Canadian Woodworking

Display cart

Author: Michael Kampen
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: October November 2005

This is a great cart to display anything from produce, to wooden crafts, to jewellery.


display cart

My wife and I are vendors at the local farmer’s market and I designed this cart as a way to display our wares. We find our new market cart attracts both attention and business, as people are naturally drawn to and gather around it. I can’t say for sure if it was entirely the cart, but the first two times that we used it at the market our sales were record high! When not being used at the farmer’s market, we use it on our deck as a buffet table for barbecuing. You could also use it to store cushions and other deck accessories, or place it poolside to store towels and sun screen. It offers a great combination of display and storage. For example, you could display potted herbs and lettuces on and around it, and store your watering can, plant food, and garden snips out of sight inside the cart.

The material for the entire cart is milled from 5/4 (1 ¼”) cedar decking that I purchased at my local building supply centre. If you can’t find 5/4 stock you can use standard width (¾”) material, but you will have to make adjustments to the dimensions.

Trimming the wheel


•   Mill sufficient material to 1″ for the spokes and the outer center wheel segments.

•   Cut the outer segments and spokes to shape.

•   Lay them out on a flat surface.

•   Cut matching dadoes on the two long spokes and assemble them to begin forming the wheel. With the main and secondary spokes laid out with the filler sections, mark biscuit locations at the ends of the spokes and using a band clamp, glue this assembly together.

•   Cut the outer rim segments and glue them on either side of the inner wheel. The joints in these sections are offset by 22 ½° from the first set of joints.

•   Mark the center of the intersection of the two long spokes. Drill this out with a 5/16″ drill. Using this hole and a circle cutting jig with a router and a spiral cutting bit (see Circle Cutting Jig below). Cut the outside rim of the wheel to its final circular shape.

•   Use a ¼” round over bit to profile the outer edges of the wheel with the circle cutting jig.

•   Using a V-groove bit in the circle cutting jig, rout a groove 1 3/8″ in from the outer edge of the wheel, ⅛” deep.

•   Cut out the inner and outer hubs. Cut the inner hub from hardwood stock 3/8″ thick, using a 3 ¾” hole saw and repeat for the outer hub using ⅞” stock.

•   Chamfer the outside face of the outer hub on the router table.

Sand and Finish the Hubs

•   Use the 5/16″ hole in the spokes and the 5/16″ pilot hole left by the hole saw to line up the hubs with the wheel and glue the hubs into place.

•   Drill out the 5/16″ center hole to accept a section of ½” copper pipe. Insert a section of copper pipe just slightly longer than the length of the hole.

Sand the Outer Surfaces of the Wheel

•   Paint the outer section of the wheel using black milk paint. Paint the V-groove a contrasting colour to define the edge of the tire.

•   Seal the wood and the paint with a clear finish of your choice. If your cart will be exposed to the weather at all, use a penetrating finish; a film-forming finish will crack and peel over time and is much harder to repair.


•   Prepare two pieces of stock for the axle housing.

•   Cut a dado to accommodate ½” copper pipe in the lower part of the axle housing. This should be a tight fit.

•   Cut a piece of copper pipe 19 5/8″ inch long.

•   Run a bead of glue in the lower piece, in the dado, and center the pipe in it.

•   Glue the top piece of the axle housing to the lower piece containing the pipe.

•   Insert the threaded rod and using one washer and bolt at each end, tighten it in place.


•   The body is made of three frame and panel sections and one face frame section. The center panels must be stained before assembling the frame around them.

•   Mill enough ¼” stock to glue up three panels.

•   Glue up, sand, and finish the three panels.

•   Mill the stock for the four frames to ¾” thick.

•   Using a table mounted router and a matched set of tongue and groove cutters, cut the tongues and grooves needed to assemble the outer frames.

•   Assemble the two end panels and set them aside.

•   The front and rear panels require an additional dado to be cut the full length of each piece ¾” in from the outer edge. Cut these now. Then assemble the front panel and the rear face frame.

•   Sand and finish the three panels and the face frame.

•   The end panels fit into dadoes at the ends of the large panels. Glue and clamp these together, measuring the diagonals to ensure the assembly is square.

•   Cut the ledger strips for the bottom, and glue these into place, using clamps.

•   Cut a ¼” thick piece of plywood for the bottom, and when the glue has set on the ledger strips, glue this in place from the inside. Screws or ¼” crown staples will hold this in place until the glue has set.

•   The two outer top attachment cleats are set inside and flush with the top edge of the main carcass. Glue these to the edge and use 2 ½” countersunk screws along the front and back edge to hold this in place.

•   The center three top attachment cleats are recessed into mortises in the front and back. These can be cut easily with a router.


•   The top is a ¾” thick panel glued up from the 5/4 stock. A frame around this panel provides a lip that keeps things from rolling off the edge.

•   Mill all of the material for the top to ¾” thick.

•   Glue up the center panel.

•   Flatten and sand the center panel.

•   Apply two or three coats of finish to the panel and set it aside.

•   Cut the material for the outer frame members.

•   Run a ¾” dado the full length on the back face of each board.

•   Attach the two front and back sections to the sides of the top using glue and seven countersunk brass screws.

•   Cut the ends to fit in between, and fasten them in place in the same manner.

•   Cut the stock for the end battens; notch each end to fit and radius the outer corner.

•   Drill a countersunk hole 4″ in from each end and attach to the top with brass screws.

Handles and Legs

•   Mill the material for the arms and legs to ⅞” thick.

•   Cut the legs and handles to length.

•   Cut the half-lap joint where the handle meets the leg.

•   Glue, clamp, and screw these pieces to the legs and side handles. Sand and finish these prior to installation.


•   You will need a large level area to begin assembly.

•   Invert the main body of the cart on the ground.

•   Using glue and screws, attach the axle assembly to the underside of the body at the appropriate place.

•   Turn the cart upright to continue assembly.

•   Fasten the three center top attachment cleats into the corresponding mortises using glue and screws.

•   Temporarily clamp the handle and leg assemblies to the sides of the cart, using a level to keep the top horizontal and the legs plumb.

•   Trim the legs to length if necessary.

•   Fasten the leg assemblies to the body using screws driven in from the inside of the body.

•   Pre-drill four clearance holes for screws in each top attachment cleat.

•   Spread glue on the top of the cleats and center the table surface on the top.

•   Screw the top in place from the underside.

•   Clean up any rough edges and glue squeeze-out and apply another coat of penetrating finish to the entire cart.

If you are going to be leaving your cart outside in the elements, be sure to choose a protective outdoor finish. Once the finish is dry, wheel it into place and you are ready to go. Whether you are barbecuing, working at a market, or container gardening, the possibilities are endless for how you can use this handy cart to fill both your display and storage needs.

Circle Cutting Jig

•   Remove the sub-base from your router.

•   Measure the diameter of the base – this will determine the width of the jig.

•   Cut a ¼” or ½” plywood the width of your router base and 36” long.

•   Place the sub-base over the end of the jig, and mark the location of the sub-base screw holes and the center bit hole.

•   Drill out and countersink the screw holes on the bottom side of the jig.

•   Drill out the center bit hole.

•   Drill pivot holes centered along the jig. Space them 1″ apart. (Note – You can also drill the pivot holes as you need them. The distance from the inside edge of your bit to the center of the pivot hole gives you the radius of the circle).

•   You can use a nail or screw to attach the jig, through a pivot hole, to your work piece. Be sure to attach the jig to the bottom side of your work piece.

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