Have you ever wanted a place to store boards and plywood? Me too! I stumbled on plans for this roll-around cart from Issue #55 of Shop Notes published way back in 2001. It’s a great design. It can store seven full sheets of plywood on one side, has cubbies for 4′ or shorter boards on the other side, and shelves in the middle for longer stock. The instant I saw this design I wanted to build it.
The only problem was the cutlist called for five sheets of plywood and I didn’t have any. You can get the cheap stuff at the local home center for about $35 per sheet so this was starting to look like an expensive shop project.
Craig’s List to the rescue. I found a general contractor not far from here who had recently taken down about 15 sheets of plywood from a structure and was willing to part with the whole lot for about $150. Only problem was it was pretty weather beaten, having been exposed to moisture. Although the overall effect was to give an interesting color texture presumably from the minerals in the water leaching into the wood? I could see this gem in the rough for what it was.
A quick inspection of the sheets showed most of them to be structurally sound even if a little beaten and discolored. This plywood didn’t need to win any beauty contests just be stable and rot-free for various shop projects. I went ahead and brought home the whole stack.
Side note: neither of our family vehicles were up to the task so I had to rent a truck from U-Haul. Side note to the side note: don’t believe them when they say “only $19 to rent.” They get you on the mileage. Something like a buck a mile. It’s actually not very cost effective but it was my only option. Side note to the side note to the side note: this is yet one more data point in my “honey, I really need a truck of my own look how much money I’m wasting in rental costs” case I’ve been building.
And so without further adieu I got to building.
Have I ever mentioned what my #2 least favorite woodworking task is (after finishing of course)? It’s trying to cut @!*#@! sheets of plywood on the table saw.
If I ever have a serious accident in the shop this is probably how it’s going to go down. I’ll be ripping a full 4×8′ sheet on my undersized jobsite table saw and something unexpected will happen, like a squirrel jumping on my head or a dog running up and barking at me. I’ll flinch and the sheet I’m holding will shift either left or right. All it will take is about a two inches of deflection to cause the blade to bind and get stuck, whereupon all the energy stored in the blade’s angular momentum will be transferred into acceleration of this 70 pound plywood sheet directly back at ME. See, I knew that Physics degree would come in handy some day for describing something.
That my friends is what we call a classic case of kickback. I’ll eloquently shout “OOF!” and fall backward as I grab my stomach, waiting for an inch wide welt the entire width of my belly to appear. I’ll also have to suffer the indignity of the plywood landing on top of me. How embarrassing. But I digress.
Even though I mostly liked the look of the plywood it did have a lot of dirt and grime on it so I decided to sand it down. It took a long time to do this with an orbital sander, and I probably went through at least 15 disks of 40 grit. Tedious work. But the end result looked pretty good, and I knew it would look even better after I had finished my #1 least favorite woodworking task.
It was a little challenging cutting the cubby partitions since they required careful angles and an arc segment. Fortunately, my step-father had gifted me a handmade circular compass which I used for the task.
I ran a router over the edges to give a nice bevel. More of an aesthetic touch than functional. I also had to fill in a lot of vacancies in the plywood with wood filler. Then began the work of clamping and anchoring everything down with wood screws.
As you can see, it took some creative clampwork to get the partitions in place. I diverged at this point from the official plans and decided to make two of the five cubbies wider than the rest. In my humble opinion this is how the plan should have said to do it. With two wide cubbies you can fit your quarter sheet plywood offcuts. Otherwise you’re stuck trying to awkwardly store partial sheets of plywood next to full sheets on the other side.
I finished the shelves with several coats of polyurethane and mounted them in place.
This thing is heavy! The casters are rated for 2000lbs I think, and the finished cart fully loaded probably came in at about half that. But it’s super-sturdy. You could host a party for all your friends sitting on top of it and never worry about it collapsing, if you were so inclined.
This cart has stood the test of time. I completed it on March 16, 2017 and have been using it now for about nine months. It’s the perfect thing for holding all my stock. The only issue is that it’s so heavy to roll around that overcoming the coefficient of static friction to get the wheels rolling is difficult (again, Physics degree to the rescue).
If you’re looking to store your own boards and plywood I highly recommend this cart. The issues of Shop Notes are way out of print but if you set up an alert on eBay eventually you’ll get lucky.
One other cool feature about this cart is that you can build an optional rack for holding up plywood so you can break it down with a circular saw instead of continuing to subject yourself to mortal danger doing this on the table saw. I’ll be doing that as an upcoming project.
Here are my project notes:
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