Invaluablist

useful | enduring | unembellished

by Greg Kagay

The Invaluablist Teardrop

Photo Gallery

Overview

This page presents a first draft of my completed teardrop trailer construction photo gallery. Some important details are missing (such as the water tank plumbing).

I aspire to add missing pieces of this gallery in the future, and to break it into smaller sections.

Also, I welcome questions. Contact me.

Building the Invaluablist Teardrop

The first step in constructing the teardrop trailer was laying out the side template on luann plywood. This template will come into play throughout much of the project.

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My friend Bryan helped me lay out the trailer frame and he welded it together. We completed it in less than two days.

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Welding the frame. Bryan did a terrific job. Like the foundation of a house, if the frame is not square and dimensionally accurate, the errors will be evident for the rest of the project. Happily, everything here was in spec.

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Without lights or a license plate of its own, the trailer frame travels home on a utility trailer.

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Proof of concept.

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Rust-O-Leum premium spray paint coats the trailer frame; hopefully this brand and color will always be available (for touch-ups) at any home center in the land. (Trailer hitch will hold a bike rack.)

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The body profile is not a simple radius. Thin walnut strips aid laying out the curves.

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Each door curve is a radius drawn with a simple shop-made compass.

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Sandpaper wrapped around a can of spraypaint is very effective for sanding each tight radius.

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Construction of the teardrop begins with the front cargo box. I started with these smaller parts so as to not ruin big, expensive pieces of marine grade plywood with any rookie mistakes.

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Making the front cargo box doors led immediately to what felt like a final exam in router jig crafting.

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I also wanted to work with the aluminum trim early in the project, to assess my skills and its workability. This assembly is a front cargo box door.

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I purchased a set of router collars for this project; they were key to making much of what you see throughout.

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My early router skill building efforts paid off when I turned to constructing the main trailer body. Here the front wall and floor take shape.

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The side template was laminated two-deep at the door openings, for extra thickness, to use this template for making the subsequent door template. And the separate door stop template.

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A surprising amount of math goes into choosing the right router bit/collar combination, so once they were determined I always marked these combinations on the respective templates.

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The sandpaper-wrapped-around-a-paint-can trick came into use again for these doorways.

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The preliminary side template was used to cut out a master side template, made of 1/2" birch plywood. The extra thickness of this master template was necessary for guiding the router when cutting the real 3/4-inch thick sides. (Here the upside-down trailer floor and under-floor box are also visible, to the left.)

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Locating the door template for cutting the doorways.

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A simple straight edge was all that was needed for routing the wiring channels.

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Although still only two-dimensions here, much work has by now gone into these body sides. The finish is three coats of hand-brushed varnish.

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Parts and components begin to stack up, awaiting assembly.

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This obscure photo shows the foam gasket that will seal the underfloor storage box. The under-floor cargo box will be attached with bolts to these maple cleats framing the floor opening. A bead of sealant will further seal the interface of the box and the trailer floor.

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Under-floor cargo box (upside down) awaiting a bead of sealant.

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Locating the water tank brackets.

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Mocking up the five-gallon fresh- and grey-water tanks.

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Confirming the battery charger location on the over-turned trailer floor.

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The ultimate location of the charger. Note the aluminum strips sandwiched between the charger and floor, for heat dissipation. Those supports under the storage compartment are red herrings; they will be deleted later.

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Using the side template to lay out the galley area.

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The trailer side will have a water inlet, water outlet, and a "city water" inlet for campsite-supplied water.

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Many of these drawings on the side template will be transferred to the actual body sides.

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These holes will be used for marking the actual trailer sides and those marks will be used for precise positioning of the gluing cleats.

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Floor gluing cleat fabrication.

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Laying out the gluing cleats that will hold the carcass together.

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Cleats ready for glue and screws.

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Another router template: this one to cut the galley hatch opening, which needed to be square and exact.

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Gluing cleat attached to underside of the galley countertop (now with a routed sink opening).

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The outside radius of the door stops is not critical, so they were drawn with this simple jig and then cut out freehand with a reciprocating saw.

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Gluing cleats now glued in place on the body side panel.

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Biscuit joints add glue surface to solidify the structure.

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In retrospect, fewer biscuits would probably have sufficed. Note alignment markings for interior cabinets on body side.

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The trailer body reaches the third dimension with the attachment of the galley countertop to one body side.

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A momentous day when the two sides were attached to the trailer floor.

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The two sides are righted, glued and screwed, and the scale of the trailer comes into focus.

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Greg constructing his teardrop trailer.

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Beginning to look like a teardrop trailer.

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Preparing to jack the body into position on the trailer frame.

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Here the trailer body rests on the frame, awaiting the front cargo box.

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The front cargo box re-enters the construction scene.

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Plenty of gluing surface on the front cargo box.

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Front cargo box door stop detail.

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Before attaching the front cargo box, it was desirable to prefinish the interior wall; blue tape masks the gluing surfaces.

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Showing the pre-finished inside wall of the cargo box as the box itself is positioned for gluing.

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The polyurethane glue used to attach just about everything requires moisture to cure. The discolored wood results from pre-moistening the wood with a simple spray bottle.

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Measuring to cut the rear cabin wall and rear floor to the correct dimensions.

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The angled steel of the frame does not present a right angle; this mitered cut solved the problem.

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The steel rear cross beam presented much challenge because of its flared shape (instead of a squared profile). Several passes over the dado blade produced the galley floor profile needed to clear the beam.

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Note the weep holes drilled in the rear cross beam. Here they have been primed and will be painted.

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Rear cabin wall (right) and rear floor (bottom) now in place.

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This cutout will accomodate the propane tubing.

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Work commences on the the galley and rear wall.

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The interface at this curved side presents challenges.

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The rear wall trimmed to an angle to mimic the curved sides.

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Under-sink area taking shape. That pipe above the leveling jack is part of the propane stove plumbing.

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Adding cleats where the battery and electrical wiring will come together.

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The floor bulkhead flanges were built up to raise the fittings underneath, to improve drainage into the tanks.

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Galley hatch surround joinery.

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Galley hatch surround ready for gluing.

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The maple hatch surround required much detailed work.

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Detail of the maple hatch surround.

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Cutting a relief channel in the back of the galley hatch surround. I have no idea if this relief will keep it from cracking, but I took the inspiration from the profile of baseboard moldings.

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The galley hatch surround ready for installation.

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The upper interior cabinet shelf is mounted at an angle. (Here it is on its side.)

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Using the side template to establish the angle of the upper interior cabinet shelf.

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Seting up to cut the angled dado to receive the upper cabinet shelf.

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Angled shelf in place at bottom. Interior cabinet wall work begins.

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The upper interior cabinet shelf required two perforations; one is for the large GFCI-equipped air conditioner cord, the other for air conditioner condensation drainage.

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Work here on the upper cabinet separation walls; once again the side template comes into the scene.

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One interior cabinet wall after profiling.

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The lower interior cabinet attaches to the rear wall with cleats like this. This one attaches to the inside separator wall.

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The air conditioner will live here. The bottom is being prepared for fiberglassing, to feed condensate into that gravity drain hole.

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Immediate-post gluing of side cleats shows discoloration from water. The discoloration at top is fiberglass sealing the air conditioner drain hole. (I finished the floor before the rest of the interior to protect the floor while I worked.)

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A clear picture of the interior cabinet framework.

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Gluing the front cargo compartment header.

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Readying for the measured layout of the roof spars.

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The measuring tape made roof spar layout simple.

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Roof spar attachment.

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Roof spar attachment. This block and clamp setup functions as a third hand.

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The rear-most roof spars required special attention.

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Rear roof spar.

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Another router template; this one for the lower interior cabinet doors.

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Interior cabinet faces with door stops attached. Ready for polyurethane finish; blue tape masks gluing areas.

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The entire trailer was varnished by hand, all surfaces required at least three coats. Varnishing was by far the most tedious aspect of the project (but fiberglassing was my least favorite).

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This electric conduit box catches the air conditioner condensate; pvc pipe will be added to drain the condensate to daylight under the trailer.

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Marking and measuring a "story pole" to dimension the headliner material.

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Dry-fitting the headliner.

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Dry fitting the headliner and a view of the interior cabinet faces.

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These little cleats provide extra sealing area for the exterior skin and trim at the interface of the sides and roof.

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Looks like a biplane.

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Headliner after finishing, awaiting installation.

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Headliner about to go in.

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Preparing to install the headliner.

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Cinching the headliner into final gluing position.

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This J-roller aided the persuasion of the headliner into its final radius.

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Headliner curing after installation.

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Headliner installed.

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Preparing to dimension foam insulation for the roof.

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Laying out a wiring chase in foam insulation.

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Completed wiring chase, with groove for ceiling fan wires.

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The miter fence and a dado blade on the table saw made short work here.

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This insulation piece aligns with its adjoining roof spar.

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Special foamboard adhesive.

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Carefully gluing to avoid the wiring chase.

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Installing insulation with wire already placed.

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Gluing roof insulation.

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Foam insulation glue curing.

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Profiling the foam roof insulation.

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Foam roof insulation after sanding.

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Crafting the air conditioner housing uprights.

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Air conditioner prototyping.

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Prototyping the roof of the air conditioner housing.

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Locating the a/c housing uprights; a masonite spacer facilitated positioning of both uprights identically on opposite sides.

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Air conditioner uprights and roof take final form before varnish.

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Assembling the rear air conditioner support bracket.

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Commencement of wiring. These wire chases will later be covered completely with a packaging tape rated for high and low ambient temperatures (turns out, not all readily available tapes are rated as such).

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Laying out the aluminum skin for dimensioning.

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The aluminum skin with white protective film over the exterior side template.

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Inside of trailer with side skin dry fit in place before cutting out the door skin.

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Dry fitting the side skin.

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Dry fitting the side skin with door skin removed.

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The front and top skin is adhered with a poly sealant, nailed, and then covered with RV-style roof trim. I made this nailing tool out of a plumbing nipple and carriage bolt so I would not dent the aluminum skin with an errant hammer blow. This combination worked better than expected.

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Dry fitting the "RV style" trim and pre-drilling the aluminum skin.

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This photo, taken from below the trailer, shows the treatment of the aluminum skin on the bottom front of the trailer and bottom side of the cargo box. Every other hole is a weep hole.

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Most of the aluminum was cut using a reciprocating saw.

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The door openings required tight tolerances because of the thin shoulders of the aluminum trim here. Consequently the door skins were refined with a router bit.

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Attaching aluminum trim to the door edges.

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This six-inch radius was worrisome. I would not want to trim anything tighter.

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I was very relieved the trim did not buckle when rounding these tight bends. (Extra trim shown here is RV-style trim used on the side/roof interface.)

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The most difficult trim pieces to install were these pieces on the inside of the door jams.

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Bending the metal was no fun. I have little experience and no fancy tools. This basic seam bender was very helpful.

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Dry fitting the cargo box side trim.

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The original cargo box router template was used to craft the aluminum skin pieces.

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The position of that square opening was critical because its trim has such thin shoulders; this was detailed work.

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Dry fitting the front cargo box skin.

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The most elaborate jig of the project facilitated attachment of the front cargo box skin.

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Pre-drilling and dry fitting the front cargo box skin.

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After the skin sides are attached and trimmed, the bottom front will be hammered under the front of the cargo box.

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The body lifted off the frame for attachment and finishing of this skin.

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RV trim in place on rear flank, and on the front cargo box.

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Marking the license plate mount cleats to match the trailer side profile.

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Cutting the license plate mount cleats on the bandsaw.

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Positioning the prep table mounting bracket cleat.

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Positioning the prep table mounting bracket cleat.

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Gluing the prep table mounting bracket cleat.

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Confirming the location of the DC electrical buses. That bus bar above is a red herring; it was later removed and relocated.

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Two upper ground buses, the power bus at left and lighting bus at right, all above the battery space.

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Wiring before permanently attaching the rear wall.

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Locating the tail light, reverse light, and shore power outlet.

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Outside face of the rear wall. Reverse light clearance recesses did not need to penetrate the wall.

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Inside face of the rear wall.

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Rear wall top profile fits flush with trailer side.

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Pre-drilling for the license plate bracket and associated light wiring.

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License plate bracket cleats and corresponding aluminum skin.

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Wiring rough in.

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Rear wall is attached and wires are being tidied before final attachment of the exterior aluminum skin.

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Rear aluminum skin. (Markings at right were instructions for the metal shop to make the sharp bend at the top, which is not visible here.)

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Dry fitting the rear aluminum skin.

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A hammer was used for bending the rear aluminum skin under the back wall of the trailer.

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Using the seaming tool (bottom) to define the bend under the back of the trailer.

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Between the seaming tool and the rubber hammer the fold begins to form nicely.

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Prepping the trailer with poly sealant before attaching the aluminum skin.

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Dimensioning the aluminum skin for the rear of the roof. Be sure I did not cut it on that table saw; I used a reciprocating saw all around.

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Work begins to craft the galley gutters and rear hatch.

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Crafting a router template for the galley gutters.

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Using leftover wood for the galley gutters and hatch sides.

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Dimensioning the galley gutters.

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These gutters need to be about perfect to fit tightly against the hatch.

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Ultimately I crafted two sets of galley gutters; the profile was surprisingly critical and the first set was just slightly off.

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Galley gutters in place with hatch sides being used to prototype the width of the hatch spars.

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Checking clearance of the hatch "hurricane hinge" and the galley gutters.

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Prototyping the hatch framework for fit and alignment with the gutters.

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Using a scrap plywood skin to confirm the hatch framework dimensions.

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Confirming the placement of the galley gutters.

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Cutting the hatch closure rods to length.

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The hatch locks with a T-handle mechanism, like the hatch on the camper of your grandfather's pickup.

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Hatch closure rods cut to length and finished with a file.

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The edges of the plywood sheathing the hatch were all coated with fiberglass and epoxy. Working with fiberglass was my absolute least favorite part of the project.

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Dry fitting the plywood skin to the hatch frame. The edges have been covered in fiberglass and epoxy, and the all of it varnished heavily.

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The hatch frame without the skin; the routed channel will house the wiring for the hatch dome light.

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Testing the fit of the hatch on the trailer body.

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Friction tape covers the wood screws used to clamp the hatch skin to the frame.

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Commencing skinning of the hatch with aluminum.

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Scoring the aluminum before bending.

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Hemming the aluminum around the plywood substrate is a tedious process.

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More hemming of the hatch skin around the plywood substrate. It looks bad before it looks good.

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Much of the aluminum finishing is accomplished with brute force.

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Hatch skin corner detail.

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Hatch skinning progressing nicely.

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Half-way there.

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Getting close to completion.

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Confirming the skinned hatch fits as designed. It does.

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Crafting the hatch support was a black art because the action happens under the closed hatch. Here I make a template, again using the original side template. I failed at first but succeded with version 2.0.

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Tracing a paper template out of the plywood template to rough cut the hatch support.

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Fine tuning the hatch support by eyeballing it outside of the space it will occupy.

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The trailer is sheathed in aluminum but the galley countertop is stainless steel. Here the sink cutout in the galley countertop awaits the saw. Working with stainless was much more difficult than the aluminum.

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The key to cutting stainless steel sheet is cooling it with water. Choosing the right blade is also critical.

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Crafting the nerves of the 110V electrical system.

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These toggle switches are designed for installation in thin sheet metal. As such, they required extra work for this 1/2-inch thick plywood.

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Extra material removal with a forstner bit for the toggle switches and circuit breaker reduced the thickness of the plywood cabinet face.

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This cabinet wall receives the hatch support. Laying out the sliding slot is educated guesswork.

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Preparing to cut out the hatch sliding slot (with a drill and reciprocating saw, not shown).

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Roughing in the right galley cabinet. (Incidentally, a false masonite wall will cover the (obscured) A/C wiring affixed to the rear wall of this cabinet.)

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This junction box attaches to the side wall, making the positioning of this hole in this cabinet face critical.

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Galley cabinets utilize gluing cleats too.

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A masonite spacer facilitated square placement of the cabinet cleat.

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The masonite spacer was used on the opposite face as well, for a level cabinet shelf.

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Galley cabinets taking shape.

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Left galley cabinet dry fitting.

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Another router template, this time for the silverware drawer front.

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Construction of the silverware drawer.

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Silverware drawer construction.

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Silverware drawer dry fit. By this point in the project, working on anything square like this is refreshingly straightforward.

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Spraypaint lids make great templates for handle openings and the like.

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Silverware drawer.

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Prototyping the attachment of the propane stove to the stove slides.

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Furniture drawer slides animate the sliding propane camp stove.

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Copper tubing carries the propane for a short length.

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Terminating the propane line with the flaring tool.

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Propane line in final installed position.

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Stove propane hose ultimately attaches to the quick release fitting, at right. (Yes, I have the wrong end of the quick release fitting attached here, which became obvious quickly upon testing the system.)

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Confirming articulation of the camp stove.

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Stove confirmation.

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The galley taking shape.

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Dry fitting the galley bin tops and confirming the hatch support articulation.

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Fitting the doors and hinges.

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Trimmed door in place on its hinge.

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Fabricating the aluminum air conditioner cowling. This piece was intimidating.

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Top view of air conditioner, before installing the cover cowling.

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Crafting the screen for the air conditioner vent. Raw material is an inexpensive residential gutter screen.

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Installing the "Fantastic Vent".

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The windows sat in their box for some time. I found this friend inside the box when I opened them on installation day.

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Fender installation.

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Drilling the holes in this thick stainless steel fender stock was no picnic.

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Windows and fenders now in place and running out of things to attach.

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This thermal breaker lives between the battery and the charger, to shut things down if they heat up.

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Fuse block in place. Wiring at bottom connects the battery charger. (I believe in service loops.)

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Confirming the fit of the deep cycle marine battery with its related wiring.

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Galley hatch interior with the vented battery beauty panel in place.

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Animation day. Installing the fuses to begin testing the electrical systems.

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As it should be.

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Trailer interior with hardware, lacking air conditioner trim.

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Curing the adhesive/sealant at the sink. Those weights provide clamping force.

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Modifying the foam board for insulating the front cargo compartment.

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Insulating the front cargo compartment.

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Almost ready to be revealed.

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The galley, revealed.

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Confirming the dome light.

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Much anxiety when finally taking off all of the wrapping.

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The big reveal. Very exciting.

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Although lacking a hubcap here, the trailer is ready for road testing.

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Ready for road tests.

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Side table confirmation.

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So far so good.

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Much fine tuning left to do but of course this is a very momentous photo.

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Weighing in at the Fredericksburg landfill, for registration purposes.

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