What is the Difference Between Casters and Wheels?

Take a peek at the bottom of your office chair: What do you see?

“Wheels,” you’re thinking. “The bottom of my office chair’s on wheels…So what?”

Ah, but is it a set of wheels or casters that make your chair zoom across the room?

There’s a difference between casters and wheels. If you own a business that uses or manufactures mobile furniture, then you should know the subtle intricacies of both. So let’s find out what’s attached to that office chair, shall we?

It’s A Wheel

It’s not money that makes the world go round – it’s wheels. So what’s a wheel anyway?

Simply put, a wheel is a flat, round object that spins on a single axis. It can bear and transport a load, making it the most useful innovation known to man. It’s the force behind so many necessities, from horse-drawn wagons to the finest industrial machinery built to date.

Though the exact history of the wheel is murky, its origins are traced back to 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia. Strong evidence suggests that it was used for pottery before it was integral to transportation.

It’s A Caster

If you dress up a wheel and give it superpowers, you end up with a caster. That’s precisely what David Fisher did in the 1870s when he filed a patent for a furniture caster.

Casters are wheels attached to a rotating mount. They are also reinforced with a wider axle. The mount allows them to affix to any piece of furniture or machinery to make it mobile. The wider axles and the rotating mounts stabilize the wheels, allowing them to balance the mounted object.

Look down again at the “wheels” attached to the bottom of your chair. Newsflash: They’re casters!

Take in the rest of your office decor, and you’ll probably find more furniture that’s mounted on casters. Your desk or filing cabinet may have them, for instance.

Two Kinds Of Casters

In addition to being wheels with superpowers, casters are divided into two types. There is the rigid caster and the swiveling caster.

Rigid casters can only move back and forth. They cannot pivot 360 degrees like swivel casters do.

Swivel casters can bear a heavier load and they’re easier to maneuver. Rigid casters have their own merits as well, including increased stability for certain types of equipment.

Custom Casters And Wheels, Anyone?

The type of wheels or casters you need depends on a few factors, including:

  • The size and shape of the furniture or machine you want to mount
  • The kind of surface you’ll be rolling over (hardwood, tile, carpet)
  • The type of environment where the equipment is used (office, hospital, factory, etc.)
  • The way in which the equipment is operated

All of these factors seem like small details. But if you disregard the specifics, your carts or machines may end up mounted to the wrong casters, rendering them useless or even dangerous.

Good thing a custom caster isn’t hard to find, right?

Casters can come with many bells and whistles, from threaded stems to locks to breaks. They’re also manufactured in a wide array of materials; sometimes a nickel-plated caster will do, while another time you might need a rubberized wheel reinforced with steel.

If you’re not sure what kind of wheels you need for your equipment, tell the manufacturer about your circumstances. They will know which kind of caster fits your needs.

Need To Know More?

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