How I Built our Tiny Camper

“I’m computer tech, not a carpenter!” (words never spoken on an old episode of Star Trek). However, fitting for today’s outing here on the site. I’m going to walk you through some of what we have done to take the plans we created in this post and bring them to life. This time, we’re turning them into something more substantial and real. We need to have someplace to sleep on the road. So let me get cracking on explaining how we built our tiny camper.

The structure we have planned needs to hold many items and also a mattress and our weight on top. I also want to make sure it is sturdy and can hold up to some abuse. We are taking this on the road after all. So let’s talk about materials for just a bit.

I know we are going to be using wood for this project. So there are a few options here. We could build a frame from 2×4’s and the like. Which would be cheap and easy to work with. Both good things. Also on my list is plywood as it is going to be at least the structure’s top material. It comes in many thicknesses and finishes too. Lastly we could use a nice solid hardwood for the entire project. I’m going to cross that one off the list though. It would look nice, and give us a great look. It would also be very expensive to get what we needed.

Since we have a lot of boxes that we want to build to hold things, we are going to be using mostly plywood for the project. In two distinct thicknesses as well. For most of the structure I’ll be using ¾” sheets. Two sheets to be exact. I have a master planner in Gennai. Which means she was able to get all the pieces to fit in just two 4 foot by 8 foot sheets. In addition we are going to be building the structure tops out of ½” plywood. For this I’m going to go for the pre-sanded as it will save me time and sandpaper costs. Still though, we only need one sheet of this for the top pieces. I already have two smaller 2 foot by 4 foot panels from the old organizer to use for some extras i have planned.

You have to understand a few things if you are undertaking this on your own. First, you need to be sure you know how to use your tools so you can use them safely and not get hurt. Second, you need to make sure you have at least one new tool or something for that tool that you don’t have so you can get a tool from the store. This is of course to appease the merciless construction gods. For me it was new router bits.

Ahh, the smell of fresh tools and wood. Time to just start ripping out sheets of plywood so you can get this bad boy together, right? Hold up there skippy, you are missing something. What about fasteners and that kind of thing? We got ours at the same time as the wood. For the most part stainless steel in appropriate depths for what they are holding. For more secure spots, deck screws.

Also needed is finishing materials. We chose to go with a nice deck stain. It’s a great redwood color. So inspiring, as we hope to make that stop in California. And more important we are traveling in the out-of-doors with a dog. You just kind of need stuff to be waterproof. Also happens with small children so we are told.

Okay, now we can start the build. The fun part at long last! I can feel the saw giving me power as I hold it in my…. whats that now dear? You want me to clean the car? And re-measure? I already have the saw and the saw horses out and….Yeah but….okay. I’ll clean the car out and double check my measurements before I cut.  Seriously though this is an important step. Not the funnest step, but an important one none the less.

Okay now we can let the sawdust fly, right? You’re darn straight! And the lines you cut should be too! This can be tricky, so use a good straight edge to make those lines, and if possible measure from the factory edges. This will make life so much easier. Trust me.

My suggestion here is to do like I did. Start at one end of the thing and slowly build it up as you go. At least for the most part that is. I started at the back and quickly had the outsides and shelves all cut out. This was easy and took only a day with both of us working together. Check measurements and go slow. You want it to be right.

We moved on to that fun part. We have those two areas on ours that need to store clothes and shoes. I want the shoe storage on the bottom and the top compartment to separated. For this my trusty router and bright shiny mortise bit are going to make a nice grove so the pieces can be placed inside each other for maximum stability.

Now here is where we made a mistake. We had it all cut and then stained it as separate pieces. And they all warped. I wish we would have put it together first and stained it after instead. I think it would have looked better, and it would have warped less. It all still looks pretty good though.

Finally there were some changes to the design that came as we attached the top pieces. We found that the center section was in need. In need of more structure that is. I may or may not have fallen through the top of it. But Gennai was prepared. She had Neosporin and bandaids all ready. Lessons learned. Always test it yourself and never risk injury to your loved one. Hopefully not to yourself either.

All-in-all I think the build went well. We took our time with it and the whole project came together in a couple of weeks. We had other preparations to make. So really the time was well spent. I think also this is where the stain after it is built makes sense. We put two coats of stain in areas that will never see daylight again. Which is a waste of time.

Now that we have it together and some stuff packed, we need to test drive it. We need to find the right storage containers and decorate the interior. Those are the realms of Gennai though, as that was her project to be the lead on. So I’ll see you all again as I cover our test trip in the back of our new tiny camper.

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