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Car caddy: mobile storage makes car care quick and convenient.

Professional mechanics don't waste time wandering around their shop hunting for tools. Instead, they roll a tool chest right up to the car so all their gear is within reach. That's the idea behind this rolling cabinet. It provides organized, mobile storage for all your maintenance gear, from cleaning supplies to fluids and basic tools.

Even though this project is all about building a cabinet, you don't have to be a seasoned woodworker to build it. The construction is simple. Everything is glued together and end-screwed or nailed together--no fancy joinery here. The whole cabinet is built from 1-1/2 sheets of 3/4-in. plywood and one sheet of 1/2-in. (we chose birch). If you have some experience using hand and power tools, you can build this cart in one weekend for about $100. You'll need a few special tools, such as a self-centering drill bit and a 1-in. Forstner bit. You could drive nails by hand, but a pneumatic brad nailer will speed up assembly. If you don't have a table saw, you can cut the plywood using a circular saw guided by a straightedge.

One-stop shopping

All the tools and materials you need are available at home centers (see Materials List, p. 40). Home centers stock plastic laminate in only a few colors. But at most home centers you can special-order almost any color. Some stores will even have it delivered right to your front door for an extra $10 or so.

Cut and assemble the plywood parts

Cut the large cabinet parts to size. Figure B helps you get the most out of each sheet of plywood, while the Cutting List on p. 34 shows you the dimensions. Hold off on cutting the trim parts to length at this point. It's smarter to measure and cut them to fit after the cabinet takes shape.


Assemble the four cabinet box sides (A) first. Spread a thin layer of glue on the edges. If you have a brad nailer, pin the sides together with a few 1-1/2-in. brads. After all four sides are glued and pinned, drill 1/8-in. holes and screw the sides together with 2-in. screws and finish washers. If you don't have a brad nailer, use screws and glue only. Skip the washers and countersink the screws wherever the screws will be covered by other pieces. Then add the pair of drawer rails, leaving a 5-1/4-in. space for the drawer (Photo 1). They're in two parts simply to make the rail thicker to act as a divider between the doors and the drawer.


Install the cabinet drawer slides and shelf standards (Photo 2) before you install the back. Space the standards using plywood scraps. Look at the numbers stamped on the standards to be sure you don't install them upside down. Use a self-centering bit set in the screw holes for drilling pilot holes. Then screw on the base panel and anchor each caster with 1-in. No. 12 screws (Photo 3).


Laminate the drawer/ door fronts and top

Plastic laminate is optional for this project. You could skip it and coat the parts with polyurethane instead. For more help with laminate, go to our Web site (see p. 39.) Apply plastic laminate to two pieces of plywood, one for the top and another for the door and drawer fronts (part C). Cut the bottom for the rack and laminate that separately. Cut part C to the exact dimensions given in Figure A before laminating. Later, you'll cut part C into three parts to make the doors and drawer fronts. (The width of the saw kerf will give you perfect gaps between the parts.) Rough-cut the laminate to size, about 2 in. larger than the plywood blanks. Do that by scoring the laminate with a utility knife (use a sharp blade!) and a straightedge. Make three or four passes, pressing firmly with the knife. Then carefully bend the sheet over a workbench edge and the pieces will break right at the score. Use a small foam roller to spread the contact cement on both the plywood and the back of the laminate. After the cement dries to the touch (it should be tacky but not wet), carefully hold the laminate over the plywood so all edges overhang the plywood, then lower it into position. Roll the entire surface with a laminate roller to force out air bubbles and get good contact, especially at the edges. Or, use the edge of a 2x4 to force down the laminate by pushing and dragging. Lastly, trim off the overhanging laminate with a flush-trim router bit (Photo 4). Then center, clamp and screw the top to the cabinet from the underside with 1-1/4-in. screws (Photo 5).


Add handles and the rack

Drill 1-in.-diameter holes 1/2 in. deep in both ends of the edge trim using a Forstner bit, then center, glue and nail the front piece in place. Cut the handle tubing (aluminum piping or a wood dowel) a bit on the long side and test-fit it by slipping it into the holes and holding the second edge trim pieces against the cabinet. Cut a bit at a time off the end until you get a perfect fit. Then glue and nail the second trim pieces (with the handles in place) to the top.

Assemble the rack using Figure A as a guide and mount it as shown in Photo 7. Clamp the rack to the top while you screw it to the cabinet from the underside with 2-in. screws. Cut the wastebasket lip to fit and pin it to the base with l-l/4-in. brads (Figure A).


Build the drawer and mount the fronts

Glue and nail the drawer fronts and backs to the sides. Before the glue sets, glue and nail on the bottom to square the drawer box. Then screw on the drawer slides (Photo 8) and install the drawer. Make sure the drawer is flush with the cabinet front, then lock it into place by forcing shims between the drawer and the cabinet. Cut the last sheet of laminated plywood into the drawer and door fronts, then center and drill the drawer pull holes in the drawer front. Space the drawer front down from the top with 1/4-in. spacers and screw it to the drawer box with temporary 1-1/4-in. screws (Photo 9). Pull out the drawer and screw the drawer box to the front from the back side with four 1-in. screws. Then remove the two temporary screws, finish drilling the drawer pull holes through the drawer box and install the pulls. Most drawer pulls come with screws that are too short to penetrate two layers of plywood. If that's the case, drill a second clearance hole for the screw head from the back.


Use the hinge template (included with the hinges) to mark and predrill the hinge screw holes in the doors first (Photo 10). Mount the hinges, then mark and predrill the cabinet hinge holes and hang the doors, spacing them 1/4 in. down from the drawer front (Photo 11). Then add the door pulls.


Carefully mask off the laminate and apply two coats of polyurethane to the outside and one coat to the inside of the cabinet.


You only need 1-1/2 sheets of 3/4-in. plywood for this project, but you'll pay a premium price per foot for a half sheet of plywood. Get a second full sheet instead and save the rest for your next project.

More help online.

For more help with this project, search for "laminate tabletop," "brad nailer," "cut plywood" and "polyurethane finish."
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Author:Larson, Travis
Publication:The Family Handyman
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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