Skill Level: Intermediate
Time: 2 days
It’s often said that a shop layout is never truly complete. While that may be true, I have discovered a valuable asset in my shop that can move and adapt to changing layouts. I’ve been testing a mobile shop cart over the last several years to make sure it holds up to the rigors of woodworking. The key is middle dividers that act like the webbing of an “I-Beam.” With this tested construction technique, the entire cart forms a rigid base to support the top. The work surface is a double-layer of thick MDF, forming a flat top that can handle daily use and abuse in a shop environment. Special features include pass-through doors, slide-proof adjustable shelves, and a built in clamp rack for even greater utility.
Construct the Base
Cut plywood parts to size, and complete the basic joinery shown in the detail rendering. Start with the bottom panel, which has a dado to receive the middle divider. Cut 6 wide x 3 /4 notches at the top corners of the middle divider. These notches will eventually receive long cleat strips, which function to lock the dividers square. Install the end panels, which are rabbeted to fit over the bottom panel.
As you install the first end panel, you’ll capture the “clamp rack wall” in vertical grooves. Add a bead of glue to the bottom of the clamp rack wall component and reinforce this butt joint with screws from the bottom. Now add the other end panel, and glue and nail it in place with 18-gauge brad nails. Finally, add the cleat strips to lock everything in place. The cleats are screwed into the middle divider from the top and attached to each end panel with pocket hole screws.
Wheels and Clamp Rack
Before the cart gets too heavy, turn it upside down and add 4 locking casters at each corner. Finish the carcase by adding maple edge banding to any exposed edges. I used iron-on edgebanding and trimmed it flush once it cooled down. Take a moment to sand any sharp edges, and add the last fixed part to the base, a hardwood clamp rack. Use a 1 /2 wide dado stack to cut evenly spaced notches in a 29 3 /4-long x 5 1 /2-wide board.
The clamp rack is installed in a 1 /4 deep dado in the clamp wall panel. Three small brackets offer additional support to the clamp rack. I sized mine for small parallel clamps, however it could be adapted for various clamps in your shop. It’s a handy spot to always have a clamp at the ready when assembling projects.
I knew the drawers on this cart would carry a heavy load, and wanted them to last a lifetime, so I built them with solid hardwood lumber. The drawer boxes feature maple sides and walnut front and rear panels. The drawer bottoms are plywood panels. I used 1 /4 aromatic cedar plywood for the small top drawer, and more substantial 1 /2 maple plywood for the lower two drawers. The corners are joined with through dovetail joinery, and were cut with a variable spacing dovetail jig.
Once the drawer boxes are built, install the full-extension drawer slides in the cabinet. Hang the drawers and test them for proper operation. The finishing touch is the maple applied drawer fronts with curved cutouts. Mark the semicircular shapes for the drawer pulls, and joinery-exposing curves on each side. Rough cut the shapes at the bandsaw, and finish the job with a router and template setup. I made a two-sided template from a scrap of 1 /4 MDF to handle both shapes. Attach the template to the drawer with double-sided carpet tape, and chuck a bearing guided flush-trimming bit in your router. Once the final trimming is done, ease the edges with a 1 /8 radius roundover bit.
1 The end panels are rabbeted to fit over the bottom panel, and the middle divider sits in a shallow dado. The clamp rack wall is also housed in grooves on both sides. Glue the main case together, and add the cleat strips to lock it square.
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