Shop Implements/Jigs et al #1: Easy, Cheap Mobile Base for the Small Shop (BONUS: Lifting Your Machine on Them Simply)

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Blog entry by NeophyteGrant posted 01-10-2019 10:45 PM 946 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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This is a slightly personalized version of a base conceived of by Don K and Brad Nailor:

Like many, I do not have a large shop. I’m a hobbyist and use the garage. Up until a month or so ago I had used a variety of Shop Fox and HTC mobile bases on all my stationary machines but had found that the 2 fixed and 2 swivel caster design, in my case, was a hindrance rather than an asset. With this configuration, moving machines is a game of parallel parking and wide turns; lateral motion from a stopped position is difficult, due to the tendency for the base to ‘drift’ due to weight.

This is an asset in a big shop where things aren’t moved frequently and there is plenty of room to back out. In mine—and I imagine other folks’—case, I WANT to be able to scootch or slide a machine in any direction, even slightly, to aid in making room for things to slide past, or to work with the machine.

Tired of commercial bases, I then turned to make my own using a simple template.

Making the Base: I used 3/4 ply—any ply works in this case, 3 inch polyurethane casters with double locks (available on Amazon) for the wheel rotation and swivel, and stacked rails of either plywood or jointed dimensional lumber (to make the face lamination easier) with about 7 inches of overhang to accommodate the casters and locks. These were stacked to give about .5-1.25’ clearance below the machine depending on how top heavy it was or if I cared to make it ride lower in a particular case.

I drilled spax self-tapping, 3 or 3.5” screws, into the top and bottom of the rails to fix them to the plywood, then used 5/16 bolts for the casters, with the bolt heads showing on the top of the rails. In retrospect, I would have done this the opposite way so the nuts and end of the bolts don’t obstruct the caster body at all.

Wear has been good. No sagging. And they move FAR more easily in any direction. It took almost all the vibration out of tall 17” Drill Press.

Lifting the Machine: This is the rub. How do you get these bad boys off one base and onto another? You can crib the machine, lean it, use a hoist, a cherry-picker crane (I have one with a load leveler and lifting straps, but for wide machines it’s out) or use brute manpower with friends.

I found that using bottle-jacks, positioned under 4 foot lengths of wood clamped to the machine base worked stupendously well and had very low set up time. You could use a cross-bar and attempt it with two, but I found 4 bottle jacks for $44 on Amazon and just went for it. I lifted everything this way—even attaching the wood blocks to the column of the drill press. In this case, that 7 or 8 inches of clearance is all you need. I didn’t need to tilt the machines to get straps under them, or try to manuever the cherry-picker around the base and then slide the base under it and fit it within the cherry picker’s V-shaped legs (which can be problematic as you get closer to the bottom of the V—fitting things width-wise).

Hope you find these ideas useful to your own work.


3 comments so far

View htl's profile


5520 posts in 2322 days

#1 posted 01-10-2019 10:55 PM

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs

View NeophyteGrant's profile


147 posts in 1672 days

#2 posted 01-10-2019 11:04 PM

Thanks HTL. I managed to fix it. They showed on my desktop facing the right way but uploaded rotated. Finally had to save them as something else to get them to save oriented correctly.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4497 days

#3 posted 01-12-2019 12:45 PM

Looks like a great solution and a clever way of raising the machines too. I’m surprised that the ply is able to support so much weight.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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