Introduction: Wheels for a Civil Defense Stretcher

About: I'm cheap and like to use what I have on hand and I really enjoy taking things apart to salvage parts. Rather than be a precise engineering type of person, I'm more of an enthusiastic tinkerer. Making things i…

My wife and I have three large dogs and participate in animal rescue. A few months ago we had situation where we really could have used a stretcher to move a wounded dog. So I acquired a civil defense era stretcher for future emergencies, and while it is robust the stretcher would be difficult for one person to use. In order to overcome this difficulty I decided to add wheels to one end of the stretcher so it would be easier for one person to move. However, I didn't  want the wheels to be permanently installed as there are instances when it would be better have a wheel-less stretcher. Here's how I did it.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

The materials (all reused items except the hitche pins) I used for this project are as follows:
  • 1 wood framed civil defense era stretcher
  • 2 plastic wheels (approximately 6" diameter)
  • 2 carriage bolts with holes in their end
  • 4 washers that fit over the bolts
  • 2 hitch pins that fit in the holes of the bolts
The tools I used for this project were:
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Drill bit sizer
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil/pen

Step 2: Wheel Positioning

The key to this project is placement of the wheels on the stretcher legs. The wheels have to be placed so they aren't inhibited by the hardware on the legs. I solved this by placing the wheels on the inside face of the legs as the majority of the hardware is on the outside face of the leg. Next I verified the wheel was centered on the leg was clear of the one piece of hardware on the inside of the leg.

With the wheel placed I passed a pen through the wheel to make a reference mark on the leg. This will be where we drill the hole for the bolt to pass through. I then measured the distance from the bottom of the leg to the reference mark and marked the opposite leg in a similar fashion. This way the wheels will be relatively even.

Step 3: Drilling Holes

With the reference marks placed in the last step it is time to drill the holes for the bolts. But we need to know the diameter of the bolts so we know how big a hole to drill. I used my drill bit sizer to determine the bolt is 5/16" in diameter. I placed the corresponding bit in my drill and made the needed holes at the reference marks.

Step 4: Wheel Attachment

With the holes drilled I slid a washer onto the bolt and then passed the bolt through the leg so the head was on the outside face of the leg. I then passed another washer over the end of the bolt, followed by the wheel. With the wheel in place I secured everything with a hitch pin.

The washers serve two purposes: They minimize wear around the edges of the holes and they help keep the wheels rolling straight so they won't bind at an inopportune moment.

The hitch pins allow the wheels to be installed or removed quickly while keeping all the parts in place.

Step 5: Complete

Here are pictures of the finished product. With the wheels in place it is possible to move it like an elongated wheelbarrow. The other set of legs can be deployed  to keep the stretcher elevated if needed. The wheels turn smoothly and I was able to move it over some uneven ground easily. The next test will be to try it out with a load in place.

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