Kamado (Barbecue) Trolley

    A number of barbecue tables in differing styles

    When it comes to barbecue tables and trolleys, some people buy them and others make them.

    A project like this can be made in a variety of styles and materials such as wood, steel, tiles, concrete, and many more. However, while many designs may be inspiring, finding a design that suited me was a matter of making compromises.

    Barbecue Trolley Mk II Project

    Years ago, in what seems like a pre-Covid dream, I decided to get a Kamado. My mother had met a lovely japanese woman back in the 70s and had the opportunity to eat a steak cooked on one... and never forgot it.... and never let me forget it either.

    Fast forward to 2016...

    When the kamado arrived, it arrived on a pallet, and immediately I knew this enormous ceramic slow cooker was going to be painful to move around. Let's face it, imagine you need to move a 100+ Kg (230 lbs) ceramic flower pot (not including accessories) it's going to be ever so much fun.

    My barbecue trolley Mk I solution....

    An industrial grade dolley. You know the standard plank of wood with four castors on it? Generally used to move heavy furniture when you're moving house. (I'm sure you do). Only I made it by screwing several lengths of 90mm x 45mm boards together, and screwed on some castors that are each capable of handling 250Kg. This thing could easily handle a piano.... but at the time I didn't have a lot of varnish... and I wanted to get cooking ASAP. So I left it, completely unprotected... for years... and I really only had it in partial shelter.

    Honestly, it held up surprisingly well. It's still structurally sound and works fine. But it was time to do this properly....
    Here's my kamado sitting on the original dolly styled trolley.

    The Mk. I after years of neglect....

    Here we can't really see the dolley very well through thhe grass on the right...but it is actually fine. I will sand it down a little and give it the coating it has waited so long for.

    Enter the Trolley Mk II....

    Now it should come as no surprise to those who read my other projects that I like to do things "on the cheap".

    So after building five new raised garden beds last year, I had about 30 offcuts of 30-35mm (1.25" to 1.5") thick hardwood boards, all 600mm (24") or so long. As well as a whole sleeper that never quite got put to the original use because of shifting priorities.

    So I started to design my table to the scrap specifications....


    This image for Image Layouts addon

    Legs and cross beams are largely sourced from one sleeper...

    Here is a 3D model of my sleeper. It is 2400mm long, 200m wide, and 75mm thick. You'll find the cut lines for the four thicker pieces in the top left end, these are the legs of the table. The four cross beams for two shelves are in the lower-right.

    Considering the Kamado's dimensions:

    Table legs: were made by ripping the sleeper in half (100mm) and then cut to leg length... this left me with four pieces with the dimensions of:

    75mm x 100m x 550mm (roughly 3" x 4" x 22").

    The cross supports were made by ripping the remaining lengths sleeper halves in half again (so quarter thickness. This also made some of the other support frames from the left overs).

    The table was designed to be 600mm wide, so the boards were going to connect the front and the back together.

    Now, the kamado I have is actually more oval in shape than the usual circle most kamados are known for. It also tapers somewhat, starting small at the base, and widening somewhat until the dome lid narrows again. Here are some schematics the manufacturer supplies for DIY table builders:
    Barbecue dimensions for DIY table builders.
    More barbecue dimensions for DIY table builders.

    Barbecue dimensions are provided for DIY table builders...

    These images depict two differing configurations for making a table for this kamado.

    The first case puts the grill height roughly level with the table top. However, a larger, wider hole must be made in the top for it to fit the widest point (and hinges) of the barbecue.

    The second case raises the barbecue above the surrounding table, and requires a smaller hole that needn't consider the hinges.

    Naturally, being an American company, the dimensions are all in inches.

    Design Considerations

    Looking at the dimensions in the drawings above.... and knowing that I needed to keep this table relatively small... I had to compromise between a few design considerations.

    1. If I wanted to build this affordably, and with the wood I already had, I was limited to a table that's 600mm wide, so I had to ask, how do I ensure that the barbecue fits within the dimensions of the table?
    2. Ideally, the barbecue would have been a similar height to the table. However this meant that the hinge of the barbecue would pass through one of the main support beams. So I decided to raise the barbecue so its lower, narrower dimensions would fit between the supports. However this added other consequences.... (other than a taller barbecue).
    3. Shelf height clearances. If I put the shelf at the new height, it's closer to the table top. Do I still have the clearance to store the items I have, or are they going to be too tall?
    4. The original shelf/top (two level) design that is so popular in the other tables (shown above), wasn't going to work for me. So I needed to incorporate a third shelf for storage.. but being the over-engineering type that I am, I also designed it for reinforcing the table.
    5. My original plan was to have folding wings to extend the top surface area for putting plates, utensils, etc on it. However, the third shelf would use almost all of my wood alotted for the wings.
    4. The goals of clearing out the workshop, and making the most of my somewhat limited time available for building it meant buying more materials and increasing the complexity of the build process (by adding more features) was not suitable. However, I did want to build the table with the option to add folding wings later should I want/need to.

    Seeking Inspiration:


    Looking at the commercial and DIY options out there, I quickly discovered:

    • The commercial ones seem to be made of steel or wood, but the steel one was more than a little bit ugly. The wood ones were too expensive and massive for my space.
    • The DIY options used any old material. Pallet woods, concrete, structural steel, tiles, stainless steel. However many were excessively elaborate, or large... or both.
    • Some DIY tables looked very similar to the commercial options, while others were significantly more rustic, or fancy, or less table and more whole outdoor kitchen. I needed this to be mobile, small, and "look at least passably good on a budget".

    The build process:

    If you imagine that the resawn sleeper wood that I cut in to 600mm lengths were a little "rough", you'd be right. My first order of business was to cut any cupped boards into narrower, flatter pieces, and plane them to at least somewhat flat, consistent thicknesses. Here's an image of me just "stacking" my wood into a trolly-like shape:

    Planed wood for the barbecue trolley

    I'm always amazed by the results of planing natural timbers. To me, it almost magically turns an ugly lump of misshapen of wood into a beautiful piece of timber. This beautifully coloured hard wood is in my sleepers? It seems such a shame to use them there now.

    As you can imagine, many of my "little projects" so far have involved workshop storage and cabinetry of one type or another. My obsession with plywood to do this style of work dominates this section of my site (and workshop). However, I love getting to use some "real" wood, free of glues, and other chemicals. Look at those colours... sorry, still enjoying this a little too much.

    Before adding the third shelf...

    I designed the original bottom shelf to take the load of the kamado, and it also provided an important stabilising effect at the bottom near the wheels. So it stayed in place.

    Knowing that (regardless of height), I'd need some sort of table top with a hole, I designed an octagonal top shelf frame, and from there, could either cut pieces to match the kamado perfectly, or the octagon if it was close enough. Here is a 3D model of the top frame and bottom shelf in place. Note: the bottom shelf will not be high enough to fit the barbecue, so the third shelf has yet to be added to this model.
    This image for Image Layouts addon

    Two shelf model.

    Here, the first (bottom) shelf is included, as well as the frame of the top. A third shelf that raises and supports the barbecue will be added in the middle.

    The Top and Middle Shelves

    One consideration here was "how close should I put wood of the top shelf to the hot barbecue?". I was limited in my space, but having enough gap to vent any heat build up was something I added.

    So I raised the kamado above the table so I could fit it into the 600mm depth of the trolley/table. This meant I actually built the third shelf as an intermediary between the bottom of the trolley and the table top. It was also the load bearing shelf, so it had to be made relatively sturdy. By doing this, the kamado had a mere 8mm clearance between the front and back support beams.  I could have raised it further to get more clearance, but I felt that this was enough. Now the hole in the top will not need to worry about the hinge at all. Even so, the kamado's hinge effectively sticks out from the back of the trolley by about 60mm. This will be a consideration when wheeling the trolley through doors and other narrow paths. I can live with this.
    This image for Image Layouts addon

    Adding the third (middle) shelf

    Here you can see I've added the middle shelf that the kamado will sit on. I've left the framework visible, so you can see the hole formed by the frame. It's entirely possible to put a single sheet of wood with a hole cut, or throw on a formed concrete counter top, or just screw some pieces on to form the table top.

    Finishing the top shelf...

    Once the middle shelf was positioned and installed. I just had to decide on what to do with the top shelf. It wasn't a huge area, but it still needed a layer of something.

    I considered concrete, steel, ceramic tiles, but in the end, the trolley already weighed about 200Kg without the barbecue. So I simply used the offcuts and remaining 600mm boards to fill the top surrounds, cutting it to be flush with the octagonal frame, rather than the barbecue, as I wanted a little more venting space.

    Once the parts were cut to shape/size in a somewhat rustic fashion, I screwed the nicer tabletop pieces to the frame, routed the edges, and coated it in a marine grade varnish. This took a couple of days, with light sandings in between coats to get a glossy finish.

    Installing the barbecue...

    Ok, so this barbecue, even empty (with firebox, grills, etc removed) still weighs over 60Kg. It's also bulky, has a smooth glossy certamic finish, and there's no space to put your hands between the wood and the kamado. So lowering it into the table needed both Wren and myself, armed with a car jack to gracefully lower it in.


    What an effort that was! But the result...

    The completed barbecue trolley...

    The table, with just-installed barbecue.

    But wait... there's more.

    The fun was just about to begin....

    The easiest way to get our barbecue into the back yard was not to go directly out the garage, but to wheel it out onto the driveway, wheel it around the block and bring it in through our front door, and straight out of the back door. Walking the barbecue down the street with Wren steering, and ever-watchful kitten Clarence following close by must have been an unusual sight.

    Everything went pretty well until we got to the steps leading in and out of the house.

    Trolley and barbecue is easily 250+ Kg. Simply getting it to go uphill is difficult. To navigate steps without ramps, is borderline impossible.

    We improvised like a beast to get from point A to point B.

    Lets just say that both Ren and I were very tired afterwards. Ren had climbed over the table because it took up the entire doorway, and despite our efforts to stress and strain the table, it's significantly over- engineered.

    However, I was thankful that I had a set of industrial grade castors on it, and that all four have brakes every time a slope was involved. It was at this point that I have to confess that I am very happy I didn't put a concrete top on it as well... it just would have been too difficult to move.

    The Inaugural Barbecue...

    So for Easter, we had some friends and family over, and here's a photo of the trolley and kamado in action...

    The barbecue trolley in use

    A journey of a thousand leagues (or so it seems) ends with a tasty steak sandwich.

    Please forgive the chaos of our yard, but here's the trolley in it's natural environment. The coals are lit, the heat is perfect, and that little computery thing on the side there will tell me when the meat temperature has reached my designated set point.

    Post build analysis...

    Honestly, I'm pretty happy about the trolley. It's a good height for cooking, the whole unit works very well on flat surfaces. I'm not looking forward to moving it out, but that's a battle for another day.

    Ultimately, this is perhaps one of my prettiest (and most heavy-duty) scrapwood challenges. Every piece of wood in this trolley came from sleepers that were left over from my garden bed assemblies. Ironbark ranges from white-ish, yellow-ish to a deep red. Meanwhile, the "mixed hardwood" sleepers range in surprisingly similar colours.

    Ultimately, I had the castors already... and if I didn't, I'd have salvaged them from the original mk I trolley. I found a can of marine varnish lurking in the corner of the garage... the only things I bought for this build are:

    • one 50 pack box of M8 bolts.
    • A box of M8 washers
    • Some sanding paper for my sander.
    I'd probably put this cost at somewhere around $50. That's a lot cheaper than the $700+ you'd pay for a commercially available option. However, that's only if I don't value my time. Since this was a labour of passion, or at least fun... I am happy to supply the "free" labour. But if you're time poor, and need to buy the materials, then you'll probably find that the commercially made ones offer better value.

    The many ways to build a table like this....


    Now you could assemble this table with a drill, a mallet, some spanners, a sanding block. Not one drop of glue was used in this construction. However, if you're using harder, rough sawn timber as I did, you're probably going to need some means to plane, and saw angled cuts. That usually involves lots of perspiration with hand tools, or fancier powered equipment. Remember: you can shamelessly borrow tools, ask for supervised help if workshop owners aren't willing to "let go" of their gear, or even use a "maker space" instead of simply buying tools.

    Now let me be clear here, I used my table saw for the ripping of beams and the entireity of my table top. I also used my mitre saw for the 45o angled support beams. A mitre box and a hand saw would have gotten the job done, just more slowly.

    I used my thickness planer to really tidy up those faces, and get a consistent thickness from one board to the next. If you have suitably sized wood pieces, you might be able to do this on a table saw or router table with a fence.

    I then took any rough edges and simply cut them off on the table saw. Leaving reasonably flat, smooth, and tidy boards.I've seen people use circular saw and a straight edge to achieve the same result.

    I chose to round the edges with a laminate/trim router.. but you could simply do that with a block and some sand paper.

    Then I just brushed on the varnish, doing several coats with light sanding in between. You could use a spray varnish, and any number of other tools like rollers, foam brushes, even a rag, depending on the finish you're using. Just make sure your process matches the finish.

    Things I did badly...

    Ok, so a few bolts actually shredded the thread before I could get the high tension I was aiming for, so some bolts are a little jammed.

    I didn't aim for "fine woodworking" because it's a barbecue table, and the amount of effort that would have required was prohibitive for me.

    It's possible that my avoidance to glue may come back to haunt me, but at this stage, it's at least theoretically possible to disassemble and change the table in the future.

    The varnish won't last forever outdoors, so need to sweet-talk Wren to make a cover for the barbecue trolley.

    I haven't really decided what barbecue accessories go where, and at this stage, there's no system. Also, additional features like heatproof tabletop or integrated searing hibachi has no real place on this table at this time. Since I ran out of wood, I didn't add the foldable table wings that would provide additional work space.

    This thing is very heavy, and barely fits through the door. The hinge sticking out is a constant reminder that the edge of the table is not the extent of the object. So effort must be made to consciously protect the hinge.

    I'm sure there are other issues, but I'm extremely tired.

    I hope this inspired you to make something amazing for yourself. Take care and have fun wherever you can.

    Ham.

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