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Wheel and Caster 101

Hey folks! Remember when I told you that I’d have a new video up for you every week? That’s funny, because I remember nothing of the kind. Seems more like I said every week or every two weeks, or whenever I bloody well please!

That in mind, check out the latest from the boys in the lab. Check back soon for more, they’re cranking ’em out their jobs are on the line. And they are. Brilliance leaves no room for mercy.

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.

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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.

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.

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.