and then moving them back again afterward. Her husband may be there to help her, but he is not in condition to carry a table on his shoulder. My hat is off to you for your strength and training.

    I didn't mean to say it wouldn't be useful and infact I think it is a very clever idea. I just didn't think it would take off in the industry. in your situation it sould be a big help and with only 10 or so tables time isn't as big of an issue as when you have to for example set a wedding for 300 people in about 20 min.