If you’re like me, you often find yourself wondering about the nature of wheels and casters while sipping your morning Mt. Dew. You say I’m a strange fellow? You should get a load of the boys in the lab. But don’t mock the boys – after all, they just whipped up these helpful descriptions to aid you in choosing the right wheel for your project.

These are just some of the more common options – for a more complete breakdown of the wondrous possibilities on offer, head over to Wheel and Caster 101.

Pneumatic – This wheel provides a cushioned ride for delicate instruments and breakable items. the tube-type, pressurized tire combines shock absorption with quiet operation and easy rolling. Standard with ball bearings.

Mold-on Rubber – Cushioned rubber tread permanently vulcanized to a semi-steel core is recommended for quiet movement with heavy loads. Molded core provides added strength with a reinforced, double-thick hub. Vulcanized rubber-tread wheels are standard with roller bearings. Temperature operating range is -40 degrees F to +159 degrees F. Durometer rating is 75A.

Phenolic – Phenolic compound reinforced with macerated fabric makes a high-strength, high-impact wheel resistant to oil, gasoline, even dilute acids. Compression-molded under extreme pressure, these wheels gain a dense uniform consistency. Phenolic wheels are non-marking, non-conductive, and spark-proof. They are available with plain or roller bearings. Will not warp or swell in a temperature operating range of -40 degrees F to +300 degrees F. durometer is 75D.

Semi-Steel – Cast iron toughened with steel, this wheel has extremely high load ratings and exceptionally long wear life. It’s recommended for rough wood and concrete floors – a good choice for moving heavy loads in manufacturing and warehousing. Long-life features include a heavy tread and plain or roller bearings. Ideal in extreme operating temperature ranges of -40 degrees F to +800 degrees F with optional high temperature grease.

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.

Here’s another neat DIY project I dug up for you: A simple mobile shop cart. It’s not as detailed as the last one, but some would say that will allow you to customize it to your heart’s content. Once again, if you like the mobile aspect of this cart we can get some casters out to you pronto.

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.

The Art of Manliness is a great site I’ve recently discovered, and I came across an article there written by the fellow that runs One Project Closer, another great blog. He gives you easy to follow, step-by-step instructions on building a solid mobile workbench. It uses locking casters (which I’d probably upgrade to Total Locks to avoid wobble), making it perfect for the garage or shop where you share your workspace.

From the article:

Maybe you don’t think a workbench is really all that important. After all, you’ve only got a few tools and everyone knows the folding table in the basement is your space. A dedicated workbench isn’t worthwhile, is it? I’ve seen too many guys stashing their tools in a kitchen drawer or expecting their kids to not touch the freshly painted picture frame. You need a proper place to work and store your tools, and I’m going to show you how to build it.

Read the rest of the article over here. If you’re looking for a handy place to buy the casters, I might just know of some 3-inch Total Lock casters that’ll do the trick…

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.

If you have even just a cursory knowledge of casters (you had ambitions for the four year degree, but instead opted for the community college summer course, for example), you know that some of them swivel, and some of them don’t.

If you’re replacing existing casters, the choice here is pretty simple – replace a swivel with a swivel, etc – but if you’re upgrading or building something new, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Plate casters are the only ones that have options. If you’re wanting to use stem casters, swivel is typically your only option. Now, if stem casters are what you need and you absolutely must have rigids, are you out of luck? Let it never be said that the boys in the lab turn down a challenge. Give us a call at 1-888-535-4770 with crazy requests like that and we’ll see what we can do.

So, assuming plate casters will work for your needs, you need to decide how many swivel casters you want on your contraption. We’re going to skip past configurations like three-rigid-one-swivel, because that way lies madness.

Using all swivel casters results in a cart (or dolly or whatever) that is fantastically easy to spin, making it a perfect makeshift merry-go-round. Also makes it easier to maneuver around tight corners or in a crowded warehouse. It will be trickier to move it in a straight line for any length of time, however, particularly with a heavy load.

So if you’re going to be using your cart to move over open spaces, two-rigid-two-swivel is probably your best set up. You can decide between rear wheel or front wheel steering. I don’t recommend the opposite corners approach. Madness.

Another option to consider is whether you need the casters to lock or not. Only swivel casters have locking options – so keep that in mind when deciding how many swivels you want to use.

If you’re building a cart that will also serve as a workspace (or if you’re just going all out and building a mobile workbench), you’ll want to be able to lock it down when you’re done rolling it. If you don’t, chances are high that Jim from marketing will bump it as he walks past right as your about to activate the band saw and you’ll find yourself guest starring as a patient on the next episode of House.

If you just need to keep a cart from rolling, simple sidelock brakes are fine – they stop the wheels from rolling. But if you need that stable workspace, consider upgrading to a Total Lock brake. Total Lock brakes wheel stop both the wheel and the swivel action of the caster, rendering your mobile device completely immobile.

That’s about all the fun I can stand for today, folks. Check back next week for more hidden knowledge. Or you could just head over to Wheel and Caster 101 and read ahead. Your choice.

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.

Now, I know you’ve been reading this blog about wheels and casters with rapt attention, drawn in by every word. But by this time you may be asking yourself, “unless I get invited to be a participant on Wheel & Caster of Fortune, what good will this stuff really do me?”

Well picture this, oh you of little faith: You’re alone in your workshop, putting the finishing touches on your exoskeleton mech-suit, during a thunderstorm (very foolish, that; if there’s anything sci-fi movies have taught us, it’s that theoretical science experiments should never be conducted when there is any chance of lightning). A bolt of electricity strikes! Your hubris is your downfall! Unless you can reach your tools and apply the restraining bolt you invented for this express situation…

But alas, your tools are way, way over there. Like, all the way over there. Your living mech suit turns your mad scientist face into giblets.

So the usefulness of a mobile parts platform is undeniable, to ensure easy access to restraining bolts, and also other less specialized equipment.

We asked the boys in the lab if there was anything they could do about this, and they emerged with this beauty:

 

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That’s right, it’s a rolling bin system. Load up those heavy duty bins with parts, bolts, Skittles, eyes of weasel, or whatever you happen to use in your garage or workshop. It’s set on heavy duty locking casters, so when you’re working on a job over here, all your tools and parts don’t have to be sitting so irritatingly over there. Pop the locks, roll everyone over to your location, pop the locks back down, and get back to work.

Norlift is selling the fully loaded rolling bin system for $495 (link goes to an ad on Craigslist with more info); alternatively, you could create your own similar system using medium duty plate casters like the ones hiding behind that handy link.

If you do happen to make something of your own, let me know! Add a comment below or shoot me an email.

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.

When we last left our heroes, we’d just learned how to measure the height of a caster. I taught you this not because I fear you may not know how to operate a tape measure, but because I wanted to prove to you that I knew how to operate one. But now that we both know that we know what we both know that we know, we can move one to other things.

The second thing you’ll need to know before ordering your new casters is about how much weight you’re expecting them to hold up. If it’s chair casters, this is a fairly simple (though deeply embarrassing for those of us inflicted with an allergy to gyms) calculation to make: Of all the people how might realistically sit in the chair, which one is … erm … biggest boned?

If you’re building a cart or dolly, then perform a similar guesstimation. Moving a fridge? Rocks? Lumber? Baby seal pelts? (Don’t forget the extra weight added by shame and guilt!) A good rule of thumb is to add a couple hundred pounds margin on top of whatever you think the actual heaviest load might be.

Let’s say you’re building a cart. You work for the local zoo, and you’ve been tasked with the enviable job of moving the rare miniature legless elephants from their sleeping area to the display cages every morning. Each elephant weighs 1,000lbs. Assuming you’re building a fairly standard 4-caster dolly, you’ll divide 1,000lbs by 4 (as the weight will be distributed across each caster). Factoring in the rule of thumb I mentioned above, you’ll probably want four 300lb. capacity casters.

Other things to keep in mind: the compound the caster is made of and the diameter of the caster with both affect how easily the load will roll and what type of environment it will work best in (indoors on smooth cement, outdoors on gravel, in an airlock in zero gravity, on a Civil War reenactment battlefield littered with badly acted corpses, etc). In general, larger wheels tend to work better on rough surfaces, and harder wheels tend to handle heavier loads better.

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.

Flatbed Cart with uneven casters

The casters on carts like this are uneven on purpose. It’s OK to do it wrong as long as you meant to.

So you need a caster, eh? Lemme guess: You broke another chair. If I weren’t such a dedicated salesman, I’d suggest that a trip or two the gym might be more in order than a new caster. But I don’t get paid to sell gym memberships, so it’s my solemn responsibility to help you replace your suicidal chair casters.

First things first: you know you need a caster, but do you know which caster you need? There’s a surprising number of options. Typically you’ll want to try and match what you’ve already got, so you’ll want to start by measuring the caster. Unless you want your chair to function like a Home Depot lumber cart (hint: you probably don’t).

Caster height is fairly straightforward – measure from the bottom (where the wheel touches the ground) up to the highest point on the caster. UNLESS. Unless your caster has a stem – a small metal dowel thingy that inserts into receiving holes on both the caster and the chair. If you have a stem, you want to measure up to the base of the stem. Here’s a helpful diagram the boys in the lab threw together:

Caster Height Diagram

Always measure from the lowest point to the highest point. Except, of course, when you shouldn’t.

Reason being, stems are variable – the same size caster can have any of several different stem lengths. So you’ll also want to measure that stem length.

Jot down both numbers. You’ve done quite well. I’d be proud of you if this wasn’t so blindingly easy.

The other dimension you’ll need is the diameter of the wheel itself. Carefully follow these steps:

1. Take your tape measure firmly in your hands.
2. Place one end of the tape on one edge of the wheel.
3. Note where the other edge of the wheel lands on the tape.
4. DO NOT simply allow the tape to slide back into the measure, the chances of a fatal tape measure cut are simply too high.

This is trickier if you’re using ball casters; you’ll have to guesstimate the edges (or get clever and use a vice or something). Here’s another helpful diagram. Those lab boys are wizards with this stuff:

Wheel diameter diagram

If you have one of those strange ball casters, you should feel bad, because you’re mostly alone in the world.

Once you’ve got those dimensions (caster height, wheel diameter, and stem height if applicable), you’ve got the measurements you need to match your caster with a replacement. There’s also caster type, color, material, and capacity to consider, but I’ll go over those later. Baby steps.

Lastly, should you decide to go nuclear and replace the entire set of casters instead of just matching one or two with the rest, remember that larger casters roll easier. If you’re packing a few hundred pounds of raw muscle and have a habit of pumping iron at your desk, I both fear you and recommend you consider a larger caster – move up to a 2-1/2″ from a 2″ for example. You’ll be able to push yourself across the floor easier, thus resulting in more workplace satisfaction.

Check out Wheel and Caster 101 for more info.

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.

Imagine this: You’re walking down the sidewalk in the twilight of the major metropolis nearest you. The air smells of exhaust and exhaustion, a tired old city that would love to sleep but just can’t find the time. As you pass a dark alley, a voice calls out from the dusty recess.

“Hey, buddy,” the voice says. “C’mere.”

Intrigued and a bit lacking in street sense, you draw closer. The voice belongs to a crusty, slimy looking fellow in a filthy trench coat and foul fedora. The man clears his throat and spits onto the sidewalk before looking at you out of the corner of his eye. With one hand, he pulls open his trench coat and makes his pitch.

“You wanna buy some wheels and casters?”

This is not a scenario you’re likely to encounter, unless you live near a very strange metropolis indeed, or happen to work for Wheel and Caster. They’re not the sexiest of products, truth be told, but it’s my task to craft some informative missives on the subject and fire them in the cyberspace, hopefully aimed in your general direction.

IT'S GOLD

This chair caster is plated with gold. Awesome.

Full disclosure: I work for Wheel and Caster (and the above tale may or may not have been a lucid dream I once had). I’m in charge of trying to drive up our online sales and increase general world awareness to the existence of our site.

But in addition to being a marketing type, I’m also a guy who goes home at night and sits down in a chair and doesn’t want to think about the 5 wheels that allow it to roll across the floor. Some products just don’t deserve your attention – they ought to be easy to find, easy to use, and most of all, they ought to just work and not bother you.

So I’m not going to try and delude anyone reading this into thinking that I believe casters are the second coming of the Lord and wheels are His Mighty Angelic Army. They’re chunks of metal and plastic that serve a very simple function; my goal here is to help you find what you need, when you need it, as painlessly as possible. I’ll probably try to entertain you a bit on the side, because if I can’t write jokes on occasion sitting behind this desk I will eventually go outside of my mind.

Caster on your chair break? Dumb. It shouldn’t do that. I can ship you a new one. Lawnmower wheel wobbling? Don’t let it stay that way, eventually a small neighbor dog is likely to be killed as a direct result. I’ve got new ones in stock. Wheelbarrow tire deflating like an over-the-hill birthday balloon? Won’t move much horse pucky that way. I’ve got solid pneumatic tires that’ll keep that from happening.

Don’t know what you need? It’s a bit mind-boggling how much variety there is in such a simple product. Wheel types, stem lengths, brakes, materials, capacities – yikes. You just need something that works – I’ll do my best to answer any questions and give you links that point straight to what you need. You can also check out the neat Casters 101 the boys in the lab cooked up.

That’s all the words I have for you at the moment. I’m off to scour the interwebs for more interesting things to say about casters. Stay tuned, gentle readers.

Wheel and Caster is a locally owned business located in Spokane, Washington. We ship all over the country and strive to provide quick, helpful service. Wheel and Caster is a division of Norlift, Inc, which is also a pretty cool place. You can read more about it at the Norlift blog.