Who’s ready for another installment of the Shop Upgrade Series?? I don’t know about you, but I know my shop is. Possibly the biggest hurdle in shop organization is lumber and scrap storage. It’s slowly taking over my shop and every time I try to clean it out, I want to keep it all. You know, “just in case”. Story of my life, but I digress. I’ve long wanted a lumber cart but all of the plans I saw for one were just too big for my space. Despite working out of a two car garage, space is at a premium as everything has to be tucked away at night to allow for a car to be parked inside. Lumber racks are awesome but I have no available wall space for one. After coming to my wits end with the scrap wood… (pause for hideous picture)
…I knew I finally had to come up with a better solution than overflowing cardboard boxes. After some thought, I decided I would design a lumber cart that’s a little on the smaller scale. The problems I ran into were how to make it maximize the storage capabilities while still being manageable in my space. The good news for you is that I did all of the hard work designing and it’s available to you as a free download! These are my first ever build plans made for someone else so please be gentle.
I had hopes of making this out of one sheet of plywood but that dream quickly ended. However, if you are looking for one out of one sheet, I encourage you to check out this scrap wood organizer designed by Mike at Mad Raven Woodworks. Anyway, I initially decided that I wanted the footprint of the cart to be about 24” deep by 40” wide. I also knew I wanted several bins to store different sized scrap pieces. Why didn’t I just make it 48” wide so I could store half sheets? I really wanted to try to keep this cart on the smaller side and it’s not often that I have half sheets of plywood (or larger) around here as scrap. When you take a look at the cut list, you can see that it would be simple to adjust the cart width. After some trial and error and some feedback from others, I finally decided on a cart that had three bins and a space in the back for any larger pieces I do happen acquire here and there. Check it out!
I also added a unique touch that is completely optional. Thanks to a suggestion from Jen at Built By Jen, I added in some slots to help alleviate sawdust build up in the bins.
This cart was designed to be specific to my needs so keep that in mind as you prepare to build your own. You can easily change the dimensions or even add/remove dividers. I recommend that you read through this post and the plans before you start to build to ensure that you don’t miss anything and there are no surprises. You don’t know how many times I’ve jumped the gun and it’s come back to bite me. Ha! Now let’s watch me build this thing.
I printed off my cut list and got to work ripping down my two sheets of plywood.
You might notice there are a couple extra pieces to cut on this cut list than is on yours. I initially planned to divide up the middle bin but scraped that idea as I went along.
To rip down all of my pieces, I transferred the dimensions onto the plywood and used my Kreg Accu-Cut (affiliate) as my straight edge for my circular saw. My ONLY complaint about the Accu-Cut is that it only spans 4’ instead of 8’. While it’s not required for this build, it makes getting straight cuts a breeze.
These pieces were cut in no time.
Before I started assembling anything, I created my sawdust slots. Begin this step by measuring out where you will drill your holes. The following diagram is how I laid mine out. I figured showing you this would be so much easier than me trying to explain it.
Essentially, I put them five inches from each side and right down the middle. I then centered them between the dividers. The slots in the first bin are 2” long, 3” long in the second bin, and 4” long in the back bin.
With a lot of my scraps being ¾” thick, I made the holes ½” wide with a ½” forstner bit. A spade bit or regular drill bit also works. To help keep my holes straight, I hooked up my drill to my Miles Craft Accu Drill Mate (affiliate). This project is my second time to use it and it’s so easy. I’m all about tools that make for easy work and simple set up. Also, you’ll need to have extra batteries on hand for this step. Just in case.
When all my holes were drilled, I used a straight edge to connect them on the outside edges to serve as a cut guide.
My jig saw was used to cut the lines I just marked.
Sometimes the slots won’t come out so pretty. Kinda like this…
That’s okay. It’s shop furniture. It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
The next step is to drill all the pocket holes according to the diagram in the plans. So many pocket holes, folks. Sorry.
On the alternative, if you don’t have a pocket hole jig or would prefer not to use them, you can use regular 1 ¼” wood screws to attach the pieces.
Here’s where you get the benefit of me working through the plans before giving them to you. I find the mistakes or where I should have assembled it in a different order. I started by assembling all of the dividers first. I don’t recommend this. My written plans say to attach the front, the sides second, then the dividers. Go with that. Here’s how I actually did it.
I started by attaching the front to the bottom. You’ll want the front piece to hang over the bottom by ¾” on each side. The side pieces will butt up to this overhang. Make sure to have the pocket holes on the underside so that they are not visible.
I then attached the rest of the dividers. The first divider was placed 5 ½” back from the front. The second divider was placed 7” back from the first and the last was placed 10” back from the second. This will leave with you 6 ¾” remaining. Position your dividers so that the pocket holes are facing to the rear. Of all the pictures I took, I didn’t take one with all of them in place without the sides. Whoopsie.
Once I had the dividers attached (remember, don’t do that first), I cut my side pieces. From the back and the second divider, I wanted the sides to come out 4” then angle down to the next divider. From the second divider, it angles all the way to the front. I transferred these measurements to my side pieces then cut them out with a jig saw.
Here’s the prime reason I say to attach the sides before the dividers.
I had to take the first divider out in order to attach the sides. Even with my right angle drill attachment and the smaller pocket hole drill bit, there was no way I was fitting anything in there without removing the divider. It all worked out in the end, though.
Only one more board to attach! The piece that goes on your ledge to hold your larger scraps in place. And what do you know, I again didn’t take a picture of it going on. But you get the point. Just line it up flush with the back of the bottom piece (on top of the bottom piece) and screw it in place with the pocket holes facing in.
Do you see how the tall back piece sticks up higher than the side? I’m calling that design aesthetic. Not a measurement mistake. No measurement mistake at all… Unrelated (totally related), the measurements in the plans are correct now.
Now I know this is shop furniture and shop furniture isn’t supposed to be pretty, but…I decided to paint it. My thinking is a) I want my shop to look good in pictures and b) maybe if it looks nice, I’ll keep it cleaner. I chose Azure Jazz (who names this stuff?) from Lowe’s Valspar line.
Love. I’m totally going to go back through and paint the other shop pieces I’ve made so it all matches.
Anyway, I did one coat of paint over the whole piece.
I only did one because, after all, it’s shop furniture. And I really liked how I could still see the grain of the plywood through the paint.
Once the paint was dry, I attached the casters. These are the casters I used (affiliate). (I actually used the black casters but they didn’t show available when this post was written.)
They are 3” swivel casters with a locking mechanism. They are rated to hold 220 pounds per caster so, in total, they hold 880 pounds. A fully loaded cart brings with it a lot of weight so you’ll want to make sure whichever casters you choose, they are heavy duty.
The holes in the casters for screws were too large for the heads of my screws so I added washers to hold them in place. Different casters and different size screws may not require them but be sure to check before you start building so that you don’t have to make a run to the hardware store mid-project (not like I know anything about that…).
Place the casters in each corner of the cart and screw them into place.
I knew that the cart would need something to hold the boards in place that were resting on the back ledge when the cart was moved around. The plan was to add some eye bolts to the sides at the top and use a bungee cord to strap around the boards. I couldn’t find any eye bolts that were the right size but I did find some D rings near the bungee cords that were perfect.
I placed a ring on each side of the cart 6” from the top and 2” from the back.
I picked up a 41” bungee cord thinking it would stretch enough but, while it fits with the cart empty, it’s a bit tough to stretch across with boards on the cart so I’ll be getting a longer one.
After I loaded boards on the cart, I discovered the need to add a second set of rings a little lower. It’s a good thing that package came with four rings! I placed them at 12” from the bottom and 2” from the back.
The last thing I added, before the wood that is, was a logo decal. Why? Just because.
Now it’s time to fill it up! Despite being on the smaller side, this cart held a surprising amount of scraps. Side note, I recommend adding handles to the sides to help move it around. I will be. I thought it would be easy enough to move without them but it does take a little oomph. Handles would be an asset.
While it doesn’t hold every piece of scrap wood I have, nor was it meant to, it did make a big dent in my mess. Now I just have to sort through what’s left to see what is really worth keeping and start using up what I do keep. We’re making progress in here folks!
I’m really glad I decided to paint the cart. While I wanted it to look nice, I didn’t realize what a bonus it would be to have the contrast between the different bins and all of the unfinished wood. And yes, the front bin looks like a mess. I intended it to sort of be that way because I wanted it to hold all the little pieces that weren’t going to stack nicely.
All that’s left to show you now is the glamour shots. Well, as glamourous as pictures of shop furniture in a garage in serious need of spring cleaning can be…
If you choose to build a lumber cart from my plans, I’d love to see it! Please tag me on social media (Facebook and Instagram) using @7miledesigns or message or email it to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you do share it on social media, please use the hashtag #7MDlumbercart so others can find it as well. I can’t wait to see your takes on it!