The old saying of buy once cry once isn’t just for your power tools. When moving your expensive tools around, the best mobile bases are always a bit more expensive, but offer the heaviest load rating and can move your tools in any direction (not just forwards and back).
Since most woodworking shops have some need for moving a table saw, drill press or jointer a mobile base is a common purchase. And experienced woodworkers will look for bases by intended use:
- TABLE SAWS: BORA 1500# this mobile base for table saw use will swivel in four directions to allow storing your saw in any position. Two swivel designs just don’t work.
- COMPACT TOOLS: SHOP FOX uses a heavy duty steel tube design that won’t deflect with heavier tools.
- PLANER STAND: DEWALT MOBILE STAND can be used with a variety of benchtop tools to free up bench space.
While there are a variety of bases for under $75, a few extra dollars on a higher quality base is well worth it.
Buying Guide: Best Mobile Base
When it comes to tools most woodworkers know the flaws aren’t evident until you turn it on or run the first board through it.
And with mobile bases it is no different. From the right size casters, base extensions, flimsy foot levers to even having four swivel casters instead of two there are a few surprises to mobile bases.
Features to Look For
- Extension kit fits your machine size
- Large, 3″ or more casters
- Minimal machine height increase (1″ or less is best)
- Easy-flip lever locks
- Four-corner swivel casters for storing tools in any direction
- And of course, weight capacity appropriate for your tools
Reviews: Best Mobile Bases
And when you do you’ll want a base that you won’t have you fighting your tools into position. So with budget-to-value in mind, these are top picks:
- BEST MOBILITY: Goes to the BORA PM-3550 with its four corner swivels and matching lever locks. Why? Well, two fixed casters mean your tool only goes in two directions (forward and reverse). And that is a small shop problem.
- BEST VALUE: While cheap wins with some woodworkers, the HTC 2000 is a step up from budget bases with a long brand history in mobile bases.
What is a Mobile Base?
When it comes to a mobile base you’ll have two general options: either choose a build-your-own dimension or a tool specific kit. And, the video above by Bora is a great rundown of the basic steps you’ll need to build an adjustable base.
So which is right for your tools? First, let’s better understand how these work and what types of mobile bases are available.
Adjustable Mobile Bases
As the name implies, this type of base can be used to move most tools up to 32″ x 32″ and support 500 pounds.
Which, in almost all home workshops, is large enough.
Key things to look for in an adjustable base:
- Standard duty adjustable bases are typically built from a slightly C-shaped flat bar that is bolted to corner blocks. I’ve found these work great, but can flex on longer tools (my wide belt sander one of them).
- Heavy duty bases expand the weight capacity and feature tubular steel that doesn’t “flex” over longer distances.
- Caster sizes should be large enough to roll over sawdust and small blocks that find their way to your floor.
- Caster lifts should be easy to operate and not get in the way of using your tool.
- Omni-directional movement is offered on some bases and will allow you to move your tool in any direction. If you have tight space in your shop this is a worthwhile upgrade.
Mobile Base For Table Saws With Extension
Shown: Bora PM-3750 Base
While there are mobile bases for table saws customized to specific brands they aren’t available for all saws.
So what’s the option? Well, fortunately you can go with a T-Extension to an adjustable base that will let you extend the reach and support your outfeed table.
Tool Specific Mobile Bases
Now the great thing about owning a popular woodworking tool is you’ll have the option of using a custom-size mobile base. Since these bases are custom fit to your machine they tend to both work better and look better.
Popular brands supported are:
Alternatives to a Mobile Base
Shown: BORA Bench Casters
So what happens if you have a wood base that is already sturdy enough to support casters? Well, instead of installing a mobile base, you can instead attach a mobile base caster that will “stand up” to take the weight of the load and then release itself and set the bench on its legs.
The biggest consideration? Making sure you aren’t impeding your work area or creating a trip hazard. Which is why one of my tricks when assembling any mobile base is to install the caster flippers facing into each other so they stay out of my way.
Best Adjustable Mobile Bases
Without doubt, one of the most popular types of mobile bases is the classic adjustable mobile base. Since it allows you to customize your base size to your tools you can mobilize just about anything within the rated size and weight capacity.
And, when I buy bases, I tend towards value and price as this is just a tool to move my saw, sander, planer and router table from point A to B. I like to save upgrades for other tools.
So with that, here are a few options to consider for adjustable mobile bases.
After recently adding a mobile base to my Rockler router table, I checked my other bases to see what I’d purchased over the years.
And, with three other purchases over 20 years I had accumulated a total of four HTC bases. So sticking with my general principle that mobile bases should be economical and just do their job I can see why I’ve levitated to this base.
Here’s what I like about the HTC bases:
- Brand name
- Large rear casters (lower priced units have small casters)
- Easy to assemble (see my unboxing below)
- Durable with enough capacity to move my cast iron table saw
- 500 pound weight capacity
- Sizes from 12×12 to 34×34 to 18×50 using the supplied iron strips
- Only adds 1″ of height to your tools
- 3-inch casters for rolling over your shop dust and sticks
Editor: My biggest compliant during assembly was unnecessarily needing a variety of metric and standard wrenches for bolts all the same size (10mm, 11mm, 7/16).
If you are taking cost seriously, then the WEN MB500 is about the lowest price mobile base you’ll find on the market. And with good overall reviews this base checks the box for almost all home woodworkers.
- 500 pound weight capacity
- Sizes from 11.8 x 11.8 to 35.4 x 35.4 to 19.7 x 51.2 using the supplied iron strips
- Two year warranty
- Slightly smaller than 3-inch casters
Moving up a few hundred pounds in machine capacity and you’ll find a class of heavy duty mobile bases that support heavy machines.
And, with these bases the design will alter just slightly to include two fixed caster and two swivel casters. The difference, though, is instead of a foot activated lift you’ll find leveling pads that lock the machine in place with a few turns.
- 700 pound weight capacity
- Sizes across three distinct units that range from 10-1/2 x 14-1/2 minimum to 28-1/2 x 33-1/2 maximum
- Tubular steel design
- 3″ poly casters
Best Options for a Table Saw Mobile Base
When it comes to a cabinet table saw with a 36″+ fence you’ll run into one problem when trying to mobilize it: the fence base.
But, with many workshops needing the portability to move the table saw around there are a few good options for a mobile base for your table saw.
Adjustable Mobile Bases for a Table Saw
Shown: Bora PM-3750
Since table saw specific mobile bases can be expensive one of the most economical options is to insert an adjustable base with the fence extension. And, this Bora PM-3750 unit is a heavy duty option that supports up to 1500 pounds.
Shop Fox Mobile Base Table Saw Extension
Shown: Shop Fox Table Saw Extension
If you are adding to your saw, the Shop Fox table saw extension comes from a popular brand in tools – and in mobile bases. If you have a Shop Fox base you can simply add on with this table saw extension arm.
Just remember that these bases will add an extra 3/4″ of an inch to the overall table saw height. And, you must follow the manufacturers installation instructions to ensure the saw locks in place firmly while in use.
Table Saw Retractable Leg Casters
Shown: DCT Retractable Legs
If the idea of a mobile base just isn’t sitting well with you, and you own a table saw with a 12.5-degree angled leg (common), there’s another option.
The DCT retractable contractor saw casters simply bolt onto your existing saw and use the machine as the base. Best of all? When you retract the caster the saw is sitting on its standard foundation.
No wiggling back and forth, no tinkering with the bases.
Drill Press Mobile Bases
When it comes to mobilizing a drill press there is one feature that is an ABSOLUTE must.
While your planer or table saw can rock a little, a full floor mounted drill press has a high center of gravity and it must have a sturdy base that can lock tightly in place.
Build Your Own Base With Casters
Shown: SPACECARE Mobile Casters
Odds are you won’t be moving your drill press much. And, rather than assemble an oversized drill press mobile base a great option is making a wood base with a lip and use workbench casters.
Why would a caster solution work better? Well, consider you can:
- Minimize the footprint of the drill press base
- Flip the casters up and set your press on a firm base (no rocking)
- A caster set will be less expensive than a full sized mobile base
Drill Press Mobile Base Using a Planer Stand
Shown: Dewalt Planer Stand
While your drill press mostly likely isn’t a Dewalt, if you have a quality benchtop drill press that you’d like to move around there is an other option. By using a planer base like this one from Dewalt you can mobilize your bench press plus add an area for storing your drill bits, clamps and other tools.
Lastly, with a larger table area, portability, 30″ height and low center of gravity this base might be something you pick up for your planer or jointer too.
How to Setup an Adjustable Mobile Base
While I have a lot of tools that doesn’t mean I’m not always investing in a better setup.
Which recently included adding a long overdue mobile base to my router table.
So let’s take a look at unboxing an HTC-2000 mobile base, what’s included and a few tricks to setting it up.
HTC-2000 Out of the Box
Out of the box you’ll receive a set of great instructions, casters, adjustable arms and a small pile of bolts and nuts.
And worth noting, the fit and finish, quality of materials and packaging was top notch. As you’d expect from an established manufacturer, the materials were all separated with no paint rub and the box arrived with no damage.
First, let’s hit on quality of what’s in the box.
While I was laying all the pieces out I noticed the metal was all high gauge, the red foot lever is high quality and the swivel casters were a solid 3″.
Note: the backdrop is my custom miter saw stand, equipped with the Kreg fence kit . A purchase I haven’t regretted.
HTC Base Assembly
As you’ve probably experienced, a pile of nuts and bolts can be a dread-inducing experience.
First, I’m a woodworker and like assembling wood, not metal. And if I had one issue with this base it was I needed a few more wrenches than the instructions called for.
So, if you have a couple of 10mm, 11mm and 7/16″ wrenches on hand you’ll start this project of best.
Keys to installation;
- Oversize the base by 1″ in all directions
- Plywood base is optional, and remember will add 1/2 to 3/4″ to your tool weight
- Double check your measurements
- Assemble the metal base first, then attach the casters (counter to the instructions, which want casters on first)
- Caster lift pedals are a preference, but I like to point them in TOWARDS each other so they don’t protrude on either side of the base. And yes, that’s to reduce a trip hazard.
- Choose your swivel caster location carefully and think about how you will push and store your base. While not an issue for square tools, if the base is under a longer tool envision the movement to store it and install the caster accordingly.
Assembling the Mobile Base
Fortunately, the pile of bolts and screws will rapidly disappear when assembling the base. By simply bolting to the corner brackets the adjustable length braces will allow you to quickly make your shape.
And, for longer edges, simply connect your longer pieces to the corners and fill the gap with an evenly spaced bar.
TIP: Don’t use the fixed caster holes (the center hole) for connecting the bars. You’ll find out later when you have to move them for the casters. And while you can install the fixed caster first you won’t have room for screws.
Adjustable Foot Pad Setup
If there’s one certainty with a mobile base it’s this: if you install the foot pad too low you’ll curse the base. Since the adjustable foot pad is close to the floor, don’t assume a 1/8″ clearance is good enough as it will ALWAYS catch something or hit the ground.
How do I know? Well, I’ve done this, and it’s your fault not the base.
So rather than rush this step be sure set the pad up about a 1/2″. And then firmly lock the screws in so it won’t move over the years of tool use and vibration that will be sent its way.
Editor: Be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions and use help when lifting your tool onto the mobile base. It’s not worth injury or tool damage by trying to lift it yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to install a plywood bottom on my mobile base?
A plywood mobile base for your base is optional and depends on the tool. A table saw, for example, usually has legs that can extend directly into the mobile base oversized corners. A drill press, on the other hand, may require a plywood base due to its irregular shape.
Can I use a mobile base under a cabinet table saw with a 50" fence?
There are mobile bases for table saws that include a T-style extension arm that will support both the cabinet saw and the fence.
How much will a mobile base raise the height of my tools?
A mobile base will typically add 3/4″ to most tool heights. And, if you choose to install plywood base, you’ll also add the thickness of the plywood to the base.
Odds are pretty good that once you mobilize one tool you’ll be putting wheels on everything in your shop. Just be sure to take time during the setup and look for help when lifting tools onto your base.