Homemade Handcart - Easy as a Day at the Beach

Tom Bodett

Tom Bodett | Jul 05, 2016

August is about vacations, and for gear-heads and tinkerers, a time to think about something other than tinkering and gears. Not so easy to do as it turns out.

The last several summers have found us for a week or two on the lovely sandy beaches of the Massachusetts coast. As you know, a person with a family cannot simply flip flop down a path to the beach and recreate. You need Stuff.

Essentials in our beach stuff include: cooler of food, 2 gallon thermos, umbrella, 4 beach chairs, stack of towels, books, football, frisbees, bocce ball set, and a 5 pound sack of sun inhibitors. (I am a white person and my wife seems determined I stay that way.)

This all weighs about as much as a 7th grader, but is not as ambulatory. To address this problem many manufacturers have come up with assorted beach carts to carry The Stuff.

Here is one I’ve often seen abandoned near beach trash receptacles called Wonder Wheelers.

Nice concept. Notice the fat, hard, bigger-than-a-baby-buggy wheels on the back. These are terrific so long as you don’t put anything in it and stay in the parking lot. Because as soon as you load it like this...

...it’s over.

Here is another ad from Wheeleez demonstrating the impossibility of dragging 6 inch wheels through beach sand. One has to admire their honest presentation. This picture might be captioned, “So unhandy a child can’t move it either.”

This second photo from Wheeleez gets right to the point as it captures a kid about to collapse from heat exhaustion after apparently stumbling into a golf course sand trap.

This next one is the Fresh Bouquet Roller Cooler from BeachStore.com. The bouquet, I assume, is for your gravesite after you attempt to reach the beach with this frightening design.

Albert Einstein worked for awhile in the Swiss patent office. It was during this time he developed the theorem for what happens next: For every stupid product design there is an equal and opposite homemade solution.

Thus, with the laws of physics as my tail wind I went to work on a beach cart of my own while adhering to the General Law of Relative Cost: Homemade solutions may use only materials found at your home. In the words of the home-rigged T-800 model terminator from Terminator 2: No Problemo.

First, go out to that place behind your garage or shed where you put Everything, and find a piece of pig fence about yay by yay as seen below.

A yay by yay piece of pig fence is lying around everybody's shed...right? (Tom Bodett)

Next, while your wife is distracted with vacation packing, take the largest wheels available from one of her garden carts. Large wheels are the key to a usable beach cart. Hide the evidence behind the shed with Everything else. She never looks there for anything.

Field stripped garden cart (do not attempt this while spouse is watching). (Tom Bodett)

You now have the deck and carriage of your cart and need just a few more accessories.

Go down in your basement and find that box of pipe insulation you bought 8 years ago and never got around to putting on your heating pipes. You’ll need one or two of those. Take two, they’re cheap.

Abandoned pipe insulation is not a waste of money, but a resource. (Tom Bodett)

Next, go to the rack, pile, or crawl space containing your Island of Misfit Plumbing Parts and select some axle-looking thing.

(Tom Bodett)

Good. We’re almost done.

Open the drawers in the shop or garage that look like this...

Yes, I know you have drawers that look exactly like this. (Tom Bodett)

...and this:

Actual contents may vary. (Tom Bodett)

Find something that will hold the wheels onto the axle and the axle onto the pig fence, er, carriage.

Pig fence cuts easily with the bolt cutters you forgot you owned, but leaves multiple sharp stobs bristling from the cart. Nothing spoils a day at the beach like lacerated children, so take the pipe insulation and wrap it around the nasty places. Secure it with a festive variety of electrical tape. (You’ll find that in your tape drawer under the empty rolls of duct tape and the needle-nosed pliers you’ve been looking for all summer. I did.)

Color adds an artistic flair to pig fencing. (Tom Bodett)

Bend the pig fence into a cartlike shape, assemble the aforementioned hardware in a fashion that makes you feel good about yourself and, behold:

Fully assembled one-of-a-kind beach cart. (Tom Bodett)

Decorate and season to taste with an assortment of bungee cords (these can be found in the field where your children flung them) and head for the beach.

As you trudge joyfully past mired store-bought beach carts, cursing dads, and crying babies you will marvel at your own ingenuity, and puff with pride that against all opinions to the contrary, never, ever throwing away anything is not a sickness - - it's brilliance.

Author commands the weight of a 7th grader with one hand. (Tom Bodett)

Congratulations, Einstein.

Author, looking forward to breezing by stranded, lesser carts. (Tom Bodett)

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