After deciding to take up welding about a year ago teaching myself by means of books, online video how-to's, and lots of trial and error … I started with a couple of garden projects – easier connectors for our tomato trellis and a couple of garden gates – and soon learned that I needed a better place to work than a couple of low wooden saw horses and a 2 foot by 3 foot piece of ¾ inch plywood.
To come up with a list of desired features I took what I was learning by my own experience along with reviewing countless examples of other people's welding carts and their work benches. My primary need was for an easily portable work space and handy tool carrier. It had to fit into the small storage space I could spare in the corner of my garage and then be able to be easily moved outside onto my driveway for a non-combustible and well ventilated work space. Plus it needed a large enough work table to hold garden-gate-sized pieces and be high enough to end my backaches from bending over to work.
Additional desired features included: electrical outlets for tools; a place to hold the welder that was within reach from the whole workspace yet not taking up space on the work table; readily accessible storage for multiple angle grinders and various types of welding clamps; welding helmet, face shield, and ear protection muffs within easy reach, yet safely out of the way when not in use; marking devices, measuring tools and frequently used small hand tools and accessories always within easy reach; a handy shelf for tools and materials being used to encourage a non-cluttered work table; edges of the table needed to be thin enough for easy clamping of pieces being worked on; storage for less frequently used tools and accessories; a convenient yet out of the way place to hold a drink cup; and a sun shade to make it more tolerable to work outside on the driveway on hot summer days.
And then as additional accessories were being added, they too needed dedicated spaces – for things like: weld screen T-feet storage; interchangeable use and storage positions for an auxiliary grinder and an auxiliary cut-off saw; a storage spot for jack-stands to help support extra long or large pieces; a place to use and store a drill press; a door to block the metal dust from sawing and grinding getting into the storage drawers; and a set of heavier duty wheels (than the original swivel casters) and an Ackermann steering system to ease mobility and provide additional wide-stance stability.
So I started sketching a weld cart / work table to provide these features in my project design notebook. Next came a materials list and a trip to the local steel supply company. Work on the cart / table began about a year ago and has been a now and then sort of project interrupted frequently with other “more useful” projects that utilized the partially completed parts of the weld cart / work table as it was coming together. And along the way, as needs presented themselves, additional features have been added to the original list (which with the aid of hind sight have been included in the listings above).
So now let's take a look at how those desired design features for my weld cart / work table turned out!
Pictured here is the basic cart with a tower with shelves at one end to hold the welder itself and a few accessory hand tools above the table that provides a flat conductive metal work surface 17 inches wide by 48 inches long. Below the work surface is a shelf to hold various tools and materials. And to make this cart – even when heavily loaded with tools – easily portable and store-able in the corner of my garage it is all on good, strong solid rubber wheels with smooth rolling ball bearings.
To make it both stable and easily movable a true Ackermann steering system provides a wide stance even during turns. And the steering tongue is removable to get it out of the way while the cart is being used. The center bar had to be "hardened" (heated in our charcoal grill to red hot and then rapidly quenched in water) to keep it from twisting when the long handle was used to turn the cart during maneuvers.
The addition of table wings on either side increase the available work table space to a full 16 square feet (4 feet by 4 feet) while still being able to fold down for space saving storage in the garage when not in use. Flipping up the narrow wing on the primary use side provides slightly more than a 2 foot deep work table.
The wide wing expands the work table to a full 4 foot square of level work space. Each wing is supported by two legs to provide support when raised to their working position as well as additional overall cart stability. Each leg is slightly inset from their primary work edges to keep them safely recessed away from my feet. (The angle of the camera lens makes them look slanted – actually they are straight vertically).
The legs fold up flat against the bottom of each wing when the wings are in their storage position. And, if desired, the two interchangeable wings (with exact match spacing of their removable-pin hinges) can be placed on either side. (The bottom of the two wings are seen here detached and showing their folded legs and underside bracing.)
The next view shows the folded wings and tucked in legs. There are two full length storage shelves of expanded metal (to let metal grindings, dust, and dirt fall through) – at the bottom of the cart and just below the work surface. Also seen here are the electrical outlets at each end – enclosed and connected by solid metal conduit, electric boxes, and cover plates.
Also seen here are the thin edges along all sides of the work top for easy clamping. And many of you will note the very thin top "plate" – but, since it was attached with just a few spot welds along the edges so that in the future as needs present themselves and funds permit a thicker top plate can replace the current one, it will serve my relatively light duty needs for now.
The four (two on each leg) bored holes visiable here are where the sun canopy supports attach. And the open ends of the four tubes (again two just inside each leg) seen here are where the auxillary tools (bench grinder and cut-off saw) attach for use and/or storage. Likewise, the two "L" angles just below the shelf and alongside the bottom set of tubes serve as the track which supports the drill press as it slides underneath the shelf for storage and when it rotates up for use. (See additional photos below for more on these functions.)
A 20 amp rated outlet for plugging in the welder is located where the cord attaches to the cart. And all outlets, even though not covered, are recessed back from the edge of the top work surface to provide some protection from the flying metal dust of the grinders at work above them.
Power is supplied to the cart by a 10 foot long heavy duty electric cord with 10 gauge wire to carry the 20 amp welder or other electric powered tools and accessories. And this particular outlet is, also, provided extra shielding by being either behind or underneath the wider/longer table wing.
The edges of the tower shelves directly above the work table are used to hold frequently used marking and measuring devices and other small hand tools either in short tubes or on a magnetic strip, as well as allow other slightly larger tools to be placed on the two shelves themselves.
A drink cup holder is provided to keep refreshing cool water handy, yet off the work surface and away from flying debris – even a larger cup with a handle. When not in use it rotates to tuck neatly between the two tower shelves – which helps reduce the required storage space for the cart.
At each end of the cart are Accessory Tool storage and work position mounting tubes to hold interchangeable devices such as bench grinder, cut-off saw, etc., pointed out by the orange arrows here at one end of the cart and the next two images show tools mounted for work at each end. Originally it was planned to add "lock down" nuts and a handled screw on these tubes to secure the Accessory Tools in place, but experience has shown them to be unnecessary.
The yellow arrows in the illustration above point out the slide tracks for storing and using the drill press. When stored the drill press rides “face” down between the two main cart shelves as shown at the right.
Other frequently used tools are within easy reach just below the work bench. They are stored hanging on a bar along one side of the cart which is readily accessible whether the wings are folded down or raised. Here are multiple angle grinders (with different attachments, e.g. wire brush cup, grinding disk or flap disk, etc.) along with various types and sizes of clamps to securely hold materials in place while being welding together or being otherwise worked.
Safety shields are important accessories and so they are kept within easy reach at all times. And since changing from a welding helmet to a full face shield and hearing protection is the most frequent action when changing from one task to the next, they are kept side by side on hooks formed from a short tube and a tab. These hooks, also, serve as a handy storage place for the cart's electrical cord when the cart is not in use.
Storage for less frequently used small tools, various component parts, tool accessories, etc., is provided in three wire bin/drawers covered by a hinged door to keep cutting and grinding dust off of everything in there at one end of the cart. In this series of photographs we see the closed door, the empty slide supports for the drawers, the three drawers in place, and the contents of each drawer.
Additional small parts, accessories, and tools are kept on the two full length shelves of the cart with the most often used items in various containers (cases and small drawer sets) on the shelf just below the work surface and the shelf at the bottom of the cart.
To protect myself from the heat of the sun while working out in the open there is a removable canopy that mounts from the four corners of the main cart (which allows its use regardless of whether the work table expansion wings are up or down) and extends out an extra 2 to 4 feet over the expanded work table. Its modular vertical support pieces allow storage within the 4 foot long cart. The full 7½ foot by 9½ foot tarp rolls up on two tubes for storage as well as provide the support to keep it stretched out while in use. By use of two sizes of tubes that fit one within the other at each modular joint the canopy can be erected or taken down in quick order. And, of course, since it is mounted to the cart itself, the sun shade moves to whatever location the cart is positioned.
And finally, the need for a mobile welding cart / work table that could be moved into the corner of my garage for compact storage has been fulfilled. When the canopy and its upper support arms are removed it can be pulled through the 7 foot high garage door for storage in an area roughly 2 feet by 5 feet. Here it is seen in the garage with its rolled up sunshade on top and a dust cover over the cart itself. The large wing when folded down on the exposed side also serves as a wall of protection for the cart's contents.