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Mobility makes almost everything better around the shop, which is why it’s always good to know where to find a cheap set of casters. More to the point, it’s not a bad idea to have a few of ‘em sitting around in a box just in case you get inspired or decide to add mobility to an existing project.

My first port of call for cheap-ass casters is usually Harbor Freight, where you can get a set of 3″ poly casters (soft enough to avoid marring floors but hard enough to support a bit of weight) for just $4.50. They offer lots of other options in the same range, too, like a 3″ hard rubber version with a swivel and brake for $6 and a rubber-tired cast-iron model for $6 as well. They also offer larger casters, like this 8″ cushion tire (read: not pneumatic) for $18. My father chose that 8″ model for his roll-around welding table, and they worked great.

Of course, Harbor Freight works best if they have a store near you. Otherwise you might get bit on shipping, especially when you’re ordering mostly low-buck stuff like this. Ordering is also pretty inconvenient when you’re flying by the seat of your pants slapping something together in a hurry, like when we yanked the engine from Sean’s ill-fated shop truck. Sure, we could’ve shut down, headed down to the local shop, and spent a couple hundred bucks on an engine stand. But screw that. Instead we grabbed some 2x4s from the wood pile and six swivel casters from the bin and knocked together a stand in minutes.

If you don’t have a Harbor Freight nearby, you might also check your local Northern Tool, which sometimes runs specials on casters, driving them down into the Harbor Freight price range. Tractor Supply Co. is another possibility. They’re not quite as cheap, but offer an interesting selection, including some pretty nice-looking steel casters and some specialty hardware, too.

But seriously, if you’ve got $20 or $30 burning a hole in your pocket, you might just want to pick up four or six cheapie casters just to have around. When we finally unloaded the truck project, we unscrewed the six casters and put ‘em back in the bin. They’ll see use again, I’ll bet.

 

7 Responses to Material Source: Cheap-Ass Casters

  1. Chris says:

    I dunno. If the HF casters in general are as bad as the ones on their “1000-lb capacity” wood furniture dollies, I’m not sure I’d bother. I bought a couple of those things a while back for $8 each and they barely roll *or* swivel with two of them sharing the load of a cast-iron bathtub on smooth concrete or asphalt. That works out to about 1/6th of their total rated load.

    cl

    • eric says:

      8 dollar dolly… not even accounting for the lumber, bolts, or additional assembly… what do you expect from a 2 dollar caster? The individual casters at harbor freight are actually ok for medium loads that are seldomly moved. Otherwise expect the casters to flatten or de-tread quickly.

  2. Flabby Boohoo says:

    Menards and Home Depot are great alternatives. For a few bucks more you can get a much better caster. Just bought 4 locking casters at HD for my drill press cart (as seen in the tool monger pool).

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/82233396@N00/7180332245/in/pool-390517@N21/

  3. craig says:

    i’ve not had good luck with HF casters. at least three times the peened pin that attaches to flange has sheared.

    however i have couple of the dollies. they’ve survived pianos, fridges, freezers and a smallish travel trailer with a flat tire.

    • Peter Fox says:

      For a little more you can get far better casters from McMaster-Carr

      part number 2370T17, these are a bit noisy compared to rubber wheeled casters but they roll extremely smoothly and have a double ball bearing swivel. Only $7.18 each, more with a brake less as a non swivel.

      I have more than 100 in service in our shop and am very pleased with the performance verses the price

      http://www.mcmaster.com/#standard-casters/=i37l5m

      You can spend far more and get far heavier duty caster however, these are the best value small casters that I have used. Without them my no cart/table without wheels program would have never gotten off the ground.

  4. Jerry says:

    It always continues to surprise me when good ol’ HF comes up. So many have issues with HF products and others have great success with the same product. As for casters, I used to work for a big hotel and all the housekeeper carts and laundry carts needed caster replacements (they were all near ten years old). We used the HF casters and the seemed to work great for the 4 years that I continued working there. On the other hand, we did not buy the cheapest HF ones.Housekeeper carts weight about 400 pounds loaded and the laundry carts close to that amount so they are not really heavy but they do get very heavy use.

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