Fall is almost here!! We’re so excited. To welcome Fall to our door, we’re getting started on our front porch decor. And what could be more adorable than a little wheelbarrow to hold all of our pumpkins and leaves and all of the other Autumn things? So we took Labor Day (check out our series on this holiday, by the way) to build this DIY Decor Wheelbarrow!
For wheel, box, and handles:
- 1x4x8 furring strips – Three (3)
- 2x4x4′ – One (1)
- 1x2x8 furring strips – Two (2)
- Exterior wood glue
- 1-5/8″ square-head trim screws – with Nail gun: Eight (8); without nail gun: Twenty-two (22)
- 1/4″ x 4″ bolt – One (1)
- 1/4″ hex nuts – Two (2)
- 1/4″ washers – Four (4)
- Exterior Stain
For hairpin legs (optional/advanced):
- 3/8″ x 48″ round steel rod – One (1)
- Clear spray sealer
If you already have the finish, glue, and screws left over from other projects, you should be able to walk out the door of your favorite big-box store with almost all these things for $30 or less. Nice.
Core (All you need to get the basic, functional shape)
- Tape Measure
- Speed square
- Circular saw
- 24″(+) Bar clamps (at least two)
- Drill / Driver
- 5/16″ drill bit
- Sanding Block + sandpaper (120-180 grit intermediate is just fine)
- Paint Brush
Helpful to have (to make things easier or to add some extra detail)
- 18 ga. nail gun
- Tablesaw or radial-arm saw
- Benchtop Belt or disc sander
- Router with 3/8″ round-over bit
Advanced (for hairpin legs)
- Bandsaw (or hacksaw)
- Drill press
- Vise-grips or clamping pliers
Step One – The Wheel
Not much a wheelbarrow without a wheel, is it?
Cut your 2×4 into four 10-1/2″ lengths. Next, rip off the factory-rounded edges so that each section has sharp square edges all the way around. After that, take one of the lengths and rip that in half. Then glue and clamp all these pieces together end-to-end into a square. Arrange the pieces so that the two skinny pieces are on either end.
(While the glue is drying, you can move to the first part of Step 2, or you can go get some snacks and chill for 30 minutes)
Once everything is dry, mark the center of the center board. This will be the centerpoint of the wheel.
Next, use about a 6″-8″ length of one of your cut-off strips and make your own compass. Drill a hole at one end, then drill another about 5-1/4″ away from the first hole. One hole you’ll use to screw into the centerpoint of the wheel, the other will be your pencil hole. Use this to draw a perfect circle inside the square. Feel free to adjust the radius to whatever you want it to be! (I actually started with a 12″ wheel, then realized after I cut it that it was kind of big and clunky.)
Now, just shave little bits of the square off at a time until (finally) you have a decent circle! Sand all the facets down really good to get a smooth, even wheel. This is where a benchtop sander comes in handy. I also decided to round off the edges to make it look and roll more like a tire, so I took my new router to those edges and went to town.
Last thing to do is just drill a 5/16″ hole through the center of the wheel, and viola.
Step Two – Box Panels
A wheel is cool and everything, but your wheelbarrow needs something to hold your stuff.
Cut some of your 1×4’s into to four 20″ lengths. If you got furring strips instead of nice, real 1x4s ($2.50 each vs. like $6 each), there’s no way you have clean edges all around those boards. You can selectively cut these so that the worst bits are here on the underside of your box. Glue and clamp these boards together edge-to-edge.
Next cut six lengths at 24″ and three lengths at 16″. Glue and clamp these together in threes so you get two panels that are 24″ long and one panel that’s 16″ long. The long panels will be the sides, and the shorter one will be the front.
Now it’s lunchtime while we wait for the glue to dry.
Step Three – Front Panel Shaping
Once everything is set, measure the final width of the bottom piece (the four boards). Take that measurement (should be about 13-1/2″) and mark it on the bottom of the 16″ long panel, making sure it’s centered on the panel. Next draw a straight line from those marks to the top corners of the panel. You should end up with a trapezoid that’s 16″ on top and about 13-1/2″ on bottom.
Ok, now I’m going to ask you to do something a little tricky. You need to angle the shoe of your saw so that it’s about 22 degrees (doesn’t have to be precise) skewed from the blade. Now, you’re going to need to cut the bottom edge of the trapezoid panel so that when the cut edge sits flat with the bottom, the front panel splays out at an angle. You can do it!
See? I told you you could do it. Now you can glue that freshly cut edge to the front face of the bottom panel. Use either a nail gun or the trim-head screws to help hold it in place while the glue sets.
Step Four – Side Panel Shaping
Once that front panel is in place, hold one of the side panels up where you want it and scribe a line on the side panel along the inside face of the front panel. This will tell you where to cut the angle for the side. Make sure you’re holding the panel at the correct splayed angle relative to the bottom! Cut the panel along the mark.
Next, take the piece back to the assembly. Holding the side panel in place, mark on the side panel where the top of the front panel intersects it. Draw a line from that point down to the top of the second board from bottom on the other end of the panel. Cut this, then attach the side panel to the bottom and front pieces using glue and screws/nails.
Repeat this for the other side, and now you have a completed box!
Step Five – Wheelbarrow Handles
Wheels -check. Box – check. Now what holds them together to make a complete wheelbarrow?
I had some lengths of old cut-down 1×3’s glued to 1/4″ plywood left over from another project, so I just used those. But you should be able to use some 1×2’s by themselves just fine. I cut mine to 33″ long (because that’s how long my pieces happened to be), but feel free to make them longer if you feel so inclined.
Once you have the two lengths cut, turn the box upside down and place them on top. Position them so that at least 6″ (or right at 6″ if your lengths are 33″) overhang the back and are just inside the outer edges of the bottom. Mark that spot on the handles to use later Then angle them in at the front so that the tips are about 3/4″ – 1″ apart. Now hold the wheel up roughly where it will go between the handles and use that to eyeball the angles you need to cut on the handles so that they mount flush with the wheel. Mark these angles and make the cuts.
Next, drill a 5/16″ hole through the ends of the handles perpendicular to the angles you just cut. It’s best if you can drill though both pieces at once so that the axle will align.
Step Five (b) – Extra Details
I wanted rounded edges on the graspy bits of the handles, so I used my router again to make those nice and smooth up to that 6″ mark. (I also wanted to play as much as I could with my new toy, so there’s that, too…) Oh, and I also sanded the front ends to round them out a little, too, around the axle.
I also added some 1×2 trim across the top of the box to give it a little more definition. This is totally optional.
Step Six – Wheelbarrow Assembly
Now take your final-shaped handles, sandwich the wheel between them, and thread the 1/4″ bolt though the assembly. Make sure you have washers on both sides of each handle. Tighten the first nut finger-tight, making sure the wheel is able to spin securely but freely.
Next, take the assembly to the box and attach the handles to the bottom of the box in the same position you originally marked them in. I decided to just screw them in from the box side, but you can add glue if you wish. I was thinking I may go back and add some more details to the wheelbarrow later, so I wanted to be able to take the box off if ever decide to do that.
Step Seven – Legs
Almost there! Now all you need are some little legs to prop the back of the wheelbarrow up off the ground. For this wheel size, I think a good leg height would be about 9″. You, of course, are able to make your own decisions about that.
Basic – Wood
Take a couple lengths of leftover 1×2 (or 1×4 if you like that proportion better) and cut those to your desired length. Round off the bottom end of each (or cut to be parallel to the ground if you want) and attach them with glues and screws/nails to the handles near the back.
Advanced – Steel Hairpin
This was the first time I’ve ever done this, so I won’t do a full write-up. I think there are better, more efficient ways to do this than how I did it, and I want to play more with that before I give a legit report.
The short story is that I cut two lengths of 3/8″ rod to about 21″ and lightly tack-welded the ends together. I then marked the center and 9″ out from the center in both directions. Then I got some welding gloves and hit those spots with a blow-torch until they were bright red. From there, I bent those corners using pliers, making sure to bend the two rods simultaneously.
It took about a half-hour of fiddling, but after a while, I was able to get them bent good enough (not at all perfect) to work for this project.
Next, I ground/sanded the ends flat to get a good surface for the drill press to bite into. Then I drilled holes at either end of each rod to match the outside diameter of the trim-head screws.
Lastly, I hit them with some clear-coat to protect them from rust.
I attached them to the underside of the handles with trim-head screws, and it seems to be just fine. Clearly this does not need to be a jobsite-rated piece of equipment. It’s just a decor wheelbarrow.
Step Eight – Finish the Wheelbarrow!
We had some leftover exterior stain from our porch table project, so I just coated the whole thing with that. The dark color matches our personal front porch the best, but there are tons of stains and paint options available! Have fun with it and make it your own!
Step Nine – Decorate and Enjoy Your DIY Wheelbarrow!
There you have it! Your very own piece of handmade piece of Farmhouse / Industrial decor! We’re very excited to decorate our wheelbarrow for Fall. Straw, pumpkins, burlap, leaves, all the things. It will also be great in Winter (flannel, pinecones, holly), and Spring (flowers!!)!