Flip-Top Cart

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This article is from Issue 43 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Turn the tables on a small shop with this space saver.

Overall dimensions: 281⁄2"w × 421⁄2"l × 331⁄8"h

Benchtop machines are an essential part of any workshop, but they eat up valuable space when not in use. This innovative cart offers a space-saving solution for machines that aren’t in use. When the tool is needed, simply flip the top to bring it upright. When you’re done, flip the tool underneath and put the flat work surface side to use. Outfitted with casters, the cart can be rolled into the center of the shop or parked out of the way.

This cart can be quickly and economically built from a few sheets of plywood, some hardwood, a bit of commonly available hardware, and four high-quality casters. The top consists of a solid wood web sandwiched between plywood facings for strength and stability. The plywood cases are joined with simple rabbets and dadoes glued and screwed together, with everything riding atop a plywood base outfitted with casters to provide mobility. Sized as is, this cart will accommodate a variety of portable machines, but feel free to adjust its dimensions if necessary to suit your machines and shop layout. See “Smart Sizing” on page 48.

Set the steel rod between the central web parts during assembly to make a tight-fitting channel in the top. Note the plywood spacer used to position the web part.

Assemble the top sections

1 From 3⁄4" plywood, cut the top facings (A, B, C) to the sizes listed in the Cut List.

2 Mill hardwood stock to thickness for the webbing parts (D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K). The webbing creates the channel for the steel rod, so plane the stock to the exact thickness of the rod to ensure that the center section of the top rotates smoothly. At the tablesaw, cut all of the parts to the sizes listed in the Cut List.

3 Position the central webbing parts (E, H, I) on the top facings (A, B, C) so that the channel for the steel rod will be centered within the assembled top. To do this, first make an 111⁄4"-wide plywood spacer panel, and clamp it to the center facing (B) with the outer edges aligned. Place one of the central webbing parts (E) against the spacer, and fasten it to the facing with 1"-long staples or brads. Now place the steel rod against the attached web part, set the opposing web part (E) against the rod, and tack it to the facing to create a tight channel around the rod (Photo A). Repeat the process for the other two facing sections, attaching their central web parts (H, I).

Insert two washers between each of the top sections. Then screw on the remaining facings.

4 Attach the rest of the webbing (D, F, G, J, K) to the top facings (A, B, C), as shown in Figure 1.

5 Position the steel rod in the channels of all three top assembly sections, with two flat washers between each section, as shown in Figure 1. Now set the unattached facings (A, B, C) on top of the webbing sections to complete the top assemblies as shown in Photo B. Fasten the plywood to the webbing with glue and 13⁄4" screws.

6 Pull the small and large top assemblies off the steel rod. To make the benchtop a little more forgiving on your hips, miter 3⁄4" off the corners, where shown on Figure 1. Sand the edges and corners of all three sections up to 150 grit. Set the top assemblies aside for now.

Smart Sizing

By adjusting the height of the cabinets, you can make your cart work smarter. In order to use my tablesaw as an outfeed support for my planer, I measured the table height of the saw and subtracted the height of the planer’s outfeed table to establish the cart’s height.

Flip-Top Options

This cart works equally well with a variety of benchtop tools. To see it in use as a sanding station, turn to page 29, Photo D.

Make the base

1 Cut the parts for the small cabinet (L, M, N), large cabinet (O, P) and base (Q) to the sizes listed in the Cut List. Nip 3⁄4" off of the corners of the base as you did with the top.

2 Set up a dado set on your tablesaw to match the thickness of the plywood (approximately 3⁄4") and adjust the cutting height to 3⁄8". Clamp a sacrificial fence against your saw’s rip fence, and position it flush to the edge of the dado set. Now rabbet the rear edges of the small cabinet’s top and bottom (M), and the ends and rear edges of the sides (L), where shown in Figure 2. Next, rabbet the ends of the large cabinet sides (O) where shown.

3 Dado the large cabinet sides (O) for the fixed shelf (P), where shown on Figure 2.

4 Drill 1⁄4" shelf-pin holes into the sides of both the small and large cabinet sides (L and O), using an aftermarket shelf-pin drilling jig or simply a scrap of 1⁄4" pegboard as a guide.

5 Assemble the large cabinet by placing one side (O) at a right angle to the large cabinet top (P). Brush on glue, make sure the top is snug and square to the side, and then screw the two together. Attach the bottom and fixed shelf (P) in the same fashion. Now place the assembled section on your bench so that the top, bottom, and shelf are upright. Set the other side (O) in place and secure with glue and screws (Photo C).

6 Assemble the small case in the same manner. Attach the sides (L) to the top and bottom (M). Then lay the cabinet face down on your bench and attach the back (N), using glue and staples or 11⁄4" brads.

7 Set the base (Q) on a pair of sawhorses or on the edge of your workbench face up, and position the large case on the base (Q) so that it is centered and inset 3⁄4" from the edges and end. Attach the base to the large case using 11⁄4" screws.

8 Lay out the gussets (R) on 3⁄4"-thick plywood as shown in Figure 2 and cut to shape using a bandsaw or jigsaw.

9 Position the gussets 11⁄2" in from the edge of the base (Q) and 3⁄4" in from the edge of the large cabinet. Make sure the assembly is square, and then screw through the side of the large cabinet (O) into the edge of the gusset (Photo D).

10 Position the small cabinet on top of the base (Q) so that it presses against the end of the gusset (R) while centered on the base (Q). Attach the small cabinet to the gusset by driving three 11⁄2" screws through the cabinet back (N). Fasten the base to the small cabinet with six 11⁄4" screws. Attach the base to the gusset with three 11⁄2" screws, where shown in Figure 2.

11 Set the whole assembly upside down on your workshop floor. Position the casters 1" in from the edges of the base, and secure them with flat washers and 11⁄2" lag screws.

Hold a square against the sides and top during assembly to make sure the parts are square and flush.

Secure the gusset to the cart with screws running through the cabinets and base.

Which Wheels?

Swiveling casters offer the most mobility, but fixed-base casters help the cart steer straight. For the planer cart, I chose the “shopping cart” setup: fixed wheels in front and locking swivel casters in back. For the sanding cart, I used four locking swiveling casters so that the cart could spin into the back corner of my shop.

Clamp the three-piece top in place, and give it a test spin before permanently attaching it to the cabinets with 13⁄4"-long screws.

Assemble the cart

1 Flip the cart upright and lock the casters. Reassemble the top with the rod and washers between the top sections. With a helper, set the three-section top on the cart, and position it so that the outer sections are flush on the inside edge of the large and small cabinets. (Note: For a cleaner looking top, position the screw-studded face down.)

2 Make sure the center section of the top spins freely, and then drive 11⁄2" screws up through the tops of the large and small cabinets to secure the ends of the top to the cart (Photo E).

Screw the wooden buttons to the top. Adjust the tension, so that the buttons can pivot.

3 Cut the four buttons (S) to size and secure them as shown in Figure 2, using washers and 2"-long lag screws. Tighten the screws just enough so that the buttons can still pivot (Photo F).

Final touches

1 Cut the large and small adjustable shelves (T, U) to fit, and install where desired.

2 Because surfaces are magnets for stains and spills, protect your cart with your favorite finish. I applied two coats of Enduro-Var.

3 Center your tool on the center (flipping) top section, and mark out the position of the mounting holes. Drill pilot holes and then attach the tool using lag screws long enough to go about 11⁄4" into the top.  


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