How to get things rolling
Pick a problem-solving caster
3. What about the wheels? How easily your castered equipment rolls around depends to a great extent on wheel diameter. Every wood chip, bit of litter, or imperfection in the floor poses a major obstacle for small-diameter wheels. Bigger ones can roll right over such things.
As a general rule, choose casters with the largest wheels possible. Plan to use casters with wheels at least 2" or 2 1/2" in diameter to mobilize heavy shop equipment.
You'll find casters with solid rubber, plastic, or metal wheels. Any type will work for tool mobility. Rubber and plastic wheels, like those shown in Photo 1, previous page, and Photo 3, previous page, roll smoothly across hard surfaces or carpet. They're quiet and don't mar most floor surfaces.
Metal wheels, like those in Photo 2, previous page, are designed for service on rough, hard, chip-littered floors. (That description sure fits a basement or garage shop with a bare concrete floor.) They have high impact resistance, and will stand up to a lot of abuse.
4. How do I make it stay? Once you mobilize a piece of equipment, you have to keep it from rolling around when you try to use it. Luckily, that problem has some simple solutions.
Locking casters, like the one shown in Photo 5, below, provide one answer. They immobilize the equipment by preventing the wheels from turning -- much the way setting the parking brake on your car locks the rear wheels to keep the car from rolling.
For greatest stability, install a locking caster at each corner. The one shown locks by clamping the frame tightly against the wheel hub. A foot lever sets and releases the brake. Another type features a brake shoe that bears against the wheel tread.
If you don't have locking casters, turn to the old, reliable chock. For convenience, make a U-shaped chock similar to the one shown above for each caster.
5. Where do I buy casters? Most hardware stores and home centers sell furniture casters, and many stock a selection of industrial-style casters. Capacity ratings weren't stated in pounds for Asian-made industrial-type casters in some stores we checked; they were identified only as light-duty or medium-duty. The medium-duty would be a safer choice for workshop use.
Industrial-supply firms (find them in the Yellow Pages under Industrial Equipment and Supplies) usually stock a good variety of sturdy casters. Some of these companies sell to wholesale accounts only, however. And the ones that do sell to retail customers may not accept consumer credit cards or may have minimum-purchase requirements, so call ahead to be sure you?ll be able to buy what you need. If you can?t buy directly from the supplier, your hardware dealer might be able to order the casters for you.
Surplus or salvage stores are other good places to look for heavy-duty casters. Sometimes, you'll have to sort through a bunch of them to come up with a matching set. You may find the weight rating stamped into the side of the caster.
Photo 4: Casters mounted on braced outriggers give this tool stand a wider stance for greater stability. When mounting casters this way, be sure to set them out far enough to allow a full 360° of swivel.
Photo 5: Step on the end of the lever to lock the wheel on this caster. A step on the other end releases the brake.
If you enjoy outfitting or improving your shop, visit the Shop Tools and Accessories section of the WOOD MALL for dozens of detailed downloadable woodworking plans.
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