Introduction: Digital Harbor Foundation's Tool Cart
This Instructable covers how to build the mobile tool stations that we use at Digital Harbor Foundation.
These stations keep tools organized and accessible wherever you are in your makerspace. Assembling a rolling tool cart takes only one or two people and minimal tools, and materials can be pre-cut at your local hardware store.
For more project guides and makerspace resources, head over to Blueprint by Digital Harbor Foundation.
Step 1: Gathering Tools
First, let's gather the tools you'll need for this project.
- Power drill (or get this economy version)
- Bit set, driver set, and socket set with sizes shown in the image
- Tape measure
Cost per rolling tool cart:
- About $170 for construction materials
- About $130 to stock with tools and supplies
Step 2: Gathering Materials
Three 6-Foot 2x4's
Now let's gather the materials. We've provided cut list templates that can be downloaded as PDFs.
Cut three 6-foot 2×4‘s into seven planks as shown in the cut list shown in the image. 6-foot lengths will waste the least amount of material, but 8-foot lengths may be easier to find. We recommend spending an extra dollar or two per beam for “top choice” lumber, which is much better quality and less likely to be bowed or twisted.
Also note: 2x4s actually measure only 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″.
- The two 48″ planks will be called the side posts
- The three 21″ planks will be called the cross beams
- The two 18″ planks will be called the foot boards
Sheet of Peg Board
Pegboard, also known as perforated hardboard, is generally available in two thicknesses: 1/4″ and 1/8″. For this project, make sure that you purchase 1/4″ pegboard; it is much sturdier and fits most standard size pegs. Most hardware stores carry 1/4″ pegboard in a dark brown color and will cut sheets down to size for you according to the cut list shown in the image. We purchased 4×4 sheets in a lighter brown color which blends nicely with the natural wood color of the 2x4s, and cut each sheet in half ourselves using a circular saw.
Step 3: Gathering Hardware
After gathering the tools and materials, you'll need to gather the hardware and peg kits.
- 2 x 5 1/2″ handle sets, with included screws
- 4 x full-locking 3″ swivel caster wheels
- (“full-lock” means that the break locks both the wheel rotation and the swivel; choose “plate” casters as opposed to the “stem” variety)
- 4 x 3″ deck screws (deck screws have much greater holding power than regular screws)
- 38 x 2″ wood screws
- 16 x 1″ lag screws, 5/16″ diameter (lag screws can bear a lot of weight, which is important for securing the caster wheels)
A basic Durahook multi-pack will contain everything that you need for one tool cart. In fact, it will contain more than you need, so you might want to consider buying peg hardware individually. Pro tip: sometimes peg board hooks can pop out when you remove a tool. To eliminate this problem we chose Durahooks, which come with mounting screws to semi-permanently attach each hook. The pegs can still be rearranged when you want, but the screws prevent them from coming off while you are working.
Step 4: Measure and Mark the Side Posts
At the end of one of the two 48″ side posts, use a pencil and tape measure to mark a line 3/4″ from one end. Then mark cross lines 1″ in from each side edge to indicate screw hole targets, as shown in the figure. Repeat these marks halfway down the side beam at the 24″ mark, and again 3/4″ from the other end of the beam, for a total of six screw hole marks. Then repeat these six marks on the other side beam.
Step 5: Drill Pilot Holes
Select a drill bit the same width as the shank of the 2” screws, and use it to drill pilot holes through the side posts at each of your earlier marks., for a total of six pilot holes on each of the two 48″ side posts. Drill each pilot hole approximately the depth of the length of the screw; for more information see Wikihow’s helpful step-by-step guide for How To Drill Pilot Holes.
Step 6: Arrange One Side of the Frame
Place the three 21” cross beams standing up on the floor in an evenly-spaced line. Then lay one of the 48” side posts across the top, with the pilot holes facing up so they are visible. Make sure that the center cross beam is centered with the pilot holes you made at the 24″ mark of the side beam.
Step 7: Check Alignment
Line up the corners of the frame so that the side post is flush with each of the three cross beams.
Step 8: Screw the Side Post to the Cross Beams
Drive 2″ screws into each of the six pilot holes on the side post, two through each of the three cross beams. An extra set of hands is helpful for this step, but it can also be done standing over the boards and using your legs to help hold them in place while you drill.
Step 9: Repeat on the Other Side of the Frame
Once secure, flip the frame over and repeat the process: Lay the other side post across the cross-beams so that the pilot holes face upwards, check alignment, and then drive 2″ screws into the pilot holes to secure the frame.
Step 10: Measure and Mark the Pegboard
At each of the four corners of one of the pegboard pieces, use a pencil and tape measure to mark a screw hole location 1″ in from each edge. Note that although this will not be directly centered on the beam, it is more likely to avoid matching up with one of the existing peg holes. Repeat marks for the other piece of pegboard.
Step 11: Align the Pegboard With the Frame
Lay the frame flat on the floor and line up one sheet of peg board on the top. Make sure that edges are aligned and square all around the board.
Step 12: Screw the Corners of the Pegboard to the Frame
Use 2” wood screws to attach each of the four corner of the pegboard to the frame. It is not necessary to drill pilot holes for this step; just start the drill with a few quick bursts to drive in the sharp tip of the screw. Once the screw bites into the pegboard you can drill full speed to drive it the rest of the way in.
Step 13: Add More Screws Around the Frame
Repeat the step above, adding more screws around the pegboard to secure it to the frame. We suggest the placements shown in the figure. Be sure that the center screw location passes through the center cross beam of the frame.
Step 14: Repeat With the Remaining Pegboard
Flip the frame over and repeat the process: align the pegboard with marks facing upward, check alignment, and then drive in 2″ screws to secure the pegboard to the frame.
Step 15: Measure and Mark the Foot Boards
Mark each of the two 18″ foot boards halfway in the center, at the 9″ mark. Then make a cross-mark 1” from each side.
Step 16: Mark the Wheel Hardware Holes
Place a wheel the end of one of the foot boards, centered about 1/2” from the edges. Use a pencil to draw a small X to mark the center of each hole and then set the wheels aside. Repeat for the other end of the foot board and for both ends of the other foot board.
Step 17: Get a Lag Screw Drill Bit
Select a drill bit that has the same width as the shank of the lag screws.
Step 18: Flag the Drill Bit
Pro Tip! To prevent drilling too far into the legs, place a piece of tape 1” from the tip of the drill bit to “flag” it. You’ll know when to stop when the flag reaches the surface of the board.
Step 19: Drill Pilot Holes Into the Foot Boards
Drill pilot holes into each X-mark on the foot boards, stopping when the drill bit flag reaches the wood.
Step 20: Attach the Wheels to the Foot Boards
Position each wheel over a set of pilot holes in the foot boards and secure the wheels by using the socket wrench to drive the lag screws into the holes.
Step 21: Align the Foot Boards With the Frame
Turn the frame so that it stand up on the floor. Position each leg at the edge of the top of the frame, and align the 9” mark on the leg with the center of the frame.
Step 22: Drill Pilot Holes Into the Foot Boards
Choose a drill bit that corresponds to the 3” deck screws, and use it to drill pilot holes at the marked locations on each of the foot boards.
Step 23: Screw the Foot Beams to the Frame
Find a driver that corresponds to the 3″ deck screws. Deck screws often have star-shaped heads and come with the matching driver in the box. Drive the deck screws through the pilot holes to secure the foot boards to the frame.
Step 24: Turn Over the Frame and Lock the Wheels
Flip the frame over so that it stands upright on its wheels. Lock the wheels in place by stepping down on the “On” switch on each lever.
Step 25: Use the Handle to Make a Measurement
Place top of the handle flush with the top of the frame and put a mark on the frame at the bottom edge of the handle, about 5 1/2″ down from the top. Repeat for the other side of the frame.
Step 26: Mark the Handle Holes
Move the handle down so that your mark passes through the top holes, and then mark a small X in each of the four hardware holes. Repeat for the other side of the frame.
Step 27: Attach the Handle to the Frame
Drive in the screws that came with the handle hardware set to secure the handle to the frame. Repeat for the second handle on the other side of the frame.
Step 28: Stocking the Cart - Basic Tools
Now that you have a tool cart, what tools should you put in it? Below is a list of the tools that we’ve found the most useful, and how we chose to arrange our tools on the rolling cart pegboard.
Step 29: Stocking the Cart - Measuring Tools
Step 30: Stocking the Cart - Tape and Glue
Tape and Glue:
Step 31: Stocking the Cart - Cutting Tools
Step 32: Stocking the Cart - Safety Equipment
Step 33: Arranging the Tools
Here’s how all these tools look when hung on the front and back sides of our tool cart. Click the image to zoom in if you want more detail.
2 years ago
Good basic design, i think it just needs some bracing at the base. Easily accomplished using scrap wood or triangular scrap pieces of plywood to increase durability. Like your upgrade it could be the basis for a bunch of other projects like inexpensive skinny(2ft wide) dry erase boards, mobile notice/bulletin board, a base for flat studio lights using inexpensive led straps.
5 years ago
That's a great looking cart! Very simple way to bring your tools with you!
Reply 5 years ago
Thank you! We've gone through several iterations on the design before landing on this version.