MIG Cart

I’ve seen a few MIG carts appearing on the scene recently, that not only hold you MIG welder and tank, but have drawers to contain your helmet, gloves, wire, tips, nozzels and all the other odds n ends you need to have around.  After adding another MIG to my collection, and already having a couple machines on the floor, it was time to come up with a solution.  You guessed it, time to build a MIG cart.

Here you see the finish product.   A fairly quick and easy project.  On top, you will notice the reason for the urgent need for additional MIG carts. The addition of a Lincoln 140 to the collection of cutters and welders.  With one MIG and the plasma cutter already sitting on the shop floor, something had to be done. True to form, I usually try to build things with material I have on hand.  This case will be no different (for the most part)  The materials list is short and sweet.  As I am building two carts, I may use soome unorthodox methods that wouldn’t normally be used if building only one cart.  All I am trying to say is that I had a 2 ft. X 4 ft. piece of 16 ga. sheet metal sitting in the shop.  All I have to do is get two bases assemblies out of it.
Out of the 2 x 4 ft sheet, I’ve cut two panels 18 x 24 inches.  If you happen to be trying to exactly duplicate this, position these pieces so that you have a 12 x 24 inch piece remaining from the sheet.  This will be used for additional components later.  Ultimately, the measurements will depend on the cabinet you use for your build.  However, most tend to be 14 x 18 inches.  All this means is that you need material 18 x 29 to build the base.  That should be your first clue as to what I am doing with the extra material from my sheet.  Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’ll use a piece to extend the length beyond the current 24 inch length.  But, that’s a little down the road.As you can see by the image, I’ve laid it out with a 2 inch perimiter on 3 sides.  This 2 inch perimiter will be bent to create a 3 sided box.  The 2 inch lip will surround the cabinet, and form the rear lip for the tank compartment.  This will provide  capacity for up to a 9 inch tank.
Cutting out the corners can be accomplished by any number of methods.  I’ve simply use an electric hand shear.  Clean cut, 2 minutes time.  This will allow the sides and rear lip to be bent to for the box.  Get your measurements right to allow the cabinet to fit between the upright edges after bending.  To ensure the edges don’t bind or interfere with each other, take out the line when cutting the corners out.
Remember that 12 inch piece left in the middle of the source sheet metal?  I’ve taken a piece and welded it on to the base plate to extend it to the full length of the cabinet.  This will allow for a solid base material to bolt the front casters to as the sheet metal of most file cabinets is NOT capable of properly supporting the load that can be applied on the casters once everything is loaded on and in  Let alone when you jamb a caster on some debris on the floor and try to trist it off.  This will solve any concerns in that area.
Here you can see the end result of patching on a piece of the remaining sheet metal to the end of the base plate.  Remember, this is only in my case, to make use of an existing piece of material.  Building the base out of a single piece of material is obviously simpler and superior.You will notice the 3 – 2 inch lips have been bent to 90 degrees to create the ‘box’ to provide strength, retain the tank, and contain the cabinet.
The AXLETaking a little different approach on this.  I’m not a big fan of the typical solid rod axles, with a couple washers and a cotter pin to hold the wheels on, although you can certainly build yours that way.  Cut a length of 3/8 inch schedule 80 pipe, slightly wider than the base plate.  The 3/8 inch pipe works perfectly for the 7/16 wheel bolts I’ll be using.  It will depend on the offset if any or the wheels you have for this purpose.  Just make sure you have a little clerance between the tire/wheel side and the base plate.  Roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch should see you through. Drill the axle tube ends to true the inside surface, and remove manufacturing debris and edges so you don’t trash your tap.
Tap the axle tube ends.  7/16 NC to accept the axle bolts.  You will likely have to use the full length of the tap to get a little over 2 inches of thread inside the tube.  This allows you to tighten the full length of the bolt threads to maximize the strength.  But frankly, if you somehow manage to damage this, you probably did something that you shouldn’t have.
Here’s the wheels bolted in position on the axle, ready to be positioned and welded to the base plate.  I like the clean apperance of this method when compared to the typical solid axle with a washer and cotter pin holding the wheel on.  These live center wheels are about 8.5 inches high.  Anything in the 7 to 10 inch size should work nicely.  If you want to duplicate this method, ensure the wheels have a 7/16 hole and a live center.  Select casters that are approximately 1/2 the height of the fixed wheels INCLUDING the mount & swivel assembly.  If anything, a caster a little higher than 1/2 the height works best, tilts the front of the welder up very slightly, and aids in keeping the cabinet drawers closed.
Position the axle tube parallel to the rear of the base pan, and between 4 and 5 inches from the rear.  Depending on the size of the wheels you use, it’s best to ensure the tread surface doesn’t project past the rear of the pan.  This also positions the axle tube directly under where the tank will sit which positions the load nicely.  Use a couple clamps to hold in position, and spot the sides of the tube about 1/2 inch from each end, and in the middle to the base plate.  Once the spotting is done, you shouldn’t have any warping problems as the sheet metal is VERY willing to belly and bow with the heat of the welding.  Once secure, finish welding it to the base pan with 1 inch welds, alternating from one side of the tube to the other, every few inches as you can see in the image.  I’ve also spot welded a couple washers to the end of the tube to provide a true surface for the wheel center to butt against.
Here’s the base pan, in position on the bottom of the cabinet.  To determine the location for the pan, ensure you leave about 9 1/4 inches between the rear of the cabinet, and the inside of the rear lip of the pan.  Locate and drill two holes in the pan, that align with the corners of the cabinet.  I’ve used 5/16 inch.
Here is a caster mounted in position.  As with the rear mount bolts, locate the most forward, outside hole, to align with the front corner of cabinet.  Locate and drill the remining caster holes from that location.  Monitor the hole locations, in relation to the structure, and drawers of your cabinet ensuring you maintain clearance so the drawers function, and that you can physically fit your bolt and washer in the drilled location.  Select short length bolts such as 3/4 inch to avoid interference with the casters swivel action.  If the bolts are too long, you’ll have to cut the excess end off.
I’ve used a length of 1 inch square tube to bend up a handle.  Simple 90 degree bends were used to form the basic ‘U’ shape of the handle, with a width matching that of the cabinet.  I’ve also placed two small bends in the handle at the front of the cabinet to angle the handle upwards to provide a location to coil the cords and cables.  I know most of you don’t have the luxury of having a bender capable of this.  An acceptible alternative would be to use a length of 3/4 inch electrical conduit, and a conduit bender to form a handle.  Hand operated conduit benders are not expensive, and available from local building supply stores.  With a little luck, you can borrow one, or grab one from a garage sale for a few dollars.  If all else fails, you can form it from square tube, and miter cut and weld the corners.  If you have a band saw, and you want those round corners, you can make a bunch of fillet cuts on the inside of the bend locations to allow the material to bend into the desired shape, then weld up the cuts in their final position.  Just depends what you want for an apperance, and how much effort you are willing to put in.
You can use just about anything to secure the handle to the top of the cabinet.  In my case, I’ve used 4 – 1 1/2 inch stove bolts.  Drill the handle about 3 inches from each end of the cabinet.  For a clean finish, after drilling, I’ve heated the handle cherry red, dropped a stove bolt into the hole, and gave it a couple hits with a hammer to dimple the handle and let the stove bolt recess and be flush with the handle surface.  Don’t drill the cabinet yet.  We have to build a tank holder, which will be welded on to the handle and could effect your hole locations.
Here we put the last of the sheet metal material to use.  I’ve split the left over, and placed a 90 degree bend across the 12 inch width 1 inch high.  You can drill a couple 5/16 inch holes about 3/8 inch from the bottom of the plate, and use heat and the same punch process as below, to distort the material to create the chain pockets, or, you can drill a couple 3/4 inch holes about 9 inches apart, evenly located on the bracket.  These holes will form a recess for a chain pocket to secure the tank.  This bracket, will be welded into position between the handle ends as the back of the cabinet.
Position the 3/4 in. holes right against the botton portion of the plate, leaving a 1/4 in. bridge across the top.  This will be notched later to allow the chain to drop into position.
Take 7/16  in. flat washers, position over a support hole in just about anything you have around.  I happen to have a piece of heavy wall pipe for the purpose.  Just as long as it supports the outer edge of the washer.  Use a punch positioned in the hole, and beat away, distorting the washer into a cone shape which will serve as the chain pocket.
Weld the resulting pocket washers centered over the previously drilled holes flush on the top edge.  Once you weld the sides, bend the lower lip of the washer over to be flush with the bottom of the bracket, and weld.  Grind the resulting pocket to a smooth shape and finish.
Finally, notch the center of the hole on the top to allow the thickness of a chain link to pass through.  I just used a cutting wheel on a small disk grinder.  Once complete, weld the bracket between the rear ends of the handle rails, flush on the rear and the bottom.  Now, you can finally align the handle assembly on the top of the cabinet, and drill the mounting holes for the stove bolts.
Here’s a view of the finished bracket, welded in position between the handle rails with a length of chain dropped into the chain pockets.
Finally, a top view of the handle, mounted in position on the top of the cabinet.That’s it folks, load it up, and get to welding. Ultimately, MANY things can be done differently.  There is no reason other than personal preference to build chain pockets as I have done.  Not only can they be done in a different method as indicated by simply deforming the back plate, a couple of eye bolts could be used just as easily.  This is simply the method I chose to use as it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Keep an eye on a local auction house and you will most certainly find a metal office desk with drawer assemplies suitable for the project.  These units are better built than the economy file cabinets that are readily available from most box stores.  If you have a little luck, and find deals and sales, you can probably build this for $50 or less.  If you have to go out and purchase everything, it will likely cost from $75 to $100.  Ultimately, it will be considerably less expensive than the $200 to $300 it will cost to purchase one, and ship to your location.
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