Design for Shop Carts

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Forum topic by Paul D posted 01-03-2014 09:58 PM 4358 views 1 time favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Paul D

9 posts in 1858 days

01-03-2014 09:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shop furniture cart plywood design question

I’m trying to put together a simple design for some rolling shop carts, similar in form to the ones in a recent FWW article ( but customized for some of my specific tools.

The basic idea would be that the carts would be constructed from a hardwood frame, with ply panels. I can imagine building just the paneled sides / back just with rails and stiles with a floating plywood panel – seems simple enough.

What I am less sure on is constructing the base. I have seen some plans for smaller carts where rail and stile panels are rabbeted on the bottom and just attached directly to a bottom cut from sheet goods. I’m not sure that this approach would work for a larger cart, given that I want a cart roughly 3’ x 2’, it seems like a plywood bottom would have sag issues.

I can see doing a complete frame out of hardwood, which I’m sure would be sufficiently rigid, but I’m wondering if this is overkill and I’m missing a simpler / easier approach.

Thanks for your help!

13 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3023 posts in 2220 days

#1 posted 01-04-2014 01:44 AM

Paul, I have never done this, but 3 potential solutions come to mind. 1. Dovetail the sides to the base using all plywood. The dovetail is the strongest joint and might be sufficient depending on the load. 2. Make the sides and bottoms out of plywood and add gussets set into dados and glue and screw them into place. This IMO would be stronger than dovetails. 3. Again, make the sides and base out of plywood, but add a strip of hardwood (cleat) that is glued and screwed into from the sides and bottoms through the plywood. I think this would be the weakest of the 3 options. FWIW

-- Art

View JAAune's profile


1786 posts in 2280 days

#2 posted 01-04-2014 06:18 AM

Here’s the design we’re using in the shop. We’ve got 6 of these and they take a lot of abuse. Oftentimes two of them are put together and we’ll load 20+ sheets of plywood on top when a wood order comes in.

The legs are just 3/4” hardwood with a lock miter joint at the corners. The MDF shelves slide into dados cut into the insides of the legs and are pinned in place with 1/4” dowels and glue. The edging on the shelves are made from 3/4” stock with rabbets cut along the length. They just get glued in place.

The key is to buy good quality casters and make sure they’re fastened securely to the bottom. We’ve had some fall off because the screws worked loose. Machine screws bolted through the MDF are best.

Those particular wheels cost about $30 each but they roll so smoothly you can give the carts a mild shove and watch them scoot across the shop.

An added benefit is that they are all 1/2” shorter than the tablesaw and can be used to help position material for easy access when working at the saw.

You could probably remove the middle shelf and add just about any sort of cabinet in place.

-- See my work at and

View Jason W. Fudge's profile

Jason W. Fudge

35 posts in 1746 days

#3 posted 01-05-2014 07:54 PM

Good casters definatley make the cart easier to move. I just put on some locking casters that I [icked up from Home Depot. Wow, do they make a difference. I got these:

What is great about them is that when you lock them, they not only lock the wheel but also lock the rotating base part too. I have them on my table saw/router table. I can move the thing around with one hand easily and it is pretty heavy.

I also have these that I use on some other carts. They ar eon my wood cart, that gets really heavey and I can move it no problem.

For two of my carts/tables I doubled up the plywood to make the top more solid and add weight to it. My glue up/ clamping table is made from three layers of 3/4 ply that I had left over from a project. My tablesaw/router table is four layers thick. I may have ovr done it, but the tables are solid and I had the wood laying around with really no purpose for it at the time. For the legs and frames on both I used 2×4s.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3160 posts in 3194 days

#4 posted 01-05-2014 09:34 PM

I made my mobile workstation specific to my needs. It has worked out great. I have a blog detailing the construction and pics, along with some links to projects that gave me the inspiration to build this cart.

Shop Notes Vol 21, Issue No 124.

Good luck.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2756 days

#5 posted 01-09-2014 12:54 AM

Got this from a WWGOA video. Really sturdy design. The drawers are really handy. Best I can remember it was about 60 bucks. 1 sheet of plywood, casters and drawer slides. I made a face frame from a piece of maple I had laying around.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View fuigb's profile


474 posts in 2921 days

#6 posted 01-09-2014 01:19 AM

Shop Notes in ‘11 (or maybe ‘10) featured a plan for a damn sturdy rolling table / cart made largely from 2×4 stock. Sounds like a wreck but it’s very sturdy and handles all sorts of abuse. I adapted the plan and made two, and frankly I’d be disappointed if I had to trade them for the FWW project pictured in the op’s link.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2467 days

#7 posted 01-09-2014 03:33 AM

Stumpy Nubs designed and built a shop cart that was very impressive. If you haven’t started yours yet you should take a look.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View JoeO's profile


1 post in 2092 days

#8 posted 01-28-2014 02:11 AM

I had the same thought about those carts in FWW and have spent the last few hours researching and trying to find plans or blogs that detail construction. I think the reason there are no plans for these carts in FWW is that they appear to be made from a rolling shop cart plan in ShopNotes magazine (Issue 90, Nov. 2006). That was one of the few pictures I found that even resembled the carts in the FWW article. After downloading the pictures and looking at them for a little bit, it dawned on me that they are essentially the exact same thing. The drawers and open spaces along the long sides have been modified to fit his needs, but the shelves on the short sides look identical. In the FWW article, it mentions that he used a sheet of 3/4 MDF and a sheet of 3/4 phenolic ply on the top; the ShopNotes online extras (available for free at mention use of 3/4 MDF and 1/4 Hardboard. I like the phenolic way better, but it’s pricey, so I’ll probably just use some laminate on top of 2 layers of MDF. As for how the bottom of the cart is put together, the cut list from ShopNotes mentions a top, two sides, and a bottom made out of plywood. So my guess is that it’s built like a box and then corner pieces, trim, and edging added to give it its final shape and dimensions. By the way, I didn’t buy the FWW issue the OP is referring to, but I bet I spent a good 10 minutes looking at it in the bookstore today. I also don’t own that old issue of ShopNotes, just going off of the freely available extras from their website. Good luck!


View bigblockyeti's profile


5090 posts in 1684 days

#9 posted 01-28-2014 02:24 AM

Can’t remember where I saw the plans, but I saw some nice shop carts where you get two carts, each with two shelves out of a single 3/4” x 4’ x 8’ sheet of plywood. I think they showed them having been made from Baltic birch for stability. All you needed to add were screws and swivel casters.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2813 days

#10 posted 01-28-2014 06:06 PM

If you’re moving heavy stuff, weaving through the shop, you may wish to consider six casters, the middle two being fixed and about 1/8” lower than the others, as you see in the first image.

In the second and third is a combination we have three of: box carts, so you don’t have to bend over so far when you’re moving/processing multiple parts, which can also be reduced to platform dollies when one must move large stuff that resists lifting it high off the floor.

The six wheeled carts are just assembled with glue and screws. The top rail is wide to prevent racking. These carts are exactly the height of the work tables so stuff can be slid one way or another.

They are not examples of the resident woodworkers’ high art. They are simple, cheap, strong, and quickly built.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Farrout's profile


185 posts in 3117 days

#11 posted 01-28-2014 06:40 PM

I use roll around tool boxes with my tools mounted on top.
Here is a link to one of my projects.

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I should be a genius!

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2467 days

#12 posted 01-28-2014 07:58 PM

View RHaynes's profile


112 posts in 1583 days

#13 posted 01-28-2014 08:10 PM

Make sure you have your casters in hand before picking the base material. Been there, done that. Wound up with a cabinet that was not at its target height. I have several self-made shop carts that hold tools (router table, oscillating spindle sander, chop saw, combo bandsaw/planer). All of the bases are 3/4” plywood. No sag issues and I’ve never had any reason to question their strength. A couple use a 2×3 frame construction covered in plywood panels and the others are just boxes made of 3/4” plywood and pocket holes. Truth be told, they’re equally strong. The only difference was the two with internal frames were a bigger PITA to make. Unless the tool you’re putting on top is ridonkulously heavy, a 3/4” plywood box is plenty strong. The plywood is very strong turned on its side, and with all six sides properly joined together, there’s not much chance of racking. I don’t see the need to spend time on complicated joinery for a shop cart. If it breaks, fix it or make another one.

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

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