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Create Upcycled Furniture With This DIY Shopping Cart Project

3/14/2013 9:26:04 AM

Tags: shopping cart furniture, DIY furniture, homemade furniture, upcycle, shopping cart project, Instructables

This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Janell Fabor. Shopping cart furniture complete 

Living in the city has its ups and downs. One perk is that there is a plethora of abandoned materials hanging about just waiting to be taken home to be upcycled!  For those of you living in an urban setting, you're no stranger to seeing these urban eyesores hanging out in alleys and abandoned lots. I'm talking about shopping carts. It's time to turn those bits of rusting metro trash into something super funky, functional, and fun — furniture! In this post I will guide you through the basics of making your very own shopping cart furniture to be used indoors or out.

Step 1: Find an Abandoned Shopping Cart

Shopping carts are easy to find here in the mighty metropolis of Houston. They seem to be birthed out of thin air and then abandoned and forgotten in every corner of every neighborhood. If you live in a similar setting, scope out parking lots, alleys, and abandoned lots. You're sure to find one or two. If you live in an area that is relatively clean and/or limited on resources you can always check with garbage dumps, recycling facilities, or even contact stores directly to see if they have some carts that are broken or no longer in use. 

(It is never OK to steal and it is not OK to take shopping carts from stores. It is against the law to drive into a store parking lot, load up a cart, and take it home. You will probably end up in some sort of trouble, or even in jail. Remember to use good judgment and remain lawful in the collecting of your materials.)

Step 2: Gather Materials

You'll need a few simple tools, some creativity and a whole lot of elbow grease.

An idea!
Shopping cart
Socket wrench, standard wrench, or 4-way lug wrench sized to the wheel bolts
Heavy duty bolt cutters
Dremel tool*
Dremel attachments (reinforced cutting wheels, grinding wheels, sanding wheels and wire polishing brush)
2-inch PVC pipe or other sturdy tubing
At least 2 clamps
Crow bar or other sturdy tool strong enough to be used as a steel bending lever
Safety goggles
Protective gloves
Dust mask
 

*If you do not own a Dremel you can use a hacksaw, angle grinder or any other tool strong enough to cut through steel.

Step 3: Plan Your Design

Go ahead, have a seat in front of your shopping cart. Have a look and think about it. Brainstorm ideas, designs and concepts that may suit your own personal tastes. You can turn to magazines, books, or the Internet for inspiration. Map out a design on paper, in your head, or directly on your shopping cart. It is important to know what you're doing before you make any first cuts or bends. I can tell you from experience that steel is very unforgiving!

Step 4: Remove Plastic Guards and Extra Pieces

Many shopping carts have plastic guards on the corners and handle bars. The first thing I did was to remove all these pieces.

Step 5: Make the First Cuts

shopping cart furniture step 5 

OK, so you've thought out your design carefully and planned your moves.  It's time to make the first cuts! I wanted this chair to have extra support in the front, so I opted to cut and free the front wire panel from the rest of the cage, making sure to leave the bottom part still attached. This can be done easily enough with bolt cutters.

Step 6: Make the First Set of BendsShopping cart furniture step 6

Alright, pop on those protective gloves and get ready to bend steel like Superman! Grab the front panel with both hands placed at an even distance from the sides; slowly pull the panel toward you until it is forms a straight surface with the bottom of the cage (see photo at right). Then, flip the cart onto its back end. Using the same technique, continue to bend the front panel until it forms a 90-degree angle with the bottom of the cage. Please refer to photos to get a visual idea of what things should be looking like at this point.

(It’s important to not over-bend or stress the metal. Once the metal is bent, it becomes hardened steal and cannot be put back into place. Do not try to rebend or work out any kinks because things will NEVER line up the same way again. Also, the integrity of the steel will become compromised, leading to breakage or an unsafe product. Just go with what the metal wants to do, because it's better in the end and adds character to your chair.)

Step 7: Remove the Front Wheels

The front wheels are easy to remove using any kind of wrench that you have on hand. I opted to go with a 4-way lug wrench/standard wrench combo — whatever gets the job done.

And you can save the wheels and wheel brackets for later use on another project.

Step 8: Remove the Rear Wheel Brackets

(Note: Remember, safety first! There will be sparks, loud noises, and flying debris during this step. Be sure to wear your dust mask and safety goggles.)

Using a Dremel equipped with either a reinforced cutting wheel or one specifically designed for metal, remove the rear wheel brackets by cutting through the center of the weld.

Step 9: Make the Second Set of Cuts for the Armrest

I wanted this chair to have armrests, so I used bolt cutters to make two cuts on each side in order to free the side panels from the rest of the cart. Please refer to the images to see exactly where I made these cuts.

(If you haven't gathered by now, you should be making symmetrical cuts on both sides of the cart.)

Step 10: Prepare to Bend the Armrests

Clamp a 2-inch piece of PVC pipe or other solid cylindrical object to the side panel of the shopping cart. You'll want to clamp it in the place that you want the metal to bend.

You can use any size of pipe for this. Larger pipe will provide a larger bend, while smaller pipe will yield a narrower bend.

Shopping cart furniture step 10 

Step 11: Bend the Armrests into Place

There are two parts to this step. The first part is to use the same technique that you used in Step 6 to bend the side panel down partially. Please refer the photo, and do this to both sides. 

shopping cart furniture step11 

After you make this initial bend for both arms, flip the cart over and use a crowbar or other sturdy device as a lever to coax the steel around the PVC pipe. I made a series of bends using a crowbar, moving it and bending the steel wherever I noticed it should be more rounded. Then I flipped the cart right side up and used the crowbar to do some gentle shaping and to even out the bend.
 

shopping cart furniture step 11_2 


(Using a crowbar for this step instead of your hands will save you time, energy and lots of wrist strength.)

Step 12: Take off the Handle Bars

Using a Dremel and cutting blades, saw off the handle bar to create a more refined look. This step is completely optional. You can leave on the handle bar for a more obvious "shopping cart" look.

Step 13: Sand the Rough Edges

Now you've got a chair! But you've probably noticed that it's full of jagged corners and sharp edges. We don't want you or anyone else who sits in your new chair to get hurt, so now is the time to grab that grinding bit for your Dremel and smooth out the sharpness. You can take it a step further and use a sanding bit followed by a polishing bit to give the chair a more finished look.

Step 14: TADA!!

You've created a unique and useful product out of something that would otherwise be rusting up the cityscape. These make great additions to patios or gardens but can also be used indoors for something fun! The good thing about using shopping carts as outdoor furniture is that they're already weather resistant!  



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Post a comment below.

 

Scott Haas
3/23/2013 3:03:00 PM
Seriously? So if someone else steals it then abandons it in your neighborhood it is fair game? It is only theft if you are personally the one that liberates it from it's rightful owner? If you lost your wallet...or purse...or car...or any other piece of property you would want it back. I had to look at the date to see if this was actually an April Fools joke but it appears not. Taking what someone else stole is acceptance of stolen property and is still a crime against the rightful owner. This is not upcycling. This sounds pretty low to me.

Tom Bergstrand
3/21/2013 12:59:59 AM
It's funny that you mentioned Houston. I lived there for quite a while and might have a bit of insight as to why they seem to be "everywhere". When I lived there the economy was rather good which brought MANY illegal Mexicans there. Being illegal they could not get a drivers license. So one of the things that I noticed was that the wives would "appropriate" a shopping cart in order to bring a ton of laundry to the laundermat. I thought at the time that they wouldn't just "abandon" them in alleys and such. It turns out that the carts were built for relatively smooth store floors and not sidewalks with cracks, holes and the like. When the wheels were worn out, crooked or otherwise useless they were abandoned and another one got "liberated" from a store.Now you know "the rest of the story".

Talia Cadabona
3/20/2013 9:22:55 PM
Upcycling is taking an object that can no longer preform it original task and converting/changing it to do another task. Take an old suitcase with a broken hinge. You can take one half and turn it in to a pet bed!

Carol
3/20/2013 7:23:05 PM
This does not look like an old, abandoned, rusty shopping cart. It looks practically new! It seems like it was much more useful as a cart. It does not look at all comfortable. I have never heard of the term "Upcycling." What does it mean?

Healthy
3/20/2013 7:19:50 PM
Can you read? They already made a disclaimer saying not to steal them! You sound like a priss with your parental diatribe.

Charles McManus
3/20/2013 4:33:51 PM
Good comment E. Bradtke. However, you can sometimes get carts for free or for a very small charge when stores change out their old carts for new ones. I was able to get several old plastic carts that way that I use for holding grass clippings, leaves, and other matter that I am holding for its turn in the compost barrel. Most of the ones I got had damaged frames so I was able to get them for free.

E Bradtke
3/20/2013 3:49:36 PM
You do realize that these are property of the store that provides them for shoppers' convenience? In the UK, where many city dwellers do not own cars, people often push the shopping cart all the way home with their purchases in it, and then wheel it back for the next round of shopping. The stores have lost so many carts this way that they go through all sorts of expensive and complicated maneuvers to keep them on site, and even send out trucks to round them up and fetch them back. They're usually easily identifiable. Why not do a good turn and take them back to where they belong?







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