Our Technique: Loading Full Sheets of Plywood

Problem: Loading large materials onto a ShopBot with one person.

Due to shifting schedules sometimes someone is alone in the shop but needs to load a full sheet of plywood on the work surface to be cut. When working with 3/4” plywood, the amount of stress put on your back while lifting and twisting a sheet into position alone is not worth the risk of injury.


The Pros

In a production facility there are various scales of material handling available. Forklifts
and Pallet Jacks can move thousands of pounds of wood. Scissor Lift Tables can take a flat sheet, roll it over to the machine and raise it manually, electrically or hydraulically to the needed height. Our favorite are the vacuum tube lift systems that can grab a panel and move it along a track in the ceiling into position. Unfortunately, most of these are too expensive and require more space than in a typical workshop.


Searching around we found:

“Working Alone by John Carroll” an interesting book of techniques.

Morris Dovey’s Tilting Shop Cart

Workbench Magazine’s - Panel-Moving Shuttle

Fine Woodworking’s Tilt-top Shop Cart

Our Technique

We were about to start building our own when we stumbled onto the Woodtek Pivot Pro Panel Handler available for less than $200 and on Amazon.com. This is an improvement to what we do now and the price is right for an experiment. If it fails, we’ll invest the time in making our own cart.

The Unboxing

We received the item in about a week. We unpacked the parts from the styrofoam shipping package.

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With minimal tools we had it together in under 30 minutes. The yellow part with the clamps is what pivots. The crossbar restricts the direction the panel can pivot. The base of the cart is hinged so the panel is held in place but can be raised up enough to pivot. The cart can be folded up for storage. The 2.5” casters swivel and the two under the handlebars have locks.

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Load a Sheet

To load, we roll the cart up to the 4ft side of the plywood stack with the handle bars parallel to the 8ft edge and lock the casters. Lifting the sheet from the opposite 4ft edge, we slide it down to the cart where it stops on the crossbar and slips down to the cart’s base. Then the panel tilts up vertically and the clamps are applied to hold the panel in place. The clamps require adjusting with wrench for panel thickness. Here is a 3/4” sheet of Maple plywood loaded and ready to be moved to the ShopBot.

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Panel Loaded

Two clamps hold the sheet securely to the cart and the handlebars make moving the cart very easy.

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Lining Up Cart

We had set the height of the cart’s pivot to match the ShopBot. We drive the loaded cart to the front of the table with the crossbar nearest the ShopBot. If the crossbar is on the wrong side, the panel can’t pivot. Once in place, lock the casters.

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Pivoting the Panel

By stepping to the side of the panel opposite of the clamps, the panel easily pivots 90 degrees to horizontal onto the table. By placing your foot on the cart base and lifting the panel a half inch, the panel rises above the cart base, freeing it to pivot.

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Slide into Position

Once titled, we move back around to unlock the clamps and slide the panel the rest of the way.

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The Woodtek Pivot Pro Panel Handler (#149003) is inexpensive, easy to use, and works. What a good find!