Canadian Woodworking

Rolling shop cart

Author: Danny Proulx
Published: June July 2004

This rolling shop cart has become a ‘must have’ in my workshop, and I’m sure that it will become one in yours as well.


It is an inexpensive device to build, but the help that it offers in your shop is invaluable. The usefulness of these rolling shop carts is not restricted to the workshop either. In addition to moving cut panels and lumber around my shop, I use mine as a tool tray when I work on my truck or trailer. I also use it as a mobile workbench for repairs around the house and as a handy worktable for garden potting and planting.

This one is made with low cost construction grade lumber. The top, middle, and bottom shelves are inexpensive particleboard. You may even want to make it out of cut-offs and left over panels from your wood rack. The only costly item in this project is the metal wheel casters.

Build this shop cart and see for yourself how helpful a sturdy, mobile cart can be in your home, garden or workshop. I’m sure that you will appreciate the variety of ways you can use it.

Cut a 3/4″ wide x 3/4″ deep rabbet on one end of each of the four legs with a dado blade. If you don’t have a dado blade, use a standard blade and nibble out the waste materials with multiple passes.

Cut a rabbet 3/4″ deep x 3 1/2″ wide on both ends of each top rail. Cut the same sized rabbet on the uncut ends of each leg. The larger top rabbet is cut on the same face as the rabbet on the opposite end. The larger rabbet cuts on the top rails and legs will form a half lap joint. The half lap joint is secured with glue and 1 1/4″ screws.

Build two frames using two legs and one top rail for each assembly. Be sure to apply wood glue to all surfaces of the rabbet cuts before clamping and securing with screws. The frames can now be connected to each other using the support rails. Two are at the top, flush with the top surface of the legs. The other two are attached with their top edges 16″ above the lower leg ends.

Attach the rails to both frames with a simple butt joint and glue. Use two 3″ screws, in pilot holes, to secure each joint. Corner blocks will strengthen these connections.

Position the leg frames so that the lower rabbet cuts on the legs face inwards (i.e. face each other).

Glue and nail the four corner blocks into the top corners. They should be set flush with the top edge of the cart frame.

The bottom board is a piece of 3/4″ thick particleboard. Cut it to size and install it in the 3/4″ rabbets at the bottom of each leg. Use glue and two 2″ screws to secure this panel.

While the cart is upside down, attach the four wheel assemblies. I used a combination of 3/4″ and 1 1/2″ screws to secure the legs. The longer screws are positioned over the leg’s end and are driven through the bottom board into the legs.

The middle board is attached using four 2″ screws. I didn’t use glue for this shelf, just in case it might need to be replaced in the future.

The top board is 2″ wider and longer than the cart frame. That dimension will provide a 1″ overhang on all edges. Attach the top with 2″ screws through the corner blocks. Use a sander to round over the top board’s corners.

Rabbet legs with dado blade, or standard blade with multiple passes

Rabbet top rails and legs to form half lap joint

Secure half lap joint with glue and screws

Attach support rails to frames with butt joint and glue

Glue and nail corner blocks flush with top edge of cart frame

Glue and screw bottom board into leg rabbets

Screw wheel assemblies into legs

Attach middle board with screws

Round over the top boards edge

Construction Notes

This rolling cart is made using construction grade framing lumber. If you want something a little better looking, use hardwood for the legs and rails.

Be sure to counterbore the screw holes and fill them with wood plugs.

You can use mortise and tenon joints for the corner connections instead of the half lap joints.

The finished height and width of your rolling cart should be tailored to your needs. My workbench is 36″ high so that is the height of my cart. Make your cart’s height match the height of your bench.

The cart width is fine for my shop but you may want something different. If so, cut the support rails shorter or longer.

My cart shelves are made of particleboard. For a stronger cart use plywood.

The wheels can also be heavier duty models to accommodate heavy loads.

My shop floor is reasonably smooth concrete, but if it were rough I’d use a larger diameter wheel.

My carts get a lot of use and suffer a lot of abuse. That is why I use low cost construction lumber and particleboard shelves. But, even with my constant use, they last me a good five or six years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


More Shop projects to consider
Username: Password: