Choosing the right casters can be key

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Dan Corbin posted 01-21-2013 10:49 AM 2843 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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,

8 comments so far

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3584 days

#1 posted 01-21-2013 11:14 AM

I have always been very careful selecting casters to put onto any rolling stock.
The first thing is to be aware that the very same casters are sold under different names and price points.
As a retired Mechanical Designer Engineer, I always research what the surface is that the “thing” rolls on, what static load is required and if brakes, levelers or combinations are needed. What is likely to be on the rolling surface will generally resolve the wear, size (dia) and free wheeling issues.
Personally I use cast iron casters where I can with tires or no tires to suit the application, bearings must be considered. Also consider what type of loading can be expected by the user, and is it a live load, distributed or point load, if the user does not know then I’ll make sure by using a point load calculation, which may give him 5 times what he thinks. Always add loading values to whatever the customer or manufacturer gives, play it safe.
Lastly, use bolts,and lock washers to fix the plate casters to the frame, lag screws are not a great idea as they are susceptible to shear damage should the caster reach an obstruction.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2259 days

#2 posted 01-21-2013 03:27 PM

Another consideration is diameter of the wheel. I work in an old garage and the expansion joints in the concrete are more like valleys (about 1” wide by 3/4” deep) and the small casters that come on many of the mobile bases simply drop into the grove and then I have to lift the tool out.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3457 days

#3 posted 01-21-2013 03:32 PM

Any suggestions about where to purchase top quality casters and wheels? I have some from Home Depot and they don’t look any better than the stuff at Harbor Freight. I use my cart for alot of art shows and transport my entire tent, displays, merchandise and other miscellaneous stuff.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3584 days

#4 posted 01-21-2013 11:01 PM

Greg, Amazon, especially when they are restocking, they sell of the stock in bins that have a new stock order arriving, they sell them real cheap.
Also Amazon own and industrial supply company called Small Parts, they have all manufacturer’s casters.

Another thing to consider when selecting casters, to rationalize what is really wanted. If the loading factor on, say a bench is to be say, 500 lbs. that’s ok, but exactly where is this load expected to be, sitting, moving or dropped down? Consider having 6 casters instead of 4, else you might end up with a monster of a bench frame to allow for contingencies. Frames do not have to be heavy and super beefy. Adequate bracings producing good load distribution, and with the addition of 2 more casters, then a lighter constructed dimensional frame will do. Also consider a 3 wheel arrangement as a solution depending on the intended use.

Brakes: I am disappointed with brakes that come on normal casters, they are often hard to get at and often with a swivel caster with brake for example, the bake always seems to be located at the opposite side you expect it to be. I use a threaded rod through the lowest brace, with a threaded insert. One end of the rod has a hand-wheel, the other end is a pivoting pad with sandpaper glued to the underside, – hence a good, easy to get to cranking system where the floor pad will pivot to the surface the floor and allow the bench to be leveled, to boot.

Sit down and study your problem, and you will be able to come up with ideas that use common parts where you can manufacture to suits all your requirements. It is not difficult.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View Dan Corbin's profile

Dan Corbin

57 posts in 2311 days

#5 posted 01-21-2013 11:50 PM

I would recommend Grainger Industrial Supply. While they might not be on sale or at a bargain price, they have a good selection of higher-quality casters, and they have warehouse locations all over the U.S. McMaster-Carr is another great source, but shipping cost is a big question mark with them…. McMaster is where I had picked my preferred casters for the carts.

-- ~ Dan, North Carolina,

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3584 days

#6 posted 01-22-2013 01:32 AM

Dan, here’s the caster manufacturer list that Amazon carries;
Access Casters (129)
Albion (556)
Amico (285)
Anaconda (4)
Best Choice Products (1)
Carlisle (3)
Caster Classics (4)
Caster Sets (5)
Caster Specialists (2)
Caster-Pro (101)
Cool Casters (953)
ER Wagner (1,676)
EZ Roll Casters (49)
Faztek (7)
Gilmour (1)
GlideRite Hardware (7)
Global Industrial (64)
Grip (10)
Grizzly (5)
Impact (1)
Industrial Tools (2)
Mainline Goods (1)
Manu-source (1)
Marathon (3)
Marathon Industries (1)
Metro (28)
Milwaukee (29)
MSI (1)
North American Caster Limited (2)
Northern Industrial (17)
Northern Tool & Equipment (33)
Nu-Wave Manufacturing, LLC (6)
Oajen (44)
PL (1)
Quantum (69)
Reid Supply Company (352)
Revvo Caster (70)
Rockler (35)
RSC (32)
Rubbermaid (158)
Rubbermaid® Commercial (6)
RWM Casters (607)
Safco (21)
Shepherd (10,684)
Steelex (69)
Uline (8)
Vestil (226)
Waxman (45)
WoodRiver (17)

Grainger carries good products also, but at higher prices. Amazon delivers them at a lower price.

The choice of manufacturer, supplier, price and delivery/collection is for everyone, their own choice.
Asking for help usually produces alternative resources and ideas, which become pointless when one’s mind is already made up.
Funny enough, in the Mechanical design world, a pointless request for a time and motion study or an alternative method or design, is likely to be refused by some Exec who already knew what he wanted. Waste of time and effort.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View clieb91's profile


3521 posts in 4084 days

#7 posted 01-22-2013 03:03 AM

All, Another good source for casters is from Northern Tool. I work with them a lot through work and I have purchased a number of casters for both work and home. The prices are good and the casters wear well. I have a set of them on my very overloaded lumber cart and have had no problem moving it when I have needed to.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3584 days

#8 posted 01-22-2013 04:07 AM

CtL, there are many good sources for good casters that will serve your needs.
Apart from selecting the required diameter for load considerations, for ground conditions expected and steering, a VERY important requirement is to select the CORRECT tire material for the ground conditions. Tire material selection can be difficult with synthetic rubbers and materials formulated to be used under specific ground/floor conditions. If in doubt, solid cast iron a wise choice, bearing choices are also available on them and often wheels are wider – sometimes wide tire wheels are expensive.

Good luck to anyone considering putting thing on wheels/casters, do your homework first and you’ll get many years use out of your mobile creation.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics