I think I’ve mentioned wanting to build a Vardo before. My plan was originally to do a remake of the trailer we used for the trip to Alaska when I was a kid. My grandfather built that trailer with my dad and it was a sweet little micro-camper before micro-campers were popular. We pulled it with a Rambler station wagon over the Alaskan Highway when the highway was still a rough, all gravel road.
Yep, that’s me at the table.
Searching the webs for construction ideas and alternate possibilities after a friend suggested a teardrop trailer, I was inspired by Paleotool’s “The Vardo” postings. Since my first visit a couple years ago he’s posted additional pictures, more information, links to other Vardos being built, and received great discussion in the comments section. At that time I began looking for a trailer I could get cheap to strip down for this project. I intend to use his pictures, along with those of other builders, to construct mine. Just a few weeks ago, my neighbor gave me his old trailer. Last weekend I stripped it down to the frame:
I love the use of that horseshoe at the axle to support the tongue tube. I don’t know if it was originally used for luck, convenience, or both. I’m going to go with “both” and hope the luck this trailer has had continues. It was, after all, good luck that brought this trailer to me.
Originally a plywood-sided box utility trailer, having stripped it down this far it looks like the frame is pretty solid, well, maybe not “pretty”. Clearly, I have some rust removal to do. I’ll also need to replace the wheel bearings, according to the previous owner, but that’s simple and straight-forward work that I’ve done before. Then I can start building my Vardo.
I had planned to make a metal framework that would bolt onto the existing trailer frame to serve as a way of extending my “foundation” from 4’x8’ to something closer to a 5’x8’ base. The original construction accomplished this through the use of 2”x4” wooden cross members bolted to the frame in the above picture. Nailed to that was tongue and groove 1”x4” laid out lengthwise and finished with 1/4” plywood fastened on top of that. I’d rather have a metal framework extending the base than rely on wood for that purpose. After talking with BS (my brother-in-law) I’ve decided to weld whatever metal framework I decide on to the existing frame instead of using bolts. According to him that would be more solid than bolting. I hadn’t thought of a single sheet of metal as the base, which a good friend suggested, but I like the idea it’d protect the wood from underneath. I might combine the two ideas: metal cross-members welded to the frame to extend the width topped by a thin layer of sheet metal. That would provide me the larger support to my flooring and let me use a thinner piece of sheet metal to provide the wanted protection underneath the wood.
Then on top of that I could lay my flooring frame, bolting it to the sheet metal with brackets. I’m thinking of doing a tongue-and-groove floor on top of the floor framing, but I think I’ll still need a plywood subfloor for a solid feel to the floor itself. A lot depends on the spacing of my floor’s framing, naturally. Or I may even get lazy and just go with a nice, finished plywood floor, period.
So much to think about while doing the boring rust removal. That’s part of the fun, too, though: dreaming of my ideal little camper, what I’ll build into it, and what I’ll be doing with it when it’s done.
All in all, this should be a fun project and I’ll be getting some exercise outdoors. Mostly I figure I’ll be working on this on the weekends, but I’m hoping to have at least something I can camp in by the end of summer. Even if that’s only four walls, a floor, and a roof I’ll consider that goal met. It’ll be so nice to go to, say, Leslie Gulch, and not have to waste too much time 😉 setting up camp for crashing after a long astrophotography session. It’ll be nice, too, to be able to just finish up the photography, temporarily put things inside the Vardo, and just go to bed instead of driving out.
Hopefully, too, it’ll induce my wife to join me on more of these outings since she’ll have a comfortable place to sleep while I’m up taking pictures or observing through the telescope.
And of course, it’ll also be a nice way to get away from home for some writing in expansive surroundings and luxurious comfort. Or going fishing. Or helping with ham radio events away from home. Or….
Can you tell I’m looking forward to the time spent on this project? And afterward!