What do you do if you desperately need to transport a wheelbarrow down to your farm but you can’t fit one in your tiny two-door coupe? You do what any idealist with a hoard of old wood would do. Build one!
Without any means to move larger things down to the farm like furniture (and wheelbarrows), we’ve had to improvise. Our “lounge suite”, for example, consists of an old picnic bench we brought in from outside. Comfy…
But next weekend we’ll be hunting for utes (or pickup trucks to our American friends), so if all goes to plan we’ll be turning up at the farm the following weekend with a tray-load of furniture and, thank heavens, a wheelbarrow.
But then why go to the trouble of building something in lieu of a wheelbarrow if we’re likely to bring one with us next time? Well, I’d like to say that a general-purpose cart has many more uses than the humble wheelbarrow, and that’s true, but the real reason is so I might satisfy (if only temporarily) this incessant urge to build something – anything!
The day before going down to the farm I pondered a simple design for a wooden cart and made a trip to the hardware store to fetch some bits and bobs. I knew plywood would be lighter weight than the thick planks we had in the barn, but I didn’t want to fork out sixty bucks for a sheet. The cart would also need some wheels. I inquired at a couple second-hand bicycle shops but was out of luck, so I opted instead for some pneumatic trolley wheels from the hardware store.
When I saw the prices for what I needed I started second-guessing the whole plan. Sixty dollars for two wheels and another thirty for the axle? Yuck. But Lady Luck must have spun on a dime for me, because just as I was about to dash the idea I stumbled across a trolley kit that included two wheels, an axle, and the trolley frame – all for thirty-five! They were the same exact wheels as the ones being sold individually, too. What the…?! Tricksters!
Fast-forward to the farm on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I rummaged through the barn looking for suitable wood, avoiding the pieces with cemented dollops of cow poop. As night fell a couple hours later I had all the lengths cut and ready to go. I brought the lot inside the cottage and commandeered one of the spare bedrooms as a rough-and-ready workshop. Eager to start piecing it all together, like a kid with a new box of Lego, I whipped out the tools I needed and got to work.
After the base was completed I was already starting to realise just how heavy this thing would be once finished… Nevertheless I was intent on seeing it through.
For our anniversary I’d bought Char a Kreg Jig Master System, which is a pocket-hole joinery tool for connecting work-pieces. I’m aware this is an unusual anniversary present from a man to a woman. But before I’m accused of buying a tool for myself on Char’s behalf, you must know that this is the kind of thing Char gets giddy about. Put jewellery and hardware in front of her and she’ll reach for the hardware every time. Chocolate on the other hand…
She hadn’t had a chance to use the jig yet, so I beckoned her into the temporary workshop and she excitedly dove into the project, figuring out her new toy.
What a nifty tool. It’s so simple and clean to use. Much easier than making complicated mortise and tenon joints. We were a bit overzealous on some of the softer bits of wood, so a few of the screw heads popped through. Whoops. Let’s just cover that up with the Dremel…
It got late so we called it a day. The next morning (which was still blustery and wet) we quickly set to work fixing some supports for the wheels and axle. This took a bit of number-crunching, but we got there in the end, composure intact. But our calm was about to be fried…
Oh, crap. Did we just put the wheels on the wrong end? Yes. Yes we did. I’d designed the front part to have a door so we could dump the contents of the cart; we were so consumed by figuring out how to construct sturdy supports that we totally overlooked which way the cart was facing. D’oh.
We mulled over our blunder for a bit, finally deciding to bite the bullet and move the wheel supports to the other end. It was easier than we’d feared and probably didn’t warrant all that cursing and face-palming…
After the legs were attached only the handles remained, but alas, it was Sunday afternoon. We needed to pack up and head back to the city. Damn. We’d have to finish the cart next time.
Our return this weekend brought brighter weather, so we took the nearly-finished cart outside to add the final touches.
We drilled large holes through the handle arms and jammed in an old oak hanbo I thought would be perfect for the crossbar. The final pieces added were some stops to hold the removable door in place.
Once complete we wasted no time in racing our new cart down to the barn to fill up with firewood. It held strong. It rolled smooth. It pivoted with ease. And it wasn’t even that heavy in the end. An engineering masterpiece! Well, maybe not, but it is pretty cute:
Even though we’ll probably have a wheelbarrow soon, I think our homemade cart will come in handy for hauling bigger loads whilst averting the tendency to topple over, since it has two wheels instead of one. It’s also quite practical as a means to cart around the tools needed for a day’s work. The flat tray acts as a kind of work bench and tool box which we found really useful for carting heavy items like the chainsaw and gear, fuel and lube canisters, and buckets down from the shed to the barn. The same goes for when we start our garden and have a heap of plants to transport to and fro. The angled walls of a wheelbarrow aren’t ideal for this kind of hauling.
Does it work? Yes! How useful is it? Already it’s taken a literal weight of our shoulders. Is it charming as hell? You betcha. But one question remains… Will it stand the test of time? Well, there are more screws holding it together than a light-bulb joke, so I bloody-well hope it does.