Chris Schwarz's Blog

Chop, Drop and Roll

Making a workbench that is both massive and mobile is no small feat. Most of the approaches I have seen have one of the following complications:

1. The mobile base is outboard of the legs. You trip on them. You need new front teeth.
2. The mobile base has “locking” wheels that fail to “lock” completely.
3. The mobile base has spindly wheels that cannot climb a single layer of sawdust.
4. The mobile base is very complicated or expensive.

This week, reader Phil Donehower of North Carolina sent me photos of the mobile base he installed in the legs of his French-style workbench. I think his idea has real merit and might help spark some neurons in your own noggin.

Here’s how it works. The hardware lives in a cavity in the bottom of each leg and is raised and lowered by all-thread rod that runs from the casters up to the benchtop.

Donehower began with four 2″ swivel-plate casters and attached them to 1-1/2″ x 2″ rectangular steel tubing that he cut to the same size as the caster plate. (See here for the tubing: http://www.speedymetals.com/s-202-rectangular-tube.aspx).

He attached the 1/2″ x 13tpi all-thread rod to the steel tubing using 1/2″x 13tpi hex nuts and washers. The all-thread runs through a 1/2″ steel hanger plate attached to each leg (see http://www.duffcompany.com/catalog/hangers.pdf for details).

To raise and lower the casters he uses a screwdriver to turn the all-thread rod through holes in the benchtop.

In my never-ending effort to meddle, I wonder if instead of a screwdriver you could modify the all-thread to accept a nut driver that is chucked in a cordless drill. That would be fast and easy.

In any case, Donehower said the system works great and cost him only about $40 in materials.

– Christopher Schwarz

12 thoughts on “Chop, Drop and Roll

  1. Jim

    Chris, I found the system in Wood Magazine #178 (page 46, Sept 07)to work very well, and I used it under a heavy lathe stand. It uses a set caster mounted on a beam between the legs of you table. They pivot on a center bar or pipe and are rolled down into place by use of a lever arm. Thanks for all the advice and help you give in the magazine and your blogs.

    JimB

  2. Chris

    I have done some similar things to the suggestions in the other comments. I have limited space in my home shop and thus opted for an expandable workbench. It collapses down to approximately 24"x 30" but will expand to 8’x30" It is quite sturdy when expanded (the expansion stops any rolling so no need for complex mechanisms) and when I need to move it around I collapse it and it rolls easy on four 3" casters attached to the 24×30 base.

    I use this particular bench with tools like the radial arm saw, benchtop drill press,thickness planer, etc. Then when not in use the tools get stored in the interior of the workbench’s body. The over all bench is 24"x30" by about 40" tall. Works like a charm AND saves space!

    Chris from thicknessplaner.org

  3. Ron Kanter

    Chris,
    The lever system you describe is exactly what Minimax calls their "mobility kit" and uses on band saws up to at least 1,000 pounds.
    I had it on my MM16, but took it off because by the time you pull the lever bar down to raise the saw for moving you have created a long "wagon" that is difficult to maneuver in a small shop.
    It might be fine for a bench that only gets moved occasionally. I may try it on my bench. Thanks for the idea.
    Ron

  4. chris

    One more thing…

    One of the lift mechanisms I saw some time ago in the "shop notes"
    or "reader tips" section of a magazine was so simple I couldn’t
    believe it. Here is how it worked:

    On one side of your workbench, you mount a caster to each leg about
    1/8" or so above the floor. Now when you want to move the
    workbench(or whatever) you go to the opposite side and lift up on
    it, which causes the casters to engage the floor. Voila! You can
    move your bench.

    I know what you are thinking: what tough guy can jack up one
    side of a 400lb bench other than Arnold. That’s where another
    version of this same shop tip comes in:

    You make a lever out of straight hardwood about 4′ long. At the
    bottom, you place a small wheel, and a hook of some sort that you either buy or cobble together. The bottom of the bench has a corresponding place for this hook to engage. Sort of like
    a boat hitch you could say. You hook the bench onto the lever, and press down which causes the small wheel to engage the floor and lift the bench. that causes the bench to tip just like above, and engage the opposite wheels. Pull the bench around
    with the lever like a wagon. $20 or so for parts, and it wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to build it.

    Chris

  5. chris

    I actually built my own version of Norm’s Work Table that uses
    the very same lift mechanism Norm used. It works great, but I
    agree it would likely not be suitable for a very heavy
    workbench. In my case, the top is two pieces of plywood covered
    with 1/4" hardboard. The base is plywood. I would guess it weighs
    perhaps 125lbs – 150lbs. Even so, it does require a little
    bit of effort if I have a lot of stuff on the cart. It would
    be hard to see how such a mechanism would deal with a 300-400lb
    workbench. Unless you were to modify it…

  6. Rob in Roseville

    I think the Work Table and Clamp Cart – Item #0207 system is really workable but workbenches especially loaded with tool drawers are too heavy to lift. How about having a cam or eccentric an a lever to press the wheels down. Then press a little farther to an over center position to hold the wheels in place.

  7. Jeremy

    Nice work, though to me it seems only a bit more complicated in the leg construction, It might get clogged with crud inside that cavity in time, though I really like its finished appearance.
    On one of Norm’s shows he made an assembuhly table (Work Table and Clamp Cart – Item #0207) that had a simple yet sturdy mechanism for making it mobile, a couple of hinged blocks that served as props for a hinged plate with wheels, all fit in the strecher area. Lift the end of the bench a bit and it locks into the transport position. pull a sting and it unlocked and was completely off the wheels. Any comments on this setup for a more substantial bench?

  8. Eric

    I wonder if you could not use the same idea, but instead of a threaded rod, use a smooth rod set it a spring to keep the caster up in the cavity, and then use a locking lever (maybe a straight line toggle clamp) located on the inside of the leg (so it would be out of the way) to lock the caster in the "mobile" position when you need to move the bench.

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