Dragging a 66-lb welder around the shop is not a good idea. Building a wheeled cart is a way better idea and gave me a chance to practice my welding.
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Building a Welding Cart

Practicing welding “on the job”

Text & photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 9-8-2010

When I bought my new Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 welder I didn’t know how to weld. I have watched others weld for decades but never needed to do it myself. The instructions that came with my welder provided the basics but I realized that is still needed practice – lots of it. Since I also needed a cart for my new Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 I decided that I could build the cart and practice at the same time. And, yes – I suspected from the start that this simultaneous learn/build plan lacked a few points of logic.

Starting Dolly

I had an old dolly/hand truck ($20-model) sitting around in the shop and kept seeing it as a starting point for my welding cart in it. My new gas tank needed a secure place to live and the dolly offered a jumping off point for my proposed welding cart. I could “re-purpose” the dolly, using most of it as it was but one important design point common to this kind of material mover had to be changed.

A dolly is meant to scoop up heavy stuff and then be tilted back to move it. With the handle 90-degrees to the floor, the bottom plate is very close to dragging. I noticed that the wheel brackets were welded about an inch up from that bottom plate and that gave me an opportunity. I sliced the wheel brackets off of the handle tubing, ground everything flat. Then welded the wheels back on but located further down as close to the bottom plate as I could get them. Then when I tilted the handle so that it was 90-degrees to the floor I had roughly 1” of clearance below the plate. My first bit of meaningful welding had worked and my new welding cart took a major step forward.

Practice Welding

I had to move the wheel brackets on the dolly (left) so that the bottom plate was well off of the floor when the dolly was upright. I used the tack-weld-tack-weld technique to build a containing circle (right) to keep the tank from moving around.
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I should note here that between many of the steps described in this story I was running practice beads on scrap with my new welder. Every time I went back to welding on my evolving welding cart I could see that there remained a bunch more for me to learn.

Wheels and Frame

I had an old table saw mobile base that was not useable any more but the casters on it were still in good shape. I removed the casters from that assembly and sliced a chunk of heavy angle steel that I could use as a mount for the casters on my welding cart.

The casters are 4”-tall from the bottom of the wheel to the surface of the flange that mated with the cart frame. With that in mind I welded the cart framework at 4-1/8” up on the dolly’s tubing. The extra 1/8” was because I welded this angle/caster mount to the underside of the framework. That 1/8” put the casters on the same plane as the relocated rear dolly wheels.

I set the tank on the dolly, centered it between the curved handle braces and traced its outline on the bottom plate. I used 1/8”-thick by 1”-wide steel to make simple retainers that would prevent the tank from moving around on the flat plate. I just applied about ¾” of weld at the end then bent the piece in towards the tank outline. I repeated this process every inch or so until I had a curved retainer around one side of the tank. I repeated the same process on the other side.

1" angle steel was used for the framework (left) because it is more than strong enough and its mass makes it a bit easier to weld. The casters and angle steel used to make a mount for them (right) came from an old table saw mobile base. Scavenging is still the cheapest way to get steel - when it works.
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My Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 cabinet is a bit over 18”-long and less than a foot wide so I designed the framework that would project forward from the dolly around that size. I also wanted storage available below the unit for welder-related tools and supplies. Storage space for welding clamps was also needed. With all that in mind I made the framework 32”-long and 12”-tall. This is pure seat-of-the-pants, on-the-fly engineering but oddly enough, it worked!

I used 1” steel angle for the framework. That might be a bit of overkill for the weight this cart will carry but I like a little extra strength rather than risk too little. Also, this steel angle is easier to weld because it has some mass to it. There were more than a few design points that were “tweaked” along the way to accommodate my slowing improving welding skills.
The most complex fitting came when joining the long angle iron rails to the round tubing on the dolly. In my earlier life around race cars I had done this kind of “fishmouthing” long into far too many nights so grabbed my angle grinder and cut the profile. I found that the dolly tubing was 1”-diameter so I located a socket with the same diameter and used that to trace out a rough curve on the angle steel to act as a grinding guide. That worked well enough to leave me with gaps small enough that even I could handle, if you are not high on appearance of the weld.

The only real caution with the long frame pieces is to remember that grinding the profile to fit the tubes produces left and right as well as upper and lower pieces. Make sure that you lay the pieces out or mark them to be sure that you grind the correct profile in the correct pieces. I can promise you that if you take the “I can handle this” attitude and don’t mark them, chances are high that you will be making a replacement rail or two very soon. We need not go into how I know this is important but I am very certain of it.

I made these simple pegs (left) to provide a place to store the cables when not in use. There is another set of identical pegs on the other side of the cart. The front area (right) was left open for storage. The bar across the top will hold specialized welding clamps.
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I used 11”-long uprights (1” steel angle) to separate the upper and lower frames at the front only. I measured at the rear to be sure the rails had the same separation before welding those ends to the dolly frame. This upright length seemed to give me the best height for the welder and still leave useable storage below. The diagonals are also made from the 1” steel angle and were hand cut to meet at the center of the long frames. I don’t know that this cart really needs this kind of bracing or if this is just my racecar side hanging out. Triangulation was king for building a rigid racecar chassis and this cart was looking more and more like a sprint car chassis as I was building it. I am certain that the diagonal bracing will do no harm.

All of the cross pieces were also made from the 1” angle steel. I cut those pieces to 13”-long as that put the long frame rails a little off center to the outside on the dolly tubing. Not much science here, just keeping it simple. The width of the dolly really determined the length of the cross pieces plus that produced a good width for holding the Lincoln Pro-Mig 180. Don’t fight what works.

To increase the clamp storage capacity I welded a length of ½”-diameter tubing across the center of the front (upper) opening. That should give me plenty of hanging clamps storage room without sacrificing bottom shelf storage.

In the end, I think the practice gained while building this cart was good for my welding skills. It certainly showed me I need lots of practice but I am getting better and I have a nice cart for my new welder!
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The upper and lower flat surfaces were made by welding in strips of 1/8”-thick by 1-1/4”-wide steel to provide front and rear support. Then I laid a 12”-wide by 18”-long piece of sheet metal over that frame and tack welded it in place. I located the upper flat surface so that it was far enough forward for the welder to miss the tank yet leave as much open space as was possible at the front of the frame for clamp storage. The sheet metal I used is thin (around 1/32”-thick) but should be plenty strong enough to hold the things I plan on carrying around in this cart.

The pegs on either side of the welder cart are for wrapping the cords between jobs. I made the pegs by cutting 3”-long pieces of ½”-diameter steel tubing and then tack welding body washers with a ½”-diameter center hole on the ends. Then I welded those pegs on the sides of the upper rails roughly even with the ends of the top sheet metal panel. Here again, no science involved – the pegs just looked right bracketing the sheet metal top.
When all of the assembly was done I was tempted to grind the welds flat but decided that I am not hiding the fact that this is my first weld-up project. If the sight of welds made with still developing skills upsets you, stand well back.

For finishing I put a wire cup brush in the angle grinder and cleaned/smoothed the surface before spraying on red primer followed by gloss black. All of the paint is Rustoleum and the primer cans leaked badly around the spray valve. The color cans worked perfectly. When the paint was dry I reinstalled the casters before loading up the Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 and its gas tank. Wrap up the cables and my not-so-fancy-but-mine welding cart was done and ready for use.

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