Make a Hand Truck From a Shopping Cart in Minutes




About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

I need to move some stuff. I can't find my hand truck (moving dolly). Damn. I must have loaned it out.
Am I going to go buy another one? No. I'm going to make one from a shopping cart and frankly Scarlett, Tara the land, as God is my witness,  I'll never run out of hand trucks ever again!

It turned out great. Not only is it a good hand truck, it also works great as a four-wheeler floor dolly.

Time: It took an hour and fifteen minutes to build this while taking pictures, figuring out how to do it, and not rushing. The next one would take less than an hour.

    Tools Used:
safety glasses
dust mask
angle grinder with thin cutoff wheel
    with grinding wheel
I used my solar welder with spool gun and flux core welding wire. I wore my good respirator mask under the welding helmet. I don't want to get manganese poisoning.

You don't have a welder yet?  Make your own stick welder or weld from car batteries.

Step 1: Donor Cart

I got this bent shopping cart off the train tracks in Emeryville. A train removed the basket, which was a big improvement. I've been using it as a lowboy dolly ever since. Turned on its side it almost looks like a hand truck already!

Step 2: Surgical Planning

If your shopping cart is still all in one piece, figure out where you're going to cut the basket etc. off. Here I draw the line to cut the handle and rear cross brace off.
I've already removed the heavy wire bottom platform. Save it. You'll need it later.

Step 3: The Incision

Wear safety glasses at least. A grinding face shield, dust mask and leather apron is even better.
I'm using an angle grinder with a thin cutoff wheel. Cut off everything except the bottom platform and wheels.

Step 4: Bend the Frame Narrower

Now the frame is a simple U shape.
Bend it narrower so it won't hit door frames etc.

Step 5: Bend the Wheels Straight

Squishing the frame in makes the wheels not be parallel any more.
These wheels were already bent out of line by the train that hit it.
I use a vice and the gap under the shipping container to bend the wheels straight again.

Step 6: Weld the Lattice to the Scoop

I got a sheet of 1/8" steel out of the scrap bin and used a wire brush to clean the rust off it.
I welded the wire lattice bottom platform from the shopping cart to the sheet of steel, forming the scoop of the dolly.

I used my solar welder with spool gun and flux core welding wire. I word my good respirator mask under the welding helmet. I don't want to get manganese poisoning.

You don't have a welder yet?  Make your own stick welder or weld from car batteries.

Step 7: Weld That to the Frame and Wheels

Next I welded that to the wheels/frame assembly.
I welded in two chunks of angle iron between the scoop and frame to fill a gap and give the assembly more strength there.

Be sure to paint your dolly. If you paint it bright pink macho people won't want to keep it. Put your contact information on it. Who knows, you might get it back the next time someone steals it.

Step 8: Paint It Now

Paint it right now. Otherwise any bare metal will rust and your fine project won't look like a real thing. Painting something all one color does a miracle of making some cobble-together monstrosity look like a "unified design".

I used silver engine paint because I got some for free. It almost matches the original chrome color, so I don't need to be very careful.

Damn it looks good!

Step 9: Did I Steal That Cart?

Speaking of stealing, young philosophers tend to get excited about the idea that projects built from shopping carts are unethical because they entail stealing. Don't worry. There are lots of ways to get shopping carts without stealing them. The ones you want are discarded by stores. You can ask and they'll gladly give them to you.

But if you'd rather do it the Cheney American way, you can game the Law. Find them as lost, mislaid, or abandoned property. Look that up to see which best applies. Or you can honestly intend to someday return the cart to the store, or you can believe that the store owes you this much value.
Under our laws, theft is only the
1: knowing
2: taking of the property of another
3: with the intent
4: of permanently depriving them of it.
So there you have it, act without those elements and you've got four solid defenses against a charge of theft.

I really wish Dick Cheney and our other Great Men had made a massive hobby out of stealing shopping carts instead of what they actually did.
I'd like the young philosophers to get upset about the "big game" of moral guilt. Our collective participation in state sponsored kidnapping, torture, aggressive war, genocidal land and resource theft, a series of undeclared wars, imperialist trade policy, overthrowing democratic regimes and installing police-state dictatorships, etc. etc.
There are reasons why we 5% of the world's population get to consume 30% of the world's stuff. It's by playing hard and not playing fair for a very long time.



    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest
    • Remix Contest

      Remix Contest
    • Faux-Real Contest

      Faux-Real Contest

    39 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    THis looks very handy!

    If you are interested, here´s another shopping-cart-related project that I just finished:


    9 years ago on Step 9

    1: knowing
        You know someone else stole that shopping cart.
    2: taking of the property of another
        You know that it doesn't belong to you.
    3: with the intent of permanently depriving them of it.
        You know you're never giving it back, no matter how much you "honestly" intend to.

    Let's apply some Kantian principles: if it is ethical for you to do this, then it is
    ethical for everyone to do this. Imagine that world. Is that too much philosophy for you?

    And your justification that the store "owes" you this shopping cart: do you think that profit is theft?

    You are not excused for your petty crime just because Georgey and Dickey
    were enormous criminals that happened to lead this country, of for the behavior
    of this country via its foreign policy.

    The fact that you have made an entirely separate step to defend the theft of a shopping cart indicates that you are in a gray enough area, ethically, that you feel exposed to criticism.

    I will grant you that the cart was damaged beyond repair before you took it from a railroad right-of-way, and that no store was going to want it back after that. You could have left it at that, and allowed other people the option of their own ethical choices. I don't know why you went on to condone theft.

    You call your detractors "young philosophers". What have you got against young people? Do you think that you are excused for your petty crime just because you are old? What is it?

    5 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Stealing a shopping cart from the store is not right, but if you found it beat up and broken by a railroad track, I think your are OK. No store would want it back.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    "No store would want it back."

    You could, of course, *test* this theory by taking the cart back to the store whence it came, ask them if they want it back, and if they say "no" it's all yours. You clearly just got permission from its rightful owner to keep it.

    But you don't seem overly concerned with that.

    You do seem concerned that the rightful owner isn't interested in rewarding your honest behaviour. Which is strange, because if you think about it, would *you* reward people for bringing things back, when you have no idea who stole it in the first place, and it happens on a weekly basis? You may as well pay people to steal things from you.


    On more though: If you really find a shopping cart by the railroad or in the woods and it really is "abandoned property" (the store doesn't want it back), wouldn't you be doing the world a favor by picking up litter and making good use of of it instead of letting it rot and pollute the land?


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 9

    Those are the standard defenses against a charge of theft. When you take a bar review course to become a lawyer that's what they teach you.
    An audio recording of a bar review course is where I learned it.

    This particular cart belongs to me under "abandoned property" law. Which I learned about the same way. The store does not want it back.

    Re: foreign policy, theft of Indian land, and the kitchen sink, we live in a moral environment full of hypocrisy (doing one thing and saying another) so huge we can barely see it. But little stuff like a shopping cart seems to jump right out at people.

    Thanks for caring! and I really mean that. There are a lot of sleepwalkers among us.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Tim, you are living proof that a correctly functioning mind is still a possibility in America. Thank you for the many years of creative inspiration you have graciously provided (at no charge!) for the many of us in this country who are not afraid to think outside the box, physical, mental, spiritual or political, that mass media and inferior, politically-gamed education has trapped contemporary American society in.

    Your philosophy on playing fair is plainly evident, and I find it offensive that some of these guys attempt to slam you without admitting that you very plainly told the reader not to steal a cart, but to ask for a damaged one from a place of business.

    And I couldn't agree with you more on the disgusting behavior of the government during the disastrous (in EVERY way possible) tenure of the Bush/Cheney administration. Thank God for our children's sake and the future of the planet that they are gone.

    And thank God you're still here as a testament to real American ingenuity. A long life and much happiness to you.

    This has got to be the most useful "wheely" I've made... I welded the lower castors in the straight line position on mine, that way when used flat ie on all wheels it is much more controllable.


    8 years ago on Step 9

     I've re-purposed several shopping carts, and plan on making an instructable or two out of the process.  I've never felt bad about tapping from the vast resource of abandoned carts,buggies,trolleys or whatever you call them locally.  The average unit cost to the retailers is 75-100 dollars.  I believe the most expensive models are somewhere around $400.  Shopping cart theft/loss costs retailers about 800million/year world wide.  Would you believe that if you bring a lost cart back to it's home, the owner won't reward you for your good deed?  I've tried.  So, screw 'em, I'm getting free welding carts, hand dollies, furniture, tool carts, automechanic's creepers and whatever else I can think of making out of them.  And when the pang of compassion for the poor retailer's loss hits me, I generally do the right thing and at least return the portions of cart that I don't use back to their lot.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    i was actually looking for go cart frame nd this came up nd this was a realy great idea ima realy have to try this it will work!!!! for a go cart frame


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 9

     Oh, I should clarify that I've never stolen a cart from a retailer.  I happen to live in a part of town where they tend to show up right in front of my driveway from time to time.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    That's what I was thinking, perhaps even the manufacturer. As an example,


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nifty!  My father made one very similar to this years and years ago - and before anyone thinks they need to rag on my deceased father for the crime of shopping cart theft, it was an old, rusty shopping cart from a building he was demoing, the store was no longer even in business, and rather than throwing it in a landfill, he brought it home and re-purposed it.  :)

    Dear old Dad did one thing a bit different with the dolly he built, that I find extremely handy, so I figured I'd share it with you.  He made the handle adjustable so you can use it in the upright position as seen here, or remove the handle and replace it at a 90 degree angle and use it as a cart (while it is resting on all four wheels.)  This way, you can stand upright to pull it along.  It's very useful for hauling multiple bags of gravel, dog food, etc.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    yeah, its just a good idea to reuse something that might get thrown away otherwise, there was really no need for politics IMHO


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    There's a lot of history behind why we have so much stuff going into our landfills, I guess you can call it politics, but it's a whole mess of ideas we hand back and forth and guide our big collective projects. These values, visions, philosophy get argued into laws and legal decisions, but the basis is the values and visions of how a good life should be lived and what a country should achieve.
    Sometimes I feel like an ant in an anthill, and the whole colony gets the message "hard work is something to be proud of" and we all work hard and mind our business and some other anthill gets the message "A gentleman must have soft hands and a clean suit" and our ants outwork their ants and before long our anthill is much bigger and has consumed theirs. And part of it is big decisions and shrewd or crazy leaders on both sides and major events, but most of it is the aggregate work of the ants going this way or that way, and making it possible for the historic events to happen. I want to be an ant learning to live the right way and pushing the right way, and sometimes I just have to get all American. 1st amendment: you can complain! 2nd amendment: and play with guns! 1.5 amendment: complain with guns! well maybe not :) 

    I tell my mom I'm going to put a horse trailer in my back yard. She starts telling me about ordinances and regulations and neighborhood standards and probably I can't do that or half the other things everyone ought to be doing damn it. So I say "It sure is a shame what the Americans have done to this country". Have you seen a Homeowner's association or a standard Condo agreement? You can't hang your laundry out to dry or park a car with the name of your business on the door! What country is this? And a lot of other rules and busybodies who really think they know how everyone else should live and look like wear you down. So then I can't do my hobbies in peace, and a simple thing like just wanting to reuse something that might get thrown away turns into a big ordeal and I start ranting in ways that sound political.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     I understand where your coming from. and I loved the project, i thought it was very well put together and very creative. And i think its great that you repurposed something instead of it ending up in a landfill.  Its just that i feel this isn't the place to share political ideas.