A Trio of Benchtop Carts

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This article is from Issue 66 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Give your tools a mobile home.

Overall dimensions:
Large cart, 48"w × 24"d × 32"h
Standard cart, 24"w × 24"d × 20"h
Short cart, 24"w × 24"d × 32"h

One of the secrets to a fully functional benchtop shop is to have an array of mobile carts that suit the tools you own. You should be able to move them out from the wall for service and roll them back when not in use. They should offer built-in storage and let the woodworker conveniently perform a variety of machining tasks at a safe and acceptable height. The three related carts shown here are a perfect fit for a benchtop router table, bandsaw, drill press, planer, and jointer as the photos above illustrate. While the 2 × 2' carts (the short and standard size designs) feature handy drawers for storing bits and accessories, the larger 2 × 4' cart comes with shelf space for housing larger items. Here, I’ll show how to build the standard-height 2 × 2' cart. Apply the same approach to construct the other two carts using the figures and dimensions in the Cut List.

Start with a sturdy case

1 Set up a pair of sawhorses and spread out four 2 × 4 studs on the horses. Place a sheet of plywood (I used birch) on the 2 × 4s. Now, lay out the part widths for the case bottom (A), long side (B), long side cleat (C), short side (D), and cleats (E), using the dimensions in the Cut List for the standard 2 × 2' cart.

2 To begin breaking down a full-size sheet, position 2 × 4s on each side of the rip line to provide support. Clamp a straightedge or ripping jig in place on the sheet, and then rip the plywood to width using a circular saw, as shown in Photo A. (To make a custom ripping jig for your saw, attach an 8' straight fence piece to a 1⁄8"-thick hardboard base. Run your saw along the fence to establish the width between the blade and the edge of the saw’s baseplate. Align this edge of the jig with the cutline when breaking down sheet goods.)

Clamp the ripping jig along the cutline, and saw the plywood to width.
Employ a circular saw guide or clamped-in-place straightedge to accurately crosscut the case parts to length.

3 Referencing the Cut List, lay out the part lengths on the ripped sheet goods and cut the case bottom (A), long side (B), long side cleat (C), short side (D), and cleats (E) to length (Photo B).

4 Using a handheld router, rabbeting bit, and straightedge, cut a 1⁄2" rabbet, 3⁄8" deep, on the top back edge of the case bottom (A) and on the bottom back edge of the upper rear cleat (E). The back will fit into them later.

Jigsaw the arch at the bottom end of the long side, taking care that the tool base rests flat on the surface for a straight perpendicular cut.
With the cleat clamped in place and flush to the sides’ ends and edges, drive home the pocket screws.

5 Apply adhesive-backed edge banding on to the front edges of the sides (B, D) with an iron. Trim the edges. (See the wall cubbies story on page 66.)

6 Glue and clamp the long side cleat (C) to the bottom end of the long side (B), flushing the edges and ends. Let dry.

7 Referencing Figure 1, lay out the arch for the feet at the bottom end of the long side (B). (Since I was making several carts, I made a hardboard template for laying out the arches to save time.) Now, using a jigsaw with a 10-14 TPI wood cutting blade, saw on the line (Photo C). Sand the arched edge to remove saw marks and round over the feet.

8 Using a pocket-hole jig, drill five pocket holes on the bottom face of the case bottom (A) at each end for 11⁄4" pocket-hole screws. Drill three pocketholes at each end of the three cleats (E). Drill three 1⁄2"-diameter access holes 9" apart in the lower cleat (Figure 1).

9 Working on a flat surface, screw the bottom (A) to the long side assembly (B/C) and short side (D), flushing the edges. (See Figure 1.) Now, screw on the top cleats (E) pocket holes up (Photo D). I clamped a block of wood in place to the side to serve as a temporary ledge on which to rest the cleat when screwing it in place. Finally, add the lower cleat 5" down from the top cleat. To ensure a consistent drawer opening, I used a 5"-long spacer on each side to position the lower cleat. Check the case for square.

10 Measure the opening at the rear of the case from side to side and from rabbet to rabbet. Cut the 1⁄2"-thick back (F) to fit. Glue and nail it in place.

11 Finally, cut the two caster spacers (G) to the size in the Cut List, and glue them to the case bottom (A) (Figure 1). Drill pilot holes for 1⁄4 × 1" lag screws. Add washers and screw the 3" casters in place.

Fit the micro pocket drill guide into a K3 or K4 Kreg Jig, and use the stop collar and bit that comes with the guide to bore the holes in the thin drawer parts.

Add a basic drawer

1 Cut the drawer sides (H), drawer front and back (I), and drawer bottom (J) to the sizes in the Cut List. (Note: The assembled drawer should be equal to the width of the drawer opening minus 1" to allow for the drawer slide hardware.)

2 Rout a 1⁄4" groove, 1⁄4" deep, in the drawer sides (H) and the drawer front and back (I), where shown in Figure 2.

3 Rout a 1⁄4" rabbet, 1⁄4" deep, along the edges of the drawer bottom (J). Test-fit the drawer parts together. Ideally, this can be done at a router table with a 1⁄4" straight bit.

4 Using a micro pocket drill guide for working with thinner stock, drill three pocket holes on the outside faces of the drawer front and back (I) at each end (Photo E). Now, slip in the drawer bottom (J), and assemble the drawer box using #6 × 3⁄4" panhead screws.

5 Install the drawer slides to the drawer box sides and case sides in the drawer opening. Ensure the box hangs at least 1⁄8" above the lower cleat (E). Test the fit.

6 Measure the drawer opening, and cut the false front (K) from 3⁄4" maple to that measurement minus 1⁄8" in width and length. (You want about a 1⁄16" reveal along the edges and ends.) To keep it simple, I used pennies at the bottom and ends of the false front as spacers and then screwed the false front temporarily to the drawer box.

Secure the top, handle, and pulls

1 Cut enough 3⁄4" stock for the pull and handle spacers (L), drawer pull (M), and handle (N), referring to the dimensions in the Cut List. Rout a 1⁄4" round-over on all edges of the pull and handle blank. Now, crosscut the parts to their final lengths. To round over the ends of the pull, do it on a router table while safely holding the piece with a handscrew.

2 Glue the pull and handle spacers (L) onto the pull (M) and handle (N), respectively, centering the spacers across the width of the mating parts. Screw the pull (M) to the false front (K) and the cart handle (N) to the long side (B), where shown in Figure 1.

3 Cut two 3⁄4"-thick pieces of MDF to the size in the Cut List for the top (O). Laminate the two pieces face to face, flushing the edges. Rout a 1⁄4" round-over on the lamination’s top edge.

4 Temporarily remove the drawer. Using the access holes in the lower front cleat (E), screw the top (O) to the upper cleats using #8 × 2" flathead screws.

5 Finish-sand the stand. Seal and finish the piece, let dry, and add a benchtop tool.


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