Most of us soon or later find that our shops are quite a large as we thought they were on paper. As we accumulate more tools, tool stands and tool boxes the frustration of crowding sets in. There is a solution short of building a new shop – convert as many of the large immobile things as we can into rolling stock. We can make our work area feel larger by putting table saws, band saws, drill presses, assembly tables, clamp racks and scroll saws on wheels.
Granted some of shop tools like a lathe or your big work bench need a rock-solid footing and won’t make great mobile units, but you can make them movable by using castors that retract – allowing legs to rest firmly on the floor yet mobile enough to clean or re-arrange the shop when the need arises. Often, when using retractable castors only two are required so that you have a “swing” end of the tool to move while lifting the other. If the tool is too heavy, four retractable casters will have to be used.
Look for these Shop-ready Caster Features
- 300 lb load rating
- Easy on/off foot pedal
- Ball bearing swivel for smooth operation
- 4-hole mounting plate for extra stability
- Ball bearings for smooth rolling
- Non-marring polyurethane wheels
When selecting your wheels, don’t be shy – heavy duty is the way to go. Get something that will that will support weights in the neighborhood of 300 pounds, which will give you a max load per four corner project adding up to well over 1000 pounds. Oh, and no matter what type of shop flooring you have, look for models featuring non-marring polyurethane wheels.
The beauty of casters made for shop use is their ease of installation; two styles offer simple four hole mounting plates, so they can be screwed directly onto the base of whatever is being built. The other type bolts directly to the machinery being made mobile. These sturdy casters are ideal for items you need to get out of the way quickly when they’re not in use, and return to use quickly. This makes the casters ideal for items like assembly benches where loads may vary from 10 pounds to well over 300 pounds within a five minute span.
Assembly benches for any particular shop need to be sized to the shop’s types of projects: if you never build anything larger than a milk crate, then a 4′ x 2′ rolling assembly cart is apt to be the most useful, and to consume the least space. If you turn out larger projects on a fairly regular basis, think about making an assembly cart 2-3′ wide and 6-8′ long, depending on your needs. Make the top of 3/4″ plywood, the ends of 3/4″ plywood, and if the cart goes over 4′ long, put in a center insert of 1/2″ plywood. The bottom needs to be 3/4″ plywood. Some places use particleboard, which is cheaper, though less durable over the long term. Add a pair of regular casters at two corners and a pair of locking swivel casters at two end corners, and you’re ready to go. I like to cheat a bit and put in a shelf that is about halfway between the top and the bottom on small assembly carts that are near normal bench height. For smaller (lower) assembly tables, this is not possible, but the cart itself is usually longer and wider, providing more space for tool and fastener storage.
For assembling finished items, or items with delicate surfaces, cover the assembly table with carpeting. Remnants work well. Attach with staples for easy removal when dirty.
Casters which use of ball bearings are more suitable for quick and easy movement, and ball bearings in the the swiveling action is also a big help. Look for a caster that the swivel locks down as the wheel itself is locked, guaranteeing that the bench won’t scoot out from under whatever you’re loading onto it…or assembling on it.
Low furniture style dollies may also be built with casters, using the big load limits on HD casters: you then have easy movement of tools or materials on a permanent or part-time basis. Also possible is a cart to hold clamps–no matter how many clamps you get, you won’t overload that cart by weight. Give some thought to an A frame shape, with 1″ or 3/4″ pipe as cross members inside the As, where clamps can be hung, or leaned, until needed. I like an open cut A, with the center member left in place, of inexpensive 3/4″ plywood (not MDF or particle board here). That gives you a spot to hang small clamps and to pop on those little spring clamps that are so hard to store they usually end up in a drawer and half forgotten.
There’s really not much limit on what you can make mobile with casters, except your imagination. Four or six can be set up to handle off-sized tools as mobile bases when you can’t find a base to fit–as is the case with many tools, such as saws with unusual fence configurations, shapers and other tools.
For a complete listing of shop-ready casters 7#150; click here. For a related project, see our article ‘Adding A Mobile Base to Big Tools.’
Information for this article is sourced by permission of Woodcraft.