help design lumber cart from scraps

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Forum topic by Spikes posted 11-02-2018 09:57 PM 961 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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125 posts in 646 days

11-02-2018 09:57 PM


I’ve got scraps all over the place and want to consolidate them in a lumber cart. However the cart itself need to be built from scraps, ie it’s about what I have and not going to buy plywood and make one of those nice projects I’ve seen online.

So what do I have? mostly a bunch of 2×4s and a 4×8 sheet of 1/2 sheeting ply. I want 3 main things:
- a shelf unit
- 2 bins for vertical boards of different dimensions
- 1 bin for very small pieces
- one section to lay sheet goods (just pieces, not 4×8 stuff)

This is what I’ve come up so far, which is basically using 2×4s ripped in half to get 1×1.5 and the ply to make the base and the walls of the boxes, altho I won’t have enough to make any of the walls of the vertical units.

(mmh, I created a gif with LICEcap of sketchup, but after uploading the img does not seem to move / have been converted to a jpg).

The whole thing is 4’ x 2’ x 4’ . the reason for dimension is mostly to make the most of that sheet of ply, base + siding of the shelves already use 3 pieces out of 4 is I cut it in 2’x4’ chunks. Also while not in the pic I need to make shelves for the unit on the left, prolly for the remainder of the ply and some pallets.

Here’s my questions/doubts:

1) I don’t see any other way to keep those frames together than pocket holes. butt joints just don’t seem strong enough and I don’t have the patience to make that many lap joints or even worse TM joints. Is there any other way that’s not too labor intensive other than pocket holes?

2) are frames like that going to last? somehow especially if I don’t have the ply to add it just feels very flimsy. I have some pallets I could take apart and maybe use that to make up the sidings of the boxes.

3) will it tip over? stuff in the shelves will put the weight down, but both boards in the boxes and sheet stuff at the front will potentially all lean backwards and I’m worried the whole thing will tip over. I will probably need to put some 2×4s at the bottom to attach the casters anyway, but still not sure that’s enough to keep the thing stable.

anything else I’ve missed about this design? is there a better design?

thanks for all the feedback,


-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

17 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


6032 posts in 3414 days

#1 posted 11-02-2018 10:19 PM

A cart built from scraps will always be a little too short, a little too narrow, and a little too tippy.
Use some good lumber to build a cart, then put the scraps in the cart.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Spikes's profile


125 posts in 646 days

#2 posted 11-03-2018 03:05 AM

@pintodeluxe, appreciate the input and while I’d love to follow it, unless you’re gonna paypal me $100 (or ship the lumber) I just don’t have the means to do what you suggest (to be precise I do have some better lumber, but I need to save it for projects destined to people and cannot use it on shop projects). Take care.

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View Steve's profile


1693 posts in 1183 days

#3 posted 11-03-2018 03:48 AM

If you’re not going to buy any plywood for the cart, I’d look on Craigslist for any free wood or entertainment centers you could get more material from.

View therealSteveN's profile


4588 posts in 1175 days

#4 posted 11-03-2018 08:45 AM

If you re not going to buy any plywood for the cart, I d look on Craigslist for any free wood or entertainment centers you could get more material from.

- Steve

This ^^^^

I have seen a pile of plywood on CL for free so the person with it got space cleaned out.

I’ve also seen a single sheet of CDX that looked like it had been there and back for 100 bux. Gotta look, but it’s out there.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Lazyman's profile


4468 posts in 1988 days

#5 posted 11-03-2018 11:44 AM

IMO, you really need to use 3/4” PW on the bottom or at a minimum you’ll need to make sure you have good pallet wood pieces on the bottom to reinforce it so that it doesn’t sag when you load it up. You will be surprised just how heavy it will be once it is full. If you don’t add PW or some other skin to the vertical bins, I think that you are going to find this to be a very annoying design. Sides will prevent stuff from falling out through the sides. The skin will also make it much stronger so that butt joints will be plenty strong on the frame. If you cannot get your hands on some free or cheap sheet goods to do that, I think that I would perhaps cut the sheet you have on the sides of the vertical bins into 3” strips and use those to at least partially enclose the vertical bins.

Having said all that, I think that this design is probably more for storing cutoffs and scraps than a lumber cart. A year from now you are going to wish you made a larger cart. Storing longer boards vertically on a cart limits the size of boards you can store on it without the cart falling over. I think that one that provides horizontal storage will be more versatile because longer boards can stick out the ends if necessary. I made Steve Ramsey’s (Woodworking for Mere Mortals) lumber cart when I realized I needed to get my lumber and cutoffs under control and am very happy with it. I use it to store multiple 4’x8’ and partial sheets of PW (etc.), up to 10’ boards and all of my shorter cutoffs. If that design doesn’t work for you, look at this one that Woodcraft sells plans for as inspiration for another design that doesn’t require as much PW. A simple A-frame would be stronger and more flexible that your current design and probably easier to modify as your needs change later (IMO).

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Spikes's profile


125 posts in 646 days

#6 posted 11-03-2018 03:38 PM

@Steve and @therealSteveN , thanks, similarly to my response to @pintodeluxe, would love if that route was possible, but it’s not, I live in the sticks so I have access to lots of cheap firewood and a bunch of constructions material, not much more. There is a relatively close by HD, but then money is the problem. So really, it has to be scraps I have or stuff coming from pallets.

@Lazyman, so yeah, no 3/4 ply at the bottom. Like I said I thought that may be weak so I planned on adding some 2×4 stringers across, that should do it, no? or even build an entire frame underneath, I have the scrap for that. Roger on sides being needed on the boxes or stuff will fall, I didn’t put them in sketchup because I was being lazy, but worst case scenario I can nail some pallet woods on it, no ply needed. So yeah, I’ll do that. Good to know butt joints will be good in that case, I guess I’m still unclear on design strength when things like that mix up.

And yes you’re right, this isn’t a lumber cart, but a scrap cart, just wasn’t sure that was a thing. And yes I’ve seen both of those designs. Basically what I’m trying to do is to split the two things because of space and usage pattern. I will build a separate cart for sheet goods and long boards, probably following this design which is the simplest I found and similar to your second one, with no ply needed:

this won’t be on casters and just stay by the wall. yes it makes more work to get the goods in and out of it, but I can handle it for now and I don’t have the [money for] casters or yse ply that often. So basically split the front and back of those lumber carts. What I’m building now is the front for the small parts and adding the shelving section with just a little space for panel cutoffs.

Does that make more sense now?

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View Rayne's profile


1298 posts in 2140 days

#7 posted 11-03-2018 03:50 PM

I think it looks fine, but the base will need a little more reinforcement, IMO. If you have a scrap of 2×4 you can screw in from the bottom on both the front and back, but smaller in height than the casters, then it should work fine. As for the vertical storage frame, you will probably need horizontal supports in a few places to make that stable. You can use bungee cords (or similar) if you need additional support for the upper portions of scraps that just doesn’t fit anywhere else (the in-betweens basically).

View Spikes's profile


125 posts in 646 days

#8 posted 11-23-2018 05:18 AM

I guess not the prettiest, but the cart is finished and loaded up and it definitely does the job, rolling around no problem and holding almost all the scraps I had laying about. Holds longish board, some smaller sheet good pieces and a lot of cutoffs.

Time will tell if the build is sturdy enough and if I had ti to do it again I’d definitely do something very different, I think I’m still pretty bad at designing and figuring out how to make things stable and straight, but oh well… :) Now I have to make a larger one to hold full sheets and more sheet goods, but that can be stationary at the back of the shop.

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View PurpLev's profile


8554 posts in 4249 days

#9 posted 11-23-2018 06:07 AM

nicely done, and like you said, can always redo this later on as the needs arise. at least you have something working for the time being!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View GR8HUNTER's profile


6797 posts in 1313 days

#10 posted 11-23-2018 03:13 PM

I always did love the stand up kind of cart cuz you do not have to unload whole shelf to get piece on bottom and piece on the bottom is always the one you need LOL GREAT JOB :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View oldnovice's profile


7516 posts in 3969 days

#11 posted 11-23-2018 07:41 PM

Necessity is the mother of invention but sometimes materials require compromise!
If it works for you than it’s right for you.
Besides, you can always upgrade when needed as this didn’t cost anything but time!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View WoodenDreams's profile


878 posts in 512 days

#12 posted 11-23-2018 10:03 PM

I agree with “oldnovice”, If it works for you. Doesn’t have to be pretty, just usable for your needs. One thing about making one from scrapes, is cost effectiveness. And you can always make another version later. But now it works.

View MSquared's profile


953 posts in 515 days

#13 posted 11-24-2018 03:02 AM

“oldnovice”, Apparently, you’re a Zappa fan!!.... That’s refreshing! :0) You always have wise words to impart. Thanks!

I put together a scrap wood/scrap wood cart from this basic idea;

I gained a good bit of floor and wall space for my time and got practice in with pocket hole jigs … That works!

-- Marty, Long Island, NY

View oldnovice's profile


7516 posts in 3969 days

#14 posted 11-24-2018 06:34 PM

I am working on my own lumber cart as I write this.
I am reclaiming a 30 year old painted book shelf for my cart.
Flip it on its side, take off the top (once the side of the case), add casters, and a studier back.

Hope to finish it next week!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Spikes's profile


125 posts in 646 days

#15 posted 11-28-2018 04:06 AM

thanks folks, always feel a bit self conscious about this projects, in part I’d love to work with finer wood and do nicer things, but so far this is what needed.

@MSquared, that’s actually one of the designs that inspired mine along with this one:

my biggest gripe about this whole build is precision… somehow I still seem to struggle quite a bit to make things square and so forth. A lot of those boxes didn’t quite meet the shelf unit and I had to put a lot of pressure and clamps while it glued. Now it stays together but I’m thinking that tension can’t be good.

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

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