Introduction: Wooden Shop Cart: Overview
I just moved into a new house and am in the process of setting up a small shop in my garage to do various woodworking projects. While I am planning to build a nice large workbench, the majority of my tools are still boxed up and piled in the center of the space. I decided it made the most sense to build a small work/storage cart that I could get some things stored in and provide a space to work on when I build my full work bench and various wall racks.
My only criteria for the cart were that it be mobile, have some different size storage compartments to hold various power tools, and provide a decent space to do some work on top if need be. I settled on the design shown in the pictures. The design consisted of 3 primary spaces: two storage spaces on each side and one larger center chamber. I decided to use 1" x 2" lumber from the box store to build four rectangular frames which would provide the basic framework for the cart. I would then attach plywood to the exterior to actually form the cart.
This is a pretty straightforward project that even the most novice woodworker/maker can handle. If necessary, this entire project could be built with just a jig saw and drill.
Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I personally use, or think my readers will find useful.
Chop Saw (https://amzn.to/2P865YE)
Circular Saw (https://amzn.to/2SfP4xO)
Various Size Screws
1-2 sheets 15/32" thick plywood
1 sheet 3/4" thick plywood
4 or 5 - 1" x 2" x 8' lumber (just cheap pine from the local box store)
Measuring Tape (https://amzn.to/2QlpWZj)
I used cheap plywood and pine from the local Home Depot and Lowes since this was just intended to be a rough work cart. Obviously, you could get nicer stuff and class things up. You may be able to get away with one sheet of 11/32" thick plywood if you cut things from it creatively; however, if you want more shelves or change the dimensions you likely will need more.
Step 1: The Skeleton
So I decided to make some wooden frames that would provide the skeleton to which I could attach the plywood sides, see the above picture. These frames also served to roughly divide up the cart in to the three compartments I was looking for. I choose to cut mitered corners, this isn't necessary as it is more of an stylistic choice than anything else.
Taking the 1" x 2" lumber, use the chop saw to cut it down to the desired dimensions. I was making a cart with a width of 24" and a height of 30" so those were the numbers I was working with. To make the same design as me you will need 8 sticks each of the two lengths.
Using appropriate sized screws (not so large that they split the wood), assemble the skeleton frame. I put two small screws into each miter joint. I found that using a 90 degree clamp (https://amzn.to/2E3Lgg9) to hold the two pieces while screwing was very useful.
When this is done, you should now have 4 picture frame looking things.
NOTE: Feel free to stop at this point and use these as picture frames, if need be.
Step 2: The Exterior Compartments
Now with our four frames made we can go about putting the plywood skin on our cart. You need to plan how you are going to do this because as you put the plywood on, it will become harder to get inside and screw things down.
Step 1: Cut smaller rectangles of 11/32" plywood to join each set of frames together. Essentially we are making the sides of the two exterior compartments. I wanted the compartments to be 10" deep so I cut plywood that was 30" tall and 10" wide. Cut four of these pieces (unless you're making the compartments different depths).
Use 1 1/4" screws to mount these pieces to the frames you constructed in the previous step. Put as many screws as you feel necessary to get everything nice and tight. You should end up with two different box looking things that only have two sides.
Step 2: I wanted a shelf in one of the compartments so I cut two small pieces of 1" x 2" lumber to fit between the frames (see picture). Cut these with the chop saw and use a measuring tape/level to make sure you get them mounted at the same height. Screw them into the plywood that you just mounted.
Step 3: Cut a piece of plywood to fit inside the frame to act as a shelf. Measure/cut carefully and it should be a nice tight fit. Screw this down onto the small 1" x 2" pieces you just mounted.
Step 3: The Bottom and Wheels
I decided to mount the bottom of the entire cart now so that I could join the two frames together. Decide how wide you want you center compartment to be (I sized mine to fit my bench top band saw), and cut a large rectangular piece of 3/4" plywood using your circular saw.
Use some hand clamps to help hold things in the right spot and get the bottom piece aligned correctly, then mount it to the frames using screws. Make sure you mount it to the bottom of all four frames, not just the exterior two.
Now grab your casters and screw those on using appropriately sized screws. Spec these out to be able to handle the weight you are planning on putting on this cart.
Step 4: Center Compartment Walls
Now you should have something that vaguely resembles a cart that you can roll around. Grab your measuring tape and determine the dimensions of the plywood pieces that you need to cut to wall off the center compartment from the two exterior compartments. These will essentially be the backs of the two exterior compartments.
Cut these two pieces out with your circular saw and mount them into position. Use your square to make sure everything is being aligned correctly.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
We are almost there! Now we just need a top and we are in business. Grab your 3/4" plywood and cut a piece to fit your cart. I choose to cut mine to fit flush, you could also do an overhang of some kind.
And you're done!
Some finishing touches:
I decided to grab my router and a round over bit and just smooth out all the edges on the top and the corners of the cart.
Also, I just briefly hit the top with my orbital sander and some 60 grit paper to smooth the plywood a touch. I had some leftover cheap white paint from something else so I grabbed that and put a coat on the top just to make it look a little more finished.
I couldn't be happier with how it came out. The cart rolls around nicely, and has good storage space for my bench top band saw, wood clamps, and the majority of my hand held power tools.
Some thoughts on improvements:
- I'm considering adding a power strip so I can make a spot on it to charge batteries for my cordless tools
- Maybe a handle of some kind for easier handling
- Change out some of the casters for ones that lock so I can lock it in place if need be.
- Paint the rest of it?