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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'm taking a MIG welding class to build my travel trailer from scratch!

Later this week I'm taking a MIG Welding class at TechShop! I've blogged about TechShop before. It's like having a gym membership but instead of exercise equipment it's a full suite of industrial arts tools and equipment including CNC machines like the laser cutter/etchers, 3D printers and more.

For welding there's a lot of protective gear involved. They will have masks available for my class but if I try it and like it I'll buy my own. The way I'm looking at it is community welding masks are kind of like rented bowling shoes. But for your face.

Me in a protective welding mask, coveralls, and gloves.

Plus if I have my own mask it will also be funny to walk around the house with it on making breathy noises and saying to hubby "John, I am your father." Especially in the middle of the night :D

So why am I learning how to MIG weld? So I can build my travel trailer frame! I'm highly optimistic I can do this. My friend Amanda told me that if I can use a hot glue gun I can weld. I hope she's right!

The Chassis

It's going to be 4 feet wide by 6 feet long, will be made of 2'x2" hollow steel tubing and will look something like this. At a glance it seems too small to most people. Almost everyone I've told about my trailer design has urged me to go bigger. But I'm only 5' 2" so it's more than enough room for me and I know the smaller the trailer is the more comfortable I'll be towing and using it.

To be sure it's not too small I even mocked it up to scale. The illustrations were actually to design the trailer and interior but at the end I threw myself in to make sure I'd comfortably fit.

The shape and the fact that everything will be accessible from the inside only will mean it's a mini canned ham style trailer. The overall small size, that I can't stand upright in it, and the fact that I am going to have a hatchback make it more like a teardrop. So I'm not quite sure what to call it. A micro-canned ham? A tall teardrop? I'll have to work on a special name that somehow encompasses both.

I'm only 33" high sitting upright. My interior cabin height will be 46.5" high.

My main goal was to have something with more interior height than the factory made and vintage teardrop trailers that only have enough room to lie down inside the cabin. It was really important to me that I will be able to sit upright while inside so I added about 11" of vertical space that isn't in most teardrops.

The cabinet designs are not just aesthetic. There are four cabinets for basic essentials which include:
  1. A small sink with an interior grey water tank (grey water is the dirty water you collect by washing your hands, brushing your teeth and washing dishes).
  2. A kitchen cabinet for a cooler, some dry goods food, a small cook stove, a pot, plate, bowl, cup, fork and spoon.
  3. An emergency porta-potty. I know what you're thinking but now there are porta-potties that are super compact, modern, ridiculously easy to empty, and odorless.
  4. And I'm leaning towards installing a small solar system to run my overhead vent/fan, interior lights, and to be able to recharge my phone and camera batteries at night. A solar system means I'll need somewhere to store a pure sine inverter, transfer box and battery charger. Speaking of which, a deep cycle battery will go in the small tongue box on the front of the trailer. If none of this makes sense to you don't worry. It barely makes sense to me :)
I'm also designing my cabinets to be removable by bolting them to the sidewall. This is for two reasons:

1. So that I can move two of the cabinets (they'll be on casters) to the opposing sidewall while driving to better distribute the weight over the tires.

2. If I want to use the trailer to haul something I can simply remove the cabinets to do so then put them back in.

By the way, the cute bird in the corner is a smoke detector!

But how will I fit to sleep? Rather than have a permanent sleeping area I'm just going to roll out a nice, self-inflatable, Thermarest, camping mattress each evening.  With 69.75" of interior length it gives me an extra 7.25" of expansive space once I'm fully extended.

I haven't yet decided where to put a spare tire. It could be on the rear, under the cabin or possibly under the tongue. I think I'm going to have to wait and see how the weight everywhere else turns out and place the tire accordingly so that I can keep the trailer as balanced as possible.

A SUPER cool thing I found while researching my build are these axle-less wheels. Rather than have an axle spanning the width of the trailer the axle-less wheels can be bolted or welded to your trailer frame. They have built in suspension, reduce the overall trailer weight compared to having an axle, and will allow me to have a dropped floor where the axle would have been.

Here's a cool video that shows how the Timbren Axle-Less Trailer Suspension works.

The frame will extend through the large box but I can pack stuff around it.

The dropped floor is important because with so little interior space I have to economize wherever I can. The storage by the door will be the place I can put my shoes as I enter the cabin. I can just sit in the doorway to the right, flip up the hatch, and drop them in. No muss, no fuss. The other long storage area will have three hatches that lift up. This is where I can store things like clothes, larger fresh water containers if I'm going boon docking, a solar shower and shower curtain (yes, I've figured out how I can take a shower inside the trailer!), fabric screen doors for the hatch back, and more.

If I really get the hang of welding and enjoy it I will also weld the sidewalls and top of the trailer frame instead of using wood as most people do. My executive design team (aka trailer brain trust) already let me know this is a better, lighter more durable option than wood.

I hope you're going to find the build interesting because while I'll continue blogging about other things too, I'm guessing every other post for the next few months will be all about my flirty little trailer :)

To follow the entire build thread from beginning to end just click on the "Trailer - Build" category on the side bar or CLICK HERE.

To view all of my trailer gear and decorating posts CLICK HERE.

*Disclosure: Because we invested in the San Jose location of TechShop, hubby and I are now lifetime members.

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