When designing roll carts and mobile bases, some thought needs to go into the selection of your casters. Choose a caster that is suited for your needs, and you’re probably going to have to spend a fair bit of money on them. If you don’t—if you try to go the cheap route on your casters—then you will probably end up with headaches and a mouth full of foul language as you attempt the move your cart.
One of the great opportunities for me is I get to build things for Santa Claus. This past fall, I created a set of three mobile carts for Photos with Santa Claus at the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in Clemmons, NC. These carts would have to be moved from a closet inside of a building into a tent on the other side of a parking lot, almost every night for 6 weeks straight. Experience with my day job of being a mechanical designer told me that we needed big, robust casters. I wasn’t worried about weight capacity, because the carts wouldn’t ever come close to weighing what big casters would be able to hold.
The casters that I selected were a conservative $400 for all 16. Unfortunately, the entire build budget was only $600, and there was no way that I was going to be able to get the rest of the wood, paint, screws, etc for only $200…. So I let them talk me into buying little light duty 3” casters from Harbor Freight. All 16 casters cost me a total of $32—less than a tenth of my selection.
The casters stood up better than I had thought they wood. The first week went by without too many problems. The small wheels were catching every little crack, and the things inside and on top of the carts were bouncing like they were possessed while being wheeled across the parking lot. But by the third week, we had our first breakage. The fourth week saw another, and by the fifth week one whole cart was DOA and had to be left in the tent at the end of each night. When we broke down the tent, it took three guys to move the cart into the trailer to bring it back home.
Yesterday, my wife & I hobbled the downed cart enough that we could roll the cart into storage and out of the elements. We pulled these three broken casters off of one end of the cart (which is why it wouldn’t roll):
These casters were an utter mistake to use. Fortunately, it was only a $32 mistake—it could have been much more costly. But I’ve already talk to Santa Claus, and sometime this summer we’ll pull these carts back out of storage and replace the casters with the good-quality ones that I had previously selected.
-- ~ Dan, North Carolina, http://www.facebook.com/torahanjyuu/