Entertaining friends is easy with this versatile server that's great for the deck, a patio or a sunroom.
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This project is based on two 18"×18" square stone tiles. Be sure to use tile made from natural stone rather than porcelain to handle exterior use. If you’ll use the cart inside however, porcelain is a great choice. We chose travertine tiles that cost less that $15 each and can be removed and cleaned for easy maintenance. Poplar or pine make great alternative woods for this project. Apply a paint of your choice, or use the same clear finish we did.
Cut the front legs (A) and back legs (B) from 1-1/2" square stock; cut the rails (C) to length from 1"×4" boards (Cutting List). Drill pocket holes as shown (Project Diagram, Side) and sand the parts with 220-grit sand paper.
Mark and drill the 1/2" holes 1-1/2" deep, centered on the bottom of the rear legs for the T-nut and casters (Project Diagram, Cart). To drill the hole, clamp the leg flat on a bench to steady the leg, and use the work surface as an aid to help you drill the hole parallel to the length of the leg by keeping the bit parallel to the bench surface.
Use a brad or bullet-point bit when drilling in end grain -- a standard bit may wander around when you start drilling the hole. If you first punch the center of the hole with an awl, the bit will start perfectly every time without wandering. To ensure proper drilling depth, wrap a piece of tape around the bit as a flag to mark the 1 ½" point on the bit.
Now drill the 1/2" diameter holes through the front legs for the axle rod where shown. Cut two blanks from a 1"×4" to 10-1/8" in length to make the handle extensions (D) (Project Diagram, Handle Blank).
Drill the two 1" holes, 3/8" deep as shown on each blank to receive the aluminum handles, and drill the pocket holes located at each end of the blanks.
Cut the parts to shape and length using a jigsaw; sand smooth with 220-grit sandpaper.
Assemble the sides flat on your bench using glue and pocket-hole screws. The inside face of the legs and rails are flush; this creates a 3/4" offset on the outside face of the sides. To make the assembly easy, use a 3/4" spacer to lift the rails off the bench so the faces are flush. Note the proper orientation of the legs during the assembly to create a right and left side for the cart.
One setup yields consistent-length parts, and an evenly spaced final assembly. Cut all of the different rails -- base rails (E), cross rails (H), and bottle rails (I) -- with one setup. Use a stop block on your miter saw and the parts will all match for length and allow the cart to come together perfectly (Cutting list). Set the parts aside and use as needed.
Cut the cleats (F) and slats (G) to length and drill the pocket holes where shown on the cross rails and cleats (Project Diagram, Shelf).
You'll need to create a 1/2" offset so the top of the slats and rails are flush, so employing the same method you used for the side assembly of the rails and legs. This time use the 1/2" thick stock for the slats as a spacer to create the cleat offset below the top edge of the base rails. Do this by assembling the shelf frame upside down on a flat work surface.
Cut the 1/2" thick slats (G) to length (the slats are 1/4" shorter than the width of the base to create a nice reveal). Place the slats so there is 1/8" between the end of the slat and the outside edge of the cleat. We countersunk the 4 holes in each slat, and then positioned the slats on the cleats. To create the 5/16" spaces between the slats, we used a 5/16" drill bit.
Position the first slat, and drill a pilot hole for the screws. Drive one screw in each end of each slat, and install the remaining slats, spacing the parts with the drill bit and driving one screw in each end of each slat as you proceed. With all of the slats installed, go back and drive the remaining screws. (Stainless-steel or brass screws are a great choice here for an cart that will stay outdoors because they are corrosion resistant, but with these softer metals, the screws may strip or break when first cutting the threads into the wood.) Drive a standard steel screw first as you proceed, and then replace the screws with the stainless-steel screws.
Cut the parts for the dividers (J) to length (Cutting List). For the tile supports (K), cut to a length 3/8" longer than the combined length of two tiles. This allows you to remove the tiles when you want to clean them.
Drill pocket holes on the ends of the dividers and supports as shown (Project Diagram, Top). Lay out the parts of the assembly in their proper orientations and work each part to keep organized.
Assemble the bottle rails (E) and the dividers using glue and pocket-hole screws. The outside edge of the dividers should be flush with the ends of the rails and equally spaced 3-3/16" apart for the remaining dividers -- a piece of scrap 1/2" material will hold the dividers down from the top of the rails like we did for the bottom shelf by assembling the top upside down.
Complete the top by adding the tile rails and the remaining cross rail to the bottle rail and divider assembly; drill and drive pocket holes as shown. Sand all of the assemblies using 120- and 220-grit sandpaper, taking time to soften the harsh edges of the wood as you go.
Cut the aluminum edging for the base rails (E), one cross rail (H), and the bottle rails (I) to length using a standard carbide-tipped blade in a miter saw. Use a scrap of 3/4" wood placed inside the aluminum while cutting the trim to prevent the aluminum from deforming.
Drill 3/16" holes in the aluminum edging for the screws and place the edging in position. Drill pilot holes into the wood using a self-centering bit, and drive the screws to secure the aluminum in position where shown on the bottom shelf (Project Diagram, Shelf) and top (Project Diagram, Top).
Cut the bottle shelf (L) and the aluminum edging for the tray to length and attach the aluminum edging to the shelf as you did before. Retrieve the remaining cross rail (H) you cut earlier and drill pocket holes on each end. Sand the parts and prepare for the main assembly.
On each side assembly (Project Diagram, Side), you'll want to hide the pocket holes from view; to do this, glue and insert an oak pocket-hole plug in each opening. When the glue dries, sand the plugs flush to the rails and handle extensions with sandpaper.
Lay one side of the cart on your bench and position the lower shelf assembly (Project Diagram, Shelf). The tops of the slats will be flush with the lower side rails. Secure the shelf using glue and pocket-hole screws through the rails into the front and back legs. Also, predrill and drive screws through the cleats into the side rails. You can use the pocket-hole screws for this as well. Simply drill pilot holes for the screws and secure the cleats to the rails.
Using glue and pocket holes, add the cross rail (H) to support the bottle shelf (L) where shown to the back leg 12-1/2" up from the bottom shelf. With the cart still on its side, add the top assembly using glue and clamps. Position the top assembly so the tops of the rails are flush with the top of the side rails (Project Diagram, Cart) (you will drive the screws later).
Cut the aluminum tubing to length for the handles. Use a finishing pad to sand the aluminum to create a brushed finish; place the handles in the holes of the handle extensions (D). This is a good time to remove the other aluminum pieces and scuff the finish of these parts as well.
Place the second side in position and guide the aluminum handles into the second side; secure using glue and clamps, guiding the handle into the hole of the handle extensions. Clamp until the glue dries.
Stand the cart on its legs and drill 1/4"-deep countersunk holes where shown to permanently attach the two side assemblies to the top; drive screws through the sides into the rails. Cut 1" long plugs from a dowel sized to match the countersunk holes. Glue a plug into each hole. Trim the plugs flush with a handsaw and sand smooth.
Lay the cart on its side and secure the lower shelf using pocket-hole screws as you did when you first installed the shelf to the first side. Glue the bottle shelf into position on the rail (I), centering the bottle shelf on the rail's length and width. Clamp and allow to dry.
Prepare the cart for finishing by giving the entire project a light sanding then wipe clean with a tack rag. Apply an exterior varnish to protect the cart from moisture. (We chose an easy-to-apply exterior varnish available in a spray can.) Apply the first coat and allow it to dry.
Lightly sand the piece with a 320-grit sanding sponge and wipe clean with a tack cloth before applying a second coat of varnish. Apply a third coat for extra protection from the environment.
Reinstall the aluminum edging with screws. Flip the cart upside down to install the casters. Drive a T-nut into the bottom of the back legs (B). Thread the stem caster into the T-nut and tighten.
For the front legs, add an axle cap nut to one end of a 1/2" steel rod and add the wheel and a washer; slip the other end through the back legs (Project Diagram, Cart). When the axle comes through the second leg, add a washer and a wheel and mark the axle 1/2" from where the axle protrudes from the wheel. Remove the rod and cut using a hacksaw. Reinstall the axle and add the washer, wheel, and remaining cap nut. A 3/4" socket works great for driving the axle cap nut in place. Your cart is now mobile!
Center the two tiles on the tile rails between the two sides. Cut two pieces of 1/2" x 1/2" angle cut to fit between the aluminum edging and secure in position next to the tile. (We left about 1/16" between the tile and the edging and equally spaced the tiles and angles between the two sides.) Secure the aluminum using #6 x 1/2" panhead screws. Place rubber bumpers on the underside of the tiles and start entertaining your friends!