Hams Projects - Thickness planer trolley

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    This really is a "scrap wood challenge". All of this is built entirely out of bits of wood I had laying about from other projects, and in order to achieve this build, I had to improvise on several occasions.

    The build process...

    After injuring myself last year in a tragic swan dive from a ladder. Lifting a 38Kg planer just isn't as easy as it once was.

    This has been one of my Covid-based-self-isolating projects that didn't centre around cheese making. (Don't worry, I was making an easier cheese at the same time, just so I could keep going with at least two of my hobbies).

    Project Requirements:

    There were only five rules when it came to this project.

    1. It had to be very strong. The planer weighs 38Kg, supplemental bed + jigs weigh 13Kg, potential for sticking whole sleepers weighing 75Kg through it... was pretty high. Load potential was 126Kg.
    2. It had to pack away into the only space available to it.
    3. It had to be made with stuff I had laying about... so I could clear out the excess of scrap, and make room for new projects.
    4. It had to have lockable wheels.
    5. It must have some form of storage for my hand planes. Some are quite large at nearly 600mm long.
    Fortunately, I have my "wheelie box". Which is literally a box full of various castors. I also had a surprising amount of plywood and MDF laying about, and several sets of drawer runners and handles.

    Starting with the chassis... calculations lead to some success.

    Doing some rudimentary calculations, factoring the 150mm high heavy duty castors at the bottom, the 510mm height of the thickness planer, and the fact that everything had to fit under a shelf 1200mm above the ground, this left me with a chassis height of just 540mm.

    Chassis height = Shelf clearance - (thickness planer height + castor height)
    1200mm - (510mm + 150) = 540mm

    I found a bunch of scrap 17mm plywood sheets that were left over from another project. If the chassis is 540mm high, and I intend to put 2 x 17mm sheets of plywood on the bottom, 3x 17mm sheets on top, and I just happened to have another 12mm sheet for the top as well.

    1x 12mm plywood sheet on upper top (rounded to 13mm for thickness variation)
    3x 17mm plywood sheets on lower top (rounded to 52mm for thickness variation)
    Sides =
    2x 17mm plywood sheets on base (rounded to 35mm to compensate for thickness variation.

    Total thickness of top and bottom sheeting is 100mm.

    This leaves the side height to be 540mm-100mm = 440mm.

    I decided to include drawers in the trolley. One would need to fit a No. 7 hand plane (565mm long, using 2x 17mm plywood front/back + a little clearance, that means the drawers are 605mm long.

    Looking at the sheets of wood I had, and the dimensions of the planer, and the space available for the planer storage. I decided to make the entire chassis 650mm long, by 600mm wide. Originally I wanted to put the planer across the shorter length of that rectangle to improve stability. However, keeping the drawers easily accessible while stowed became the priority, so I chose the somewhat less stable orientation. This can be offset somewhat through supporting the auxilliary bed later.

    So my chassis dimensions ended up being: 650mm (L) x 600mm (W) x 540mm (H).

    Factoring in the strength requirements, I chose 2x 17mm sheets of plywood on the bottom. Since the wheels were closer to the side walls, I felt this needed less reinforcing than the top, which had the planers weight arranged closer to the centre of an open chassis. The top got 3x 17mm sheets of ply for strength, and one 12mm sheet on top of that again to add further strength, but mostly to hide the ugly screws that attach the sides to the top.

    The sides were made of 2x 17mm sheets of plywood. However, I didn't have enough wood to do the rear vertical wall. So I used 2x 17mm sheets of MDF. Unfortunately, one of the sheets was no long enough, so I had to glue three pieces of MDF together to make up the double layered wall piece. I also had to do the same thing with one of the plywood sides.

    Building the drawers.. even more calculations.

    I often have a love/hate relationship with drawers. However, it's undeniable that when you want storage that keeps the dust out, relatively easy access, and an almost infinite way to separate items in a logical layout, then drawers are a pretty good choice.

    Drawer width:

    Drawer width = chassis width - (2x Side thickness + space for drawer slides)

    600- (68mm + 25.4mm) = 506.6mm

    Drawer fronts and backs will be sandwiched between the sides in a pocket hole joint at each end, as such the calculation is:

    Total drawer width - thickness of both sides.

    506.6mm - (2x 17mm) =

    All the drawer fronts and backs will be 472.6mm long, but their width will be determined by the drawer height.

    Drawer length:

    Drawer length = 605mm (discussed above for the plane).

    Drawer height:

    Drawer height (depends on intended contents, and chassis dimensions).

    In the end, I chose to divide my 540mm of chassis cavity height into three drawers:

    1. 130mm
    2. 134mm
    3. 170mm (fits the plane handle with roughly 5mm spare)

    I'm aware that this only adds up to 534mm of total height. However, I used the remainder for 1-2mm gaps between, and around each drawer for ease of movement.

    So the sides will be 605mm long, with 2 sides of each drawer height being the width.

    Drawer bottoms:

    The drawer bottoms were made of 12mm thick ply, and attached into a routed rebate/dado that is cut halfway into the 17mm thick plywood sides.

    As such to fit, the width is total drawer width - 17mm = 489.6mm
    the length is total drawer length - 17mm = 588mm

    Cutting and assembly

    Now that the calculations were done, I figured out how many of each piece, and cut them accordingly. Sometimes if I didn't have a piece large enough on the laminated parts, I'd simply glue enough together, then cut it to dimension.

    While you can cut pieces, then glue them together instead, it's likely that the edges won't line up perfectly, and then you'll have to build it up, or sand it down. This is a far more error-prone and potentially time-consuming way to go.

    Don't have any thick wood? Glue multiple layers together!
    This is the cabinet being assembled. I simply didn't have enough thick pieces, so I laminated to layers of 17mm plywood for the sides and base. The back is made of off-cuts of MDF.. because that's what I had laying about. I had to stick two pieces of MDF together for one of the layers of the back, and pointed the somewhat-less-aesthetically pleasing side toward the inside.
    Thickness planer chassis assembled, with two drawers assembled but not installed.
    This might look complete, but the planer is just sitting on top of a barely-assembled chassis. However it's good as an indicator of the finished project.
    Sanding out some scrap I used as a welding table for the front face of the drawers.
    Sometimes the best piece is the scrap you decided to weld on, step on, and leave on top of the bin for days. Here I'm sanding out the black scorch marks left by the welding sparks/debris. I will use this this piece to face all of the drawers.
    Drawers faced and installed.
    Once the drawers have been faced and installed, it looks like this. There's definitely some tidying to do, but it looks better. The surrounding frame has not been faced yet, but that's coming next.
    This shot probably looks similar to the previous picture. However, the edging around the drawers has been faced with 12mm ply. The entire surface has been sanded down, then given a mild coat of varnish, then sanded down with 180grit sand paper. Now I just need to recoat the varnish, with light sandings in between for a glossy finish, then put the drawer handles on....

    Oh, and mount the planer of course! Can't forget that bit, can we?
    Here's a picture of the completed trolley, thickness planer set up and recently used.
    Here's the finished product. I have attached my 13" planer, and it works beautifully. If you're wondering, I simply clamp on an elongated base board (reinforced with several square aluminium tubes for a better planing experience.
    Here's a 3D printed vacuum adaptor for the planer to keep things somewhat cleaner/safer.
    To make things even easier, I've 3D printed a custom vacuum adaptor to make my shop vac compatible. However, it'll fill up very quickly without a cyclonic separator in between! I need to finish my proper dust extractor...

    In conclusion....

    Honestly, I don't think most people would spend so much time making something out of scrap wood. What I saved in materials, I spent in time. However, I am very happy with the (somewhat over-engineered) trolley, and the storage the drawers provide.

    Most importantly, the trolley saves me from having to lift the planer and if the trolley doesn't provide a wide enough base to prevent tipping (only the heaviest loads will do that) I'll just use some adjustable saw horses that I have around under my elongated planer board.

    One of my goals here was to use up some of my excess wood scraps, handles, castors and surprising number of half-used spray finish cans. This makes the place less cluttered, and I've also been able to clean up several areas as I've used it up. The flow-on effects of cleaning up just a few pieces here and there has made the place much safer, and enjoyable to work in.

    I hope this inspires you to take something you consider "scrap" and make something that is not only useful, but has additional benefits as well.

    Stay safe, and happy wood working!

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