Compact Clamp Cart

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This article is from Issue 85 of Woodcraft Magazine.

This roll-around caddy holds everything you need for glue-ups and fastening.

Is it possible to simultaneously feel as if you own too many and too few clamps? If your clamps are piled more than a few steps away from your assembly table, then you already know the truth behind this woodworking paradox. When a glue-up goes smoothly, lugging clamps from one end of the shop to another (and cleaning them up at the end of the job) can feel like an endless chore. When things go south, the seconds lost searching for a few more clamps can result in disappointment, or even disaster.

This roll-around clamp caddy will clean up your clamp collection and may even tidy up your assembly operations. Despite a surprisingly small footprint—about 3-1/2 sq. ft.—the cart’s main rack can hold more than two dozen panel or bar clamps. Spin it around, and you’ll discover two 36"-tall compartments offering shelving space for storing other assembly essentials, and my growing Festool collection. A pair of side racks attached to one side provide convenient storage for an arsenal of F-style, pistol-grip, and C-clamps. The remaining side can be accessorized to accommodate all sorts of clamping and joinery essentials, such as mallets, squares, and hardware.

The basic cart can be assembled in a weekend. After hanging your clamps and stocking the shelves, you can spend a few more hours building custom hangers for your most-used tools.

Like the Mobile Assembly Cart that appeared in our April/May 2014 issue (#58), this project’s success hinges on its smaller stature. At 16 × 32 × 53", this caddy is easy to steer around a small workshop and through doors, but it’s not well-suited for clamps longer than 60". My collection of extra-long clamps are kept on a sturdy wall-mounted rack that appeared in our Oct/Nov 2011 issue (#43). To download PDFs of both projects, go to and click on OnlineExtras.

1 1⁄2 sheets of plywood, 2 stair treads, and 10 dowels

This project’s fixed case parts require just one sheet of 3/4"-thick plywood and about a half-sheet of 1/2"-thick plywood. (You can use the leftover material to make shelves and tool holders.)

Download the cutting diagram (see OnlineEXTRAS) and have the plywood cut to rough size at the home center, then finish cutting the parts in your shop.

The adjustable shelves and sides can be customized to suit your storage needs, but the 16-13/16"-wide compartment is designed to accommodate Festool’s Sys-AZ drawer hardware.

Order of Work

  • Cut the sides, top, and bottom from 3⁄4" plywood.
  • Rout the dadoes and grooves for the top, bottom, and back.
  • Dry-assemble the case, and then rout the dadoes for the divider.
  • Cut the divider and back panels to fit, and then assemble the case.
  • Assemble and install the clamp rack.
  • Build the drawer, and accessorize your cart to suit.

A solid case, simply built

The trick to building a strong, square case is working in a manner that overcomes the tiny errors resulting from nominally-dimensioned plywood or from cutting on the wrong side of a pencil line. Start with the dimensions, then shift your focus on consistency. For example, ripping all of the outer parts of the case to width at the same time and stack-cutting corresponding parts to length ensures that matching parts are the same size, even if your measurements are a bit off. When routing the dadoes and rabbets for the top and bottom, clamp the sides together, and then rout the pair at the same time. Rather than relying on measurements, use scrap to set the widths of grooves and dadoes, as shown.

To ensure that my cart would accommodate Festool’s shelving system, I screwed the case together, and then, routed the dadoes for the divider with a template and flush-trim bit. After cutting the divider and back to fit, I reassembled the case, this time using glue and screws.

Once assembled, you can remove the clamps and continue with the build. To make the big box easier to move, I attached the caster pads and casters. Then, I set the case on its side and drilled the shelf pin holes. The 1" o.c. hole spacing offers plenty of shelf-positioning options.

Dadoes done right. Routing both sides at the same time ensures that the dadoes line up. Once set with a spacer, Bora’s WTX router guide makes perfectly-sized dadoes in two passes.

Groove the sides for the back. When routing the groove for the back panel, remember to register the guide’s fence against the back edge. You want the sides to be mirror images of each other, not an identical match.

Make a trustworthy template. To position the divider exactly 1613⁄16" from the side to accommodate Festool’s Sys-AZ sliding drawers, I used a template and routed the dado with a 1⁄2" template bit. To complete the 3⁄4"-wide dado, I inserted a pair of spacers between the side and template and made a second pass.

Now get rolling. Plywood pads beef up the bottom so that the 1"-long screws don’t poke through. Three screws per caster are plenty.

Quick Tip: Simple shelf pin insurance

A shelf pin drilling template can make quick work of drilling holes, but if you forget to flip the jig when drilling the opposing row, the holes on one side of your opening may not align with the other. Drawing a reference arrow on the face of the jig can help ensure that the jig is in the right orientation. Set the arrowed end against the bottom (or top) and keep it pointed in the same direction when drilling the other rows. 

Make a sturdy rack to hold heavy clamps

Rather than milling the 1-1/8"-thick rails from rough-sawn stock, I purchased softwood stair tread material from my home center. After ripping the rails to width, I taped the pair together, and then proceeded with laying out the holes (see Rack Detail). When drilling, I recommend using a drill press or drilling guide. If the holes aren’t perpendicular to the rails, you will have a difficult time assembling the rack.

Even though no glue is involved, fitting eight 1-1/8"-diameter rods into 1-1/8"-diameter holes is a little tricky. If a rod refuses to line up, or sticks, it will stop the process in mid-assembly. After tapping all of the rods into one rail, I used clamps, as shown, to hold the second rail in place, and then to squeeze the assembly together.

Before attaching the rack to the cart, round over any sharp edges with a 1/4" roundover bit. Then, screw the cleats to the inside faces of the back rails. Next, set the rack in place, and screw the rails to the sides. After checking the rack’s angle on both sides, attach the braces where shown.

Paired to perfection. Drilling the holes through both rails at once ensures that the holes line up. To avoid blowout, set the drilling depth so that the Forstner’s tip just breaks through the bottom rail. Flip the rails and finish drilling the holes.

Under pressure. Fitting and installing the rods onto the rails requires a few extra hands. Start by applying light pressure when inserting the rungs into the opposite rail. Then, gradually squeeze the rail onto the rods until the distance between the rails matches the cart’s width.

Assemble and install the drawer, then finish the cart

I made the drawer from 1/2"-thick plywood for sturdiness and because I had material left after making the case back. After ripping the drawer front, back and sides to width, I routed the grooves for the bottom where shown in the Drawer Detail. Next, I cut the sides to length and rabbetted the ends. Before cutting the front and back to length, verify the width of the opening. When using full-extension slides, the drawer’s width should be 1" less than the opening.

To assemble the box, I used glue and staples. Driving the staples in from the front and back rather than the sides offers plenty of holding power and conceals the utility-grade fasteners.

To install the drawer, first mount the slides 6" down from the top’s lower face. Next, attach both slides to the drawer’s sides with two screws apiece. Remove the drawer from the case and drive the remaining screws. Finally, re-install the drawer and attach the false front and pull.

Your cart is almost ready to work. Attach the side racks to the case (see the Side Detail, p. 59), and load up your rack with clamps. Install shelves and tool holders to suit.

Note: If you find that your cart seems tipsy, move a few clamps to the side racks to redistribute the weight and stock the shelves.  

Slide installation made simple. Kreg’s slide jig holds the hardware perpendicular to the front edge of the case. Pointing the guides in the opposite direction supports the drawer, enabling you to screw the slides to the sides.


  • Clamp Cart Cutting Diagram
  • PLAN Mobile Assembly Cart
  • PLAN Wall-Mounted Clamp Rack
  • Bora WTX Router Guide Review


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