Project Spotlight: Phil’s Teardrop Trailer

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Phil Roberts has been hard at work on his custom teardrop trailer for months and has been enjoying building things his whole life. This US Navy Veteran, kayaker, and traveler who grew up in Louisiana moved to Oregon in 2009.

How did you find out about DIYcave?
I used to go to Pack It to find stuff to help build out my van, then one day all the stuff was gone. Pack It was gone, and someone told me they were turning the place into a membership-based workshop. Later on a trip to Japan, I learned about maker space which led me to the High Desert Maker Mill. The potential was there for HDMM to become the place I was looking for, but while HDMM was taking years to get going, the DIYcave opened its doors and provided a space and tools to work.

What inspired you to build a teardrop trailer?
I was inspired to build Lil’ Boof because I couldn’t find one that I liked. After spending several months working to get my van up and running, I decided to buy an SUV (Jeep Grand Cherokee) and a trailer — but I couldn’t find a used trailer for the price that I liked. I’ve been aware of the teardrop trailers for awhile and witnessed Tiffin build one at the DIY Cave, and I knew that it was possible.

How did you prepare for your project?
I spent lots of time researching teardrop trailers on the internet. Looking at what was commercially available and what other people had built and time exploring ideas in Sketchup. There are about nine different designs that I considered along with the one that I finally decided on.

What are some of the skills you learned at DIYcave?
Measure everything, twice. Write it down! Don’t just make cuts based on your plan. Measure the actual build against the plan. Jigs are your friend. 20 minutes building one can save you hours later.

People were accommodating at DIYcave. Each member of the staff and a few of the members have shown me a few little tricks to help build this project.

What were the easy and hard parts of your project?
Painting gave me the biggest worry. I didn’t know where I would do it or how it would turn out. Bending plywood around the curves was harder than I thought it would be. I now know that there are better ways to do it. Building a jig, for example, to pre-bend the pieces to conform to the curves. Wiring was another headache. In retrospect, I’m not sure having the wires embedded in the walls is the best method. If I were doing this part over I would probably have used a trunk and conduit method to run and hide the wires. I keep thinking about how to make things changeable if my idea isn’t so good in execution.

Favorite project you witnessed (besides yours) while hanging out at DIYcave?
There are other projects??? I’ve seen quite a few projects pass through the doors of the Cave. Damien and Anne were always working the metal, and Peter, Tim, and Dustin working on their respective wood projects. Matt’s Tiny House was pretty awesome. It would be really hard to pick a favorite, and part of that is probably myopia developed from working on Lil’ Boof, trying to get it completed by a certain date creates some serious focus.

What advice would you give someone who wants to join DIYcave and start a project?
Just start. Think that the project is too big, then break it down into smaller parts. Find one that feels manageable, come in, learn how to do that part, then find the next. Most of the trouble that I had building my teardrop ended up being in my head. When it came down to building the teardrop trailer, solutions to problems came pretty easily. One good example was when I was laying up the frame. Originally I had planned to just put it together on the floor of the shop but quickly realized that there was no way it would be straight and square if that’s what I did so I had to design and build a jig to build it on. That worked out well because I could move the project around, and the jig became the platform that I build the entire body on.

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