Introduction: Customized Mobile Teacher Cart
Get your thrift on and purchase, beg, reallocate a resource, or re purpose a stool. I'll walk you through the steps I used to get from boring shop stool to a custom made mobile teacher cart.
Boring stool to rolling classroom organization. With a teacher.
One of the most exasperating parts is classroom mobility. Like most teachers, I’m constantly on the move to work with students and help them apply proper technique. That previously meant carrying a stool around desks and bumping students. Enter the upgrade: a rolling stool with onboard storage. In my classroom, there seems to always be a shortage of pencils, paper clips, erasers, highlighters, post-it notes, .5 and .7mm lead for mechanical pencils, and everything else on my “back to school” wish list I rarely receive.
Note: It's important to be frank here: as a female teacher in the age of constant access to social media, the last thing I need is to be bent over helping a student and having my 13 and 14 year old students taking a picture of me in a precarious position and sending it to their friends. Thus, this rolling stool helps to negate what could be a problem.
- stool - preferably found on clearance, Craigslist free section, or second hand as thrifty is a key trait of being a teacher
- new caster wheels if the originals clash with your color scheme
- cylinder or box shaped objects to hold your supplies - let your inner artist fly free here
- spray paint
- painters tape (or other tape to mask off hydraulic lift)
- Philips and flat head screwdrivers
- needle nose pliers
- socket set, staple gun
- hot glue gun with glue
- sewing machine
- pins and thread that matches your decor
- safety glasses
- respirator if spraying anywhere other than indoors
Step 1: Acquire Stool and Disassemble.
If you don’t regularly attend garage sales or thrift stores, the other option is a regularly posted 20% coupon to Harbor Freight. I found my hydraulic stool in the clearance area for $27 and with my coupon, I managed to get down to about $20. Then went back the following weekend and it was on sale for $20.......
The first step is to get rid of the boring red fabric on top. Turn the stool upside down, unscrew the four screws holding the base down, and use your chosen method to pull out the staples. I went with the tried and true method of an old screwdriver and pliers.
Step 2: Sew New Cover.
Unfold the fabric and you have a perfect pattern for your next fabric. Want to go one step farther? Use a seam ripper to pull the fabric all the way apart and resew appropriately. (Life pro tip: if you’re not adept at sewing, I would skip this part. Or you can learn a new skill on "how to sew a circle" to a tube. Hint: Mark the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock positions on the tube and side walls.) You could avoid this step altogether and simply lay the fabric over the foam and slowly start folding darts over, stapling as you go. ***maintain the same professionalism on this project as you do as a teacher!
Similar theme: match your thread to your room decor. Don't be afraid to really get wild here and make a pattern that you can use for more fabric. You're a teacher so you'll be at school through at least three seasons and at least seven holidays. (Life pro tip: instead of stapling, sew a hem and lace through elastic so you can easily change seat covers as washing is required.)
Step 3: Paint and Replace Casters.
Frog tape. Blue tape. Packing tape. Scotch tape. We're not professionals being paid for house work; we're working towards a custom product. Thus, grab whatever tape you have available to mask off the hydraulic lift and paint to your hearts desire (which should be a matching classroom decor). I won't bore you with details of spray painting but will remind you of many light passes to prevent dripping.
If you are replacing the casters, you may need to cut down the stud length. A hacksaw will do this job but an angle grinder makes sparks and is much quicker. #scienceteachers You'll likely need to file off the burr created by either cutting method but a quick YouTube search will show you the steps necessary. I chose the angle grinder method for time.
Step 4: Reassemble and Add On-board Storage.
If you replaced the casters and cut the studs down, don't forget to add a thread locker, a split ring washer, or a nylon lock nut. The last thing you'll need is a wheel falling off while you're wheeling around because you'll be on YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, and likely become a meme.
Mount the foam seat top back to the hydraulic lift and take a breath and admire your hard work so far.
Now it’s time for the magic: use old mason jars, or some other type of cylinder/or box like object that can hold pens, pencils, and highlighters. Just kidding - no pens in math class. A dab of hot glue and a magnet hold the object to the base. This trick will work wonders for the times when students play too hard in class or the stool gets bumped a little hard. (Life pro tip: a 20 pound magnet is the key here! If your on board storage falls off with 20 pound magnets, it may be time to re-evaluate how you roll. ha ha)
Also feel free to get wild in this step too! If you're a world traveler or coffee cup collector, you could use that as storage instead of other unique containers. I recommend staying away from recycled cans as they may contain sharp edges but a file will help here or maybe sewing a cover to conceal the edges and add flair!
Step 5: Marvel at Your Brilliance!
After all these steps, I recommend plopping down on your new stool and giggling a little bit. You've worked hard to make something useful to you, completely customized, with very little investment.
- Thrift stores are wonderful for projects like this. Dresses are cheap and the fabric is enough to make several stool covers. Look at curtains, sheets, t-shirts with a design you like, blankets.... The only limitation is your imagination.
First Prize in the
Classroom Organization Challenge