SUPER SHOP CASTERS?!
Do you use castered dollys at home or at work? If so, you will like this!
I've discovered a line of excellent casters. The maker, Guitel, is the 4th largest caster manufacturer in the world, and they make some excellent products. I stock their 4" Resilex casters*, as these seem to be the ones most suitable for shop dollys for guys like us, but I can get other types and sizes if the application requires it.
Click on the picture above for a larger photo.
These casters cost about the same as ordinary casters, but their performance is markedly superior.
Resilex casters are available in both fixed and swiveling configuration, and the swivel casters can be ordered with or without brakes.* One 4" Resilex caster in the standard frame will take a 330 lb. load. If you need greater load carrying capacity than that, we can supply the same wheel in a heavy duty frame, giving 440 lb. load capacity, or if need be, we can go to a larger caster.
NOTE: As a rule, when assessing the load per caster for a dolly, it is wise to divide the maximum expected load by 3, if you are going to use 4 casters. This gives a safety factor, and covers times when the floor surface may be uneven enough to throw all the load onto 3 of the 4 wheels.
NOTE: the brake locks both wheel and caster body rotation. The brake is operated by a toe pedal.
PRICING: 4" Resilex casters, with roller bearing hubs, on flat plate mounts, are priced as follows:
in rigid frame = US$16.75
in swiveling frame = US$18.50
in swiveling frame, with brake = US$35.50
Plus shipping, at cost: please e-mail us with list of casters you wish to order, plus your UPS Address, and we will advise shipping cost.
Canadian customers: Please contact us by e-mail for domestic pricing.
The wheel material in Resilex casters has excellent memory for its original shape, so if a loaded dolly is parked for several days or even weeks, the moment you move it, the flat spots disappear! Consequently, the starting effort (as well as the rolling and pivoting resistance) is 50% lower than regular hard rubber casters.
You may find this statement difficult to believe, but my own simple test backs up the maker's claims on this score - see below for details.
Resilex casters have another interesting characteristic: swarf and other floor debris will not embed in the wheel tread. The wheels will roll over such debris, as well as things like electrical cords, with ease.
These characteristics combine to make Resilex casters extremely durable. I've been told the mold line in the center of a Resilex caster will sometimes still be clearly visible after 15 years in service in industrial applications! Contrast this with the 1-2 year life of a typical hard black rubber caster in similar service. If you were towing a heavily loaded dolly in a factory - say with a garden tractor - and hit even some small obstruction on the floor (possibly even just a washer) that the caster can not roll over, the wheel would probably lock, and you would then grind the wheel down to the caster frame or beyond, in short order. Goodbye caster. Goodbye $$$ in goods and repair time. In the same situation, a Resilex caster would likely roll right over the obstruction with no problem.
The foregoing should be enough to get you interested, if you need or want good shop dollys.
I have at least 8 dollys around my house that I have made over the years. The following account concerns two of the most used of these dollys. If you or a friend owns a tablesaw (or some similarly heavy machine) that needs to be on a mobile dolly for one reason or another, you will really LOVE the information in the following article.
GBL's STROKAGENIUS LOWBED TABLESAW DOLLY
2570 Rosebery Avenue
West Vancouver, B.C.
CANADA V7V 2Z9
February 24, 2000
My woodwork shop is quite limited in size, so my bandsaw, tablesaw and jointer all have to be mobile. The first camel to stick its nose into the tent was the bandsaw, and it was soon perched on a castered stand which is described in my book, The Machinists Third Bedside Reader.
The tablesaw came next, in '94. Again, it had to be mobile. Not liking the price of ready-made steel dollys, I made a lowbed dolly for it using wood on hand, four casters and a few bolts. When you've had a look at the drawing below, I think you will forgive me for thinking my lowbed dolly design is rather clever.
It is unlike anything I have ever seen illustrated in Fine Woodworking Magazine or elsewhere. It is easy to make, and it works well.
In spite of the fact that the first one used 3" diameter casters, it raised the saw only about 1-1/2" off the floor. The dolly allowed me to roll the saw out for use, or up against the wall for storage.
However, it wasn't always easy to push around: if the saw, which weighs about 400 lbs., sat in one spot for several days or weeks, the rubber casters would develop a pronounced flat spot. When I wanted to move it, it would then start only with some difficulty, and would limp across the floor like a frog with a wooden leg, with a noticeable clanking noise.
I recently rebuilt the tablesaw dolly, using new Guitel 4" Resilex casters. These are markedly superior to the regular hard rubber wheeled casters I used originally.
I came across these Resilex casters at an Industrial Show here in Vancouver in September '99. Much impressed by what I saw and heard, I subsequently ordered 8 of their 4" swiveling casters, with a view to rebuilding both my tablesaw and jointer dollys.
I had different reasons for wanting to rebuild each of these dollys. As already indicated, the tablesaw can be difficult to maneuver on the hard rubber casters I used originally. The jointer, on the other hand, moves too easily, because it weighs much less - about 200 lbs., I would guess. The problem with the jointer was to keep it from rolling across the shop while I was trying to plane wood on it. Not exactly ideal for safety.
The Guitel rep told me their Resilex casters start, roll, and pivot with half the effort of regular rubber wheeled casters. The Resilex wheel material has excellent memory for its original shape, so if the casters sit under a load that is within their rated capacity, even for several months, the moment you move the wheel, the flat spot disappears! He also told me they are quiet, will readily roll over small debris (say up to about 5% of wheel diameter) on the shop floor, and will not pick up or embed that debris in themselves.
From what I've seen, they seem to be as good as the Guitel guy told me. Before I took the saw off the dolly with the hard rubber wheeled casters, I put a bathroom scale between my bellybutton and the saw, and pushed, while my wife read the scale. We got readings from 20 to 50 lbs. before the saw would move.
When I finished the new dolly, with the Guitel casters, and got the saw onto it, I repeated the test. The readings were then 10 to 20 lbs.
Now I ain't runnin' no sophisticated testing lab here, but my simple test does provide some specific numbers to back up what I could tell immediately when I tried to push the saw about on its new dolly - it is a LOT easier to move.
Apparently these casters will also roll over electrical cords with ease. I would regard that as a lousy way to treat an electrical cord, and since I'm the guy who pays for electrical cords around here, I don't plan to try it "in the interests of science."
However, after I rebuilt the jointer dolly, I did find that I could roll the jointer over a 3/4" thick "Cushion Step" rubber anti-fatigue mat with little difficulty. Trying the same thing with the tablesaw showed that it can be done, but it is a struggle, and would probably be hard on the mat, if done repeatedly. Solution? Move the mat.
As noted above, my tablesaw weighs about 400 lbs. Several years ago, when I finished the first lowbed dolly I made for it, I spent most of that night worrying and scheming about how to get the saw onto the dolly.
The next morning I went down to the shop, tipped the saw towards the motor side, and pushed the dolly about half way under the saw's steel cabinet base with my spare foot. I then pulled, twisted, and wrestled the saw the rest of the way onto the dolly. I was amazed at how easy it was to do***. I don't think it took 3 minutes.
*** PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING:
It would be only slightly LESS easy to have the saw go right
over on its side with a most sickening smash,
so if you try this, BE CAREFUL.
The smallest size Resilex casters available are 4" in diameter, so that's what I got for both dollys. In Guitel's medium duty frame, just one 4" Resilex caster will take a 330 lb. load, so both my dollys, with four such casters, are considerably overbuilt in the caster department, but that is rarely a bad thing.
The Resilex swiveling casters can be ordered with a brake mechanism if desired. The brake locks out both wheel rotation and caster rotation simply by stepping on a toe pedal. And when you lock the casters, the saw is definitely "parked."
Now you may be wondering, "What about your jointer dolly? How did that work out?"
Answer: It also works good. It rolls around the shop with ease, but when the brakes are on, the jointer does not go rolling away from me when I'm trying to put stock over it.
I mentioned that the saw dolly is overbuilt. This is even more so for the jointer dolly, in terms of the actual load vs. what the casters could carry.
Also, both dollys were given locking swivel casters all the way around. But here is an interesting thing:
On the saw dolly, when two caster brakes are locked, the saw seems pretty well anchored in one spot. I guess the saw is heavy enough that the locked casters are not going to slide on the battleship linoleum tiles in the wood shop.
On the other hand, I found that with only 2 brakes locked, the jointer can, with some effort, still be made to move somewhat on that same linoleum tiled floor. Therefore with the jointer, the best plan seems to be to lock all 4 brakes.
This brings us to another point:
"How many swiveling casters should one put on a dolly?"
I don't have a definite answer to this question, and I'm not sure that there is one, but I will tell you my own thinking.
If a dolly or trolley is going to be towed, e.g. through a factory behind a garden tractor or similar, I suspect that two fixed casters at the back end and two swiveling casters at the front is the most practical wheel arrangement. I'm not sure if the tongue, or tow bar, should be pivoted to swing in the horizontal plane or not - I suspect this depends on the length of the tongue. I think the tongue likely should be able to be attached in such a way as to have at least some up and down freedom.
The same arrangement may be ok for a dolly that is being pushed and pulled by a person, either with hands placed on the load, or via a rope attached to the two front corners of the dolly, such as you sometimes see on furniture movers' dollys.
With both the tablesaw and the jointer, I find I often want to spin the machine around within its own footprint, either to suit whatever work I'm about to put over it, or simply when moving it to whatever location I may want, in order to get it out of the way. In such cases, I think that swiveling casters all around is the best arrangement. At least 2 of the 4 swiveling casters should have brakes.
Using braked swiveling casters all around costs more than using 2 swiveling and 2 fixed casters. But you're probably going to be dealing with the maneuverability of the dolly you put them on for many years, long after a few dollars spent or saved will have ceased to matter at all.
I was so impressed with these casters that I have arranged to stock and sell them, because I'm sure other guys besides me will have lots of uses for such dollys.
(Before adding this page to my website, I told about 10 guys about these casters, and that I was planing to sell them. Five promptly said they would be customers.)
For things like tablesaw dollys, etc., the Resilex casters I used are the right choice. Guitel makes other types that are better suited to other uses. For example, their Sandwich Wheels would be a better choice if you are running them on a carpeted floor, and/or require even lower starting and swiveling effort.
Guitel also offers various means of mounting their casters to the equipment they are to carry. There are conventional flat plate mounts, pipe inserts to slip into the ends of pipe legs, and so on. If you need something other than conventional plate mounted casters, let me know what you want to do, and I'll find out what we can get for you.
PRICING: 4" Resilex casters, with roller bearing hubs, on flat plate mounts, are priced as follows:
Rigid frame, no swivel, no brake = US$16.75Plus shipping, at cost: please e-mail us with list of casters you wish to order, plus your UPS Address, and we will advise shipping cost.
Swivel frame, with no brake = US$18.50
Swivel frame, with brake = US$35.50
Canadian customers: Please contact us by e-mail for domestic pricing.
If you go to a good hardware store, you will likely find that these prices are little if any higher than what you will pay for regular hard rubber casters of the same size. And note that the latter, even in the 4" size, are typically only capable of handling a 225 lb. load.
TWO FINAL NOTES:
1. Most Resilex casters have blue wheels. And you will recall I said they were superior to common hard rubber wheels, had less rolling, starting and pivoting resistance, and did not allow shop debris to embed in the tread of the wheel.
Now, here is something really hilarious: Other caster manufacturers are now making casters with blue wheels. They pick up shop debris, won't take the same loads, can't match the low starting, rolling, and pivoting resistance... but they are the same color. One would wonder why they'd want to make blue wheels, just like Guitel, when they can't match their performance? Well, you know the old saying: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
2. And finally, a WARNING: Resilex casters can lead to workplace violence. If you have a fleet of dollys in a factory situation, and then provide one new dolly equipped with Resilex casters, workers may well fight over who gets to use it.
Of course, the solution to that one is obvious:
Buy more Resilex casters!
Below are some further drawings illustrating my low bed dolly. It is unlike anything I have ever seen illustrated in Fine Woodworking Magazine or elsewhere. It is easy to make, and it works well.
The Spacer Blocks raise the Caster Bearers above the Deck enough to give about 3/4" of ground clearance under the Deck. The Spacer Blocks can be pieces of 3/4" plywood about 4" long, and the same width as the Caster Bearers. With the 4" Guitel Casters I used, I found that I needed a total Spacer Block height of 3-3/4". I drilled a 9/16" hole at the center of each piece to be used in the Spacer Block stack.
I cut my Caster Bearers from 2x6" fir. On the tablesaw dolly I made them 4-5/16" wide. On my jointer dolly, I made the Caster Bearers 3-3/4" wide.
I drilled the holes in the right places in the Caster Bearers using a spade bit or brad point drill, then clamped the Caster Bearers to the Deck, and match drilled the bolt holes in the plywood Deck. For each hole, I stopped just short of going right through the material with the drill, flipped the part over, and finished the holes from the opposite side. This prevents splintering on the exit side of the holes.
Once the Dolly was assembled, I shortened the carriage bolts so they were showing only 2 or 3 threads above the nuts. After hack sawing them off, I rounded the ends off nicely with a file. It is a good idea to pass a file over the sharp edge of the first turn of the thread so it will not cut your hand at some later date.
An alternative arrangement, which I have not tried, but which should work just as well, and give a neater appearance, would be to substitute T-nuts on the underside of the Dolly Deck, and run 3/8" hex head bolts down from the top side of the Caster Bearer. Once you had everything bolted down tight, you could withdraw one bolt at a time, and saw them off just proud of the T-nuts.
The Guitel casters are mounted to the Caster Bearers with 4 hex head bolts per caster. I used 5/16" bolts with the nuts and washers on top of the Caster Bearer, same as for the 3/8" carriage bolts. If these bolts are installed with the bolt heads up, the nut and the end of the bolt may foul the rotating part of the caster frame.
I laid out the 16 holes for mounting the casters to the Caster Bearers using a combination square as a depth gage. I did one caster location with a caster clamped to one Caster Bearer, then set the combination square to the layout lines, and transferred everything to the other 3 caster locations. I drilled a 3/8" hole at each hole location. Done this way, it goes pretty fast, particularly if done on a drill press.
Note: Make your Caster Bearers long enough so that the casters are out far enough from the Deck and spacer block that the caster frame can rotate! With the 4" Guitel casters I used, this distance needs to be about 5-1/2"*.
Check carefully how much space to allow for caster clearance both with respect to the Dolly and the item that will sit on the Dolly.
* On my jointer dolly, I was able to reduce that to 41/2", as shown in the drawing below: