Bring back the glory days of the billycart with this speedy racer for the kids – just tell them to hang on tight on the hills!
Australian billycarts go back as far as the 1880s when two-wheeled carts were drawn by billy goats. However, an extra pair of wheels and gravity has replaced the need for goat power. For many kids, the billycart has been an introduction to the world of making transport – developing basic skills with wood and improvising to make things work – and has often been the vehicle for constant improvements and modifications.
Gone are the days of soap boxes, pram wheels and timber borrowed from a building site – you can’t even forage for bits and pieces at the tip anymore. But the good news is that this cart uses basic materials you may have lying around or should be able to get inexpensively at your local hardware store.
Gather your supplies
A Seat back 450 x 400 x 12mm plywood
B Seat sides (2) 412 x 200 x 12mm plywood
C Seat base 400 x 400 x 12mm plywood
D Front axle beam 70 x 35 x 500mm pine
E Rear axle beam 70 x 35 x 600mm pine
F Seat supports (2) 70 x 35 x 265mm pine
G Chassis beam 70 x 35 x 900mm pine
H Steering block 70 x 35 x 135mm pine
I Brake levers (2) 42 x 19 x 480mm pine
J Brake block 70 x 35 x 100mm pine
K Brake mount 70 x 35 x 180mm pine
1. The front axle is reinforced with two metal brackets and a steering block so you can’t oversteer.
2. This cart is simple to build using pine, plywood and wheels you’ll find in most hardware stores.
3. If you need to stop in a hurry just pull back on the brake levers.
4. You should use structural MGP10 pine without knots, especially for the chassis and axle beams.
Stockists: Plywood; pine; wheels; hardware; rope; paint, Bunnings, www.bunnings.com.au or stores nationally. Quick-Grip clamps, Irwin Tools, hardware stores nationally. Power tools, Bosch Australia, 1300 307 044.
- Step 1: Draw a 200mm-radius semicircle on 1 short end of seat back (A) using a compass or your own compass made with a nail and a pencil centred 200mm from nail. Cut out with a jigsaw, so sides of semicircle continue down sides of seat back. The top edge of each side piece (B) slopes down to the front, so measure 110mm up from bottom of 1 short side and draw a line to opposite top corner. Repeat on other side piece, then cut and sand all edges smooth.
- Step 2: Predrill and countersink 3 holes evenly along bottom edge of back of seat back, 3 holes evenly along bottom edge of side fronts and 3 holes evenly along edge of 200mm end of side fronts. Glue and screw seat back to 1 end of seat base (C), then glue and screw sides to seat and seat back. Set aside.
- Step 3: Drill a 12mm hole in centre of short end of each of the 2 metal brackets. Screw brackets to ends of front axle beam (D) with button-head screws. From top, drill through bracket and beam with a 10mm bit for the rope. Also drill 10mm holes through the 12mm holes in the brackets as pilot holes for the axle bolts, plus one 10mm hole through centre of beam. Ensure holes are straight so the billycart will track correctly.
- Step 4: Use a 12 x 150mm coach screw to screw a 125mm wheel to the front axle, putting a washer between screw head and wheel, and between the metal bracket and wheel. Repeat for other front wheel. Tighten, then slacken off 1⁄8 of a turn so the wheels spin freely.
- Step 5: To make the rear axle assembly, drill, while keeping straight, a 10mm-wide hole at the centre of each end of the rear axle beam (E).
- Step 6: Using an offcut of the 35mm-wide timber as a spacer in middle of rear axle, screw on 2 seat supports (F) using 2 screws at each of the ends.
- Step 7: Attach the two 150mm wheels to the rear axle using a 12 x 150mm coach screw and 2 washers for each. Glue and screw rear axle to chassis beam (G) with 4 screws, making sure they are square to each other.
- Step 8: Measure 60mm from front end of chassis beam and drill a 10mm hole through the beam. Turn upside down, feed a M10 x 90mm cup-head bolt through hole and add 2 washers. Feed axle assembly on top, add another washer and 2 nuts. Hand-tighten bottom nut, then lock the 2 nuts together using a pair of spanners or a spanner and ratchet.
- Step 9: Screw seat to the chassis with the back flush with the back of the rear axle and centred so there is 88mm of axle beam overhanging at each side.
- Step 10: Find centre of the end of steering block (H) and mark in a 45º angle in 2 directions. Cut with a handsaw, then position and screw it to the underside of the chassis beam so that when the front axle is at 45º to the chassis beam, the block acts as a stop.
- Step 11: Cut brake levers (I) with a 45º angle at 1 end with a jigsaw, then round other end. Cut brake block (J) with 45º angles at both ends in same direction, then glue and screw bottom of brake levers to the block using 2 screws for each.
- Step 12: Glue and screw brake mount (K) to chassis beam directly in front of billycart seat using 2 screws at each end.
- Step 13: Clamp brake lever assembly to brake mount about halfway along its length and at a 45º angle, with bottom of levers resting on workbench. Drill an 8mm hole through the 2 levers and mount, then insert an M8 x 125mm cup-head bolt through the hole. Secure with a washer and 2 nuts. Note that over time the brake-block assembly will wear down and need replacing.
- Step 14: Remove wheels, brakes, front axle and angle plates, then sand edges and surfaces. Give the wood 2 coats of paint. When dry, reassemble cart, then add steering rope and knot ends on the underside.
You’ll also need
40 x 60 x 50mm Carinya angle brackets (2); 125mm-dia wheels with solid rubber tyres (2); 150mm-dia wheels with solid rubber tyres (2); M12 x 150mm coach screws (4) with 8 washers; M10 x 90mm (or ³⁄8 x 3½”) cup-head bolt with 3 washers and 2 nuts; M8 x 125mm (or 5⁄16 x 5”) cup-head bolt with 2 washers and 2 nuts; 30mm- and 57mm-long countersunk screws; button-head screws; Dulux Weathershield Semi-Gloss in High Blue; 8 x 1300mm swing rope