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Make it mobile: wheels are a builder's best friend.

When I recently moved to a new garage shop, I put everything I could on wheels. My router table is on wheels, my miter saw is on wheels--heck, even my bench is mobile. This way, I can roll out machines when I'm building and roll them back to park the car.

Wheels also make a lot of sense in a basement or shed shop, particularly when you're short on space. You can park seldom-used machines in a corner and pull them out when you need them. You can easily rearrange your shop for cutting up sheets of plywood or assembling kitchen cabinets.

Simply put, going mobile gives you more elbow room. Here are seven tips on how to do it.

For workbenches or tools mounted on bases, the holy grail of mobility is a system that allows the unit to sit solidly on the ground. I've seen lots of clever ways to raise a heavy cabinet above the floor in order to get it rolling, but here's the simplest: Use a pry bar.

When the wheels are off the ground-1/8 in. is enough--just insert a block under each corner. Lower the corner until the unit sits on the block. You may need to insert another block under the pry bar to get leverage, but that's easy to do.


Combine a wheel and a lever and what do you get? A wheelbarrow--one of the most underrated inventions of all time. It's easy to move, but when you come to a stop and lower the handles, it doesn't budge.

Here's how to apply wheelbarrow logic to shop tools. Mount a pair of large wheels on one side of the unit you want to move, then add removable handles.

Better yet, mount the wheels on the side of the unit and about 1/16 in. above the floor. When you tilt the unit by lifting up the handles, the wheels will touch the floor and you'll be ready to roll. When you lower the handles, the unit will stay put, sitting solidly on all four corners.

The cart shown above has two 4-in, fixed wheels fastened to one side. I made the handles from PVC pipe and hardwood. I cut the corners off the wood so they slipped inside the pipe. I nested the PVC to boards with a V-groove cut in them to mount the pipe securely to the cart.


There's always something in a workshop--like a stack of plywood--that you don't need access to very often but you can't easily store. Here's a clever solution: Park a set of rolling shelves in front of it.

When you need to get at the item, just roll the shelves out of the way. In my crowded shop, this also opens up the space I may need for sawing an extra-long board or setting up a pair of sawhorses. I like my shop's arrangement to be as flexible as possible.

Some types of lightweight shelving come with optional casters; they just screw into the ends of the uprights. For heavier-duty shelving, like that shown here, the most practical way to add casters is to mount them to a 3/4-in, plywood platform using carriage bolts. The platform also serves as the bottom shelf.


If your shop floor is flat and smooth, you may not need wheels at all to make some items mobile. Just add slippery plastic pads to the bottom of your cabinet or machine's base and slide it from place to place.

You can easily make these pads by sawing a polypropylene cutting board into 3-in. squares. Bevel the edges and round the corners of the pads with a file or coarse sandpaper. Fasten them with screws that are deeply countersunk. You won't want the screw's heads to drag on the floor.



Over many years, if there's one thing I've learned about casters. it's that small ones that cost only a few bucks don't make sense in a shop. They're fine for pushing light items around a house, but they just don't cut it for moving machinery, benches or carts stacked with wood.

My advice: Bite the bullet and buy the expensive, high-quality ones, even though they may cost two or three times more. They're way better. These casters have soft wheels that roll with less friction, so pushing is easier on your back. Cheap casters usually have hard wheels that wobble or vibrate, tossing your stuff overboard. When you lock a cheap caster, the wheel won't rotate but the caster can still spin around. When you lock the best type of expensive caster, all rotation is stopped.

Dollar for dollar. upgrading my casters was one of the best investments I've ever made in my shop.


Swiveling casters often come with built-in locks. No surprise there, but did you know that there are two different kinds of locks?

A standard lock prevents the wheel from turning but doesn't stop the caster from rotating around its plate or stem. A cart or machine with these casters won't roll away when locked, but it will jiggle when pushed. If you put them on a cabinet supporting a tool, a workbench or anything else that has to lock down solid, you'll be sorely disappointed.

A double lock, shown at right, totally freezes the caster. The wheel won't turn and the caster won't rotate. I put a set of 3-in. double-lock casters on a heavy cabinetmaker's bench, and I'm very pleased with the results. When I'm working, the bench hardly wiggles at all. Locked, it's stable; unlocked, it's mobile. That's the best of both worlds.


Small casters may be inexpensive, but they take a heavy toll on your back--and on your patience.

Equipped with too-small wheels, a cart or machine is hard to push: You may have to lunge at it just to get going. Once you're up to speed, every little crack or crevice in your floor will stop you dead in your tracks. If you bump up against a screw or nail that rolled off your bench or one of the small chunks of wood that undoubtedly litter your shop's floor, you have to remove the offender or change direction. Talk about annoying!

For moving heavy loads or maneuvering over an uneven floor, go big. The problems mentioned above won't go away, but they will be minimized. Use casters that are at least 2-1/2 in. in diameter. Casters up to 4 in. in diameter are best for really heavy stuff. The larger the caster, the less muscle power you'll need to get rolling and keep rolling.


When most folks put a cart or cabinet on wheels, they buy four swiveling casters and put one at each corner (Option A). Two other configurations are also worth considering.

You could substitute two fixed casters for two that swivel (Option B). Alternatively, you could move these casters to the center of each side of your unit (Option C).

What's with all these options? Well, the choice comes down to whether you want your unit to be easy to maneuver into a tight space or easy to push in a straight line--or somewhere in between.

Option A, with swiveling wheels at all four corners, is best for parking your unit in a tight spot. If your shop is small and crowded, this is the way to go.

Option B, with fixed wheels at one end and swiveling at the other, is arranged just like your car or a grocery cart. A unit with this configuration tracks nicely and is easy to steer; it's best for shops with plenty of room.

Option C. with wheels placed on centers rather than in the corners, is a good compromise between A and B. Carts used in railway stations and factories years ago were usually built this way. They could spin on a dime, but they also tracked well. This configuration does have a couple of disadvantages, however. First, the corners are tippy, so you must evenly distribute a load. Second, this arrangement doesn't work on a cart with four legs. It's really meant for a cart with a platform base.

by Tom Caspar
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Author:Caspar Tom
Publication:The Family Handyman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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