Shop Tools – Super Tough DIY Utility Cart

When there’s a need that doesn’t really fit with existing products, make your own.  That’s it with this new, tough Shop Floor & Utility Cart.  While it’s not monumental in design, it does have some great functionality for DIY’ers, with strength that you won’t find elsewhere. It is multi-function, as 3 products in one.

I see shop carts of various types online.  Most of the stouter ones brag 300 lbs or 500 lbs capacity.  I even saw a few at 600 lbs.  At uLine they have some steel carts (dollies) at 1200 lbs.  That’s a lot, but the one I just broke was rated at 800 lbs.  Nope, those won’t work.  While they would do most things, they won’t do the big jobs, like move a trailer frame.

Steel Dolly ExampleThe one in the image is a floor cart (aka Steel Dolly) from uLine at 2000 lbs, which is almost enough, but it has a hard steel top and not so easy to expand for multi-function.  Well, I could put a rubber pad on it.

Also, like many DIY’ers, I don’t have the luxury of a huge shop with tons of open, empty storage space.  When I add a new tool, the purpose and frequency need to justify the space.  So, why not a 3-in-1 tool?  Especially when I can replace an existing (broken) tool with something that will do even more?  That’s the genesis of our utility style shop cart.

Motivation For A New Utility Cart

The big motivation is a recent job that damaged my existing floor cart.  Obviously, I over-estimated it’s ability and the machine I set on it was too heavy.  The machine was easy to haul on the trailer, and easy to lift with the crane, but too much for the cart.  Now the wheels don’t turn so well.  — OK, I could just replace the wheels, maybe with some that are a little stronger.  Yet, sometimes I need a much stronger cart, and we’re not going to get there with the old one.

Why not build a much stronger one?  So, I did the design.  Actually, 6 designs before settling on this one.

The final motivation is adding an utility cart upper.  It’s a great way to make the floor cart more useful, by making it into a utility cart with a worktop.  It’s like storage in action.

A Super Strong Shop Floor Cart

While the real motivator was damage to the old cart, having a super strong one has been on my mind.  There are several times I was not sure if I should put this or that on one of my existing carts.  I have to admit I’ve been rather abusive to my floor carts.

Shop Cart Base Equipment Dolly

How much of a floor cart do I need?  What size?  What capacity?

I like a smaller footprint, so something less than 30″ x 24″ seems right for me.  However, I recognize that’s not perfect for everyone.  (So, in the plans, there are options to shrink it, or enlarge it.)

It needs high capacity, but it also needs to be low — giving some conflicting limits.  Looking at available casters, I found 600 lbs to 900 lbs each is not unreasonable.  600 * 4 = 2400 lbs, and 900 * 4 = 3600 lbs.  So, that’s how the cart is made.  Pick the casters for the performance.  Higher capacity caster are “harder”, so they make more noise rolling over seams or chips or grit on the floor.  Softer, polymer wrapped wheels, are a little lower capacity but nicer, generally, to use.

For my cart, I chose Caster City Polyurethane, full crown wheels for easy maneuverability and a nice balance of strength and ride.

A Utility Cart Upper

So, the new cart is a stronger, smoother rolling replacement of the old one.  But, what about solving a second concern at the same time?

Utility Shop CartWhen I’m working, I like having tools at my fingertips – even when I’m not at the workbench and toolbox.  Plus, I often need to move around with the tools from one side of a project to the other – sometimes from one side of the shop to the other.  I’ve tried tool belts and they’re OK for smaller tools.  I’ve tried buckets, but they’re a hassle.  Mostly I just set the tools down, then walk back and forth carrying tools as I move around the project.

I’ve considered buying a utility cart, but most of them lack substance, and seem rather wimpy.  However, since I’m building a new cart to replace the one I damaged, why not make a utility top as well?  The floor cart can serve as the base for a nice shelf top that’s a super strong utility cart!  I like it.

A Shop Tools Solution!

The result of the design effort is a pretty simple, yet super strong (3000+ lbs capacity) shop floor cart.  And, a tough utility cart add-on.  The shelves won’t hold the same weight as the floor cart, but they’re much stronger than most utility style shop carts.  Here are the plans.

A working wood top for the floor cart is pretty important to me.  I like the soft top, as it doesn’t scratch things.  Moreover, I occasionally screw blocks to it for holding things, or to keep things from sliding.  Also, we can replace a wood top like this pretty easy when needed.  A material like poplar is not too hard, but also not too soft.

While it might seem a waste to put a utility top on a super strong shop floor cart, it’s the 3-in-1 that makes it valuable.  I don’t need a floor cart with high capacity very often, but there’s no substitute when I do.  So, it makes a great utility base that doesn’t take extra storage space when it’s not needed for heavy loads.  When I do need it, loosen a few bolts, and the floor cart is free.

By using leg extensions for the utility top as the catch’s for securing it, the utility top still functions for tools and a mini bench even when it’s not on the cart.  It’s just not mobile.  The utility top is then free standing.  That’s a trade-off that works for me.

( See More Solutions! for the shop in other articles, too.  Some from readers, some from us.  Or, submit one of your fun Solutions! )

Will The 3-in-1 Shop Cart Work For You?

Admittedly, the 3-in-1 system for this utility and floor cart is not right for everyone.  Many people prefer separate tools for separate jobs, and that’s great.  If I had a bigger shop with more storage space, that’s probably how I’d feel too.

Anyway, if you need a super tough floor cart, build that part without the shelves and you’ve got it.  Or build just the shelves for a strong, mini worktop.  If all you need is a good utility cart (not much weight), these plans are a little over-kill.  It’s all good.

Worktop, Floor, Utility Cart

As with all our plans, we encourage customization.  Build it to meet your needs.  If these plans offer you something of value, they’re here for you.  If it doesn’t quite meet the mark for your needs, then hopefully we’ve stimulated some better ideas.

Good luck with all your projects!

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