Sunday, March 10, 2013

Trailer Construction

 This story begins with the return of Eddie and Devon from New Zealand and the subsequent announcement of their engagement. The stories they told made evident their love of camping as well as their dislike of doing so from the back of a Mazda wagon.
The project begins with my not knowing what to do with this old boat trailer for which there was no boat.  The ANSWER...
...kill two birds with one stone.
What to do with the a teardrop!
What to get Eddie and Devon for a wedding gift... build a teardrop!
They loved the idea of a teardrop trailer, even one that Mom and Dad can borrow when they are not using it!

After saving only the 3500 lb. axle and recycling the rest, I went shopping for steel, a trailer box, and some accessories. The fenders were from the old trailer.
This gave me, I felt, a suitable foundation for a 5'x10' teardrop trailer.

The base is a sandwich of 1/4" mahogany plywood for the bottom, a 1x4 maple frame with cross members every 2 feet using lap joints for strength. Also visible is the insulating styrofoam sheets between the maple cross pieces. The sandwich is topped with a 1/2" plywood layer of Baltic Birch.

 This is a shot of the neat little fold-down legs I bought from a local RV store which happens to be owned by an ex-student of mine, small world isn't it!
They pivot down and work like a high-lift truck jack, very cool.
You can also see the tabs Eddie welded onto the frame for the 5/16 stainless bolts that connect to T-nuts imbedded in the maple frame.

This is a closer view of the T-nut in the frame before the top plywood is glued in place.

Next, I designed a pattern for the body shape that Eddie, Devon and I all liked.
I put it up on the trailer to see how it looked.

Here is another view of the same process.

After deciding on a shape, I placed two pieces of 3/4x4x8 Mahogany plywood together and cut the sides out at the same time so they would be identical.

Next I added 2 feet to each side. I used wafers to add strength, then cut the shape out afterward to insure a good match.

Afterwards, I'm left with this, I love it!!!!!

After a few dry assemblies, the interior panels were glued and screwed in place. Later shots will show the screws and their spacing more clearly.

This shot shows some of the interior cabinetry being fitted early. Bottom right space is for a cooler, the middle bottom space is for the sink and the left bottom is storage and a drawer for the butane stove. The upper cabinets you see will be facing inward to the sleeper.

This is a shot of the interior storage. The middle black is a stereo console and the two black side inserts are speakers. They will be able to integrate their computer or Ipods to the stereo.
Below the cabinets will be two pull-out shelves for either eating or placing a computer to watch a movie or "Skype"-ing  if they can find wi-fi.

A view of the galley shell coated with oil-based paint before the finished cabinets are installed.

The galley is close to being done. The sink will drain to a bib on the side where they can attach a hose to divert the gray water. I ended up with 3 inches over the cooler so I added a utensil drawer (still to be stained and varnished). The board that reads "Teardrop Bed and Breakfast" lifts up exposing a five gallon dispenser that has a brass spigot on it (visible above the sink). All  the pull-outs are on fully extending drawer glides for easy access.

...with the stove extended. It is sitting on a cutting board and stores in the drawer on which it is sitting. The cutting board just lifts off and can be used anywhere, as too the stove for that matter.
This is a good view of the formica that Devon and Eddie picked. This is also a good view of the tambour doors. This design makes it easy to open if the counters are full of stuff.
Note also the 110V plugs up top in case they have hook-ups available.

...and here's Mom helping me with laying the counter-top laminate.

Once the cabinets were in place, I started setting in the cross ribs so I could sheet the interior and begin wiring. You can see the fuse panel from the outside which will house master switches and aircraft style lights inside for reading, see below.

The lights and switches are mounted on a panel door that unscrews and folds down exposing a fuse panel for the 12 volt wiring. Pillows were for a beer break with music .

another shot of the interior...
...and yet another.

Here's a dry fit of the oak trim that will surround the redwood siding once everything inside is done. Note the screws on the side I mentioned earlier above.

I have completed skinning the inside of the trailer shell so now I can start wiring.
The battery will be placed in a vented case in the locking box on the tongue. Larger gauge wires will fun through the shell up to the fuse box which is being held in place with vise grips in the picture above. Also visible in this shot is the skylight/whole house type fan
 (variable speed, reversing) on the top.

 I laid on my back inside the trailer to get this shot of the fan with its trim in place.
From this gopher-eyed view also visible is the stereo, upper cabinet doors and one of the 110 volt service outlet locations inside the sleeper.

This is a view of the fuse box from inside. Below the two aircraft style lights are a series of master switches for all the circuits so everything can be controlled from just above the head from a reclining position or when  the master switches are turned on the lights, stereo, exterior lights can be controlled at their located placement. Just above the lights is a small black dot which is the head of a screw, which controls this....

The lid to the fuse box folds down exposing the fuses and a wiring schematic explaining all the circuits.

I finished milling all the siding for the trailer sides which will be framed by red oak "woody style" trim pictured four shots above. I placed a few pieces against the shell to see if I liked how it looked. Whadayathink?  By the way, the wood is vertical grain clear heart redwood, my mouth waters just typing that!!  The pieces are not 2 inch slats, see below....

The pieces are 1/2" thick by 4 3/4" wide with a lap joint on the edges and 1/4" round over grooves to make it look like 2" slats, it milled like butter!!! I think it will look gorgeous with several clear coats of varnish.


  1. Love this!! Bonus points for the My Cousin Vinny clip.

  2. Ed,
    Rick thinks that we need to have a BBQ at your house to celebrate the progress on the teardrop. Rick said he will buy all the beer!

  3. PS.
    he may need a ride home in the teardrop or he can sleep over in it he cuddles real nice.

  4. Great job on this project, Ed! Seeing it almost finished and fantastic as it is, erases the fact that it wouldn't serve as a boat trailer anymore. It's nice that you created something useful from a supposedly futile machine 'cos there's no boat to load onto it. The shape you chose is absolutely cute, by the way. :) Delena@Karavan Trailers, Inc.

  5. What a fantastic build! Thanks for chronicling the project for the rest of the homebuilders to follow.
    I have just started on a lightweight Cub teardrop of my own. I have the trailer and side profile done. After many hours of studying designs I have decided that I like your door profile the best and want to copy it. Any info on dimensions and radii of your door profile would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Your trailer is no longer a boat trailer, Ed! It now looks like a camp wagon! Haha! It’s one of the most wonderful projects I’ve ever seen. It’s good that you’re able to construct something new out of your old trailer. It’s amazing!


  7. This article is very useful. You build trailer awesome. Thus going to recommend others also.

    Car Trailer


  8. Great Blog. Photos are too good . Article was very well written. Thanks for sharing.

    Box Trailers

  9. Soy de chile me gustria conyruir algo asi para mi hijo te felicito es ermoso

  10. Soy de chile me gustria conyruir algo asi para mi hijo te felicito es ermoso

  11. Very cute and very good in making. How many days have you make that trailer? Also, how much materials does it cost?

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  13. Ed, love the blog. I am particularly interested in the pull out game table that you put under the cabinets. I can’t figure out how you constructed it. Any tip would be appreciated I’d like to work that int my build.

  14. Ola, lindo teardrop trailer!
    Sou do brasil e gostaria de saber como conseguir esse planos teardrop trailer.