Sound Cart Setup: Modifying An Olympia Cart

Nothing says "I'm a pro" like rolling up onto set with all your gear on a trolley. These mods will make your cart that much more functional and eye catching!


Field Frequencies

10/31/20238 min read

When I started my location sound freelancing journey, everything I needed and could offer my productions was able to fit on my person. Since I started, I've steadily acquired more and more gear, which in turn began to hinder my workflow as I had no means of keeping everything organized in a manner that made sense for me. The trade-off was a longer setup and teardown in exchange for more flexibility. On my most recent project, taking place deep within forested parks and studios, I found myself yearning more for a better way to get my gear from point A to point B in a safe and efficient manner. Balancing a boom pole and sound bag in one hand and two hard cases in the other was beginning to take its toll on my wrists, as the grip required to pull it off is anything but ergonomic.

It was then that I decided to be cart-less no more! After observing the camera cart astutely this time around, I began to understand that a cart is more than just an expense on wheels to lug around your kit. It is just as much of an investment into streamlining your workflow as it is in bolstering a more professional and confident image of your business and, by extension, yourself.

When I would see the camera team or grip team pull up with the trolleys full of equipment, I'd think to myself, "These guys know what they're doing; they've got a place for everything." Granted, I never really carried as much as camera or grips do, I could still benefit from a dedicated workspace sooner than later, couldn't I?

Below will document of the process and parts I employed to create my very own sound cart using the Olympia Tools 85-188 Service Cart, or more widely known as simply The Olympia Cart.

The Cart
The Caster Wheels
The Tires
The Boom Holder
The Carpeting

Before we begin, I would like to note that the cart I will be documenting is the regular size version of the Olympia cart, not to be confused with the Olympia Cart XL, which requires a different method to replace the stock caster wheels.

That being said, the reason I chose the standard sized cart over the XL is because the XL wasn't available for purchase in Canada at the time. I purchased my cart through Amazon though It is available at a slightly cheaper price from Canadian Tire.

Replacing the caster wheels on the Olympia cart seems to be the number one priority for most recordists. Luckily, is much easier to do on the standard cart than the XL. Unlike it's bigger brother which demands you to completely remove the inner plastic housing from the aluminum frame and cut up its insides to fit a 1/2" threaded caster, the standard simply requires you to unscrew the 3/8" caster and replace it with another one!

I ended up getting these 3/8" casters which worked perfectly. I had tried other casters before settling on these ones but found that they lacked in quality. There is an orange version of these casters which seem to be quite popular among those with modded olympia carts but I prefer the muted aesthetics these black and blue ones.

Below demonstrates how you can replace the original casters on the olympia cart.

I found that using a clamp is an effective way to replace the casters without leaving any scratches, though you could probably use channel locks or a wrench to remove the wheels as well. Be sure to fasten the clamp or pliers around the base of the thead and the swiveling part of the caster so that you have more surface area to leverage when unscrewing the wheel.

Once the original caster has been removed, you can thread in your new wheel by hand and tighten with your clamp or pliers if you deem it necessary. Don't forget to add a washer between the nut of the new caster and the plastic housing. And just like that, your brand new casters are ready to get scratched up and put to work!

If you work primarily in studios or on level surfaces, you might find that your new casters do the trick and you don't need anything else, that's great! But if your work sometimes takes you off the beaten path, definitely consider this next modification.

Adding a pair of big tires will help those who may need to work outdoors or traverse uneven terrain on the way to set. They also look cool! Getting these things installed can be a little challenging but I aim to take the guesswork out of it so that it'll go smoothly for you!

First and foremost: choosing the right tires. There are many options out there, and those options change depending on the size of casters you get, but I believe the tires I have chosen are perfect for a cart with 5" casters. These are the "Flat-Free Utility Spoked Wheels" from Princess auto in their 15.5" diameter. There are so many reasons to choose these tires over others of this diameter: weight, width, price and performance just to name a few. Your other option: Wheelbarrow tires, are generally heavier, wider and more expensive - and if you aren't roughing it through mud and snow all the time you might want to consider the option above. But then again, everyone's needs are different and only you can know what you need. Space is usually at a premium on my sets so having low profile tires that allow me to set up in a corner, navigate through doors and tackle light terrain if necessary makes sense for me.

Now then, what we'll need to complete this mod is as follows:

  • 15.5" Tire with a 1/2" bore x2

  • 1/2" Threaded rod x1

  • 1/2" Locking nut x2

  • 1/2" Nut x2 (optional)

  • 1/2" Washer x6

  • 1/2" Drill bit x1

  • Hand saw x1

  • Drill x1

I sourced all the components above, except for the tires, from my local Home Depot.

The Installation process is very straight forward.

1. First, you'll want to separate the plastic base from the aluminum frame by unscrewing the screws on the side of the cart in which you'd like to install your axle. I chose to have my tires on the same side as my boom pole holder; that's my preference.

2. Once the 2 screws are out of the chosen side, push out the little metal tubes which hold the wheels in place. They can be difficult to get out so just be patient and careful. I used my drill bit to push them out but a flat head screwdriver could also do the trick. when the tubes are removed, you should be able to slide out the casters.

3. Carefully maneuver the plastic away from the aluminum. I had to tilt my cart up and lay it on the ground half closed to help get the plastic pending. Some force may be require, just be patient with this part and know that it won't break easily.

4. Now that the metal and plastic are separated from each other, using a 3/8 bit, drill right through the existing holes as straight as possible. were just trying to enlarge the holes already on the cart. Getting a second person to help brace the other side while you drill the hole is recommended.

5. Fit the plastic back over the aluminum and line up the holes in each as best as possible. The cart can still be slightly folded. Use the holes you just drilled as a guide. This will be much easier than drilling through plastic so don't push the drill as hard.

6. The difficult part is now done! run your axle through the new holes you've made and test fit your tires! The axel may require you thread it through so be to start twisting!

7. If you're using the tires I used, note that they will rub against the bottom plastic shelf if not spaced. I didn't know about this so I used a dremel with a sanding wheel to shave down a corner when the issue arrived. This issue can be avoided by simply adding some washers and a nut on the axle before placing the wheel on. I would recommend doing this.

8. After the wheels are in place, you should be able to lock one off with a washer and locking nut. You'll then need to measure the necessary amount of space needed to do the same for the other wheel (about and inch or so) and cut off the excess with a handsaw or similar tool. it's important to be methodical and precise with this cut, you don't want to mess up the threads on the axel and not be able to fit your hardware after all of your hard work!

9. Stand back and admire your work!

My boom pole is fastened to the cart using a pvc pipe end cap and a Quick Fist clamp. These are the things you'll need to fix your new boom pole holder to your cart:

  • bolts x3

  • washers x6

  • nuts x4

If you have a heavier boompole like I do, you might want to consider sanding down a side of the cap to make flush with the cart and add a second bolt to alleviate the sagging. That's what you'll need the 3rd bolt for. Now, the Quick Fist comes in a pack of two, so if you'd know how you'd like to mount the second one you should pick up some extra hardware. The list above only takes into account the mounting of one Quick Fist. It's important to note that the reason we have to add spacers to the quickfist is so that the boom pole doesn't rub against the handle of the cart. The pictures below show the way I've done it; It's not the most aesthetically pleasing solution but its functional at the very least.

Cutting up the carpet to fit just right only the cart was the most time consuming part of this whole build. With the right tools though, It shouldn't take nearly as long as it did for me. If I could do it all over again, I would get a white grease pencil or white crayon to trace the cut out and be sure to have a dedicated sharp pair of scissors because they will get dull very quickly.

I got my carpets from Dollarama, 3 of them in total, 1 for each level of the cart. Consider avoiding striped carpet in case of misaligned stripes in the final product. A good way to make sure that you have a perfectly straight cut to sit on the fold of the cart is by cutting each carpet down the middle then flipping those pieces 180 degrees and using what was the edge of the carpet as the interior.

Below is a picture of what each cut out should look like.

Now to fasten the carpet to the cart. Some people choose to glue them on but I haven't been able to commit that idea just yet. I've gone the carpet tape route because it's what I had on hand at the time. Carpet tape is definitely not the most secure adhesive for this job because the bottom of my mats have a textured rubber bottom which allows for it to be pulled up quite easily. Luckily, even when folded up to be transported, the carpet doesn't detach from the cart, so unless you are trying to remove the mats, they'll stay in place; and that's good enough for me right now.

Final thoughts

After bringing this cart to set, I am confident in saying that this was the single best purchase I have made to date! Having a personal space to work on and store my gear made me wonder how I had gone so long without one! My only gripe with this wonderful piece of kit is that it doesn't leave lots of space to work when I place my bag down on it. For that, I'm looking at adding a fold-out shelf for that little extra room. I hope this article has inspired you to consider getting an olympia cart of your own or helping you upgrade the cart you already have!