Desert Dawg - Building the Cabin
Part II

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January 28-29, 2006

Although there is still a lot of work to be done on the exterior of the trailer, it's time to start working on the interior. I really want to install the front window and roof vent. In order to install them I have to get the interior paneling in place. I've had the side walls cut for quite some time but wasn't quite ready to install them. Now that the exterior is painted I won't be afraid of getting any of that paint on the paneling.

Here I am test fitting the front panel.

As I've talked about before, I have decided to spray the Minwax Polycrylic finish on the wall and ceiling panels. So far I have sprayed both side walls, the front wall and the door panels. I am *very* pleased with how they have come out. The finish sprays on easily and looks great. Another benefit is the fact that I can clean the spray gun with water. That's a real convenience. I was quite intimidated by the though of using the spray gun but it has been very easy.

I'm applying three coats of finish. After each coat the grain is less visible. I think it would take one more coat to get a completely smooth finish. I'm looking to protect the wood rather than get a furniture finish, so three coats it is.

Here is the passenger side cabin wall after the second coat of finish.

More parts drying! I had to be careful where I stepped to make certain I didn't end up with a footprint in the middle of one of the walls. Sometimes being a clutz isn't a good thing!

I would like to say that installing the wall panels went without a hitch. After all, I had cut them to fit precisely into place. Did I fail to mention that I installed the vinyl *after* I cut the walls precisely the right size? You probably see where I'm going with this. Not realizing that there were problems ahead, I applied the polyurethane adhesive onto all of the wood framing and confidently started to put the wall panel into place. For some reason it didn't want to fit! Had the trailer shrunk? Maybe the panelling had grown. Suddenly the light dawned and I knew just where I messed up. Stay cool and calm. Step 1 is to panic. Step 2 is to yell things I won't repeat here. I hadn't quite gotten to Step 3 (crying) when I realized that I had my little hand plane. Although there was glue all over everything, I was able to use the plane to cut off enough to make it fit. Whew! That was a close call. Once the glue is applied, you only have a certain amount of time to resolve any problems you run across.

Here is the first wall panel in place. I really like the natural wood finish.

I was able to get both side walls finished!! Unfortunately it was too dark to get any good pictures by the time I wrapped up. I'll take more pictures next time I work on the trailer. I will say though that the interior looks really nice. I never thought I could make something come out as good as this is. It's not perfect by any means, but I'm as proud as I can be.

February 05, 2006

I only have one day to work on the trailer this weekend, so I wanted to get as much done as I can. I completed and installed the ventilation fans in both walls. Then I sprayed another coat of finish on the front panel. After it had dried I put it in place and installed both reading lights.

As promised, here is a picture of both walls and the front panel.

It's really encouraging to see the interior coming together. It seemed like I'd never get past the styrofoam insulation phase. I know that there is a lot left to do, but it seems like I've made some good progress in the last month or so. My goal is to be able to attend the Redwood teardrop gathering at the end of July. That should be an achievable goal.

February 11-12, 2006

I'm getting anxious to get some of the "hardware" installed into the trailer. High on my list is to get the front widow and roof vent in place. Time restrictions this weekend allowed me only enough time to install the front window. Still, I'm really happy to have that task out of the way.

I'm holding the panel in place so I can mark it to cut the window opening.

It's late in the evening but the window opening is cut in the front paneling.

This shows how much light that the window is going to provide.

I put fresh putty all around the outside rim of the window before setting it in place for the last time. The interior trim ring pulls the widow tight against the trailer and compresses the putty so the installation is water proof.

February 18-20, 2006

Here are the ceiling panels. They have been cut to size and sprayed with three coats of Minwax Polycrylic. I am getting ready to lay out the vent opening, fan switch, and the access hole for the overhead wiring.

Here's the ceiling in place.

Here's a shot of everything all buttoned up. Between the overhead light and the vent is the switch that controls the ventilation fans.

I think I'm ready to close off the cabin. This is a huge milestone for me! Having the bulkhead between the cabin and the galley is really going to be neat. For the first time I will be able to see both spaces without having to use my imagination.

You may notice that the bottom part of the framing looks a little funny but there is a method to my madness! I want to use a real queen size mattress in the trailer and I won't be able to get it through either of the front doors. I'm going make lower panels that can be removed so I can get the mattress in or out. It won't be as simple as opening a door because I will have to remove most of the lower galley, but I still think it's a good idea to build in some form of access.

It's starting to look pretty good. This is one of the last pictures where you can see the sleeping cabin from the back of the trailer.

I'm test fitting the panel. It really defines the galley space.

I've cut the divider panel so I can permanently attach the upper portion and make the removable lower one.

The inner panel is glued in place. Now the bulkhead is starting to come together.

I've added the insulation to the passenger's size. I'll do the other side once I get some more of the electrical system completed.

November 25, 2006

This is a milestone!! I now have a mattress in the trailer! I started hitting the mattress stores and found that there is no such a thing as an inexpensive mattress. Ouch! Still, I have reached the point where I have to get it in the cabin so I can close everything up and start building the interior cabinets.

There is more interior work to do so the plastic stays on the mattress a while longer.

Beau is going to be sleeping with me so he wanted to see if the mattress was comfortable.

And NO, I didn't sleep in the trailer yet. I'm going to resist the temptation to spend the night in the driveway. I want the maiden voyage to be the fist time I sleep in it!

What would Thanksgiving weekend be without a bit of "Black Friday" shopping? I scored two sets of these speakers for $50 a pair. I'm going to install an inexpensive car CD player so I can listen to a bit of music. These should be just right for the small interior of the cabin.

February 17-19, 2006

It's time to focus on the interior shelves. Although they are going to be very simple I am going to try to do a nice job on them. I am going to use poplar for the framing and 1/2 plywood for the shelf surface. The face will be cut from birch ply. Before I closed up the walls, I added bulkheads so I would have something to screw the shelf frames to.
The first step was to measure and mark the locations of the bulkheads. Blue painters tape is ideal because it doesn't leave sticky residue on the wall.

This is a shelf after all so the next step is to get out the Kreg pocket hole jig. I didn't buy many tools for the build, but this is one that paid for itself over and over again. I would never try to build without one.

I used clamps to hold everything together while I drive the screws. I'll pull the clamps off and let the glue dry. I put wax paper under each corner so the frame didn't get glued to the plywood.

Now the frames are dry. I'll sand them well and apply a couple of coats of polyurethane.

#%@&^* I dropped a whole can of polyurethane on the floor and it splattered everywhere. The only good thing about this is that I am using the latex based poly. I used a hose to spray out the garage floor.

Here are the shelves with a coat of primer. After the primer will come a couple of coats of light brown latex spray paint.

At this point I have used the router with a flush-cut bit to cut the shelf to the size of the frame. The shelf has also been painted. Lastly, I glued and screwed them in place. The shelf is strong and relatively light weight.

I'm using the board to hold up one end of the shelf while I attach the on the other end. You have to be resourceful when working single handed.

The first shelf is in place. Now to start on the second.

Both of the shelves in place! I've already put them to use.

The weather forecast calls for rain and the clouds are moving in. Fortunately I got the shelves in before the storm hit.

Here's the radio and speakers that I'm going to install. These will be mounted on the front of the shelves. They will occupy some of my storage space but will provide some much enjoyed music. I can't wait to hear it.

February 24-25, 2007

I really want to get the cabin wrapped up. I had been procrastinating because I just didn't know how to make the shelves and front face. It's going pretty fast now that the light went on and I can envision how to put it all together. The actual front face of the cabinets is going to be a challenge though. There are some thin sections that are going to be a challenge. Let's see how it goes....

I'm laying out the radio and 12v electrical outlets. I don't want to waste space so I'm trying to keep it compact.

I've installed some vertical blocks so I have something to glue the cabinet face to.

The cabinet face is the most intricate piece in the whole trailer and I would like it to look nice. The birch plywood is a bit tricky to cut if you want nice clean edges. Up to this point I have cut all of the plywood with a utility knife but the cabinet face is going to be cut from 1/4 ply and that's just too think to do by hand. I've also tried to cut with a jig saw and it leaves a horrible edge. Some of the guys on the teardrop discussion group talk about making a pattern and using their router to cut out the actual part. Maybe it's time to learn that technique.

This looks like a ordinary piece of strand board, but it's actually a template for my cabinet face. Although you can't see them in the photo, I copied all of the relevant dimensions onto the wood.

I marked the location of the shelves on the blue tape so I could make sure that the openings were in the right location.

I have cut out all of the openings just like they are going to be in the trailer.

Here is the important part. This router bit has a bearing on the bottom of it and it cuts the exact width of the bearing.

The bottom piece of wood is the template that the router bearing rides on. The upper piece of wood is birch plywood. I just push the router and let the pattern guide where I cut.

I found how the hard way that the pattern and plywood need to be clamped securely together! The birch moved while the pattern stayed still. This wasn't the only mess-up, but the third try was a charm.

Two our of three openings are cut. Now I started to get worried that I would mess up and ruin everything. Ahhh, the pressure! I can't take it!

Ok. So I didn't mess up this one. Next is a couple of coats of polyurethane.

Hey, that looks nice! A little trim around the edges and it will look great.

March 3-4, 2007

Here is a photo of the cabinet face with all of the electrical in place. I wish I would have pre-wired for the speakers so it would look nicer. Still, it sounds good and there will be "stuff" stored up in these shelves so it won't be all that visible anyway.

I still need to install my XM mount. Apart from some cleanup, I'm done with the cabin electrical.

March 10-11, 2007

Now that the radio is in place and the 12v outlets are hooked up, I'm thinking that I want a place to set the portable DVD player so I can watch a movie before bed or if the weather gets bad. I may want to use my laptop computer or just have a place to sit my coffee.

Space is tight on the inside of one of these little trailers so I'm going to tuck the shelf right underneath the cabinets. The local Lowes had a heavy-duty keyboard slide that was just the right size.

Here are the keyboard slides and the poplar side rails that I will attache to the bottom of the cabinets.

I'm attaching the wooden side rails right to the bottom frame of the cabinet. I could have attached the keyboard slides directly to the existing cabinet frame but it would not have looked as nice.

Here are the heavy-duty slides mounted in place.

The front face of the pull-out shelf. This is the same poplar that I used to build the side pieces from. I cut each end to 45° so there wouldn't be any sharp corners to hit my leg on. I also used the router with a round-over bit to round the edges. Ok, I admit I'm a clutz.

I've cut the shelf and set it in place to make sure that everything is going to fit. I'd rather fix a mistake now than to have to throw the finished shelf away because I made a dumb mistake. Two points about the front face. First, the front face is wider that the shelf so when the shelf is slid in it will hide the hardware and side rails. Second, the front face hangs down below the shelf so you have a finger-pull by reaching under the shelf to pull it out to the extended position.

I've cut the shelf and set it in place to make sure that everything is going to fit. I'd rather fix a mistake now than to have to throw the finished shelf away because I made a dumb mistake. Two points about the front face. First, the front face is wider that the shelf so when the shelf is slid in it will hide the hardware and side rails. Second, the front face hangs down below the shelf so you have a finger-pull by reaching under the shelf to pull it out to the extended position.

I borrowed a biscuit jointer from a friend so I can attach the front face to shelf. I've never used one of these before, but it works pretty well.

I've painted the shelf and now it's time to glue the whole thing together. Can't have too many clamps.

Here's the tray pulled out and ready to use.

The shelf tucks away right under the cabinets. I didn't want a "clunky" shelf and I think I did OK.

May 5-6, 2007

Can you believe it?? I actually have sheets and pillows in the Dawg!! It's starting to look like a real camping trailer!

I want to have a little bit of storage on each side of the cabin for small personal items like glasses or a small flashlight. I found these neat mesh bags at the local sporting goods store and they look like they will be just perfect. Too bad they didn't come in green or light brown to match the interior.

I've inserted grommets into the back of the pocket so I can screw it to the wall.

Here is the pocket ready to be installed.

A convenient place to keep a few small personal items. The bags were only a few dollars each so the price was right. As you might guess, I put one on each side.

The next thing I needed to do was to install door stops so the doors will not swing around and hit the side of the trailer. If the louver windows are open, a gust of wind could slam the door against the side of the trailer scratching the paint and breaking the window. The most common solution is a strip of nylon webbing screwed to the wall and to the door.

I had a friend pick up a tan seatbelt out of the junkyard when he was there. I cut off a long length and threw it in the washing machine to clean it up. I cut two pieces to length, one for each door. I folded each end over for a double thickness where the screws go through. A big squirt of hot glue held it folded over while I finished the strap. Next I heated a piece of clothes hanger over the stove and burned two screw holes in each end. Lastly, I used some stainless steel screws and upholstery washers to hold it in place.

June 16, 2007

The back of the radio looks pretty ugly just hanging out there.

I made a little box to go around the back of the radio and hide everything. Looks a lot better doesn't it?