How to Build a PVC Kayak Cart
by In Chun aka Lineside_Addict
Cool PVC Kayak Cart

Overview: I didn't want to pay another $70-80 for a second kayak cart, so I decided to make my own. I saw some online and made a design improving on those that I saw. It's made of 1" Schedule 40 PVC tubing but since the pieces are relatively small and glued in most places, it's very sturdy. This cart should work fine in most terrain apart from really soft sand.

I bought all the parts at my local Lowes hardware store with the exception of the nylon strapping (to hold the kayak in place), buckle, looplock, and the grommet kit, which I bought at REI, and the wheels, which I bought at Harbor Freight. The only thing I didn't buy was the retention nylon strap (the part that braces the T-bars), but you can buy 3 more feet of the flat nylon strap from REI for $0.25/foot. Everything total was about $35 (not including the grommet kit which I bought for something else) but you can cut some cost by finding a cheaper substitute for the steel spacers, leaving out the end caps on the top T-bars and stand post, and using a pool noodle for the padding. Here's a link for a $10 off $25 purchase from Lowes to decrease the cost: Lowes $10 off coupon (expires 7/30/2008).

For the sake of space and bandwidth I posted thumbnails of the images. Click on the image to see a larger version then click on it again to close it.

Parts List:

  • 1 - 10' long, 1" diameter, PVC Schedule 40 Pipe
  • 7 - 1" PVC End Caps
  • 5 - 1" PVC Tee Sockets
  • 1 - 1" PVC Coupler
  • 1 - 36" long, 1/2" diameter, Aluminum Tube
  • 2 - 1/4" x 2" Wire Lock Pins
  • 2 - 9/64" x 1-15/16" Hitch Pin Clips
  • 4 - 1" x 1/2" x 3/8" Nylon Spacers
  • 4 - 1/2" x 5/8" x 1" Steel Spacers
  • 1 - Small can All Purpose Cement
  • 2 - 10" diameter, 5/8" Hub, Inflatable Rubber Wheels
  • 1 - 1" x 6' x 1/2" Wall Tube/Pipe Insulation
  • 12 ft - 1" Flat Nylon Webbing (for tie down strap)
  • 3 ft - 1" Flat Nylon Webbing (for retention strap)
  • 1 - 1" Looplock
  • 1 - 1" Side-squeeze Buckle
  • 1 - Grommet Kit
Tools List:
  • Hacksaw (or some other method of cutting the PVC and aluminum tubing - a miter box really helps)
  • Ruler/measuring tape
  • Rubber mallet (not really necessary)
  • Drill
  • Drill bits - 1/2" - 1/4" - 9/64"
  • Medium grit file
  • 400 or 600 grit sand paper

Cement, Tee Sockets, End Caps, Steel Spacers, Nylon Bushings, Wire Lock Pins, Hitch Pin Clips
Schedule 40 PVC, Aluminum Tubing, Wheels
Nylon Webbing, Looplock, Buckle, Pipe Insulation, Grommet Kit, Retention Strap

Start by drilling 1/2" holes into the center of two end caps. These are going to be the end caps through which the axle (aluminum tube) will go. Before drilling, file down the raised lettering on the end caps to reduce friction and then drill a small pilot hole into the center as a guide. Then drill the 1/2" holes in the center.

End caps with 1/2'' holes drilled.

Cut the following lengths of PVC:

  • 1 - 16" (axle shaft)
  • 2 - 2" (connector pieces for axle end caps and tee sockets)
  • 2 - 12" (upright shafts)
  • 4 - 9" (load brace bars)

Cut lengths of PVC pipe.

The picture on the right demonstrates how the various axle pieces and upright shafts are connected. They are not fully seated or glued yet.

Cement the various pieces together. Make sure to apply a thin layer of cement to both the female and male ends, fully seat the pieces (this is where the mallet helps), then apply compression force to the pieces so that they do not push apart while the cement dries (a few minutes). Do one section at a time.

Pre-assembly of axle and uprights.

The sequence for the axle housing is:

axle end cap - 2" connector - tee socket - 16" piece - tee socket - 2" connector - axle end cap.

The 2" connectors should be completely hidden inside the axle end caps and tee sockets. Make sure that the tee sockets are flush on the floor so they are aligned while cementing. Now put this aside to work on the brace bar/upright assemblies.

Axle housing.

Glue a 9" brace bar section into each end of a tee socket. Make sure they are fully seated and hold them in while the glue hardens.

Brace bars.

Then attach the brace bars to the 12" upright shafts, but do NOT glue the brace bars to the upright shafts. Make sure they are fully seated.

Brace bars and upright shafts.

At the bottom portion of the tee socket of the brace bar, where the 12" upright shaft meets the brace bars, mark a spot about a centimeter in from the edge. Drill a hole using the 1/4" drill bit at this mark straight through to the other side of the tee socket. Try to keep the hole as centered as possible. After the hole is made, move the drill bit around a little to widen the hole a tad bit. Then do the same on the other brace bar/upright assembly.

These holes are where the wire lock pins will be inserted.

Mark the tee socket where the upright shaft meets the brace bars.

Remove the 12" upright shafts. File all the way around the end where the hole is on the upright shafts to slightly decrease the diameter. Sand the area where you filed to smooth it out. This filing and sanding is necessary so that the upright shafts can easily be inserted or removed from the brace bars for easy transportation.

File the hole end of the upright shafts.

Now, insert the hole end of the upright shafts back into the tee sockets of the brace bars. Insert the wire lock pins to test for fit.

Once the brace bar/upright shaft assemblies are complete, glue the upright shafts into the tee sockets on the axle housing. Make sure that the brace bars are parallel with each other and perpendicular to the axle housing. Do NOT glue the upright shafts where the wire clip pins are inserted. You want these to be removable for easy storage.

Let's move on to assembling the actual axle and wheels.

Insert the wire lock pins.

Insert the aluminum tube into the axle housing in one end and out the other. At one end, slide on one nylon spacer and two steel spacers. Slide the wheel onto the steel spacers, then insert another nylon spacer. The wheel should be sandwiched between two nylon spacers with the steel spacers inside the wheel hub. These steel spacers will fill the gap between the 1/2" aluminum tube and 5/8" wheel hub, as well as act as bearings.

Now, using a ruler measure a distance of 3/4" from the last nylon spacer. Holding the axle in place so it won't slide, measure 3/4" on the other end. Remove the wheels and spacers and cut off any excess aluminum (about 5-6" I think).

3/4'' from the outside nylon spacer.

Now measure and make a mark at the 5/8" mark from the ends of the aluminum tube. Drill a hole all the way through the aluminum tube at this mark using the 9/64" drill bit. Try to keep the holes centered.

Slide on the spacers and wheels again and lock them in place with a hitch pin clip through the hole in the aluminum tube.

Using the hitch pin clips allows for the removal of the wheels for easy storage or replacement of the wheels or spacers.

Hitch pin clips inserted to lock the wheels in place.

The image on the right shows what's been completed so far.

The cart still needs a stand, padding, and retention strap between the upright shafts to prevent them from spreading too far apart.

Basic cart.  Still needs a stand, padding, and retention strap between the upright shafts.

Assemble the stand by cutting a 28" inch piece of PVC pipe and two 2" pieces as connectors for the end caps and tee socket. The end caps, and therefore the 2" connectors, are not necessary but they do make the cart look nicer.

Glue the end caps to the 2" connectors and into either end of the tee socket. Then glue the bottom of the tee socket onto the 28" stand shaft. Make sure all pieces are inserted fully when glueing and hold them in place while the glue hardens.

Pre-assembly of the stand.

Now glue the 1" PVC coupler to the other end of the 28" stand shaft.

Insert end caps to three of the four ends of the brace bars. Glueing them in place is not necessary. (I chose not to glue them in place so that I could remove them to easily change the padding if they get worn out.)

Coupler on the end of the stand shaft.

Slide the other end of the coupler/stand onto the empty brace bar end. Do NOT glue this in place so that the stand will remain removable.

This is the basic cart.

Next we'll add the finishing touches.

Basic cart.

Here are the pieces for the finishing touches.

  • 12 ft - 1" Flat Nylon Webbing
  • 1 - 1" Side-squeeze Buckle
  • 1 - 1" Looplock
  • 1 - 1" x 6' x 1/2" Wall Tube/Pipe Insulation
  • 1 - Grommet Kit
  • 3 ft - 1" Flat Nylon Webbing (for retention strap) - this is one I had laying around the house already assembled with a squeeze buckle. A 3' nylon strap can easily substitute for this.

12' Webbing, Side-squeeze Buckle, Looplock, Pipe Insulation, Grommet Kit, 3' Webbing.

Form a loop with the 3' nylon webbing/retention strap and wrap it around the brace bars. Make it so that ends overlap by about 3-4". Cut off the excess webbing and melt the ends with a lighter so they don't fray. Place a grommet into the center of this piece of webbing. Remove a wire lock pin then reinsert it through the grommet and hole.

Pull the ends of the nylon webbing around the other brace bar and mark the spot where the hole is for the wire lock pin. Place a grommet through the mark made, through both ends of the webbing so a permanent loop is formed. Remove the other wire lock pin then reinsert through the grommet (holding the ends together) and the hole.

Retention strap in place.

Cut four pieces from the pipe insulation approximately 6" long. Place these on the brace bars, remove the tape and squeeze the ends together to seal the tube.

Pipe insulation on the brace bars.  Remove the tape and squeeze together to form the tube.

Assemble the tie down strap by using the 12' nylon webbing, side-squeeze buckle, and looplock. One end of the buckle is designed (two slits) to hold a nylon strap in place, while the other end only has one slit so will not keep the webbing in place - this is where the looplock comes in play. Insert the end of the nylon webbing through the looplock, through the single slit end of the buckle, around the other side of the looplock, back through the buckle, then finally back through the looplock. It's hard to describe how to do this.

Assembled tie down strap.

Now the cart is complete!

Finished cart!

Copyright 2008 - In Chun Kim