View Full Version : General Metalworking Steel Type for Mobile Base Help

Chris Padilla
03-20-2013, 6:18 PM

So I want to use some combination of square and rectangular (I think) steel tubing to make a mobile base for my j/p (MM FS41 Elite, 16" jointer/planer). There is a nice pic in the thread one gentleman did and I want to replicate it but on a larger scale.

I already have some heavy-duty (550 lb each) casters from Great Lakes that can handle the 1/2 ton weight.

Now I'm stuck on what size/kind of steel I should use to create the bolt-on mobile base.

I don't know if I should spend a gobs of money on A513 steel or get the much cheaper A36, mild steel.

Further, do I need 0.25" wall or will 0.125" be good enough?

The mobile base will have two 36" tubes bolted to the j/p via existing holes (I think 2" x 2" square tube) in the j/p.

Then I plan to bolt two ~48" tubes to the two 36" tubes. The 48" tubes will get the casters bolted to them. I thought the 48" tubes would be 2" x 3".

I further thought to use 0.25" walls throughout.

I have no idea if this is way overkill because the A513 is a bit pricey (looking to be from $175 - $200 for the 4 tubes not including shipping) but I can get the mild steel off eBay for about half of that not including shipping.


George Carlson
03-20-2013, 10:59 PM
Tubular products are quite expensive, you should check into building it from angle or channel. Also bolting tubular components together is difficult. That is because the bolts tend to crush the hollow tube when they are tightened. Over time, the tube crushes itself, and the bolts become loose. To get around this, spacers are usually welded through the tube. The bolts tighten against the spacers, not the tube itself. You might want to consider getting a friend to weld it for you. It makes quite a difference in strength and rigidity.

Thomas Bank
03-21-2013, 12:46 AM
That's a pretty serious jointer/planer! I've built vehicle frames out of standard mild 3/16" tube steel...

I'm sure that you can find someplace local to buy steel and save on the shipping costs. Check for drops and it may even be cheaper.

Chris Padilla
03-21-2013, 2:07 AM
Thanks for the thoughts, George and Thomas. Maybe I'll look around locally and see about getting some welding done.

Matt Meiser
03-21-2013, 9:13 AM
1x2 16 or 14ga tubing will be PLENTY strong in the vertical (2" high) orientation. We've built over 50 bases that way during club events and some are under some pretty heavy machines.


Keith Outten
03-21-2013, 10:20 AM
I prefer to see manufacturers include in the design of their machine base access points for small pallet jacks. They can still use whatever base design they currently offer just add the pallet jack feature.

Moving machines with a pallet jack is a far superior method IMO. There isn't any need for casters and the machine height doesn't have to be altered. If you build your own machine bases I think it is easier to design a base for a pallet jack than for wheels. This isn't my idea by the way, there are others here who have been using pallet jacks for a long time.

Chris Padilla
03-21-2013, 12:13 PM
Thanks, Matt. I figured I was overdoing it but I don't know any better. :)

Keith, I've thought about a pallet jack approach but I don't see it working well in an already cramped 2-car garage. I need space to store the pallet jack. Then I'd need space to slide the pallet jack under the machine. Also, the pallet jack still needs jockeying space to move the equipment around. Four free-spinning casters provides me with easier movement. The current tow-bar design MM supplies with many of its machines is more or less like a pallet jack approach with two fixed wheels and two movable wheels.

The problem with the MM j/p I have is the weak afterthought of providing mounts for the casters. They simply "tack-welded" some M12 nuts at the four corners and one bent out on me. Maybe I should get these 4 points reinforced instead of building an external mounting point? The casters do have the problem of raising the machine height as you pointed out but I can live with that to get more degrees of freedom in moving that aircraft carrier around! :) In fact, it was so nice for the ~3-4 weeks that the casters lasted moving it around! :D

Thomas Bank
03-21-2013, 3:04 PM
My answer to moving things around the shop (first photo)...

Although, I still had to rent a forklift for the 3200# fixture table (second photo)...

Chris Padilla
03-21-2013, 4:18 PM
Color me jealous, Thomas! I wish I had a house on property that required/needed such equipment but my wife is a city girl so likely not gonna happen! :)

Keith Outten
03-21-2013, 5:48 PM

Believe me I have limited space in my shop as well. To many machines and not enough floor space.
If you plan it right you can design your workbench so the mini pallet jack parks under it and doesn't take any space at all. I currently am parking mine under my table saw until I can find the time to modify one of my metal workbenches.

Thomas Bank
03-21-2013, 7:44 PM
Color me jealous, Thomas! I wish I had a house on property that required/needed such equipment but my wife is a city girl so likely not gonna happen! :)

To be honest, I live on a quarter acre in town. I bought the Bobcat loader when I was building the workshop once I realized that I could buy it, use it at my leisure, and then sell it again for at least as much as I bought it for once I was finished with the project. The only problem is that it has proven to be so useful that I've never gotten around to selling it. The neighbors know where to come when they have landscaping projects and I end up clearing out the whole neighborhood whenever there is any substantial snowfall.

Although there is a desire to live out in the country somewhere, I "joke" to people that I'd probably end up with at least a CAT D6 or 963D if I had some acreage. They laugh, but I'm not sure I want to let on how serious I may be... ;)

Mikail Khan
03-23-2013, 8:28 AM
I use regular square mild steel hollow section for all my mobile bases. My jointer weighs about 900# and is on a base welded from 1.5" square section with a 1.5mm (1/16") wall thickness. No visible deflection.

I just did a stand for a 1000# metal lathe from 2" hollow section with a 2mm wall thickness. I paid about $30US for a 19' length.

Strength is more a function of the depth of the beam than the wall thickness.