Saturday, April 21, 2007

Introducing the Whizbang Garden Cart & How To Get A Copy Of The Plan Book

John Vivian once wrote an article for Mother Earth News magazine titled Top 20 Homesteading Tools. Number one on the list was "a shiny, metal frame and brown stained, plywood-box bodied, Garden Way-style cart like you see in many rural and suburban gardens." I’ll second that, as will any serious gardener or homesteader who already owns such a cart.

Vivian further explained: "You may remember Garden Way carts from the magazine ads that compared their lightweight and easy-dumping gardening convenience with a tippy, back-straining wheelbarrow. Perfectly balanced on easy-turning, rustproof, chrome-plated spoke wheels, a box cart will let you haul bulky or heavy loads of all kinds."

The Garden Way company went out of business but the fine cart they developed three decades ago has been widely copied and is made by a few different manufacturers. Some of the copies are downright cheap imports— they are not built for years
of hard use and dependable service, and they are, therefore, a poor value. The carts that are built well are, unfortunately, quite expensive. That being the case, I decided to develop my own Garden Way-style cart.

My quest to develop my own cart design started after I bought one of the good-quality, expensive models. I used it and studied it and went from there. My homemade version of the Garden Way style was developed using commonly available wood components and basic woodworking skills. After several prototypes and three years of real-world testing on my homestead, I came up with a cart design that has all the best features of the Garden Way cart and is of far better quality than any factory-made cart you’ll find. Specifically, it is stronger and more durable. Better yet, my cart design can be made for less money. And, amazingly, even
though it is made primarily of wood (instead of bent tubular steel and galvanized sheet metal angles), my cart design weighs less that the "storebought" carts. Best of all, my cart design lends itself to being made from wood parts and hardware pieces that many people may already have around their homestead, which means you could build your own cart for even less money.

I have named my creation, The Whizbang Garden Cart. If you have been a regular reader of my blog, The Deliberate Agrarian, you have already seen the following pictures (taken in 2006) of the Whizbang Garden cart prototype. These pictures show a simple cart that is into its third year of heavy-duty testing.

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My Whizbang Garden Cart with some of my 2006 potato harvest.

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My Whizbang Garden Cart with some sifted compost, which I put on my garlic when I planted it.

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My Whizbang Garden Cart converted to a poultry transport vehicle.

Those are a very small sampling of uses for the Whizbang Garden Cart. This site has stories and photos showing other uses for the cart.

Now You Can Build Your Own Whizbang Cart...

I have put together plans telling you how to build your own homemade Whizbang cart. The plans are in the form of a 45-page book. Here's a picture of the book:

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Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Garden Cart is a 45-page instruction manual. It takes you through the process of making the cart step-by-step. There are 75 illustrations that clearly show you how the cart is assembled. I tell you all about the materials you will need and where to get them. I also tell you how to safely use the cart and care for it so it will last you for many, many years.

You can read the Introduction to my book here: Whizbang Cart Planbook Introduction.

You can order a copy of the book online at the Planet Whizbang web site

Introduction to The Whizbang Garden Cart Planbook....

About The Whizbang Cart: It’s Affordable, Easy To Build, And Designed For The Long Haul

Back in the early 1970’s I started seeing advertisements in Organic Gardening & Farming magazine for a unique new yard and garden cart. It had a tubular steel handle, tubular steel legs, a big plywood box and two spoked, bicycle-style tires.

The ads were placed by the Garden Way company of Charlotte, Vermont. Garden Way’s cart was engineered to be lightweight yet durable. And it had a lot of capacity.

With tires positioned on either side of the box, this new breed of hauler was far more stable than a common wheelbarrow. You could operate it with one hand (try that with a single-tired wheelbarrow some-time). The air-filled tires with their ball bearing hubs rolled over rough terrain with relative ease. Better yet, the
wheel axle was positioned with optimum balance in mind. Even the heaviest of loads could be easily lifted and comfortably pushed (or pulled) along.

The Garden Way cart looked to me like a very useful tool. Before long, I started seeing the distinctive carts in people’s yards. In fact, they became so ubiquitous, it seemed as though everyone had one. Everyone, that is, except me.

I longed for a Garden Way cart, and I came close to buying one several times over the years. But they were downright expensive. There is enough parsimonious Scotch blood in my veins that I just couldn’t part with the money. Besides, there were bills to pay and more necessary things to buy.

I considered trying to make my own garden cart but I didn’t know how to bend the steel tubing, I didn’t know what dimensions were best, I didn’t know where to get the tires, and I didn’t have the time to figure it all out.

I looked far and wide for plans to build my own simple, Garden Way-style cart. Only once (in thirty years) did I find plans for a cart. They were advertised in a magazine and I promptly bought them. But the design was overly complicated and it appeared to be unnecessarily heavy. I wanted simple plans for a practical cart.

So I searched in vain for a used cart at yard sales, made do with my clumsy contractor-style wheelbarrow, and dreamed of one day owning one of those nifty Garden Way Carts.

In the meantime, the Garden Way Company went out of business. But, by then, others were making their own versions of the cart. Evidently there was no patent because everyone’s carts looked alike.

After many years, my gardening pursuits blossomed into more ambitious endeavors. Back in 2002 I started growing garlic, processing it into powder, and selling it. After spending money on gardening as a hobby for so long, I had an agricultural business that generated income. Now I could justify the cost of a nice garden cart—it would be a tax deduction.

That being the case, I dished out $255 for a cart made by a company named Carts Vermont. The company says in their marketing literature that they were the makers of the original Garden Way cart.

My new cart was everything I hoped it would be. In fact, it was so useful that after I got it, I wanted another. After all, a productive homestead can use more than just one good garden cart. But I felt compelled to build the next one myself. I felt I could do better.

My challenge was to develop a large capacity cart that was balanced and lightweight, just like the Garden Way cart. But unlike the cart I purchased, I wanted a design that could be built with basic carpentry tools and skills, (no metal bending) for less than what I paid, using commonly available materials. And I wanted a design so simple that my twelve-year-old son could build it (with some help from me).

Drawing on my twenty-plus years of carpentry experience, I built a prototype cart with an under-carriage frame of 2 x 4 lumber. It was an exceptionally sturdy and durable hauler but unbalanced and heavy. So I went back to the drawing board, and back to the lumberyard for more materials.

My next prototype was lightweight, sturdy, and balanced, which was good, but I had to admit that it was unnecessarily complicated to build.

So I rethought the design once again and built another cart. I streamlined the construction process and made better use of fewer materials. I felt the third prototype was worthy of being called a Whizbang.

But appearances can be deceiving. How would the tool perform in a real-world, long-term test of use and abuse on my homestead? That would be the ultimate test!

Well, as I write this, that third prototype has been through three years of tough use. I’ve hauled rocks, stone, sand, dirt, firewood, tools, picnic tables, hay, brush, compost, concrete blocks, trash, lumber, chickens, and kids. I’ve used the cart as a work table, a cold frame, a “critter cage,” and a portable outdoor sink stand. I have intentionally left the cart outside year round so it would be
exposed to seasonal cycles of hot sun, soaking rains, and freezing winters.

Today, that cart is as solid and functional as it was three years ago. It has truly and amazingly proven itself worthy of the Whizbang name.

My Whizbang Garden Cart sports all the best features of the tried and true Garden Way cart design. The bottom of the cart is 33” wide and 48” long. The sides are 14” high. So the Whizbang has a lot of cubic-foot carrying capacity. And it will easily handle a 400 pound load.

The Whizbang cart (without tires) weighs in at a mere 69 pounds. It is actually four pounds lighter than my Garden Way-style cart. But even though it is lighter, the Whizbang is far more sturdy than the Garden Way design. This superior sturdiness is immediately evident in a side-by-side comparison. Pick up on the handles, wheel the carts along, and the Whizbang is solid as a proverbial rock while the Garden Way-style is not.

And speaking of rocks, I dropped a good-size one into the middle of my Garden Way-style cart and was greatly dismayed to hear the wood crack. It actually fractured the 1/2” plywood bottom. A closer inspection revealed that the strength of the bottom is almost totally dependent on the strength of the plywood alone—there is no other significant support.

Such is not the case with the Whizbang design. I took that opportunity to drop the same rock, in the same manner, onto the bottom of my Whizbang cart, and was pleased to see there was absolutely no ill effect. That’s because the Whizbang’s 1/2”
plywood bottom is backed up with a 3/4” undercarriage framework. There is also substantial undercarriage bracing by the legs.

One thing the Whizbang cart lacks is a removable front panel, but I don’t consider that a shortcoming. Most people with Garden Way carts find the removable panel is a feature they seldom use, and don’t really need. That has certainly been my experience. For example, to dump a load of gravel, it’s just as easy, if not easier, to lift the cart handle, thus dropping the front end down, and then tip the contents right on over until the cart is upside down. For a more controlled spreading of gravel, it can be shoveled or hoed out the handle end with ease.

This book tells you everything you need to know to build your own Whizbang Cart. If you use all new materials, purchased at retail, you can build a Whizbang cart in a few hours time for about 25% less than the cost of a ready-made Garden Way-style cart. But if you have some wood scraps and miscellaneous hardware parts around, you can build your cart for even less.

Whatever the case, once you build and use your own Whizbang garden cart, you will find it to be a truly special tool. The Whizbang is one of those rare tools with such endearing qualities that you will develop a special regard for it.

The Whizbang garden cart is also a tool that, if properly cared for, will serve you faithfully for many, many years. Fact is, I consider this an heirloom-quality implement.

The plans that follow are exactly what I wish I could have found 30 years ago. It is my pleasure to put them together for you in this book.


Note: This book will be published in mid to late May, 2007. For special prepublication pricing, click here.