3-in-1 Wagon

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This article is from Issue 23 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Projects designed and built by Tim Birkeland and Bob Poling

When you consider all the hauling assignments around the shop and yard—from moving shop waste to carting potted plants to giving giggling kids a joy ride—it’s no wonder that wagons like these have their place. We took a basic four-wheeled chassis and designed three different wagons around it. They include a classic stake wagon, a gardener’s flatbed, and workshop utility wagon. Use your scrap or purchased wood to complete the wagon of your choice, and find the affordable chassis in our Convenience-Plus Buying Guide.

Overall chassis frame dimensions:
351/2"d ×171/4"w ×131/4"h


Who hasn’t enjoyed a little red wagon somewhere in their past? This versatile model—complete with removable stake sides—offers the same familiar looks with a lot more capacity. We used cypress for the stake sides and base frame, along with exterior grade plywood for the base bottom.

Start with the base

1 From 3/4" stock, cut parts for the base sides (A), and front and back (B) to the widths and lengths shown in the Cut List and Figure 1. Note that it takes two pieces—one 3" wide and the other 33/4" wide—to make up each side, the front, and the back. Note also that the inside parts for the front and back are cut 3" shorter.

2 Referring to Figure 1, mark the locations for the dadoes and cut them on your table saw using a dado blade, miter gauge extension fence, and stopblock as shown in Photo A. Now align and glue the mating pieces as shown in Photo B to make the base sides (A) and the base front and back (B). Ensure the top edges for each mating pair are flush.

Using a dado blade in your table saw, cut 13/4" dadoes just over 5/16" deep in the base parts (left), and then glue-join mating parts, flushing the top edges and aligning the dadoes to form through mortises.

3 Join and square the base sides (A) to the base front and back (B) using screws where shown in Figure 1 to create the base frame. With a 1/4" round-over bit, round over all the exterior edges and corners, as well as the inside top edges.

4 Measure and cut a 3/4" piece of exterior grade plywood for the base bottom (C) to fit in the rabbet along the bottom inside edges of the base frame. Turn the base upside down to screw the bottom in place (we used pocket-hole screws.)

5 Cut the cleats (D) to the sizes in the Cut List. Ease the outside edges of the cleats and glue and screw them to the base bottom. Paint and finish the wagon base. (We used brick red milk paint and two coats of gloss polyacrylic. See the Buying Guide). Rub out the painted finish with deluxing compound.

Cut and assemble the stake sides, front, and back

1 Plane enough 3/4" stock (two 1"×6"×8') to 5/8" thick for the stakes and rails listed in the Cut List. Now rip and crosscut the long stakes (E), short stakes (F),

the bottom side rails (G), middle side rails (H), top side rails (I), bottom and top front and back rails (J), and middle and top rails (K) to size. See also the Cut List and the parts view (Figure 2) for reference.

2 Stick the two top rails (I) together with double-faced tape, and transfer the tapered radius from Figure 2 onto one end. Now bandsaw both side rails to shape at the same time and sand.

3 Install a 1/8" round-over bit in your table-mounted router and round over all of the edges and ends of the stakes and rails. Sand these parts through 220 grit. Apply an outdoor oil finish and let dry. See the Buying Guide.

4 Cut three 5/8×5/8" spacers anywhere from 12" to 18" long. Fit the stakes for one side in the mortises in the wagon base. Next, place the spacer between the top edge of the base (you may need to tape it in place) and a bottom side rail (G). Adhere 1"-square pieces of double-faced tape just above the spacer onto the inside faces of the stakes. Now center the bottom side rail (G) between the ends of the base and press it temporarily in place. Add a second spacer and similarly press the middle side rail (H) in place as shown in Photo C. Add a top side rail (I). In the same manner, create the opposing side stake and rail assembly and the front and rear stake and rail assemblies.

Stick the rails to the stakes with double-faced tape so that you can drill bolt holes through both pieces at the same time.
Mark the location of the centered 3/8" holes in the taped stake and rail assemblies and drill them
for the connector bolt/nut combo.

5 With the assemblies lying flat on your workbench, strike vertical centerlines down the stakes and mark hole locations centered on the rails where shown in Figure 1. Carefully take the assemblies to your drill press and drill 3/8" holes at the marked locations as shown in Photo D. Now, leaving the thin double-faced tape in place, secure the assemblies with connector bolts and nuts (30 needed, see the Buying Guide), snugging the two together.

6 With the stake and rail assemblies complete, place them into the mortises to test the fit. The stakes should rest somewhat loosely in the mortises. Sand the stakes if needed. 

7 To install the wagon base, center it on the chassis, and use an awl to mark the 5/16" carriage bolt holes on the plywood bottom, poking up through the four holes in the metal frame. Drill the holes, replace the base on the chassis, and secure it with carriage bolts, washers, and nuts.


Getting flower trays and hand tools to your garden plot, or moving pavers and landscaping blocks, can be a pain if you don’t have a back-saving mode of transportation. This lawn-loving wagon flatbed offers the flexibility of a wheelbarrow without the heavy lifting and potential for tipping. It’s made from just four different parts as shown in Figure 3: (2) sides; (2) ends; (12) slats; and (2) cleats for attaching the flatbed to the wagon chassis. We used cypress for all the parts, securing them with outdoor screws. We also broke the edges with a light sanding. Outdoor oil served as our finish (see the Buying Guide). Use 5/16×13/4" lag screws for fastening the flatbed to the chassis.


Sometimes you just need a hauler for wood scraps, bags of sawdust, dirt, grass clippings, and leaves. When such needs arise, consider knocking together this plywood problem solver. Made from 1/2" material, the parts include: (2) rectangular sides with  the bottom edges beveled at 15º; (2) ends with 15º tapered side edges and a curved top edge; (8)  1/2×3/4×9" guide strips glued and screwed where shown in Figure 4; and a round-cornered bottom. Note that the rectangular sides are held in place by metal standards secured with screws. The standards fit in square posts that form part of the metal frame and protrude through 11/2" holes bored through the bottom. Bore additional holes in the ends and jigsaw the waste between these holes to form handles for easy removal. 


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