This is an ingenious and invaluable back-saving tool for a one-person shop. It works better and easier than I imagined. Being able to maneuver sheet goods around my shop, and then flip them from vertical to horizontal, and do that all myself with very little effort is HUGE. There are other heavy-duty plywood carts available for large shop use, but those are big and expensive. This one is compact, folds flat for easy out of the way storage, and it’s a real steal at around $100!
I had my doubts at first. I wondered how the inline wheels would work and still allow maneuverability around the shop. Then I realized that if there were two wheels and they swiveled the carrier would zing all over the place and be unmanageable. In fact, I find it fairly easy to coax the carrier to turn and pivot so I can position panels where they are needed in my shop. I also wondered how easy it would be to flip the panels up from vertical to horizontal. That’s easy too, since the carrier’s pivot point is near 24″ and basically centered on the panel so the panel’s weight is well balanced making it very easy to tilt.
The Portamate PM-1800 Panel Carrier comes almost completely assembled. All that’s left to do is attach the wheels, which is simple. Place the carriage bolts through the bolt holes in the carrier’s base. Place a washer on each bolt, add the wheels, add the other two washers, and then thread on the lock nuts. Tighten the lock nuts snug and then back off a bit so the wheels spin freely.
The height needs to be set before using the carrier, which is easy. Loosen the two star knob bolts, flip the carrier bed (tray) upright. Adjust the height so the tray is at the same height, or slightly higher, than your table saw’s table, and then tighten the star knob bolts to lock in that setting. This is a set it and forget it adjustment. I have not had any need to use a different height yet.
Loading the panels onto the carrier is the most cumbersome aspect of the operation, yet easily managed. The online video shows the user lifting the panel onto the lip of the tray. I prefer to pivot the panels on which is less stressful for my back. Try to land the panel edge as close to center of the tray lip as possible for the best balance. Also, the instructions say to tilt the static support leg back inward while rolling the carrier. I find it works fine and faster if I leave that leg out. You just have to be careful to not trip over the extended leg while moving the carrier.
Position and align the panel with the table saw’s table and fence. When ripping I find it easiest to orient the Portamate so the tray lip is on the fence side, and slightly beyond inline with the fence. That way the carrier can be used to support the panel as it’s sawn, and there’s less of the carrier to pass by when feeding the panel.
It’s not just for sawing! Lifting panels onto sawhorses is always difficult for one person. Not so with the Portamate panel carrier. All I do is position the panel where it’s needed in my shop and flip it up horizontal. Then I slide a sawhorse under each end of the panel, and remove the panel carrier.