Re: Wandering First Build - Finally Going Again

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Re: Wandering First Build - Finally Going Again

Postby Prototear » Sun Aug 18, 2013 3:40 am

My trailer plans have taken some unexpected turns so it started out wandering but I now have a plan and hope most of my wandering will be in to many campouts rather than wandering directions on the trailer plans. Since I’m getting caught up with my progress, my first entry or two may seem to run on… :thinking:

After introducing myself in the newbies section, I came upon reasonable price on a steel teardrop frame complete with wall frames and roof cross members. This was close to the benroy size and general shape I had planned to build but slightly different some key ways that has made me rethink some key aspects. The original owner’s plan was to have bed that was perpendicular to the length of the trailer and have the hatch open on the entire rear half with fabric walls so that people could stand inside it and maybe step out the rear. I think it’s called a Wild Goose. This wouldn’t work for me since I’m 6’ tall and the inside can be only 5’ 9 ½” wide. My plan is use it for a more traditional layout with the bed running lengthwise and a shape close to a benroy.

I got this frame on Craigslist and it was in Bend, OR but I am north of Seattle about 340 miles away, so we agreed to meet half way in Gresham, OR. After inspecting and paying, and lots of talk, I towed it home up I-5 about 180 miles – it runs nice and straight but bounces like crazy whenever I don’ t have a solid forward pulling force on it, although it had no weight other than a hollow frame. While I had my temporary WA State trailer permit I went straight to Home Depot to get some sheets of plywood and its ride was much improved with a stack of materials tied down in it. Here are some pictures from what was in the original craigslist ad and some extras from when he build the frame.
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The frame is really stiff, despite the main frame tube being only 1” x 2” on their sides – it seems that the arch framed walls acts like a truss to stiffen the whole thing. The tongue, however, had more flex to it than I’d like and this was also noted by the original owner.

The suspension is a leaf spring system and appears to be in good condition, clean with no corrosion. The original owner made the axle himself to with a 5 ½” drop and mounted it under the leaf springs. He said this was to make the trailer sit lower for a car or minivan to tow but allow for a quick 30-minute flip of the axle to raise the trailer by a huge amount (twice the drop plus the 2” axle thickness = 13”) for more ground clearance (presumably to tow with a tall truck). The clearance under the axle in its present state is only about 6”, clearly the lowest part of the trailer and I think it would be troublesome on a 2-rut road in the forest on the way to or from a campsite.
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I had a local welder add a 2x2 tube down the center of the tongue in a T shape to stiffen the tongue, add a 2” receiver in the back for a bike rack, and add some square gussets in the rear corners to mount stabilizer jacks and side table leg brackets. Since the 2” receiver for the bike rack needed to run to the next cross member for stiffness, we figured we use one piece the whole length. We also added a 4th cross member between the walls so there would be good structure where the galley hatch hinge will be. The original frame had only one door opening on the right side but I want doors on both sides, and the one door had a low cross-member over it so that I’d have to crouch down and not be able to comfortably sit in the doorway. I had the welder rearrange the 1x1s to give me 2 tall door openings and use the leftovers to reinforce the corners.
109007109009109008

Despite all the thought and effort he put into this suspension, I plan to change it to a torsion axle to get a smoother ride, improve ground clearance and add brakes. The frame will need some more welding modifications to have a solid place to mount the axle then I’ll see if I can sell the old suspension. My neighbor said today that he might have some nice alloy wheels in storage, so I’ll hold off on the torsion axle order until I know the specifics of the wheel dimensions. I hope to cover this and my plan for the floor in my next entry.
Last edited by Prototear on Fri Sep 06, 2019 12:42 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:10 am

While I wait for wheels before ordering a new torsion axle, I'm looking ahead to the next steps for later this week...

I got a package today from etrailer.com with flip-down stabilizer jacks and a tongue jack that I'll install this Friday or Saturday. :thumbsup:

One of my friends helping me gave me some 4x8 sheets of aluminum honeycomb sandwiches for my floorboard (surplus aircraft materials). This is 1/2" thick and extremely strong and rigid, but only slightly lighter than the equivalent size plywood (strength and stiffness may be more comparable to 1" plywood). The honeycomb is covered by aluminum skin on both sides bonded with epoxy, and one side has an added layer of Kevlar. I'll put the Kevlar side down so it is more resistant to rock strikes from gravel roads. The honeycomb structure is made so that if in case there is a perforation and water gets into one cell, it won't propagate to adjacent cells.

Image

Image

I've been working on a plan to attach the honeycomb aluminum panels for the floor in a way avoid crushing the it in the process or in use. There are methods to splice sheets together into a single piece but it looks like it would be too much work with little benefit. Fortunately, the layout of the cross-members on the frame are spaced for laying 4' wide sheets of plywood and putting fasteners along the edges so I'll lay them out the same way as if plywood. To spread the fastener load over a larger area, I could use a bolts with fender washers but that would stand up pretty high, inlay a bolts inside it with epoxy but that seems like too much work and difficult to aligh with holes in the frame. I think the cleanest effective and fastest way would be to lay an aluminum doubler down along the lines where I'll have fasteners, drill straight through into the steel frame below and rivet it with closed blind rivets. There is a Tacoma Screw shop near my office so later this week I'll go there for rivets and to the Harbor Freight tent sale for a new pneumatic riveter. I also was thinking about using a carriage bolt going through a thicker doubler (1/8") and the frame with a locknut underneath but it seems like overkill and I haven't found a punch to prepare the doubler with square holes.
Last edited by Prototear on Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby KCStudly » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:37 pm

That's a nice start, and the mods you had done seem to be well planned and executed.

How wide is it between the fenders and do you plan on keeping them the same width with the new axle?

Also, have you tried sitting in the doorways and doing a check to see where your head ends up when you do the "entry roll" (i.e. tuck your knees into your chest and roll back while turning into your sleeping position)? The door openings look to me to be just a tad forward (probably liveable) and it does look like you have quite a bit of room to move them back if needed. Now would be the time if so. Just saying; I'm a big guy and not as agile as I would like to be, so perhaps I am more sensitive to door placement issues.

Again, you are off to a great start and I am looking forward to following along with your build. :thumbsup:
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Sun Aug 25, 2013 2:23 am

Thanks for the suggestions, KC.

The space between fender wells is 52", just a few inches wider than a full size mattress, and the space between the sides at the door (and above the fenders) is 70" and will be 69 1/2" after wall skins, wider than a queen mattress but narrower than a king mattress. This will likely lead to a T-shaped mattress, queen size or wider on the upper 2/3, and narrower on the last 1/3. I'll want to have the mattress go as far forward as possible (probably with a thin headboard) so the narrower portion of the mattress will have a minimal impact, and hopefully to keep my knees forward of the fender corner so I don't bonk it in my sleep.

This leads me to decide whether I want the wide portion of the mattress to be queen size, or go all the way out to the side walls. If I keep it down to queen size (~60") I'll have a flat space on the floor of 5" between the mattress and side wall. I was thinking of taking the side doors all the way down to the floor so that I could sit in the doorway on a door threshold for a total of 6" to have a solid place to sit (to put on my shoes for example). This will also lead to a decision on how to frame the doorway - I'm leaning toward buying teardrop doors but they all seem to have rounded corners rather than a normal RV door with a threshold and square corners on the bottom so I'll keep looking. :thinking:

With no floorboards and just a bare frame, I can't try the maneuver you suggest but I sat in the doorway today and tried moving somewhat without falling through the frame. It seems that because of the fender sticking in 9" on each side I'll have to readjust myself inward anyway after entering, but am not sure if I'd need to adjust forward or not yet - it depends on how forward I can get the mattress. I'll keep this in mind as I refine the interior layout.

Thanks! :beer:
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:54 am

I made some progress today and installed the tongue jack and the rear stabilizer jacks that I got from etrailer.com

Image

Image

This is the right rear one mounted to the 1/4" plate I had added in the rear corners. It is angled about 35 degrees to get some side-to-side stability too and it just misses hitting the frame when folded with about 1/4" clearance even when accounting for the play in the pivot. I put it near the middle of this steel plate so that I can put mounts for side table legs to the outboard side and perhaps other hardware on the inboard side (maybe hooks or accent lighting). I am currently trying to figure out the best way to mount a side table leg, perhaps with unistrut connectors. I had thought of using 1 1/4" receivers but I'd like the option of pivoting the leg 90 degrees so that I can have the table either outward or run back into the galley.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to mount side table legs under the rear corner of the trailer frame?
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Sputterputz » Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:21 am

If you went with the 1 1/4 tube inserts you could mount it rearward and then put a second coupling in your vertical leg allowing you to pivot the table outward as well with one mount.
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:20 am

I've tried some fastening methods with the aluminum honeycomb to install them similar to how most would lay out their plywood but with appropriate fasteners. I'll also need a doubler under the fastener to spread out the load. I looked at various types of screws or bolts but didn't want them to stand up too far above the honeycomb since it will be the interior floor and I don't want it catching on the underside of a mattress, and a washer would make it stand taller. I also considered blind rivets with a doubler laid along the fastener lines and this would keep me from having to drill through both layers of the frame tubing.

Using the edge of one partial sheet (saving the whole sheets for the actual build), I put some 1/8" steel bar under it to mock-up the top of the frame tubing and a 1/16" layer of aluminum on top. I held them together with some 3/16" aluminum rivets with a rated grip up to 3/4". I ended up using an L shaped aluminum profile instead of a flat bar shape just because that is what I could find quickly at Home Depot, but I might end up using an L profile anyway but with the corner turned up to leave a lip for attaching the bottom of my interior plywood wall skin.

From above:
Image

From below:
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With fender washers rather than the straight doubler (in case some corner locations are too awkward for the doubler strip, but I won't be using washers this thick):
Image

This worked so well I stopped trying bolts or screws and figured I'd use many rivets rather than a smaller number of bolts/screws. I ordered a box of these sealed structural blinds rivets of the same size for the actual build yesterday http://www.tacomascrew.com/Products/Str ... /054-505_6 (other websites have better descriptions of this rivet but I got these at the local fastener store for a competitive price).
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Sat Sep 07, 2013 1:06 am

I have also been looking at ideas for mounting side tables in some of the construction tip threads like this one viewtopic.php?f=2&t=56156&hilit=side+table that have some great ideas. Before laying the floor panels down I thought I'd try side table mount that starts under the frame but use sturdy members and fasteners that a little more available than 1-1/4" hitch receivers - maybe this is just because I'm more of an electrical type than a welder. :)

I got these u-shaped unistrut fittings to mount on the corner plates under the rear corners of my frame and they arrived today: http://unistrut-direct.com/pdf/P1047.pdf

My plan is to insert 1-5/8" unistrut (or superstrut) with a retained nut in the strut and a bolt with a big knob to set up tables at camp.

I had mounted my stabilizer jacks last weekend but since these fittings are so big I may have to nudge the jacks a bit further to one side to get everything to fit on the plates. :NC

Here is the right side plate with the jack stand installed:
Image

Here is a new u-shaped unistrut fitting temporarily clamped just to see what it looks like (on the outboard left side rear plate instead) and it is a little crooked due to the crowding.
Image

Ideally I'd like to have one bracket for a table toward the rear and one toward the side from each of the corner plates, but I'll have to see if I can make it all fit. I've got a couple ideas using a different fitting like this http://unistrut-direct.com/pdf/P1045.pdf and I'll see what works. :thinking:
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:33 am

Just as I thought my wandering build was getting clearer and would start taking shape, a friend who also wants a teardrop suggested I move the wheel wells out so I can have a wider mattress. :shock: At first I thought it was kinda nutty, but the more I think about it and see the various regrets that people have mentioned in other threads regarding width, axle type, or something else I figure I should do it now or never so I don't carry forward a regret.

Before I found this trailer frame on Craigslist in June, my plan was to have a 5' wide cabin to allow for a queen size bed and wheels/fenders outboard of the main walls. This frame has the wheel wells inboard thus making the interior space only 52" wide where I'll put the bed (or less when adding the interior wall skins). The original frame was designed for a sideways mattress for shorter people. Compared to a standard 54" full mattress or a 60" queen mattress, I think I'd be better off with wider space. Since I am about to order a torsion axle and have some frame members added to mount it, this is the time to finalize this. If I cut back about half of the wheel wells, about half of the tire will be inboard and half will be outboard of the main exterior wall. I've also wanted a small fender anyway so I could set a beer or tools on a ledge while doing stuff outside and I'd be able to use a normal mattress without having to have one custom made.

Overall, this unexpected trailer frame deal is still leaving me slightly ahead of building my own (or having one made) and the overall width will be the same as if I had the 5' wide one with outboard wheels, steel wall and roof framing, and an extra foot of bonus width in galley area. I've already given up on camping in it this summer or fall anyway.

The current shape would leave me with a T-shaped mattress that is 52" wide from thighs/knees/foot area, but queen size on the head/shoulder/waist area. I had been concerned about banging my knees at night as I roll over, so this new plan would address that. This will also solve the one main issue that has been bugging me so once I get this resolved I'll be able to get some more momentum going.... :D

Image

To get 60" of width from the 53" space, I'd move the inboard skins of each wheel well outward 4" outward on each side, then I can buy a piece of sheet steel to replace it if I can't reuse the old inboard skins. Since I have to get a welder to put the frame structural member under this edge for the axle mount anyway, the new inboard wheel well skin be either welded at the same time or I think I could rivet it in place. These wheel wells will be all covered with wood anyway when the interior is installed. The sliver line shows where I'd cut it back on the right fender looking forward and aft:

Image

Image
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Junkboy999 » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:41 pm

Man you off to a good rolling start.
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby KCStudly » Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:59 am

Consider leaving a flange on the inner panel that you intend to cut off and adjusting your cut line to allow for that; i.e. leave a 2 inch lip on the inner skirt and make your cut 2 inches further to the outside.

This will do two things: 1) it will stiffen the inner panel and help keep it flat during welding, and 2) it will put the weld seam in a more convenient position (away from the corner edge) making any grinding and/or dolly work easier.
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:40 am

KC,
Thanks for the suggestion. I have been thinking about leaving a flange in case I fasten that fender skin with rivets, but I can see how it would make the welding/grinding easier now that you make that point clearer for me. I'll probably have to get new sheet metal for the inboard skin anyway rather than reuse the one cut out because I'll need it to extend another 1-2 inches lower to attach to the new frame member I mentioned, but I'll accommodate the flange as you suggest.
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Mon Oct 07, 2013 2:18 am

I scored with some free gear on Craigslist. :thumbsup:

I had been looking for a reasonable diameter temporary spare tire with a compatible bolt pattern and found this one on Craigslist. It came from a Jeep Cherokee. It includes the whole kit, with the spare, a jack, jack handle and lug wrench. It also has some things I might or might not be able to use - a cloth spare tire cover and a large bolt and nut to mount the spare (remember how the Cherokees had their spares inside in the cargo area?). It also has a set of 4 new plastic chrome wheel covers that seem like they might or might not fit on my trailer wheels, but they might not be practical anyway since I may expect them to fall off on the first forest road they sees.
Image
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby Prototear » Mon Oct 07, 2013 2:52 am

I also got more work done on the trailer (finally) with some cooperative fall weather. One of my friends who also wants to build a teardrop brought over his buzz box and taught me how to weld using his damaged cargo trailer as a sacrifice (his fenders are damaged and he was just looking for temporary repairs until he gets new ones). He's the same guy that put the idea in my head to push out my wheel wells to make room for the mattress I wanted to have inside. Some of my welds on his trailer were so-so, and the rest were bad but I started to get the hang of it. At first it took a while to get the electrode to arc without sticking, but I think sometimes the current wasn't set high enough. :?

While we were working, my neighbor came to see what we were doing and he told me that he is a certified welder so he would teach and help me too. I knew he had lots of building trade skills, but didn't know he was a certified welder (we've lived next door to each other only 25 years)!

After welding Saturday, I got shifted tasks to get one fender well cut back afterward before dark, then did the second one Sunday afternoon.

First wheel well on Saturday:
Image

With both wheel wells cut back and the cut areas ground smooth:
Image

Next, I did a trial cut of a scrap area of the aluminum honeycomb with a 60 tooth carbide tip blade to see how well it would do. It cut easily and more cleanly than I expected! :thumbsup: See the straight cut (the wavy one was already there when I got it)

Image

Using the original plywood floorboards that came with the trailer frame as a pattern, I managed to cut all new 3 floorboards. 2 are about 4' x 6', and the rear one is almost 2' x 6'. I had the impression this was as heavy as the same size plywood, but after I cut down a smaller size easier to handle I found out I was wrong - I weighed the rear floorboard (1/2" thick) and it is only 14.2 pounds, about 1.33 pounds per square foot. By comparison, the plywood one that used to be in the same place was 22.5 pounds. The thickness difference accounts for some of the difference, but not all of it, and the plywood may have had higher than normal moisture retained in it.

I think I had the impression the aluminum was as heavy as plywood just because it was intimidating to handle with the uneven sharp edges, but it is more manageable now (edges are still kinda sharp, but not uneven or jagged). :thinking:

Here's the first floorboard fit-checked (the exposure was difficult with the stranger glare from the sky that comes here sometimes, rather than overcast skies or rain).
Image

My next step is to move it all into the garage and prep it to hopefully add the 2 new 2x2 box steel frame members in-line with the new wheel well sides next weekend, take my final measurements and order the torsion axle. I'm not confident enough with my welding skills so I'll have my friend or neighbor help me with it.
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Re: Wandering First Build

Postby KCStudly » Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:49 am

I would recommend that you get the axle in place first, before you commit to the inner fender support frame work, just in case.

Would hate to see you have to undo any hard work on a miscalculation or oversight.

$.02, just saying. I was bit by this on my car trailer. After measuring and extending the axle tubes, I found that the frame rode lower than I expected and the slope of the drop spindle forging interfered with the lower edge of the frame rails. I ended adding a big 3/8 thk fish plate on the inner side of the frame rails, and notching and boxing in the outer section of the rail so that they would clear. A lot of work for a minor spacial misconception.
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