Maybe you need to store your tools away when not working, or maybe being able to shift things around to suit the project at hand would be helpful. Whatever the reason, shop mobility is an option that most of us have given some thought. Whether you work in a large commercial shop, in a basement, or share your workspace with the family car, you have likely thought about having your tools on wheels. In the next few blogs, we will look at options for making your tools mobile using different types of casters and wheel sets.
Many tools, like my 14” band saw, come with floor stands. Making it mobile was quite easy using nothing more than a piece of plywood scrap and a set of inexpensive casters. It rolls out when I need to cut larger pieces, and parks back against the wall when finished. Building my pergola this summer, I was even able to roll it right out to the patio where I had all the room needed to shape the ends of 8’ beams.
My “lunchbox” planer was next to go mobile. I had it mounted on a stand that came off a cheap portable table saw. I liked the setup, but as a unit it was heavy and difficult to lift. Dragging it across the floor risked bending the sheet metal legs. Not wanting to use a big piece of ply, I half lapped a pair of stretchers out of plywood scraps and added a set of locking casters. Now the planer requires almost no effort to move to an aisle if I need to plane long pieces, and the casters lock in place while I am working. Of course, if you do not have an extra stand around, there are tool stands available that are set up to take casters.
Casters come in a wide variety of sizes, styles and attaching methods, and you will need to choose the right type. Some come with a flat plate for mounting and others with a threaded stem to bolt into existing holes. For tools, I recommend locking casters. Most can be locked to keep the wheels from turning, but better quality ones lock not only the actual wheel, but also the swivel. This is very helpful when the tool requires some force to feed stock through it, like a band saw. Note the weight rating on the casters as well. Some tools weigh a lot, and you do not want a wheel failing and toppling your expensive tool onto the floor. Finally, remember when adding casters that you are raising the tool up. Set the wheels as far out to the corners as possible for added stability. On the planer, the casters are directly under the legs. Note on my band saw how the casters are actually wider apart than the legs of the factory stand.
Tools that already have legs and stands are pretty easy to add mobility to. In the next installment, we will look at options for putting wheels under your shop-built tools.