James Westman

pop project


POP Projects is a collection of new and classic projects from more than a century of Popular Mechanics. Master skills, get tool recommendations, and, most importantly, build something of your very own.

Welding is a skill that looks intimidating but can be easy to learn, and the best first project most new welders is a practical one—you need a shop cart to hold that new welder and warehouse the accessories.

Our cart took only a few hours to complete. It has a rack along the back for C-clamps, a couple of coat hooks for hanging helmets and wiring, and an upper deck to hold a plasma cutter.

The design is simple, so you can customize it for your own needs. Expand on these simple techniques to make patio furniture, repair bicycle frames or build that junkyard sculpture that’s been rattling around in your head for years.

💡What’s the best way to learn welding skills? Sign up for a course at a community college or vo-tech school. You’ll learn proper safety procedures, have access to different types of welding machines, and get plenty of practice.

These Tools Will Help

Plans and Materials

welding cart


Welding and Cutting

In this case, lay the project out on a flat, noncombustible surface—the shop floor. Now square up the pieces of the frame and lightly tack-weld them together. Some clamps or weights will hold everything in place [1].

You could hacksaw these pieces of ¾-in. angle iron easily enough, but you can save some time by using an abrasive metal-cutting blade as the wheel in a chop saw [2]. A slow, steady feed cuts fast without making excess heat.

Weld just enough to pin the parts together. As you add more parts, adjust to keep everything square. Never finish-weld any joints until you have a fairly complete subassembly that’s well tacked; measure diagonally to square things up [3].

We used a plasma cutter to trim part of the angle iron at the joints [4]. This is known as coping, and it allows the pieces to fit more closely. You can achieve the same thing with a grinder or even a hacksaw.

Piecing Things Together

After you assemble the front and rear frames, add the horizontal frame elements. Another pair of hands can help here. Tack everything together [5], and check that it’s all square before attempting full welds.

If you’re not comfortable, the weld bead is going to wander. Use both hands to hold the welding gun [6], and brace at least one elbow against your torso. Rehearse the movement in longer beads with the welder shut off.

As you build up, constantly check the assembly for squareness by measuring across diagonals [7]. Use a few light hammer taps to correct to within 1/8 in. before you finish the weld.

welding cart

Brad Dececco

We added a handle, a rack for clamps and ground cables at the rear and, of course, wheels and casters. Shelves are made of expanded metal, so they won’t collect dust or slag. Then we sandblasted the slag off the welds and finished with Hammertone silver paint.

The cart is topped with a plasma cutter—one that cuts 1/4 in.-thick steel plate like warm tofu [8].