Like Ben Fuller, I have more boats than trailers to haul them, so when I read his article on the roller cart he built with Joe Liener, I was convinced that I needed one or two to shuffle my boats.
I didn’t have a section of an old mast to use for a roller and even if I did, I’ve never had much luck drilling long holes accurately, so I had to take a different approach. I bought an 8′ length of 2×6 and cut four 18″ pieces. I ran two of the four pieces through the table saw, making several passes, to cut a groove that would become a hole for the axle when I glued up the blank for the roller.
After gluing the four pieces together with epoxy, I eight-sided the block on the table saw, bringing the blank down to a size small enough to be mounted in the frame, a rectangle of 2x4s with ash cheek pieces.
To make the blank round I used a technique I was forced into a few years ago when trying to make a few quenas, a type of South American flute. I bought a long ship auger to hollow out the stock for the quena, but I couldn’t keep it from veering off line, so I made extra-large blanks and then drilled the holes though them. Then it was a matter of trimming the wood around the hole to provide a uniform wall thickness. The lathe was out—the hollowed-out softwood was too delicate for that kind of work. I turned instead to my table saw and set up a jig on a sled. With the blade spinning and the quena blank rotating slowly above it, I could gently and accurately trim the wood down to a straight and uniform cylinder. The method worked well for the delicate musical instrument and I figured it would do the job for a roller.
I made a second roller cart using a piece of very stout 7″ PVC pipe I had on hand. I made six disks of 3/4″ plywood with a 13/16” hole in the center.
The 1/2″ pipe I used for axles wasn’t truly round. There was a slight ridge where the edges of the steel strip that form the pipe were welded together. A little dressing with a file smoothed the lump and made the roller rotate more freely when assembled with the frame. The entire frame for the pipe roller was made of scraps of ipe, a dense tropical hardwood. It’s very durable but quite heavy.
I have some inflatable rollers that also work very well for moving boats, but I’ll save them for cruising and let the roller carts do the dirty work of heavy lifting at home and for short outings at the local ramps.