Tonight I built a dolly made entirely with supplies from Home Depot and Target. I made it in a way that requires only a few basic hand tools. I didn’t have to drill any holes in metal or saw any wood. Assembly took about an hour and was extremely easy.

Cheap skateboard replacement wheels

Materials List (Qty):
(1) 2’x2′ plywood board [$8]
(2) 1/2″ x 36″ slotted angle metal brackets [$8/ea]
(3) Packs of replacement skateboard wheels [$5/ea -clearance!]
(12) 5/16″ x 2″ Bolts
(12) 5/16″ lock washers
(24) 5/16″ nuts
(24) 1/4″ flat washers
(12) Wood screws

Tools Used:

Adjustable pliers, nut driver, locking pliers, screw driver (not pictured)

The goal of this project was to see if I could make a working dolly on the cheap and in a hurry. I decided that the best way to accomplish this was to make it with parts that were essentially ready to assemble and wouldn’t require any fabrication.

When I went into the Home Depot this afternoon I didn’t really know what I’d be able to find. After wandering around for a while I found the metal angle pieces that I used for mounting the wheels. These pieces of metal are full of holes and slots that I used for mounting the wheels to save myself the hassle of having to do all of the precise drilling. I purchased all the bolts and the plywood at home depot and went online and found that Target might have skateboard wheels. I bought the last 3 packs on clearance for $5 per pack!

What a deal!

To put it all together I put a 5/16″ x 2″ bolt through a skateboard wheel and then threaded a nut all the way down as a retainer. Then I placed a washer on the nut and put the assembly through the rail where I placed a lock washer and a 2nd nut on to hold the wheel to the rail. I did this for every wheel.

When I had both rails assembled it was time to mount them to the plywood. Using some wood screws and some washers I was able to easily screw the rails into the plywood through the holes. I just had to make sure that they were installed parallel to each other.

I’m not going to reveal the final result until I can actually report back on how it works, which will hopefully be Wednesday or Sunday. Stay tuned for some action shots of it in use and the bug report.

I spent a few hours using the dolly yesterday with mixed results. The size of the room and other factors didn’t always allow for ideal pvc-track placement. Sometimes they had to lay on top of microphone cables so the pipes weren’t what you’d call ‘level’. I did use 2″ internal diameter PVC so they were less prone to bending than 1.5″ pipe which I think helped out a lot.
Another major factor that I hadn’t considered was weight. Mainly, the weight of my support and of the overall dolly. The tripod I used was so lightweight that it would absorb all sorts of vibrations when I moved the dolly around. And the dolly’s overall weight (really, the ultra-light load) was so insignificant that I found I couldn’t be as smooth as would have liked. It just didn’t have enough weight to keep smooth momentum if it hit any resistance or if my push wasn’t perfectly smooth.
I’ve had a good many conversations with Tom Guilmette about quality support. He’s an fanatic when it comes to quality support. He goes as far as to say that the quality of support is just as important as the quality of camera. While I understand his point, I think this is going a just little too far. But with an emphasis on little. My woes on this shoot were almost entirely due to improper tripod support and pan/tile head. The camera LCD viewfinder, as sharp as it is, just didn’t show the problems I was having and it wasn’t until I looked at the full resolution footage that I saw the bouncing and jerking.
I think I’m going to build a hi-hat style mount and add some tie-downs for better securing a tripod in place.

Here is a short sample video using the dolly. You’ll see the move is a little jerky especially at the end of range, but that’s caused by me not applying consistent pressure on the dolly.

Soon, I’ll have a longer video from the project shot using (I’ll admit it- overusing) the dolly.