Planer Cart

Portability without the back strain

Overall dimensions: 24"w × 20 1⁄2"d × 25"h

When it comes to portable planers, the term “portable” is a bit of a stretch. Any of these machines is heavy enough to cause your back to protest when stashing the tool away on a shelf or under a bench. And yet a portable planer needs to be moveable so it can be stored when not in use in a space-starved shop. For me, the answer is to mount a portable planer on a space-saving mobile cart that includes drawers so that the space below the machine isn’t wasted.

This cart is tall enough to allow comfortable stock feeding, but low enough to ensure stable mobility. The 3⁄4"-thick plywood case, with its solid wood face frame, is stout enough to carry a heavy machine and large enough to accommodate most portable planers models currently on the market. A shallow top drawer accommodates machine wrenches, extra knives, and other small accoutrements. The lower drawer is deep enough to house general tools and supplies, and the self-closing slides keep the drawers from opening when pushing the unit around. The heavy-duty casters ensure smooth, reliable mobility when needed and rock solid footing when locked for planing operations. This is one shop accessory that really earns its keep.

Saw the rabbets in the case sides using a dado head and a sacrificial fence clamped to your rip fence.
Glue up the case with the unglued back inserted to keep things square.
A tab of duct tape allows easy removal of the back for internal inspection.

Build the case

1. Lay out and cut the case sides (A) and top and bottom (B) to the sizes shown in the Cut List.

2. Using a dado head on the tablesaw, cut the 3⁄4"-wide by 1⁄4"-deep rabbets in the sides (Photo A), setting up the cut with scrap. Alternatively, you could use a router and straightedge for the job.

3. With the dado head at the same height, adjust the rip fence for a 1⁄2"-wide cut, and saw the rabbets in the rear edges of the sides, top, and bottom, where shown in Figure 1.

4. Dry-clamp the case sides (A) to the top and bottom (B), and measure for an exact fit of the back panel (C). Saw the panel to size, making sure it’s absolutely square.

5. Working on a flat surface, glue up the case with the unglued back dry-fit in its rabbets to keep things square (Photo B). Use clamping cauls to distribute the clamping pressure across the joints. (Instead of clamping, you can glue and nail, puttying the nail holes later.)

6. Mill the stiles (D) and rails (E) to the sizes shown in the Cut List, with one exception: make each stile about 1⁄16" oversized in width for now. (You’ll trim their edges flush to the case after attaching the face frame.) Use a stopblock when cutting the rails to length to ensure they are all cut to precisely 191⁄2" long for proper drawer fit and operation.

7. Using a pocket-hole jig, drill the screw pockets in the ends of the rails (Photo C).

8. Mark the intended location of the center rail 12" from the bottom end of each stile, where shown in Figure 1. Then screw the face frame together using 1 1⁄4"-long washer head screws designed for pocket-hole joinery (Photo D). If necessary, sand or plane the rear face of the assembled face frame flat and smooth at its perimeter for good contact with the edges of the case.

9. Slip the back (C) into place unglued, and lay the case on its back on a dead flat surface. Temporarily clamp the face frame (D, E) to the front of the case, carefully centering it side to side. Now make and fit your drawer slide shims (F) to the sizes shown in the Cut List, gluing paper or cardboard to them if necessary to perfectly align the faces of the shims with the interior edges of the stiles (D). Note the particular location of each shim with a number.

10. Mark out the screw-hole locations on each drawer slide shim (F), positioning them to avoid interference with the future locations of the drawer-slide mounting holes, and then drill and countersink clearance holes for #6 screws. Referring to Figure 1, set the bottom shims 2" up from the inside bottom of the case and the top shim 2 1⁄2" down inside from the inside top of the case, and then attach the shims to the case sides (A) using #6 × 1 1⁄4"-long screws (Photo E).

Use spacers to ensure accurate placement and quick attachment of the drawer slide shims.
Raising the case on wooden I-beams allows full clamping access around the case perimeter for attaching the face frame.

11. In preparation for attaching the face frame, plane the front edges of the case if necessary to flush them up, and rehearse your face frame clamp-up, pre-adjusting your clamps in the process (Photo F). Then reinsert the case back (C) unglued into its rabbets, and glue and clamp the face frame to the case, carefully aligning the interior edges of the face frame with the faces of the drawer shims (F). (Alternatively, you can use pocket screws.)

12 After the glue dries, use a flush-trim router bit to shave the edges of the face frame flush with the case sides (Photo G).

Make the drawers

1 Cut the drawer box parts (G, H, I, J, K) to the sizes shown in the Cut List, carefully squaring every end. Then saw the joints as described in the sidebar, "Perfect, Simple Drawer Joinery".

2 Carefully sand away any fuzz on the joint edges with 220-grit paper. Also, ease the sharp corners of the tongues on the drawer bottoms (K) for easy insertion into their grooves during glue-up.

3 Dry-assemble the drawers to rehearse your clamp-up procedures and check the joint fits. Make any necessary adjustments.

4 Glue up the drawer boxes, spot-gluing the bottoms here and there in their grooves. Work on a flat surface, making sure the assemblies are square under clamping pressure (Photo H).

Perfect, Simple Drawer Joinery

Building drawer boxes from 1⁄2"-thick plywood doesn’t get much easier than this. All you need are your precut drawer parts, a good quality dado head, and some scrap to test your setup.

To set up for the process, adjust your dado head for a 1⁄4"-wide cut. Stand a piece of plywood drawer stock on edge against the fence, and position the fence so that the outer face of the plywood is flush with the outer edge of the saw teeth. Then adjust the blade height for a 1⁄4"-deep cut using scrap to confirm the setting. Lock the blade at that height for the entire following process. Now you’re ready to make your cuts:


1 Saw the dadoes in the drawer sides. Then, using the same setup, cut the drawer bottom grooves on the inside faces of the sides, fronts, and backs.

2 Readjust the fence until test cuts yield a rabbet with a tongue that fits snugly without force into the dadoes you cut in Step 1. Then saw the rabbets on the drawer fronts and backs by standing the parts on end, supported by a raised featherboard.

3 Reposition the fence about 1⁄64" closer to the blade. (This will allow the drawer bottoms to slide easily in their grooves for trouble-free assembly.) Cut the rabbets on all four edges of each drawer bottom. The drawers are now ready to assemble.

Install the drawer slides

1 Screw the case-half of each drawer slide to its shim (F), aligning the bottom edges of each, and recessing the forward end 1⁄16" back from the front edge of the face frame.

2 Screw the drawer-half of each slide to its respective drawer side, setting the forward end of the slide flush with the front edge of the drawer, and offsetting the bottom edge of each slide 17⁄16" up from the bottom edge of the drawer sides (G, I) (Photo I). I use a plywood spacer for the job.

Make the top and drawer fronts

1 Make the false drawer fronts (L, M) to the sizes shown, edge-gluing boards to make the large drawer front (M) if you don’t have wide enough stock. Also joint and edge-glue enough boards to make the top (N), and then saw it to the dimensions shown in the Cut List.

2 Rout or hand-plane a 1⁄8" chamfer around the edges of the false drawer fronts (L, M) and top (N).

3 Attach the false drawer fronts with countersunk #6 × 1" flathead screws through clearance holes drilled in the drawer box. Offset the bottom edge of each drawer front 3⁄4" away from the bottom edge of its drawer box. Then lay out and drill the 3⁄16"-diameter through holes for the drawer pulls, which are centered on the drawer fronts.

Finish up

1 Ease all sharp edges with 150-grit paper, and sand all exposed surfaces through 220 grit. Thoroughly blast away any dust on the case interior and exterior using compressed air, and then attach the back (C) with glue and 11⁄2"-long finish nails.

2 Attach the casters with 5⁄16" × 1" lag screws, as shown in Photo J. Install the swiveling casters at the front of the cabinet and the fixed casters at the rear.

3 Apply the finish of your choice. I used three coats of Enduro-Var.

4 Attach the pulls with 8-32 × 11⁄2" panhead machine screws.

5 Attach the top with countersunk #6 × 1" flathead screws from inside the case.

6 Finally, screw your planer to the cart. Alternatively, you can attach cleats to the top at the perimeter of the machine base. You just want to keep it from sliding off the top should the casters suddenly encounter an obstruction during travel. 

Refined or Rough-and-Ready: Your Choice

So why bother sanding and finishing this cart? It’s just a shop accessory, right? Well, maybe. Truth is, this handy little unit would be just as much at home in an office or other workroom after it has served its shop time. It would be a shame if it was too shoddily dressed for the occasion. 

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