Introduction: Plywood Shop Cart Made With CNC Router

Picture of Plywood Shop Cart Made With CNC Router

Here is a shop cart  that is constructed from 3/4 and 1/2 inch plywood.  The parts for this piece are cut on a CNC router.  

I decided to build a set of shop carts from the scraps of various projects.   The carts are very handy, as they can be easily pushed out of the way to make room to work on large pieces.

This is the first cart in the series.

I made it at Techshop:

Step 1: Materials and Tools


(The exact amount of plywood will vary based on your cart size)

3/4 plywood -  for the tray sides and legs    I cut this from scrap, but you should be able to cut all from a 1/2 sheet.
1/2 plywood - two rectangular sheets for the cart trays-typical sizes are 18x24 and 24x36 -less than  1/2 sheet
1 inch coarse pocket screws - 12
3 inch fixed caster wheels - 2
3  inch swivel caster wheels -2
mounting screws and washers for the casters- 16
wood glue


CNC router

Any  plywood friendly 1/4  router bit-  this is a shop cart - not worried about tearout on the cut..
Pocket screw jig and driver
brad nailer

Step 2: Design

Picture of Design

The trick with a shop cart design, especially a smaller one is  stability.  Larger wheels are really nice for uneven surface but can contribute to a lack of stability.

I researched dimensions for shop carts on the web with 3 inch wheels and used this for my starting point.  The typical tray sizes were 18x24 and 24x36 inch.

I wanted to make a very strong cart that was supported  and locked in place by the plywood itself, and not reliant on fasteners that  could loosen over time.  This required a generous amount of large interlocking cutouts, tabs, and full mortice and tenon joints.

I ddi not want any handles on the carts, so that multiple carts could be packed tightly together is a small shop.

Step 3: Cut

Picture of Cut

This part was easy- just put a 1/4 bit on the router and ran the files for all the pieces. 

Step 4: Assemble and Finish

Picture of Assemble and Finish

This was a bit of a pain.  Although all the parts were interlocking, the design did not lock into place until all the parts were assembled.  Since it was impossible to assemble the entire piece at once, the sub assemblies had to be squared manually. 

Instead of constructing some jigs for this, I eyeballed the fits.  I glued and brad nailed the sub-assemblies together quickly, so I had a chance to adjust the fit when assembling the full piece.

- First assemble the trays by attaching the sides to the tray bottoms.  I used pocket screws here, but this was overkill.
- Next assemble the legs.
- Now glue and clamp the whole piece together.

Once the glue has dried:

- turn the cart upside down and glue the plywood base for the wheels

- install the wheels with large wood screws.

I did not apply any finish, but it is probably a good idea to paint or varnish the piece to facilitate cleaning of spills when the cart is put into service.

That's it!

Step 5: Retrospective

Although the end product turned out to be strong, and functional, and reasonably cool looking, there are some things that I will address

- Too many parts:   There are 22 plywood parts for this cart-   too much cutting time.

-  Assembling the piece is clumsy and  time consuming - this led to some sloppy (but still tight joints):  This can be addressed by designing some assembly jigs and/or modifying the design.


bespenship (author)2017-12-02

Nice design. Can you share the design you used to generate the cutting tool paths? I'm thinking about creating a design for this in Fusion, since it will also generate the tool paths for my CNC router. Would you be want to add the resulting Fusion design data to this Instructable? I could also share the design in the Fusion project gallery and refer people back to your Instructable. I think this is a great and practical project. The Instructable doesn't seem intended as a "learn design" project, and it would save others who want to make the cart a lot of time.

Adamro (author)2016-05-15

Excellent Instructable!

I am thinking about trying to get this made and/or modify the idea for my own use. I'm pretty new to CNC. I realize this was done a while ago, but could you give me a rough idea of how long it took to cut with the router (rounded to nearest 15 min would be okay)?

Also, do you remember the type of plywood you used? Did you use a cheaper sanded ply from a box store, or did you use a more specialized/nicer type?




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