Living in the city has its ups and it has its downs...one perk is that there is a plethora of abandoned materials hanging about just waiting to be taken home to be upcycled! For those of you living in an urban setting, you're no stranger to seeing these urban eyesores hanging out in alleys and abandoned lots. I'm talking about shopping carts, its time to turn those bits of rusting metro trash into something super funky, functional, and fun... FURNITURE!! In this series of instructables I will guide you through the basics of making your very own shopping cart furniture to be used indoors or out.
Step 1: Find Some Abandoned Shopping Carts
Shopping carts are easy to find here in the mighty metropolis of Houston. They seem to be birthed out of thin air and then abandoned and forgotten in every corner of every neighborhood. If you live in a similar setting scope out parking lots, alleys, and abandoned lots, you're sure to find one or two. If you live in an area that is relatively clean and/or limited on resources you can always check with garbage dumps, recycling facilities, or even contact stores directly to see if they have some carts that are broken or no longer in use.
***NOTE: It is NEVER okay to steal and it is NOT okay to take shopping carts from stores...it is against the law to drive into a store parking lot, load up a cart, and take it home...you will probably end up in some sort of trouble, or worst case in jail. Remember to use good judgement and remain lawful in the collecting of your materials.
Step 2: Gather Materials
For this instructable you'll need a few simple tools, some creativity, and a whole lot of elbow grease.
A shopping cart
Socket wrench, standard wrench, or 4 way lug wrench sized to the wheel bolts
Heavy duty bolt cutters
Dremel attachments (reinforced cutting wheels, grinding wheels, sanding wheels, and wire polishing brush)
2" PVC Pipe or other sturdy tubing
At least two clamps
A crow bar or other sturdy tool strong enough to be used as a steel bending lever.
A dust mask
***Note: If you do not own a dremel you can use a hack saw, angle grinder, or any other tool that is strong enough to cut through steel.
Step 3: Plan Your Design
Go ahead...have a seat in front of your shopping cart...have a look and a thought about it. Brainstorm ideas, designs and concepts that may suit your own personal tastes. You can turn to magazines, books, or the internet for inspiration. Map it out on paper, in your head, or directly on your shopping cart. It is important to know what you are doing before you make any first cuts or bends. I can tell you from experience that steel is very unforgiving!
Step 4: Remove Any Plastic Gaurds or Extra Pieces
Many shopping carts have plastic guards on the corners and handle bars. The first thing I did was remove all these pieces.
Step 5: Making the First Set of Cuts
Okay...so you've thought out your design carefully and planned your moves. Its time to make the first cuts!! I wanted this chair to have extra support in the front so I opted to cut and free the front most wire panel from the rest of the cage making sure to leave the bottom part still attached. This can be done easy enough with bolt cutters. Please see notes on picture to see where i cut.
Step 6: Making the First Set of Bends
Alright, pop on those protective gloves and get ready to bend steel like superman! Grab the front panel with both hands placed at an even distance from the sides, slowly pull the panel toward you until it is forms a straight surface with the bottom of the cage. Then, flip the cart onto its back end. Using the same technique continue to bend the front panel until it forms a 90 degree angle with the bottom of the cage. Please refer to the series of pictures to get a visual idea of what things should be looking like at this point.
***Note: Its important to not over bend or stress the metal. Once the metal is bent it then becomes hardened steal and cannot be put back into place. Do not try to rebend or work out any kinks 1. because things will NEVER line up the same way again 2. because the integrity of the steel will become compromised leading to breakage or an unsafe product. Just go with what the metal wants to do, its better in the end and adds character to your chair!
Step 7: Removing the Front Wheels
The front wheels are easy to remove using any kind of wrench that you have on hand. These bolts were screwed on extra tight, so I opted to go with a 4 way lug wrench/standard wrench combo. Whatever gets the job done!
***Note: Wheels and wheel brackets can be saved for later use on another project!
Step 8: Removing the Rear Wheel Brackets
Using a dremel equipped with either a reinforced cutting wheel or one specifically designed for metal, remove the rear wheel brackets by cutting through the center of the weld.
****Note: Remember safety first! There will be sparks, loud noises, and flying debris during this step. Be sure to wear your dust mask and safety goggles... Metal dust + Sharp objects = sad lungs and eyes :(...
Step 9: Making the Second Set of Cuts for the Arm Rest
I wanted this chair to have arm rests, so I used bolt cutters to make two cuts on each side in order to free the side panels from the rest of the cart. Please refer to the images to see exactly where I made these cuts.
***Note: If you haven't gathered by now, you should be making symmetrical cuts on both sides of the cart.
Step 10: Preparing to Make the Arm Rests
Clamp a 2" piece of pvc pipe or other solid cylindrical object to the side panel of the shopping cart. You'll want to clamp it in the place that you want the metal to bend.
***Note: You can use any side pipe for this. Larger pipe will provide a larger bend while a smaller pipe will yield a narrower bend.
Step 11: Bending the Arm Rests Into Place
There are two parts to this step. The first part is to use the same technique that you used in step 6 to bend the side panel down partially. Please refer to picture #1 in this step. Do this to both sides. After you make this initial bend for BOTH arms, flip the cart over and use a crowbar or other sturdy device as a lever to coax the steel into place and around the pvc pipe. I made a series of bends using a crowbar, moving it and bending the steel wherever I noticed it should be more rounded. Then I flipped the cart right side up and used the crowbar to do some GENTLE shaping and to even out the bend.
***Using a crowbar for this step instead of your hands will save you time, energy, and lots of wrist strength.
Step 12: Taking Off the Handle Bars
Using a dremel and cutting blades, saw off the handle bar to create a more refined look. This step is completely optional, leave the handle bar on for a more obvious "shopping cart" look.
Step 13: Sanding the Rough Edges
Now you've got a chair! But you've probably noticed by now that it is full of jagged corners and sharp edges. We don't want you or anyone else who sits in your new chair to get hurt, so now is the time to grab that grinding bit for your dremel and smooth out all that sharpness. You can take it a step further and use a sanding bit followed by a polishing bit to give the chair a more finished look.
Step 14: TADA!!
And tada!! You've created a unique and useful product out of something that would other wise be rusting up the city scape. These make great additions to patios or gardens but can also be used indoors for something fun! The good thing about using shopping carts as outdoor furniture is that its already weather resistant! Please stay tuned for part two of this instructable, where I will show you how to make a lounge chair with matching ottoman out of a single plastic shopping cart.