Build a Mobile Tool Center

This versatile cart makes a great addition to any shop. The drawers and tilting bin provide easy access to whatever you're storing. Park it along your garage wall or extend the drop leaf to create a large work surface

What DIYer doesn't dream of a larger, well-organized shop with plenty of work surfaces? Although actually acquiring more square footage may be a pipedream, enhancing your shop's organization and adding a mobile work- table can help you make the most of the room you have.

This cart helps you implement perhaps the most important rule of good organization: Store like items together. (Putting things away when you're finished with them is a close second.) I designed the cart to corral my migrating power-tool cases and accessories in a single unit that would be easy to move around my garage shop or driveway. The key feature, a tilt-out bin similar to a flour bin, holds the cases with their handles up so I can easily lift them out (no bending down to reach under a shelf). By adding shelves, a door or even pegboard, the side frames can be modified to suit your needs. In this case I added a shelf for clamp storage.

Function comes first when designing projects for the shop. Though I am always eager to start construction, taking a little extra time to thoroughly work out the functional aspects of a project like this results in better long-term satisfaction. For example, while designing this cart I made a full-size cardboard template to determine the bin size and the optimal position for the bin pivot bolt.

The cart takes only a weekend to build. Construction is relatively simple because it doesn't require the refined details and finishing of a piece of fine furniture. To give it an indus- trial look, I used washer-head screws designed for pocket-hole joinery wherever the screws were left exposed.

The Cart Frame
Begin by building the plywood frame that forms the interior of the cart.You could use butt joints, but I prefer to fit the ply- wood into dadoes. The dadoes serve two functions: They create a strong joint and make it easy to position the panels. I cut the dados using a router and straightedge (photo 1); you can also use a table saw. Cut a third dado in the middle divider where the drawer divider will fit.

Cut the dado for the middle divider using a router and 3/4-in. straight bit. Ensure that the dado is cut in the same position on both panels by clamping the side panels together. Use a straightedge to guide the router.

Assemble the side panels, middle divider and drawer divider with glue and 2-in. deck screws. Drill pilot and countersink holes before driving each deck screw.

Next, cut the 2x6 side frame parts to length and assemble them with 2-1/2-in. deck screws. Attach the frames to the plywood side panels with 2-1/2-in. deck screws (photo 2). Then drive 1-1/2-in. washer-head screws through the back panel to attach it to the frame assembly and to attach the bin support.

Attach the 2x6 side frames to the side 2 panels with 2-1/2-in. deck screws. Drill pilot and countersink holes for each screw.

The Bin
The bin is a simple plywood box. The bottom back edge is notched to fit over the bin support. The bin is also built shorter than the overall opening height to leave room for the back of it to tilt up and forward as the bin is opened. The front face covers the empty space above.

Assemble the bin sides, back and bottom with glue and 2-1/2-in. deck screws. Wait to attach the bin front until after you've installed the bin in the cart frame.

Place the cart frame on a flat surface and position the bin inside the frame opening. Clamp one side of the bin to the side of the cart frame; then drill the 1/2-in.-dia. hole for the pivot bolt through the side panel and the bin side (photo 3).

Clamp the bin to one side 3 panel and drill a 1/2-in.-dia. hole for the pivot bolt.

Repeat this process for the pivot hole on the other side. Cut 3/4-in.-long pieces of 3/8-in.-dia. i.d. steel tubing to act as bushings in the holes. Secure the bushings in the holes with epoxy (photo 4).

Cut two 3/4-in.-long pieces of 3/8-in.-dia. i.d. tubing to act as bushings for the pivot bolt. Secure the bushings in the holes with epoxy.

Install the bin in the cart after the epoxy has cured. Two washers act as spacers between the bin and the side panel. Threading these washers onto the bolt is tricky because the bolt holes are out-of-reach. To solve this problem, I taped the washers over the hole on the outside of the bin (photo 5b). Slide the bin into position, being careful not to knock off the washers. Then feed a 5/16- x 2-1/2-in. bolt through the holes and washers and fasten it with a washer and locknut (photo 5a). Test the bin's operation and attach the bin front to the bin sides and bottom.

Install the bin in the cart and fasten the pivot bolts. I used a piece of lightweight tape to temporarily hold the interior washers in position.

When the bin is in the open position, the bottom front edge extends about 5-1/2 in. below the bottom of the cart. The casters that I chose are 5-1/4 in. tall, so I attached riser blocks to the bottom of the end frames to provide sufficient clearance. Mark the caster holes, drill 3/16-in.-dia. pilot holes and fasten the casters with 1/4- x 1-1/2-in. lag screws.

The Drawers
There are many ways to build drawers; I opted for simple and strong. I used a dado/rabbet joint to join the sides, front and back. A 1/2-in.-wide dado in the sides, front and back captures the bottom.

The dadoes and rabbets are easy to cut with a table saw or router table (see PDF below for for dado and rabbet details). Assemble the drawers with glue (photo 6).

Assemble drawer components with glue. Measure diagonally to check that the drawer is square. If the measurements are not equal, use another clamp across the longer measurement to ensure the drawer is square.

The front panels serve no functional purpose; they simply create a flush front face for the cart. Attach the front panels to the side of the 2x6 side frames with 1-1/2-in. washer-head screws.

Next, attach the bin stops to the inside face of the side panels (photo 7). Mount the drawers and drawer slides in the drawer openings.

When the bin is open, it rests against the bin stop. The stop is a right-angle triangle with short edges that are 4 and 6 in. long.

Then attach the drawer faces to the drawer fronts with 1-in. washer-head screws, leaving an even gap between the drawer faces, front panels and bin front (photo 8).

Install the drawer slides and drawer 8 boxes in the cart. Attach the drawer faces with 1-in. washer-head screws.

The Top and Drop Leaf
The finished top of the cart is a piece of 1/2-in. medium-density fiberboard (MDF) that is attached to a 3/4-in.-thick plywood subtop. The MDF top provides a smooth work surface that is easy to replace if it gets damaged.

The cart top is large enough for small projects, but you can add a drop leaf to double the work surface. The drop leaf for this cart is another 2 x 4-ft. plywood subtop and MDF top.

Attach the legs and leg brackets to the drop-leaf subtop and then attach the cart subtop with T-strap hinges (photo 9a). Countersink the flathead machine screws that fasten the hinges (photo 9b).

Fasten the leg brackets and legs to the leaf subtop. Then fasten the hinges to the cart 9 and leaf subtops. Countersink the machine screws that fasten the hinges so that they are flush with the subtop surface (photo 9b).

Attach the subtop to the cart with 2-1/2-in. deck screws, and attach the MDF cart top with 1-1/4-in. deck screws. Countersink the screws slightly below the surface of the MDF. The cart doesn't require a finish, but I applied a couple of coats of wipe-on polyurethane to the entire cabinet to lightly color the wood and offer a little protection from staining.