Lautard's Strokagenius
Lowbed Tablesaw Dolly

By Guy Lautard
http://www.lautard.com/
2570 Rosebery Avenue
West Vancouver, B.C.
CANADA V7V 2Z9

My woodwork shop is quite limited in size, so my bandsaw, tablesaw and jointer all have to be mobile. The first camel to stick its nose into the tent was the bandsaw, and it was soon perched on a castered stand which is described in my book, "The Machinists Third Bedside Reader".

The tablesaw came next, in '94. Again, it had to be mobile. Not liking the price of ready-made steel dollys, I made a lowbed dolly for it using wood on hand, four casters and a few bolts. When you've had a look at the drawing below, I think you will forgive me for thinking my lowbed dolly design is rather clever.

It is unlike anything I have ever seen illustrated in Fine Woodworking Magazine or elsewhere. It is easy to make, and it works well.

In spite of the fact that the first one used 3" diameter casters, it raised the saw only about 1-½" off the floor. The dolly allowed me to roll the saw out for use, or up against the wall for storage.

However, it wasn't always easy to push around. If the saw, which weighs about 400 lbs., sat in one spot for several days or weeks, the rubber casters would develop a pronounced flat spot. When I wanted to move it, it required quite a pull to get it moving, and would go lump-lump-lump across the floor like a frog with a wooden leg, with a noticeable clanking noise.

About 5 years ago I rebuilt the tablesaw dolly, using new Guitel 4" Resilex casters. These are markedly superior to the regular hard black rubber wheeled casters I used originally.

I came across these Resilex casters at an Industrial Show here in Vancouver in September '99. Much impressed by what I saw and heard, I subsequently ordered 8 of their 4" locking swiveling casters, with a view to rebuilding both my tablesaw and jointer dollys.

I had different reasons for wanting to rebuild each of these dollys. As already indicated, the tablesaw can be difficult to maneuver on the hard rubber casters I used originally. The jointer, on the other hand, moves too easily, perhaps because it weighs much less - about 200 lbs., I would guess. The problem with the jointer was to keep it from moving across the shop while I was trying to put wood over it.

The Guitel rep told me their Resilex casters start, roll, and pivot with half the effort of regular rubber wheeled casters. The Resilex wheel material has excellent memory for its original shape, so if the casters sit under a load that is within their rated capacity, even for several months, the moment you move the wheel, the flat spot disappears! He also told me they are quiet, will readily roll over small debris (say up to about 5% of wheel diameter) on the shop floor, and will not pick up or embed that debris in themselves.


A typical dolly - just a plywood deck on casters

From what I've seen, they seem to be as good as the Guitel guy told me. Before I took the saw off the dolly with the hard rubber wheeled casters, I put a bathroom scale between my bellybutton and the saw, and pushed, while my wife read the scale from the opposite side of the saw. We got readings from 20 to 50 lbs. before the saw would move.

When I finished the new dolly, with the Guitel casters, and got the saw onto it, I repeated the above test. The readings were then 10 to 20 lbs.

Now I ain't runnin' no sophisticated testing lab here, but my simple test does provide some specific numbers to back up what I could tell immediately when I tried to move the saw about on its new dolly - it is a LOT easier to move.

Apparently these casters will also roll over electrical cords with ease. I would regard that as a lousy way to treat an electrical cord, and since I'm the guy who pays for electrical cords around here, I don't plan to try it "in the interests of science."

However, after I rebuilt the jointer dolly, I did find that I could roll the jointer over a 3/4" thick rubber anti-fatigue mat with little difficulty. Trying the same thing with the tablesaw showed that it can be done, but it is a struggle, and would probably be hard on the mat, if done repeatedly. Solution? Move the mat.

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As noted above, my tablesaw weighs about 400 lbs. Several years ago, when I finished the first lowbed dolly I made for it, I spent most of that night worrying and scheming about how to get the saw onto the dolly.

The next morning I went down to the shop, tipped the saw towards the motor side, and pushed the dolly about half way under the saw's steel cabinet base with my spare foot. I then pulled, twisted, and wrestled the saw the rest of the way onto the dolly. I was amazed at how easy it was to do***. I didn't time myself, but I don't think it took 3 minutes.

*** PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING:
It would be only slightly LESS easy to have the saw go right over on its side with a most sickening smash, so if you try this, BE CAREFUL.

The smallest size Resilex casters available are 4" in diameter, so that's what I got for both dollys. In Guitel's medium duty frame, just one 4" Resilex caster will take a 330 lb. load, so both my dollys, with four such casters, are considerably overbuilt in the caster department, but that is not a bad thing.

The Resilex swiveling casters can be ordered with a brake mechanism if desired. The brake locks out both wheel rotation and caster rotation simply by stepping on a toe pedal. And when you lock the casters, the saw is definitely "parked."

Now you may be wondering, "What about your jointer dolly? How did that work out?"

Answer: It also works good. It rolls around the shop with ease, but when the brakes are on, the jointer does not go rolling away from me when I'm trying to put stock over it.

I mentioned that the saw dolly is overbuilt. This is even more so for the jointer dolly, in terms of the actual load vs. what the casters could carry.

Originally, both dollys were given locking swivel casters all the way around. Subsequent experience has shown me that two locking swivel casters per dolly is fine in my shop. I still have 4 locking casters on the table saw dolly.

On the saw dolly, when two caster brakes are locked, the saw seems pretty well anchored in one spot. I guess the saw is heavy enough that the locked casters are not going to slide on the battleship linoleum tiles in the wood shop.

I initially found that with only 2 brakes locked, the jointer could, with some effort, still be made to move somewhat on that same linoleum tiled floor. Eventually, however, I swiped 2 of the 4 locking swivel casters off the jointer dolly, and replaced them with plain swiveling casters. While the jointer can move when I am running wood over it, this rarely occurs, and a scrap of wood to block one or both of the non braked wheels would solve the problem if it did arise.

(The two locking swivel casters were combined with two plain swiveling casters on a new dolly for the bandsaw stand.)

Another point:

"How many swiveling casters should one put on a dolly?"

I don't have a definite answer to this question, and I'm not sure that there is one, but I will tell you my own thinking.

If a dolly or trolley is going to be towed, e.g. through a factory behind a garden tractor or similar, I suspect that two fixed casters at the back end and two swiveling casters at the front is the most practical wheel arrangement. (Which is prolly why cars are made that way, eh?) I'm not sure if the tongue, or tow bar, should be pivoted to swing in the horizontal plane or not - I suspect this depends on the length of the tongue. I think the tongue likely should be able to be attached in such a way as to have at least some up and down freedom.

The same arrangement may be ok for a dolly that is being pushed and pulled by a person, either with hands placed on the load, or via a rope attached to the two front corners of the dolly, such as you sometimes see on furniture movers' dollys.

However, FOR MAXIMUM MANEUVERABILITY, I think swiveling casters all around is the best way to go.

With my machines – tablesaw, jointer, bandsaw – I find I often want to spin the machine around within its own footprint, either to suit whatever work I'm about to put over it, or simply when moving it to whatever location I may want, in order to get it out of the way. In such cases, swiveling casters all around is definitely the best arrangement. At least 2 of the 4 swiveling casters should have brakes.

Using swiveling casters all around costs a little more than using 2 swiveling and 2 fixed casters. But you're going to be dealing with the maneuverability of the dolly you put them on for many years, long after a few dollars spent or saved will have ceased to matter at all.

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I was so impressed with these casters that I have arranged to stock and sell them, because I figured other guys besides me would have lots of uses for such dollys. See my website for more details.

Costs:
If you go to a good hardware store, you will likely find that the price for Guitel casters is little if any higher than what you will pay for regular hard rubber casters of the same size. And note that the latter, even in the 4" size, are typically only capable of handling a 225 lb. load. Guitels will handle 330 lbs per caster, or 440 lbs with a heavier duty frame.

TWO FINAL NOTES:
1. Most Resilex casters have blue wheels. And you will recall I said they were superior to common hard rubber wheels, had less rolling, starting and pivoting resistance, and did not allow shop debris to embed in the tread of the wheel.

Now, here is something really hilarious: Other caster manufacturers are now making casters with blue wheels. They pick up shop debris, won't take the same loads, can't match the low starting, rolling, and pivoting resistance of Guitels... but they are the same color. One would wonder why they'd want to make blue wheels, just like Guitel, when they can't match their performance? Well, you know the old saying: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

2. And finally, a WARNING: Resilex casters can lead to workplace violence. If you have a fleet of dollys in a factory situation, and then provide one new dolly equipped with Resilex casters, workers may well fight over who gets to use it.

Of course, the solution to that one is obvious:

Buy more Resilex casters!

The Spacer Blocks raise the Caster Bearers above the Deck enough to give about 3/4" of ground clearance under the Deck. The Spacer Blocks can be pieces of 3/4" plywood about 4" long, and the same width as the Caster Bearers. With the 4" Guitel Casters I used, I found that I needed a total Spacer Block height of 3-3/4". I drilled a 9/16" hole at the center of each piece to be used in the Spacer Block stacks.

I cut my Caster Bearers from 2x6" fir. On the tablesaw dolly I made them 4-5/16" wide. On my jointer dolly, I made the Caster Bearers 3-3/4" wide. I drilled the holes in the right places in the Caster Bearers using a spade bit or brad point drill, then clamped the Caster Bearers to the Deck, and match drilled the bolt holes in the plywood Deck. For each hole, I stopped just short of going right through the material with the drill, flipped the part over, and finished the holes from the opposite side. This prevents splintering on the exit side of the holes.

 

Once the Dolly was assembled, I shortened the carriage bolts so they were showing only 2 or 3 threads above the nuts. After hack sawing them off, I rounded the ends off nicely with a file. It is also a good idea to pass a file over the sharp edge of the first turn of the thread so it will not cut your hand at some later date.

An alternative arrangement, which I have not tried, but which should work just as well, and give a neater appearance, would be to substitute T-nuts on the underside of the Dolly Deck, and run 3/8" hex head bolts down from the top side of the Caster Bearer. Once you had everything bolted down tight, you could withdraw one bolt at a time, and saw them off just proud of the T-nuts.

The Guitel casters are mounted to the Caster Bearers with 4 hex head bolts per caster. I used 5/16" bolts with the nuts and washers on top of the Caster Bearer, same as for the 3/8" carriage bolts. This of course does not look quite as nice as if one had the nuts and washers on the underside, but if installed that way, the nut and the end of the bolt may foul the rotating part of the caster frame.

I laid out the 16 holes for mounting the casters to the Caster Bearers using a combination square as a depth gage. I marked out one set of 4 caster hole locations with a caster clamped to one Caster Bearer, then set the combination square to my layout lines, and transferred everything to the other 3 caster locations. I drilled a 3/8" hole at each hole location. Done this way, it goes pretty fast, particularly if done on a drill press.

Note: Make your Caster Bearers long enough so that the casters are out far enough from the Deck and spacer block that the caster frame can rotate! With the 4" Guitel casters I used, this distance needs to be about 5-1/2".

On my jointer dolly, I was able to reduce that to 4-½", as shown in the drawing below:

Check carefully how much space to allow for caster clearance both with respect to the Dolly and the item that will sit on the Dolly.

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