In a small workshop, it is important to be as efficient as possible with space. One of the fundamentals of efficiency is the mobile base. It allows you to move tools around that otherwise are too heavy to be mobile. There are a lot of mobile bases on the market today from many different manufacturers. This one is marketed by Rockler as an economical solution because it does not include the stretchers. The idea is that you make your own out of inexpensive hardwood scraps that you have lying around. They also sell it at a lower price without the front caster. This way you can buy multiple bases but only one caster and use it on whichever base you need to move at the time.
I have my workshop setup in a two car garage and space is at a premium. I incorporate as many mobile alternatives as I can to make the layout flexible and easy to manage. This is the first review of a mobile base that I am doing but hopefully there will be more to come. I’m hoping to included one or two other brands and even some casters that make for interesting options as well.
The box contains everything you need to put the base together minus the stretchers. You must supply your own wood to make the stretchers. This has its advantages. Fist, you can make them any size you want (within reason). Second, you can save money by using hardwood scraps or less expensive materials. The down side is that you have to put in the time to make the stretchers, so this is not the final solution out of the box. It will take a little bit of work on your part to complete the base. The instructions call for hardwood that is 1.5″ square by whatever length you need for the base dimensions. While hardwood is great, I had another idea. I used plywood laminated together to make 1.5″ square stretchers. My thoughts are that the plywood lamination would be stronger than inexpensive hardwood or scraps that would be just “lying around.”
At left is a picture of the plywood lamination I glued up. I found that standard plywood is just shy of 3/4″ thick making a lamination a bit less than 1.5″ thick. So I decided to include a 1/4″ thick piece of plywood in the middle to add the extra thickness needed. I planed the finished stretchers down to the 1.5″ thickness later so they would be a perfect fit. On the right you can see the finished stretchers cut to the length I needed for a base on my Ridgid Jointer. When calculating the length, be sure to add an extra half inch for clearance of the mobile base corner sections. My base came out a bit wider than I should have made it but that was all my fault.
Here is the finished base with my jointer safely riding on top. While the center mounted front caster is disengaged, the base rests on the floor on four points: the two back wheels and two adjustable height feet in the front corners. This is a very stable configuration for the most part. However, when you engaged the front caster to move the tool around, there are only three points of contact with the floor: the two back wheels and the front caster. This is somewhat unstable so you have to be very careful with how you push your tool around while in this configuration. It should be a matter of common sense but it may not be immediately obvious that the tool can tip more than expected while being rolled around on just three wheels.
At the regular price of $49.95 I don’t think this is any great bargain. Consider that you have to make your own stretchers and there are only three wheels to roll the tool around on. If you’re willing to pay a little more money, you can get a mobile base with four wheels and stretchers included. It may not be rated to support 600 lbs like this base, but very few of my tools weigh that much. However, if you pay attention to the sales, Rockler sometimes offers this base at a substantial discount. That’s when I bought mine and it was a great deal. It is sturdy enough with my laminated stretchers that I trust it with just about any tool I have. I probably would not use it for a taller tool though. I think I would be a little uncomfortable using it with a band saw or full size drill press. This is simply because of the higher center of gravity on such tall tools that there is a little more of a risk of tipping over when going mobile.
There is one thing that you can do to make this base near perfect. That is add a plywood platform under the tool and secure it to the four corners of the base. This would ensure that all four corners are always connected in the same plane. It would add stability and reduce the flex in the stretchers when the caster is engaged. This is a simple yet very effective method of really securing this base and making it very stable. This would probably make it more suitable for taller tools as well.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions or just want to comment on this review!