My DIY Lumber Cart

My DIY Lumber Cart

I never throw away scraps. Ever. It’s expensive, and I’ve found so many uses for even the tiniest slivers before! But, that also meant that I had A LOT of scraps. Everything from 8 ft. long panels, to 6” long 2×4’s, to 3” trim. For a while, I was using a shelving unit that was left by a previous owner. It worked for about 2 months before I quickly outgrew it. Plus, it had all these gaps that pieces would fall through. So, my scraps quickly started taking over my workbench, and other random areas of the basement. It was time to clean it up, so let’s build a DIY Lumber Cart!

Basement Project Recap:

The Lumber Cart Design

Like most things, I took to Pinterest to find some ideas, and I found quite a few lumber carts that I liked but none were exactly what I wanted. These three were the closest to what I could, and I like elements from all three, but none are quite perfect, so I designed my own!

My (rough) overall dimensions I knew I wanted:

  • Height: 3’
  • Width: 5’
  • Depth: 2’

Then, I did some rough dimensions of each section, knowing that once each section was built I may change some things up. I entered my dimensions in, and it verified I would need two 4’8’ panels (cut down to 2’x8’ for transportation purposes). And it gave me the best way to make my cuts to save as much material as possible.

Using Particle Board

Guys. Lumber prices have gotten way out of hand. We’re talking $90+ for ¾” panels of plywood. And I needed two for my lumber cart. My original “plan B” was to use the same OSB that I used for my basement shelving, which is ½” thick. There were only $30 when I originally purchased them. Well, fast forward only a few weeks, and they were up to $47! 

So, then I pivoted again and decided that I could use melamine. This is basically a plastic-coated particle board, which was around $43. It’s what you see with most Ikea or cheaper furniture options. It’s not the most high-quality, but it’s workable, and for a lumber cart, I was ok with it. Until I got to Home Depot and they were out of stock. 😅 I really wanted to purchase it that day, so I ended up finding plain particleboard. I can’t find the exact product online, but it was in the other plywood/MDF panel section and was $41. It’s basically the same thing as melamine, without the white plastic coating. So, that’s what I went with.

There are a few differences to keep in mind when working with particleboard. If you want some tips, check out my Instagram @brittandivydesign where I shared some of these tips!

Building the Lumber Cart

I broke this lumber cart build into 3 parts: the main structure/frame, the horizontal cubbies, and the vertical cubbies. I built each individually so that I could adjust measurements as necessary (and it was necessary!). 

Part A: The outside frame

This consisted of three pieces: the base, the back, and the front.

Step 1: Make cuts

I used my circular saw and Kreg-Jig Rip Saw to cut my first pieces down. I also made sure that I used my plan to cut the right pieces.

Cut List:

  • Base: 2 ft. x 5 ft.
  • Back: 3 ft. x 5 ft.
  • Front: 6 in. x 5 ft

Step 2: Assemble

I laid down some scrap wood to lift the bottom off the ground slightly, which gave room for my corner clamps. Then, I added a bead of wood glue, smoothing it out with my figure. I added the back panel getting it in the right spot with the corner clamps.

Next, I pre-secured this piece with my nail gun before pre-drilling holes for the screws. Pre-drilling is very important with particleboard because it is prone to splitting. Once I pre-drilled, I also used a countersink bit so that my screws could sink in and be a bit better disguised. 

Then, you want to use coarse threaded screws. I actually had a bunch of leftover drywall screws, so I used those! I added a screw every 8-12”. 

Once I unclamped, there was still a slight wiggle, so I decided to use these corner braces that I had leftover for extra security.

For the front piece, I installed this in a very similar manner, except that I flipped it up so that I could have easier access. Working close to the floor can sometimes be a bit difficult!

This actually also made it easier to install the wheels. I bought these affordable, but heavy-weight caster wheels and installed them right to the bottom. I made sure that the locking mechanism was sticking out a little so that I could easily reach it with my foot, but not so far that I would run into it! Ouch.

Then, I flipped her over and she was ready for Part B!

Part B: The horizontal cubbies

This section consisted of a front, back, and three dividers.

Step 1: Make cuts

Cut List:

  • Front: 1 ft. x 4 ft.
  • Back: 2 ft. x 4 ft.
  • Dividers: 8 in. x 2 ft.

Originally, I had the front as 2’ high as well, but after cutting it in and seeing it in place, I decided that it was just too tall and would make reaching in these cubbies difficult. This is why I like to cut as I go for this type of project!

Step 2: Assemble

I decided that the easiest way to install these would be with pocket holes for the front and back pieces, then regular screws for the dividers. I started by adding pocket holes and installing the front and back first. This is where I made a mistake. 

Once the back piece of this section was installed, it was impossible to reach my screwdriver between this and the back of the lumber cart in order to secure the dividers. Luckily, I had recently purchased this doodad, which allowed me to screw them in. Not having any pre-drilled holes made it pretty difficult still, but I was eventually able to get them in, even if I worked up a sweat!

So, if you do this, I would suggest the following order:

  1. Make pocket holes in the back and front pieces. These should be on the sides that will be INSIDE the cubbies because that’s where they are the least visible.
  2. Assemble the dividers to the back of Part B using your coarse-threaded screws.
  3. Install this to the lumber cart using wood glue and pocket screws.
  4. Add the front of Part B using wood glue and pocket screws
  5. Secure the front of the dividers for the front piece using coarse-threaded screws.

I hope that makes sense! 

Part C: The vertical cubbies

This section has two sides and four shelves!

Step 1: Make cuts

Cut List:

  • Sides: 3 ft. x 10 in.
  • Shelves: 1 ft. x 10 in.

Step 2: Pre-Drill Shelf holes

Since this piece would have vertical shelves, it can be really difficult to continuously measure each screw hole to make sure that everything is lining up, especially while holding a piece up!

So, I decided to clamp the two side pieces together so they were perfectly flush, then measured where I’d want each shelf to be. Once I had my markings, I screwed all the way through each board. This way, my holes line up, so I know that I’m going to be in the right spot!

Step 3: Assemble

This time I was much more aware of where my screw placement would be as I installed it so that I would have clearance each way! 

First, I used pocket holes for my sides, which would secure these pieces into the lumber cart. I started with the right-hand side, secured it with the pocket screws, then also screwed it into the front/back of Part B to combine these pieces. Then, I installed the left-hand side in the same way. I made sure that the pocket holes were facing inward so they would again be hidden.

Now, when it came to installing the shelves, I knew that the bottom shelf would sit roughly 4-6” off the base. This is because the section in front was designed to hold 8’ boards. If I left that bottom section of this open, reaching into there could prove to be difficult, so I wanted to count that area out as unusable space and lifted the bottom shelf up.

I used clamps to get the shelf lined up and make sure it was level, then I added screws from each side. Again, I used a countersink bit to get as flush as I could.

Edge Banding the Lumber Cart

When using particle board (and even plywood), you can be left with edges that are not only ugly but can be pretty scratchy if you rub against them. To remedy that, I used edge banding! I had some leftover melamine edge banding, which I started out with and worked great, but ran out and switched to birch edge banding. Both worked, and since I was painting it, the mismatch didn’t matter!

Applying edgebanding is really quite simple. You start by cutting a piece down to size (it bends and snaps easily). Then, you use an iron to apply it. The heat warms up the glue so that it starts to stick. I did find that the melamine edge banding adhered much quicker so it was harder to reposition, whereas the birch was more easily maneuverable. This is both good and bad because sometimes you’ll start to pull it too much and not realize it until the end!

Once it’s all ironed on, you can use a razor or edge banding cutting tool to cut off the excess. I also like to use a sanding sponge to help really smooth out the edges to make it even more seamless.

Can you tell the difference here?


Priming and Painting

When priming and painting particleboard, you want to use oil-based products. Water-based products can cause swelling. I used this primer and this paint. I chose white because I honestly haven’t decided yet what my aesthetic design is going to be for the workshop yet, so if I eventually decide on another color, it’ll be easy to paint over!

The particleboard is going to suck up your primer like crazy. This took a lot longer than I was expecting. I used a foam roller brush because it’s all I had, but I do wish I had picked up something fluffier instead! 

Also, be prepared that oil-based products will stick to your skin a lot more than regular paint. I had to exfoliate quite a bit to finally get it all off! 

When it came to painting, I decided to use use a brush instead of also rolling. I knew that I needed to apply it pretty thick so I thought this was the best option. If you want a peek inside my head while I was doing this, these were my thoughts🙃 :

  • “I really should’ve painted this before cutting and assembling”
  • “Maybe I should’ve just bought the spray can version”
  • “Next time, I’m just going to another Home Depot to find melamine!”

So, yes, overall, I would do one of these options instead! It took a lot longer than I had thought and I was too tired and frustrated to get a perfect finish. But again, it’s a lumber cart so 🤷‍♀️

How my Lumber Cart is Organized

So, you may be wondering, after all that planning, what were my ideas for the different areas!? 

  • Back area = panels, such as plywood
  • Horizontal cubbies = boards that are between 1-4′ long
  • Vertical cubbies = smaller scraps, less than 1’ long.
  • Front area = boards that are longer than 4’

I’m really excited to finally have all this organized. It’s really helped me have a better sense of just how much I have and encouraged me to start actually using these better! Here’s to hoping I can maintain it all!

Let’s keep working on this workshop, shall we?

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