Super-Simple Cutoff Cart

A two-sheet solution for short boards and sheet goods

Finding a place for cutoffs can be a challenge for shops of any size. What starts as a neat stack quickly transforms into a messy mountain, often in the spot that’s needed for some other operation. And when that perfect piece is hidden at the bottom of the pile, you’ll likely abandon the search and break into a fresh board, creating yet another leftover that only exacerbates the problem.

By sensibly organizing stock that’s too small for a full-sized lumber rack, this 2 × 5' cart can save time and money. The cabinet provides three vertically stacked compartments for storing turning blanks, spindle stock, and super-special shorts. The bins corral longer boards and offer a simple gauge for differentiating trash from treasure. When stock becomes too short for the lowest bin, it’s time to put it on the shelf for safe keeping, or toss it in the trash. The two sheet goods pockets accommodate those cumbersome but potentially useful small panels left over after a project. The vinyl downspouts are perfect for organizing dowels, threaded rod, and short sections of miscellaneous bar stock. 

Unlike many shop projects that require a fully-equipped workshop to make, this project can be completed with a few basic tools. In fact, I found that Kreg’s Adaptive Cutting System, with its track saw and assembly table, was better suited for this build than my full-sized table saw and traditional workbench. If you don’t own a track saw, you can guide a standard circular saw against a straightedge made from a long plywood scrap.

Two sheets is all it takes

This cart requires only two 4 × 8' sheets of 3/4" plywood, two 5-foot 2×4’s, and a handful of screws. I used blondewood plywood (sold at home centers) because it’s less expensive than oak or birch plywood, but still looks good. To save more money, you could use any 3/4"-thick sheet material, including oriented strand board (OSB). And to save your back, the initial crosscuts can be made at the home center. If the cuts are a bit off, adjust the dimensions of the subassemblies to suit.

Order of Work

  • Cut plywood
  • Assemble cabinet and bin
  • Attach components to base
  • Add sheet goods pocket panels
  • Install casters

Prep the parts 

First, break down the plywood sheets into smaller sections using the Plywood Cutting Diagram on p. 53. Focus on the largest components first; in this case, the bin and sheet goods pocket panels and the 2 × 5' base. Don’t be dismayed if your cuts are a little off; this is just a shop cart. At times it’s better to put down your tape measure and put your trust in stacked cuts and stop blocks. As long as the matching parts are symmetrical and appropriate corners are square, the sections should come together without major hitches. 

Stack for matching. To ensure that the rack’s tapered parts are symmetrical, stack-cut them as shown. Then trim the ends of the bin sides to be 3⁄4" shorter than the sheet goods pocket panels.
Track saw system. Kreg’s Adaptive Cutting System is ideal for cutting identical parts like the cabinet shelves and bin dividers. When it’s not needed for cutting, remove the track and use the table as a workbench.

To Paint or Not to Paint?

Shop projects don’t really need a finish, but a coat or two of polyurethane or paint will improve the project’s looks and longevity. For efficiency, use a painting pad or roller to apply the finish to the sheet goods the day before cutting them into parts. Then touch things up with a brush after assembly. 

Easy assembly 

Your dimensions may differ from the drawing, but as long as the shelves are the same width, the cabinet can be assembled as shown. The bin can be assembled in the same fashion, using spacers to offset the dividers from the lower edges of the sides. 

Using the base as an assembly platform, center the high end of the bin against a cabinet side, and screw the two components together. Then align the low end of the bin with the end of the base, and install screws there and through the cabinet bottom to fasten the parts to the base. (This positioning creates a slight ledge at the bottom of the cabinet against which the dowel holders can rest.) Next, attach the sheet goods pocket panels to the cabinet and stiffeners. Finally, install the casters, add the downspout dowel holders, and load up your cart.

Build the cabinet from the bottom up. Set a cabinet side on two standing shelves as shown, and screw it to the bottom shelf. Then flip the assembly and attach the opposite side to the bottom. The shop-made assembly squares (see Tip on p. 26) keep the cabinet square and prevent the parts from toppling when driving the screws. 
Spacer-set shelves. A pair of matching plywood spacer panels provide a fast, measurement-free way to ensure perfectly parallel shelves. Simply set the shelf on the spacers and screw through the cabinet sides.

Top off the cabinet. Double-check your cabinet dimensions, and then cut the top to fit. After screwing the top to the sides, round over all sharp corners with a router or sanding block.

Make it mobile. Flip the assembled cart upside down and attach 21⁄2" swivel casters as shown. Swivel casters cost more than fixed casters, but enable the cart to turn on a dime. Each plate has four holes, but three 1⁄4 × 1" lag screws per caster will do the job.

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