Introduction: Mobile Shelf Unit / Storage Tote Cart

Needed a solution to hold all the totes that store Christmas decorations. This mobile shelf unit does the job, is easy to build and costs less than $60 in materials. I can easily move it around in my basement storage room, and even roll it to the stairs for loading and unloading. The shelves should each accomodate at least 2 totes, plus the top can hold our giant 9' Christmas tree box.

Step 1: Materials

• 1 - 4x8 sheet of osb plywood
• 6 - 2x4x8 studs
• 2 - 2x2x8 lumber
• 1# 2-1/2" screws
• Some 1-1/2" drywall screws
• 4 - 2" caster wheels - 2 straits, 2 crazies (swivel)

Note on the casters: There are lots of options here. I went with the cheaper 2" casters at Home Depot. The 2 swivel casters have brakes. You can go with 4 swivels for higher maneuverability, larger diameter, non-marking wheels. One other consideration: the load rating of the wheels. This cart is stout enough to hold a lot of weight. Consider how much weight you'll have on your cart when you buy your wheels.

Step 2: Cut the Frame Pieces

Cut List

  • 8 - 2x4x45"
  • 4 - 2x4x24"
  • 2 - 2x2x45"
  • 2 - 2x2x24"
  • 2 - 2x4x21"
  • 2 - 2x2x21"

Disclaimer: Never trust a cut list. - Said some smart person somewhere

Step 3: Cut the Shelf Panels

This step involves cross cutting the osb sheet to make the 3 shelf panels. For the bottom 2, cut the panels exactly 24" wide. I recommend adding a 1/4" to the top shelf. This can help if your frame is slightly out of square. Hey, this isn't a furniture grade project here!

Cross cutting sheets is a pain. I use a circular saw with a handy guide I made. More on that in a minute. When using a circular saw, put the good side of the wood face down. Because the blade teeth come up through the wood, the tear out will be on the top.

The guide really helps you cut straight, especially when reaching across a 4' sheet. The guide can be clamped right to the sheet, but make sure the clamps are out of the way of the left side of the saw. When you clamp your guide down, be sure to account for the kerf width of your saw blade. I marked my cuts 1/8" longer and they came out just right. Be sure to support the overhanging portion of the sheet. I have an adjustable height roller stand that works OK for this.

Step 4: Build the Side Frames

Assemble the 2 side frames by clamping and screwing the 2x4x45" studs together.

  1. Position the 2x4s using a block to make sure the ends of the wood are flush.
  2. Clamp firmly to hold them securely in place.
  3. Predrill one hole, then drive in a screw.
  4. Before drilling a 2nd hole, use a framing square to make sure that 2x4s are square with each other.
  5. Predrill and drive a 2nd screw.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 for the other side of the frame.
  7. When attaching the bottom 2x4 to complete the square, use a single screw in each corner.
  8. Now measure diagonally in an X pattern. You should have the same measurement for both diagonals. If not, your frame is "racked". Tweak until you get it square.
  9. With the frame square, predrill and drive more screws, installing 4 in each corner.
  10. Add the middle shelf support 2x2x45".
  11. Repeat to build a 2nd frame that is a mirror image of the first.

Step 5: Connect the Frames

The four 24" 2x4s will link the 2 frames together to form a box.

1. Set the frames upright.
2. Position the bottom end 2x4, using a block to ensure the ends are flush.
3. Clamp them bad boys together. A note about clamps: You could do without them, but they sure make it easier to get parts aligned and prevent shifting / slipping with drilling and driving fasteners.
4. Predrill and drive 2 screws.
5. Repeat for other end.
6. Attach the other three 2x4x24" and the 2x2x24" members in the same manner.

Step 6: Install the Wheels

1. Flip the box upside down and install the wheels with screws.
2. I decided to use some scrap 3/4" wood (2 pieces, cut to 24") to mount the wheels to.

Step 7: Install the Shelf Panels

1. The bottom and middle shelves must be notched in the corners.
2. Measure and mark using a square and a pencil. Allow for an 1/8 extra clearance. This will make it easier to drop in the panels. Cutting twice is no fun.
3. Place two of the shelves on a work surface, carefully align and clamp in place. This allows you to notch both sheets at the same time.
4. Drill a large hole in the corner as shown.
5. Carefully make 2 cuts using a circular saw.
6. Clean up the cut using a jigsaw.
7. Now, drop in the panels starting with the bottom. Use drywall screws to fasten them securely in place.
8. Lay the top panel in place, and carefully align. You may find that your box isn't perfectly square. No big deal. The extra width of this panel should help cover. Clamp in place and screw it down.

That's it. Load it up and wheel it around. Enjoy the storage.