3 Mobile Carts

Create a dedicated workstation anywhere in your shop with one of these versatile cabinets.

Designer: Ben Svec; Builder: Bill Sands

Do you have a benchtop power tool in need of a home? How about a grouping of hand tools and accessories begging for a designated storage location? Perhaps one or more of these carts can answer the call. Made either from birch plywood or inexpensive MDF, they offer you three choices: one drawer with cabinet space and shelves, three drawers, or a simple cabinet with shelves. Locking swivel casters let you move the carts where needed, and optional “outrigger” roller stands provide handy infeed and outfeed support for long workpieces.

We’ll walk through building the one-drawer cabinet shown above and include side notes and illustrations for the remaining two. The MDF case differs in that the construction uses Confirmat screws driven through the sides.

Note: As shown above, these carts nicely integrate with the cabinet system featured in our June/July 09 issue. By using the metric shelf-pin jig system shown, you can create all the holes needed for installing the hinge plates, the metal drawer glides, and shelf pins for supporting shelves, thereby saving time. See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide for the needed template, bits, and hardware. You’ll also want a metric tape measure.

3" overhangs let you clamp down power tool bases.

Each cart neatly stores away in the nooks between 36"-high base cabinets.

Build the cart case

1 Cut the sides (A), stretchers (B), bottom/fixed shelf (C),

and back (D) to the sizes in the Cut List. The cases with one drawer and three drawers have an extra stretcher for stiffening the case; the MDF case has a dadoed-in fixed shelf (C).

2 Install a dado set in your table saw to cut the ¼"-deep dadoes in the sides for the bottom (C) where shown in Figure 1. (Dado the sides of the MDF cart for an additional fixed shelf (C), where shown on Figure 4, for additional reinforcement.) Note that the sides are mirror images (left and right). The bottom dadoes are located ¾" up from the bottom edges of sides (A) to make room for the bottom stretchers (B) onto which you’ll secure casters. Adjust the fence and cut the dadoes in the sides.

3 Install a sacrificial fence and cut the ¾" rabbets ¼" deep in the sides (A) for the back (D).

4 Outfit your plunge router with a 3/8" guide bushing and 5mm upcut spiral or straight bit. Using the 32mm shelf-pin jig indexed from the top end of sides (A), plunge-rout a row of ½"-deep holes along the front edges where shown in Figure 1.

Plunge-rout the holes in the case sides using a metric shelf-pin jig clamped in place, a ⅜" guide bushing, and a 5mm upcut spiral or straight bit.

5 Relocate the jig so the back row of holes measures 480mm from the front row. To do this, strike a parallel line 517mm from the front edges of the sides. Again, indexing from the top edge, locate the jig’s holes over the centerline and clamp it in place. Now, plunge-rout the holes as shown in Photo A.

6 Drill three evenly spaced pocket holes at each end of the plywood stretchers (B). The one-drawer and three-drawer cases require five stretchers. (For the MDF cart, use Confirmat screws instead of pocket holes. Dry-fit the case assembly, and then drill pilot holes through the sides [A] and into the stretchers where shown in Figure 4.)

Drill pilot holes with a Confirmat step bit; drive in 7 × 50mm screws to secure the fixed MDF shelf. 

7 Glue and fit the bottom (C) into the dadoes in sides (A) and clamp. Check for square. Similarly, for the case without drawers, fit the fixed shelf (C) in the dadoes shown in Figure 4. With MDF, screw the shelf in place as shown in Photo B.

8 Now install the top stretchers (B) to the sides with 1¼" coarse-thread pocket-hole screws. For the one- or three-drawer case, recess the front stretcher 2¼" back for the front edge (to provide clearance for the drawer guides) where shown in Figures 1 and 2. Secure the back top stretchers flush with the rabbet for back (D). Next, screw the bottom stretchers in place.

9 Fit the back (D) in the case, securing it with glue and 1¼" brads.

10 Cut the adjustable shelf/shelves (E) to size and set aside for now.

11 If building a plywood case, adhere self-adhesive edge-banding tape to all exposed edges of the case, cutting the pieces to length as you go. Use an iron to activate the adhesive. After the tape adhesive cools, remove the waste with a trimmer or sharp chisel and sand lightly for crisp, clean corners.

Make the drawer

Note: We chose the same metal drawer box system that we used when building cabinets for the magazine’s workshop because of the low cost and time savings.

1 From ½" plywood, cut the drawer bottom (F) and drawer back (G) to the sizes in the Cut List.

2 Screw the drawer bottom (F) to the metal sides (see Figure 3). Screw the back (G) to the back ends of the metal sides.

3 Install the drawer guides in the sides (A) where shown in Figures 1 or 2, depending on the cart you opt to make. Use 5mm × 13mm (½") screws driven through the guides and into the predrilled holes.

4 For the plywood cases, cut the drawer fronts to size. (Widths are as follows: small drawer [H], 5"; medium drawer (I), 97/16"; and large drawer (J), 141/16".) Ease the edges with a 1/16" radius round-over bit or sanding block.

Drill pilot holes at the marked locations; then screw the clips to the drawer front. Screw the fronts to the box sides, adjusting it for an even reveal.

5 Temporarily screw the drawer-front clips to the front ends of the metal drawer sides. Fit a partially assembled drawer in the case and center the drawer front (H) against it and the case, leaving a 1/8" reveal at the case top edge. Ease the drawer out and mark the screw-hole locations for the clips on the drawer front. (If building the three-drawer cart, start with the lowest drawer, aligning the front with the case bottom edge. Space and install the remaining drawers 1/8" apart.) After marking, remove the clips from the drawer sides and drill pilot holes in the front. Now screw the clips to the front as shown in Photo C. Slide the partial drawer in the case and test the fit.

6 Mark and drill the screw holes, and attach the pull on the drawer front (H, I, J) where shown in Figures 1 and 2. Locate the pulls where shown.

Make the doors

1 Rip and crosscut enough ¾" maple to make the door stiles (K) and rails (L) to the sizes in the Cut List. (If making the full-length slab doors (N), cut them to size as shown in Figure 4.)

2 To make frame-and-panel doors, raise a 1/8"-kerf saw blade to ¼" and adjust the fence. Now cut a groove centered along one edge of stiles (K) and rails (L). Turn the pieces end for end and make a second pass on each piece. Adjust the fence toward the blade and again make double passes until you achieve a centered ¼" groove.

3 With the blade height at ¼", and the fence set  ¼" from the far edge of the blade, use a miter gauge to cut the end of a rail test piece and make multiple passes to create a ¼"-long stub tenon, flipping the piece to remove the waste from both sides. (See the Joint Detail in Figure 5.) Test-fit the tenon in a stile (L) groove. Adjust the settings as needed to achieve a tight fit in the groove and at the shoulder line.

4 Now cut the stub tenons on the ends of the rails (L) and dry-fit and clamp the frame parts together. Measure the length and width of the opening and add 7/16" to each dimension. Using this overall dimension, cut the ½" panels (M) to the resulting size and as noted in the Cut List.

5 Mark the best side of the panels. Then, using either a router table with a rabbeting bit or a dado set and sacrificial fence on your table saw, cut a ¼" rabbet ¼" deep on the unmarked face of the panels. Test-fit the panels in the frames, good side out. The panels should be flush with the inside face of the frames.

Apply glue to the mating stub tenons and grooves in the rails and stiles, slip the panel in place, and clamp.

Strike a line at 90° to the side’s edge; flush the door to the case, and extend the line onto the stile. 

Set up a stop at your drill press table, and then bore the holes for the hinge cups using a 35mm Forstner bit.

6 Apply glue to the stub tenons and mating groove areas as shown in Photo D, assemble the doors, and clamp. Check for square. Once the glue dries, remove the clamps and break the door edges as you did with the drawer fronts.

7 Lay the case on its side. Now, lay out the horizontal centerlines for the hinge locations by placing the doors alongside the case as shown in Photo E and where shown in Figures 1 and 4. Note that the 35mm cup holes for the 110° overlay hinges are centered between two adjacent shelf-pin holes.

8 Using the DrillRite Hinge and Jig Bit kit, mark the locations of the hinge cup and screw holes on the doors, centering on the marked lines. Now with the accompanying 35mm Forstner bit, drill the cup holes ½" deep (Photo F). Use an 8mm bit to drill the ½"-deep hinge screw holes.

9 Attach the cup hinges to the doors, the mounting plates to the matching holes in the case sides, and hang the doors. Adjust the hinges as needed to create an even 1/8" reveal between the doors.

Add a sturdy top and casters

Note: One sheet of MDF makes three tops.

1 Trim off one-third of a sheet of MDF from one end. Cut it into two equal pieces that measure roughly 24 × 32". Apply glue to the mating faces of both pieces and bond them together, aligning the factory edges. Clamp the pieces along the edges and corners and weight down the center to form the top (O).

2 Once dry, remove the clamps and cut the top (O) oversize to 31" by running the factory edge along the table saw fence. Label the resulting “true” edge. Now, working off this edge and using a square along an adjacent edge, strike a 90° cutline across the length of the workpiece. Cut along the line with a straightedge and circular saw, creating a second clean edge that’s perpendicular to the first.

3 Place the “true” edge along the table saw fence and cut top (O) to a final width of 28½".

4 Cut two pieces of maple for the end banding (P) to ¾ × 15/8 × 25". Glue and clamp the pieces to the ends of top (O), flushing the banding ends to the edge cut with the circular saw and proud of both faces by 1/16". Let the glue dry.

5 With a flush-trim bit in a handheld router, flush the end banding (P) to the faces of the top (O).

6 Placing the edge cut with the circular saw against the table saw fence, trim the workpiece to 23½"-wide, creating a second “true” edge. Guiding this true edge against the fence, cut the circular-sawn edge to create a top with a final width of 22½".

7 Cut the edge-banding pieces (Q) to 31" and glue and clamp them to the edges of the workpiece the same way you added the end-banding pieces (P). Cut the ends of the edge banding flush with the end banding, using a fine-tooth saw.

8 Flush the proud edges of the edge banding (Q) with the top (O) using your router and a flush-trim bit.

9 Chuck a 1/8"-radius round-over bit in your router and ease all edges of the top assembly (O, P, Q).

10 To attach the top to the case, place the top assembly (O, P, Q) on a work table with the best face down. Drill six evenly spaced pilot holes in the case top stretchers (B). Now, with a helper, set the case upside down on the top assembly centered from end to end and flush with the case back. Now screw the base to the top with #8 × 1½" flathead wood screws.

11 Install the casters on bottom stretchers (B) with 5/16 × 1½" lag screws and washers. Set the cart on its wheels.

Fit the stand’s feet in the J-hooks, the legs between the L-brackets, and secure with wire lock pins.

Finish and add hardware

1 Sand the cart to 220 grit. Apply finish. (On the birch and maple carts, we used a sealer, followed by two coats of water-based polyurethane. We painted the MDF cabinets with two coats of milk paint and one coat of water-based polyurethane.)

2 Re-install the drawers and doors, and add the pulls. Where needed add the shelf pins and shelves (E).

3 Install the J-hooks and 2" corner brackets for the roller work supports. Use a round wire lock pin to store the roller stands (Photo G).

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