Introduction: Firewood Dolly

About: A lowly geologist who likes to build stuff.

If you have a wood burning fireplace, you most likely pick up and put down each piece of fire wood 5 times:

  1. to wheelbarrow
  2. to outdoor rack
  3. to carrier, dolly or bag
  4. to indoor rack
  5. to fireplace

This is very inefficient, and a constant annoyance. So I decided to combine step 3 and 4. The dolly has clean lines and some design elements making it presentable enough to stay in the living room; and so it serves to transport the wood and store it next to the fireplace. The materials were inspired from the square tubing and stained wood accents from the coffee tables in the living room. It rolls beautifully and makes the trip much easier.

Step 1: Materials

The design will depend on the wheels you plan on using: I had some wheels left over from a failed attempt at motorizing a mountain board (Turfboard Deville). You will also need the following items:

  1. 5 x 4 foot lengths of 3/4 inch square tubing
  2. 1 x 4 foot length of 1 inch square tubing
  3. 1 x 3 foot length 2" x 2" hardwood (I didn't end up using the wood shown in the image)
  4. 4 x 3.5 inch nails
  5. 2 x 2 inch nails

Tools you will need:

  1. Chop saw with a blade for cutting metal
  2. MIG welder
  3. Angle grinder with grinder and zip cut blades
  4. Sand paper
  5. Hand saw for wood
  6. Metal file
  7. Drill and various bits

Step 2: Cut the Steel

There are many angled cuts for this project. I wouldn't suggest trying this project unless you have a chop saw or you know exactly what you are getting into. Please see the sketch to see what measurements I used (all from outer edge to outer edge). I wouldn't go any bigger in any dimension, unless you are the Hulk or you don't have any stairs.

Most of the angles are 45 degrees, except for the base of the two arches that come down to the basal rectangle. I elected to assemble the basal rectangle and get the wheels attached before trying to figure out the angle for these pieces. This was a good move because I wavered several times on the method of attaching the wheels, which would have affected this angle. Once I had the wheels on, I used a piece of paper and marker to draw the angle between the floor (horizontal like the top of the arches) and the basal rectangle (onto which arches were to be welded). I then brought that piece of paper to the chop saw and adjusted the angle to match the paper.

Step 3: Weld and Grind

Everything I have learnt about welding I learnt from YouTube (I am an amateur without a mentor...). I am not going to provide any advice here about technique. I welded four 3.5" nails into the corners of the arches which were going to keep the wooden handles in place, the shape of the handles will keep them from turning. In a rare show of forethought I also welded two nails into the basal rectangle near the wheel. These two nails were going to hold a shortened log permanently to keep some space between the first log and the wheels. Check out he picks in the last step to see what I mean.

Step 4: Attach Wheels

I initially wanted to tap the basal rectangle to screw the wheel bolts directly into the frame. However, I did not have the necessary bit to accomplish this (every so slightly narrower than the tap). So I instead welded two nuts on each side. I kept a bolt screwed in while welding to ensure that the threads would line up perfectly.

Step 5: Prepare Wooden Handles

The 2" by 2" wood I had left over from my stilts for halloween were slightly wider than the square tubing. To accentuate the symmetry, I made some square knobs that are flush to the arches and have similar dimensions. The total length of these pieces is the same as the width of the basal rectangle (10.5"). I used some leftover pieces of square tubing to measure the depth of the cuts to make with the hand saw. After making the cross on the top, you turn it on the side and cut off two of the squares then the other, leaving the "best" one in place. BE CAREFUL when cutting the squares off the other end: you need to preserve the same corner as the first one you carved out...

Once you have cut the pieces, you need to sand the edges to get a smooth finish. I used a stain I had on hand, and applied as many coats as required to get the color I wanted to match (the coffee table from the video). I then applied 3 coats of varnish to help preserve it.

Disastrous splitting of the wooden bars had a high probability so I decided to pre-drill some holes for the welded nails. I used a wider bit to make a pocket for the nail head and amateur welds to slip into.

Step 6: Assembly

I gave this step quite a lot of forethought because I didn't want any screws to show and the wooden bars were initially going to be the primary lateral supports. I changed the design by adding a cross bar at the top, joining the two arches. This creates tension across the top and keeps the wooden bars snugly in place. The order of assembly is very important:

  1. Weld basal rectangle;
  2. Weld the two arches and the corner nails;
  3. Carefully hammer the arches simultaneously into the wood bars, you could use an extra pair of hands for this step to hold the legs in the air. Don't worry if the wood squares are not totally snuggled into the corners, you will get an opportunity to smack them into place;
  4. Weld the arches onto the basal rectangle;
  5. Place the rack upside down into a vice or some sort of compression tool, put the top cross bar in place;
  6. Tighten the vice until the wooden bars are stuck against the two arches, if the cross bar is too long, loosen the vice, cut or grind off a piece, and try again.
  7. Using a piece of wood and a hammer, knock the wooden bars gently so that the squares get snug up in the corners;
  8. Weld the cross bar into place.

Step 7: Paint

You will want to protect your wood before you start to clean and paint the steel. I used newspaper and painter's tape to seal off the wooden parts, being very careful to cover the gaps around the squares. I then used a relatively fine sandpaper and gave all the steel a good scrub, and rubbed off all dust with a slightly damp rag.

Hang the frame from the ceiling if you can to avoid moving the cart around to reach all the surfaces. I used a black matte paint which worked great to hide my sloppy welds.

The key to avoid drips is keeping a distance of 8 to 10 inches from the piece and making not holding the nozzle down while going back and forth. Use sweeping motions and let go of the nozzle before changing direction. The paint dried within 15 minutes and I applied 4 coats within a couple hours. Let dry for 24 hours before loading it up.

Step 8: Wrap Up

This project was very satisfying mainly because I was able to use most of my favorite tools to build something of my own design to solve a real problem. A true life hack. I am particularly proud that I was able to foresee many of the functionality issues (wheels rubbing the firewood) and design issues (avoid seeing any screws holding the wooden bars) before implementing the mistake. Please let me know if you see any improvements any future builders could make.

Wood Contest

Participated in the
Wood Contest

Homemade Gifts Contest

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest