Giant Lumber Cart

A Lumber Cart is one of the first, major shop projects I would recommend to anyone getting started. Once I began getting into woodworking and making, I started accumulating building supplies with no storage options. Often, I would either purchase more than I needed, or have large off-cuts from builds. In addition, I also had a friend start supplying me with pallet wood. All of this wood needed to be stored in a variety of ways and take up as little space as possible.

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Lumber Cart - Old Under Bench Clutter
Lumber Cart - Old Workbench Clutter
Lumber Cart - Old Lumber Rack Issues

Problem to Solve

In order to optimize space in a garage shop, I need to be able to store material in a variety of ways:

  1. Vertical wall for full sheets of plywood

  2. Flat shelves for storing long lumber flat

  3. Bins for storing longer offcuts vertically

  4. Non-restrictive space for odd shaped cut-offs and scraps

Tools Used

  • Ryobi Table Saw

  • Ryobi Circular Saw

  • Ryobi Miter Saw

  • Ryobi Drill

  • Ryobi Impact Driver

  • Ryobi Jigsaw

  • DeWalt Fixed-Base Router

  • Kreg Pocket hole Jig

  • Right-angle Drill Attachment (brand unknown)

  • Ryobi Counter-sink Bit

  • #8 Star-drive drill bit

  • Flush-trim Router Bit

  • Various Clamps

Materials Used

  • 2x4s

  • 23/32” Plywood

  • 1/2” Plywood

  • #8 3” Deck Screws

  • #8 2” Deck Screws

  • 1 1/2” Kreg Pocket Hole Screws

  • Wood Glue

  • 5” Locking Casters

Steps for Build

  1. Cut Vertical Joinery

  2. Assemble Bottom Frame

  3. Join Verticals & Bottom Floor

  4. Install Casters

  5. Assemble Horizontal Half-Laps

  6. Cut & Assemble Top Braces

  7. Install Shelves

  8. Cut & Attach Ply Railing

1 - Cut Vertical Joinery

While the Lumber Cart bottom frame is usually where I would start, the vertical pieces need to be very well secured to the frame. A mortise and tenon seemed to be the strongest option, but I wanted the tenons to be a little more thick. In order to accomplish this (and make for easier cuts), the mortise would be made from two half-laps together with two different 2x4s.

First, I cut the six frame braces that need half-laps. Second, I cut all six vertical pieces to size, making sure to have 15 degree angles on the end. These were all cut on the miter saw. On the vertical pieces, I cut the tenons first. Fortunately, these were easy to knock out with a circular saw and chisel.

Lumber Cart - Setting Leg Angle
Lumber Cart - Cutting Tenons with Circular Saw

After marking each vertical to ensure it was distinct, I individually marked the half laps on the bottom frame. Each of these was cut on the table saw with an angled miter gauge and a number of passes. Finally, I made sure to dry fit each tenon so the fit would be perfect and the Lumber Cart would be as strong as possible.

Lumber Cart - Cutting Half Lap Mortises on Table Saw
Lumber Cart - Bottom Frame Mortises

Before moving on with the frame, I adjusted the miter gauge back to square and cut the half-laps that will be used later when assembling the full upright frame. This is much easier to do now before the whole Lumber Cart is assembled.

2 - Assemble Bottom Frame

The last component needed for the bottom frame are the long braces and non-mortise cross pieces. To start off, all four components were cut with the miter saw.

Before attaching, I laid out and dry fit all components. For the cross braces with half-lapped mortises, I picked one of the sides to attach with the bottom, but marked the corresponding half to make sure they were all kept straight.

The bottom frame was assembled using Titebond II glue and 3″ deck screws. All screws were pre-drilled and countersunk before driving in.

Although the Lumber Cart frame is not 100% complete, at this phase, it is easier to move to the floor and uprights before finishing the bottom frame.

Lumber Cart - Lower Frame Assembly

3 - Join Verticals & Bottom Floor

With the bottom frame mostly assembled, I moved on to the plywood floor. First, I used my circular saw to roughcut to just over-sized dimensions from 23/32″ plywood. Two sides of the ply had the factory edge, so I used these to square up to the frame and mark the locations where the verticals would pass through. Next, I used my jigsaw to clear out these holes.

To attach, I used the two factory edges to square two sides before attaching with glue and 2″ deck screws.

Lumber Cart - Lower Floor Sizing
Lumber Cart - Cutting Floor to Size
Lumber Cart - Notching Out Vertical Slots

I waited a little bit for the glue to mostly dry, then came back with my router and used a flush-trim bit to make the bottom floor completely flush with the frame.

After the bottom was attached, I flipped the Lumber Cart on its side to be able to access the top and bottom simultaneously. I installed each vertical individually by first applying glue to the mortise. This let me insert the vertical through the floor and clamp the tenon into the mortise. For ones that needed more persuasion, I used my home-made mallet.

Lumber Cart - Lower Frame and Vertical Layout
Lumber Cart - Setting first Verticals in Place
Lumber Cart - All Verticals Set in Place for Glue

Once I had both verticals installed on a frame cross piece, I applied glue to the corresponding frame brace and used clamps, a mallet, and screws to make the assembly permanent. Subsequently, this was repeated for each of the three sections.

4 - Install Casters

The complete bottom frame and verticals are beginning to add some serious weight to the piece. Since the Lumber Cart was already on its side, this was a perfect time to install the four 5″ locking casters. I installed each caster in the corner with 4x 3″ screws and washers each.

Lumber Cart - Installing Casters

Finally, once these were installed, I flipped the whole cart upright.

When you install casters while the Lumber Cart is on its side, lock all the casters before turning upright. Most importantly, this will prevent the piece from shifting and becoming difficult to manage.

5 - Assemble Horizontal Half Laps

While the uprights are secured, the full upper frame needed to be complete. First, I first cut the four horizontal braces to size on the miter saw. Then, I used the uprights themselves to mark the locations for the half-laps.

Once marked, I used the table saw with miter gauge to cut the half-laps using multiple passes.

Lastly, each joint was coated in glue, assembled with clamps, then drilled and screwed permanently with 2″ screws.

Lumber Cart - Verticals Installed
Lumber Cart - Clamping Vertical Frame in Place
Lumber Cart - Full Frame Complete
Lumber Cart - Vertical Frame Secured

6 - Cut & Assemble Top Braces

I wanted to make sure the top of the verticals was completely secure. In order to accomplish this, I cut a brace for each pair. First, I cut the overall length first at the miter saw, then cut a 15 degree rabbet on the sides so the brace would sit perfectly on the verticals. Next, I marked the middle of each and cut half laps on the top.

The braces helped to keep the verticals perfectly square to the cart as a whole. After applying glue to the rabbets, I used a few clamps to keep everything secure before pre-drilling and driving 3″ screws to attach the braces.

Lumber Cart - Top Brace Dry Fit
Lumber Cart - Center Mark
Lumber Cart - Upper Brace Half Lap Cut
Lumber Cart - Upper Brace without Clamps
Lumber Cart - Upper Brace With Clamps

With the braces attached, I applied glue to the half-laps and installed the final horizontal brace with 2″ screws. The Lumber Cart frame is now complete!

7 - Install Shelves

Before completely inclosing the Lumber Cart middle section, it would be easiest to install the shelves. First, I started by cutting a 2×4 in half at a 15 degree angle to create an angled 2×2. This allows the 2x 2 to act as a cleat for the shelf and sit flush to the verticals. Finally, I attached to the frame with glue and 2″ screws.

Lumber Cart - Cutting 2x2 with Angle
Lumber Cart - Shelf Cleat Clamp
Lumber Cart - Shelf Cleat Right Angle Attachment

For each shelf, I independently verified the width each shelf needed to be before cutting 23/32″ plywood at the table saw. Each was then installed with glue and 2″ screws to the cleats.

Finally, the top shelf does not need cleat, so is secured to the top brackets and 2×4 horizontal brace.

Lumber Cart - Installing Shelves

8 - Cut & assemble ply railing

On the ply side, I decided not to add a solid wall on the vertical frame. Most of the time, I will have larger offcuts on this side if not full sheets of plywood. Consequently, a wall is unnecessary as it will just take up valuable space.

I wanted to install a removable rail and bottom cleat. Both of these will keep the plywood from falling off the rack, whether it is stationary or moving around. Fortunately, both of these can be created with 2 2x4s. The first 2×4 was ripped into two 2x2s on the table saw.

For the floor cleat, I left the flat side and installed it to the floor with screws only. Although I don’t anticipate ever removing the cleat, I wanted to have the option if needed. It was installed with heavily counter-sunk 3″ screws. At the time, I did not have a fostner bit to properly sink these. However, the countersink bits I have worked very well.

Lumber Cart - Clamping Bottom Cleat
Lumber Cart - Drill Set Up
Lumber Cart - Cleat Pilot Hole
Lumber Cart - Cleat Counter-Sink
Lumber Cart - Driving Cleat Screws

Next, for the rail, I used my router and a round-over bit to round over the flat corners on the 2×2. This will make it much easier to handle without tearing up my hands.

Lumber Cart - Rounding Over Corners

Next, I cut the second 2×4 down to create the rail supports with the miter saw. Then, I used the 2×2 to mark a notch out on the supports and cut these out with the jigsaw. I also made sure to give it some additional room so it would seat easily, but also be easy to remove when needed.

Finally, I installed the supports to the frame with 3″ screws and no glue, again in case I needed to remove the rail for any particular reason.

Lumber Cart - Marked out notches
Lumber Cart - Rail Notch Out

In order to keep the rail from falling, I needed some caps. Fortunately, I had some circle scraps from when I helped a friend cut holes that were approximately hockey puck size. These scraps were used to create small caps on the ends of the rail. These were attached with 2″ screws.

Lumber Cart - Inverted Orbital Sander Since I Dont have a aSpindle Sander Yet
Lumber Cart - Ply Rail Done

9 - Assemble Bins

On the bin side, I measured the distance from the Lumber Cart floor to the top second to top shelf along the verticals. This gave me the width for the ply wall. Then, I cut this out of 15/32″ plywood, and installed with glue and 2″ screws.

Lumber Cart - Ripping Side Ply
Lumber Cart - Ply Side Install

After the wall was installed, I measured the bottom of the frame to the edge of the wall, then estimated the distance for where the top of the bin will connect with the wall. Helpfully, this gave me the exact angle each bin needed to have on one side to be perpendicular to the floor, but also connect to the wall.

Unfortunately, I did make a mistake in my assembly steps, but here is how I did it.

First, I cut the long front wall and all bin walls with the circular saw and straight edge. Next, I used my Kreg pocket-hole jig to drill pocket-holes for the bin to connect to the floor and vertical wall. I used glue and pocket-hole screws to install the long wall to the bottom frame. Once the long wall was installed, I did some weird angling to install each bin to the vertical wall, long wall, and floor with glue and pocket-hole screws.

What I should have done was install the bins first. This would have let me have better connections while the glue dried and not struggle to attach each bin component, then very simply attach the long wall to the bin walls.

Lumber Cart - Bin Marking
Lumber Cart - Bin Side Clamp Up
Lumber Cart - Bin Angle marked
Lumber Cart - Pocket Hole Drilling
Lumber Cart - Bin Side Without Bins
Lumber Cart - Bins Installed


The Lumber Cart was a huge build and I learned a great deal from it. I tried several new methods for joinery and for combining 2×4 and plywood. Most importantly, I learned a good bit about designing a piece to solve fairly specific problems. This cart is VERY heavy. I should have added non-locking casters in the middle to lighten the load on all casters. If I ever unload the cart, I will add these.

Later, I found out that I should have added a large chamfer to the plywood rail supports. The bottom of these occasionally interferes with the locking mechanism on the casters and the chamfer would eliminate this.

Lumber Cart - Finished Bin Full
Lumber Cart - Shelf Full Finished
Lumber Cart - Ply Side Finished
Lumber Cart - Bin Close Up
Lumber Cart - Finished Shelves Close Up
Lumber Cart - Ply Side Close Up

There is a TON of storage in this. It is key to not just toss random scraps on the cart and let them get out of control. If you do this, you will end up frustrated again (not that it happened to me after building…..). Just make sure you only keep scraps that you will actually use for projects and not every single little thing just because you have a huge cart.

Lumber Cart - Ply In Use
Lumber Cart - Shelves In Use
Lumber Cart - Bin In Use
David SouthernComment