A DIY Teardrop Travel Trailer

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Walls and Outer Shell

Now that the raised deck is completed, I have started planning the walls and the shell of the teardrop using the materials I had cut from the CNC machine.  I will be using cedar on the inside of the teardrop, and finishing the inner walls must be completed before raising and installing the walls.  The oak on the outside of the trailer will be done after the interior is insulated and sealed. I have the next few weekends off, and will be posting pics as I complete sections.  Let's hope the weather cooperates.

I had hoped that the CNC process would create templates that matched up more precisely.   How've, there was a few spots that needed clean up h a flush trim router bit.

I also routed a channel through the middle template wall for the marker light wiring.

In picked up the cedar planks do used a planer to clean up both sidesaddle and create boards that are all exactly the same thickness.  

I'm using my harbor freight trailer as a workbench, and laid the cedar boards out and attached the inner template.

Using a flush trim plunge router, I removed all the excess wood.

I need to cut out the door, then attach the pieces to the inner template.

Before I removed the cedar planks from the template above, I marked the position of the door with a pencil.  I used a jigsaw to cut the door sections out.  Here is the top plank with the door seciton removed with about 1/8" excess, that will need to be removed with a trim router once the boards are secured.

I plan on using PL adhesive this weekend to attach the cedar to the template and then flip the entire this over to secure with wood screws.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The electrical system on a custom teardrop can be very complex depending on the electrical components installed.  I will be doing a combination of standard 110 and 12V.  I will be putting a Air Conditioning / heater, with the standard internal and galley lighting with 12V receptacles.  You can charge your 12V battery with power from the car, or use a battery charger connected to the 110.  I may also put in a invertor and potentially solar.  I've been thinking about the electrical part of the build ever since I started, but thought I might as well get some things drawn.  These designs will most likely change as I go, and will look for input from the TNTTT.com forum.   Please note that these drawings are the initial draft and will change.

Wiring Considerations:


  • Internal Power Outlet
  • Battery Charger
  • Galley Power Outlet
  • A/C - Heater


Trailer Wiring

  • Brake Wiring  (Blue/Black)
  • Marker Lights
  • Brake Lights
  • License Plate Light

Initial schematic for lighting:

I thought that creating a drawing that had visual representations of the actual electrical components would be a good idea, so I came up with this mock up. 

I'll be hiding some of my electrical wiring beneath the raised flooring, and I'll be using these junction boxes along with blue cable conduit to hide and organize the wires.  I've added plastic cable glands to some of the junction boxes where the cable will exit.  This will serve as strain relief as well as preventing moisture from getting in for the wiring that goes to the outside.  Wiring for the trailer brakes as well as brake and marker lights will also go through a stainless steel cable gland.  Probably necessary, but my teardrop OCD kicks in when it comes to ensuring everything is organized properly.

14 Gauge wiring is being used for the marker lights and trailer brake wiring.

I'm using a mesh sleeve for the exposed section of wiring that leaves the underside of the deck.

I'm running the 110V wiring in a separate run up the middle of the raised deck.

I'm also going to be installing a Clarion stereo in the cabin of the teardrop, and the speaker and remote wiring back to the galley.

I created a wire whip using some mesh wire cover and heat shrink.  This group of wires will go from the trailer tongue back through the 2x2 tubing and into the raised deck.

Near the front of the trailer tongue on the middle 2x2 frame tubing, I drilled a hoe big enough for this group of wires to be fished through the tubing.  I will use a grommet to help protect the wiring and seal the hole.

On the top side where the group of wires enters the raised deck, I chipped a bit of the plywood down and added a large washer to the Stainless Steel wiring flange.  This will be secured by bolts and epoxy.

Using the cookie cutter approach, I filled epoxy just over the rim of the washer which sealed the entry point.

Underneath, the wiring is protected by some left over blue conduit and heat shrink as it enters the 2x2 frame tubing leading up to the exit hole.

The wiring is a mess as it converges to the middle of the front of the raised deck. 

Somewhat cleaned up, you can see that the marker light wiring and trailer brake wiring go through the conduit to the outside edges.  The top conduit has the radio remote and speaker wires for the galley speakers.  The middle blue conduit has wires for power to the 12V receptacle, USB outlet, and return wiring for the galley light switch.  The bottom conduit has the wiring for the 110V outlet.  Holes will be cut into the top deck to allow these wires to pass through, but this will be within the space of the front cabinet, so hidden.

Stainless flange to get the brake wiring from inside the deck to the outside.

The marker light wiring willl be routed through the wood frame.

View the Raised Deck Page to view more images of how the cables were routed inside the deck:

You can see once the top deck was installed, the cables will come up through the deck within conduit into the area which will be the front cabinet, hidden behind an access panel.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Miscellaneous Stuff

I know that it's a bit early to start talking about the galley, since I'm not even done with the deck yet.  However, I'm starting to pick up items that I know that I'll need before the end of the build, so that I can spread throughout the year.  I will use this thread as a showcase for the miscellaneous items I'm picked up along the build journal.

1.  YETI!  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would spent this kind of money for a cooler.  However, after doing much research, and knowing that I wanted my Teardrop to by top notch, I splurged.  I waited until the semi-annual REI Member sale so that I could get 20% off a single, regular priced item.  IT was still expensive.  I tried to put a link to the Tundra 65 cooler on the REI site, but it doesn't look like they sell them anymore.  I'm excited to try the cooler: It's bear proof, and will keep my goodies cold for extended periods of time, and is compatible with dry ice!

2.  I wanted to also be part of the cool kids lantern club, and get an official Coleman lantern.  Should be a welcome item at the campsite.  I also purchased this off REI using my yearly dividend and discount coupon.  It's a Dual-Fuel 2-Mantle lantern that runs on white gas, or gasoline.

3.  I knew that I wanted a vanity plate for my Teardrop before I even started the build.  I checked the online availability website for the one I wanted.  I didn't tell anyone what I planned on getting, as I couldn't order the plate until I had the actual trailer ready for registration.  I was patient and hoped that no one else registered for it before I had the chance.  Exciting to know that I got the one I wanted, and it arrived yesterday!  The trailer is now officially renamed the Teardrop Explorer, and my plate says EXPLORE.

4.  Want to get off the grid, but still be able to charge your USB devices?  This BioLite stove lets you burn sticks to cook your meals, but also has a charging port for your electronic devices.  Fun!

5.  Jumped on the bandwagon and got myself a skillet.  Not just any Skillet, but a pimp Wisconsin-shaped skillet for the teardrop.  Can't wait to Casserole this thing up!

Raised Deck

I haven't posted in a while, but I have been bending wood.  The problem that I have is space and time.  I don't have the space to do more than one thing at a time, and then finding the time to dedicate to the teardrop.  I moved the steam bending template off the trailer temporarily so that I could work on the deck.

The length and width of my teardrop is bigger than a standard sheet of plywood, so I needed to connect a few pieces together.  I chose to use a biscuit jointer, and then use fiberglass and epoxy to strengthen the joint.    In this image, I'm using a flush trim router bit to cut the plywood to the exact size of the trailer.

Before I routed the plywood down, I attached it to the trailer frame using stainless steel carriage bolts, washers, nuts, and zinc torque washers.  The torque washer has mini pins that gouge into the wood, preventing the carriage bolt from spinning, thereby getting a tighter turn on the lock nut.

I tried to find stainless torque washers without success.  So, I painted mine with primer.  These will never be exposed to weather, so probably a worthless step, but I did it anyway.

Here is the fill sized primary deck, sanded down on the joint.  I saved a few bucks by getting UV coated birch plywood, but I had to sand this outer coating off so that the epoxy would have something to stick to.  If I had to do it again, I would have payed the couple extra dollars for the normal birch plywood.  You can see the attachment carriage bolts surrounding the frame.

This is going to be a raised deck, with the electrical and ventilation running underneath a secondary deck.  I'm using 1x2" poplar boards in between the 2 decks.  Here are the outside edges clamped temporarily into place.

Fiberglass cloth taped down and ready for Epoxy

After the epoxy is applied, the fiberglass cloth becomes transparent.  Once this dries, I will flip the board over and repeat on the other side.  This should create a very strong joint, using a combination of Biscuits and fiberglass to hold all 3 sections together.

I'm also planning on running the AC ventilation in between the raised deck.  There isn't enough room simply by using the 1/2" poplar boards, so I used a Dado bit to remove some material in the deck where the vent till go.

Since plywood is 3/4", and I removed almost 1/2" of material, the sheet is a little thin around this area, so I chose to use fiberglass to strengthen the lowered section.

Next Steps is to remove all of the bolts holding the sheet to the trailer, flip it over, and seal the joints on the other side with epoxy and fiberglass.  The entire underside will be sanded, and then I'll use a truck bed liner to seal anything that will be exposed to the open road.

Fiberglass and epoxy finished, so now the deck is sealed on both sides.  Having used biscuits to glue the plywood sections together along with the fiberglass should create a strong deck.  I decided to use Herculiner truck bed liner to seal the bottom of the deck.  It will take at least 2 coats, but and hope to finish tomorrow night.  Then I'll be able to flip the deck over and permanently attach to the trailer.

Flipped the deck over tonight and started on the raised deck and electrical conduit.  I used 2" poplar boards as the strips to support the upper deck.  These were attached with 2" Stainless steel screws.  The conduit was positioned and holes were cut to accommodate the pipes, which will house the trailer wiring.  

Wood support strips were placed around the routed A/C return, as well as the trenches for the 110V electrical wiring and 12V for the galley.    I originally thought I would paint this, but realized that no on will ever see this anyway once the top deck is attached.

The aluminum strip at the back is extra support for the spare tire holder.  Running the wires through the conduit will be the next step, as well as cutting insulation for the blank areas.

I decided to paint the interior of the raised deck to help keep everything sealed.  Not sure why I picked brown, as no one will see it.  

I'm running some of the electrical cabling through the raised deck.  Click here to see the electrical thread.

Pink insulation was added to the gaps in the deck.  I also used a rain gutter pipe as the air return for the A/C unit.

I may use spray foam to seal the gaps in the remainder of the deck, but I still have some electrical items to complete first.

The spare tire mount was installed on top of an aluminum strip to give additional support.

Using expandable spray foam, I sealed the remainder of the deck for insulation.

I used a hacksaw blade and a surfoam to remove the excess foam.  Once the foam is level with the raised deck sides, then the top deck can be installed.

The top deck was installed, and wires pulled through the top, along with the air return.

Close up of the air return and wiring.  Speaker and stereo remote, trailer light and brake wiring, 12V to Galley, and 110V to Galley.

The back part of the top deck also needed holes for the air return and wiring.

The top deck consists of 3 sheets of plywood, with the one piece in the middle being the smallest.  Once I finished installing that last middle piece, I filled all the screw holes and sanded down the joints.  I originally was going to use some flooring material on top of this layer, but decided that it was unnecessary as most of it would just be hidden underneath a Mattress anyway.  I will paint it as the last step in the raised deck.  The entire deck is very sturdy now, and a very solid base for the teardrop.r