Shopping Cart Furniture! - Part 1 -





Introduction: Shopping Cart Furniture! - Part 1 -

About: dreaming it and doing it!

Living in the city has its ups and it has its perk is that there is a plethora of abandoned materials hanging about just waiting to be taken home to be upcycled!  For those of you living in an urban setting, you're no stranger to seeing these urban eyesores hanging out in alleys and abandoned lots. I'm talking about shopping carts, its time to turn those bits of rusting metro trash into something super funky, functional, and fun...  FURNITURE!!  In this series of instructables I will guide you through the basics of making your very own shopping cart furniture to be used indoors or out.

Step 1: Find Some Abandoned Shopping Carts

Shopping carts are easy to find here in the mighty metropolis of Houston. They seem to be birthed out of thin air and then abandoned and forgotten in every corner of every neighborhood.  If you live in a similar setting scope out parking lots, alleys, and abandoned lots, you're sure to find one or two.  If you live in an area that is relatively clean and/or limited on resources you can always check with garbage dumps, recycling facilities, or even contact stores directly to see if they have some carts that are broken or no longer in use. 

***NOTE:  It is NEVER okay to steal and it is NOT okay to take shopping carts from is against the law to drive into a store parking lot, load up a cart, and take it will probably end up in some sort of trouble, or worst case in jail. Remember to use good judgement and remain lawful in the collecting of your materials.

Step 2: Gather Materials

For this instructable you'll need a few simple tools, some creativity, and a whole lot of elbow grease.
  1. A shopping cart
  2. An idea
  3. Socket wrench, standard wrench, or 4 way lug wrench sized to the wheel bolts
  4. Heavy duty bolt cutters
  5. A dremel
  6. Dremel attachments (reinforced cutting wheels, grinding wheels, sanding wheels, and wire polishing brush)
  7. 2" PVC Pipe or other sturdy tubing
  8. At least two clamps
  9. A crow bar or other sturdy tool strong enough to be used as a steel bending lever.
  10. Safety Goggles
  11.  Protective gloves
  12. A dust mask

***Note:  If you do not own a dremel you can use a hack saw, angle grinder, or any other tool that is strong enough to cut through steel.

Step 3: Plan Your Design

Go ahead...have a seat in front of your shopping cart...have a look and a thought about it.  Brainstorm ideas, designs and concepts that may suit your own personal tastes.  You can turn to magazines, books, or the internet for inspiration.  Map it out on paper, in your head, or directly on your shopping cart.  It is important to know what you are doing before you make any first cuts or bends.  I can tell you from experience that steel is very unforgiving!

Step 4: Remove Any Plastic Gaurds or Extra Pieces

Many shopping carts have plastic guards on the corners and handle bars.  The first thing I did was remove all these pieces.

Step 5: Making the First Set of Cuts you've thought out your design carefully and planned your moves.  Its time to make the first cuts!! I wanted this chair to have extra support in the front so I opted to cut and free the front most wire panel from the rest of the cage making sure to leave the bottom part still attached.  This can be done easy enough with bolt cutters.  Please see notes on picture to see where i cut.

Step 6: Making the First Set of Bends

Alright, pop on those protective gloves and get ready to bend steel like superman!  Grab the front panel with both hands placed at an even distance from the sides, slowly pull the panel toward you until it is forms a straight surface with the bottom of the cage.  Then, flip the cart onto its back end.  Using the same technique continue to bend the front panel until it forms a 90 degree angle with the bottom of the cage. Please refer to the series of pictures to get a visual idea of what things should be looking like at this point.

***Note:  Its important to not over bend or stress the metal.  Once the metal is bent it then becomes hardened steal and cannot be put back into place. Do not try to rebend or work out any kinks 1. because things will NEVER line up the same way again 2. because the integrity of the steel will become compromised leading to breakage or an unsafe product.  Just go with what the metal wants to do, its better in the end and adds character to your chair!

Step 7: Removing the Front Wheels

The front wheels are easy to remove using any kind of wrench that you have on hand.  These bolts were screwed on extra tight, so I opted to go with a 4 way lug wrench/standard wrench combo.  Whatever gets the job done!

***Note: Wheels and wheel brackets can be saved for later use on another project!

Step 8: Removing the Rear Wheel Brackets

Using a dremel equipped with either a reinforced cutting wheel or one specifically designed for metal, remove the rear wheel brackets by cutting through the center of the weld.

****Note:  Remember safety first!  There will be sparks, loud noises, and flying debris during this step.  Be sure to wear your dust mask and safety goggles... Metal dust + Sharp objects = sad lungs and eyes :(...

Step 9: Making the Second Set of Cuts for the Arm Rest

I wanted this chair to have arm rests, so I used bolt cutters to make two cuts on each side in order to free the side panels from the rest of the cart. Please refer to the images to see exactly where I made these cuts.

***Note:  If you haven't gathered by now, you should be making symmetrical cuts on both sides of the cart.

Step 10: Preparing to Make the Arm Rests

Clamp a 2" piece of pvc pipe or other solid cylindrical object to the side panel of the shopping cart.  You'll want to clamp it in the place that you want the metal to bend.

***Note:  You can use any side pipe for this.  Larger pipe will provide a larger bend while a smaller pipe will yield a narrower bend.

Step 11: Bending the Arm Rests Into Place

There are two parts to this step.  The first part is to use the same technique that you used in step 6 to bend the side panel down partially.  Please refer to picture #1 in this step.  Do this to both sides.  After you make this initial bend for BOTH arms, flip the cart over and use a crowbar or other sturdy device as a lever to coax the steel into place and around the pvc pipe.  I made a series of bends using a crowbar, moving it and bending the steel wherever I noticed it should be more rounded.  Then I flipped the cart right side up and used the crowbar to do some GENTLE shaping and to even out the bend.

***Using a crowbar for this step instead of your hands will save you time, energy, and lots of wrist strength.

Step 12: Taking Off the Handle Bars

Using a dremel and cutting blades, saw off the handle bar to create a more refined look.  This step is completely optional, leave the handle bar on for a more obvious "shopping cart" look.

Step 13: Sanding the Rough Edges

Now you've got a chair! But you've probably noticed by now that it is full of jagged corners and sharp edges.  We don't want you or anyone else who sits in your new chair to get hurt, so now is the time to grab that grinding bit for your dremel and smooth out all that sharpness.  You can take it a step further and use a sanding bit followed by a polishing bit to give the chair a more finished look.

Step 14: TADA!!

And tada!! You've created a unique and useful product out of something that would other wise be rusting up the city scape.  These make great additions to patios or gardens but can also be used indoors for something fun! The good thing about using shopping carts as outdoor furniture is that its already weather resistant!   Please stay tuned for part two of this instructable, where I will show you how to make a lounge chair with matching ottoman out of a single plastic shopping cart.

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    29 Discussions

    Were are you going to get a shopping cart

    Love the idea! For the boy/girl scouts with the moral dilemmas - I have yet to see a shipping cart in an alley, or anywhere, that still had the plastic store ID pieces on it. Cunning cart thieves usually remove the plastic first in case they are interrogated about where they got the goods. International stolen cart rings will usually strip the carts down and sell the parts individually, sometimes they ship them whole for a "collector" who will want a specific cart to go in their private collection I don't condone stealing of any kind, but stores raise prices largely based on global consumerism and the basic fact that they just can because they know people will still herd into the store and buy the products instead of toughing it out enough to take a stand against ridiculous price gauging. Shopping carts may be a small excuse, but they are not the only reason for outrageous prices. Thanks for letting me get on the soapbox, but something had to be said...

    Great ideas!
    I live on the north shore of Quebec, Canada, and, a few years ago, a shopping cart was found on our school ground after a snowstorm. We took it in and I decided to convert it so I could use it to teach. You see, I teach English in an elementary French school and I don'T have a classroom. So I have to go from class to class with all my material to teach the kids from grade 1 to 6. I have so much stock - books, pencils, cd player, dictionaries, etc - that only a shopping cart makes it possible to have everything at once! Since then, I love my cart and I keep improving it!
    To finish, I wanted to show you a pic, but it doesn't seem possible.

    2 replies

    Thanks, luv the name by the way! Teachers are so special in this world, thank you for all you do. I'd love to see a pic! There should be an add picture option or upload option right below the comment box if you are viewing the full website. There is no upload option using the mobile version can also email me a pic if that option is available to you. Thank you for sharing!

    It's my nickname taken from an old kid tv show. I will try to post a pic soon again. I saw the options, but it didn't work. At first, I was frustrated not having a decent classroom, but now, the kids and I love this cart that has become my trademark!

    Great ideas!
    I live on the north shore of Quebec, Canada, and, a few years ago, a shopping cart was found on our school ground after a snowstorm. We took it in and I decided to convert it so I could use it to teach. You see, I teach English in an elementary French school and I don'T have a classroom. So I have to go from class to class with all my material to teach the kids from grade 1 to 6. I have so much stock - books, pencils, cd player, dictionaries, etc - that only a shopping cart makes it possible to have everything at once! Since then, I love my cart and I keep improving it!
    To finish, I wanted to show you a pic, but it doesn't seem possible.

    Great idea! as a modification option, I would have left the back end attached (where the wheels go) so you could attach an automotive spring to make this a rocker if you want.

    1 reply

    Arnoldroff, thanks! Great idea, i would never have thought of that. Maybe if yoinget around to making one you'll come back to share pictures? I'd love to see this!

    On the topic of ethics vs stealing. For the most part I agree with all of you. If property is found it should be returned to its rightful owner. Some carts that have become abandoned were indeed stolen by someone at some point (well all of them actually). It is best to contact the store directly and discuss the issue fully. If the cart has become dilapidated or unusable in some way, my judgement call is that it then becomes garbage and litter and is fair game. Without becoming some sort of ahopping cart crusader my .$0.02 is to do what sits right within your own moral reasoning and judgement. Cheers to you all for being decent human beings, and thank you for the discussion.

    1 reply

    After giving my own words some thought, I'd like to expand upon my previous comment. While it is my personal belief that people should do what sits right within their own moral reasoning and judgement, I acknowledge that this is nothing short of a broad personal opinion therefore would also like to address this issue from a societal perspective. As you all are presumably aware we do coexist within this human concept we label as "society". A society that is governable through various laws which have been set in place to keep "order amongst the people". If you are a person who desires to harmonize with the principles of society then the obvious course of action would be to abide by the governing concept of the law. In other words, do what is lawful and right by the basic standards of society.

    Excellent job! Well written and explained tutorial. What would you charge to make two frames that more or less match, smooth them so they are pillow ready (I'll cut and sew the pillows), and ship them to New Jersey?

    1 reply

    Microfarm, thank you mucho! If you'd like to discuss the purchase of an item further in detail you may contact me via email to set up direct correspondence.

    I don't think it is ok to take abandoned carts either. They are still property of the store unless they are damaged and unusable then it becomes a matter of too much trouble for them to collect and repair.

    This instructable is showing how to rework stolen materials, but I would not have as much a problem with it if it was "what to do with destroyed shopping carts." There are plenty of those around thrown in our creeks and laying around our streets that can't be used by anyone anymore.
    As others have said most stores will pick up lost carts if you call them. In the end returning lost carts will save us all money.

    Great 'struable. On the topic of ethics . . .

    Some companies will retrieve their cart when notified. Sometimes the person who takes the call doesn't pass it on properly and it may take a second call. Or more. Sometimes I get sick of looking at one and take it back to where it came from. Hard if you don't have a vehicle that allows that. Some companies pay to get carts repaired, some don't.

    Some carts don't have a store name on them and while the ethical thing might be to return the cart, if there are many stores in the surrounding area where do you take it? So it's not a 100% always case of theft.

    I try to live by "Two wrongs don't make a right." So I'm still on the lookout for a cart I can't tell where it's supposed to go back too. . Then I can use this information.

    Just my .02

    Many of those "abandoned" shopping carts were, in fact, stolen from the stores by people who walked home with them full of merchandise and then just dumped them in the alley. If the cart is in good condition, the moral thing to do would be to return it to the store. That scores you "good karma", and in the long run, helps to keep the cost of goods down.

    Contacting stores and asking about obtaining broken carts would also be an honorable way to go.

    Ya know using abandoned carts is no different than stealing them. And we all complain about high prices at the stores, this is one of the reasons. Just sayin