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Cargo Trailer Takes Off-Grid Off The Radar

With growing uncertainty in the nation, global strife, the fall of the American currency, and a host of other scenarios, the rise of the Prepper is growing as well. And for each prepper seems to come an idea of what housing for an emergency situation might look like. That coupled with the discontentment of RVers for where they have to stay may very well be the incentive for folks like Bill Southworth of Hybrid Propulsion for building what is now becoming known as the stealth camper or travel trailer. His particular build ended up being one of the slickest 80 sq. ft. transforming cargo trailers to date.

Stealth 1

Stealth Trailer for Off-The Grid Living

Turns out the precipice behind Bill’s build was – as he puts it – “Traveling with a Rottweiler means you stay either in really awful roadside motels or very high end hotels that treat the dog as a guest. He “decided that we needed a way to carry our hotel with us on our journeys. I checked out all the obvious travel trailer options and decided that they were either too large, too ugly, too inefficient, or too poorly constructed. I decided that I could do better.” And better he did. At just 16′ long this former horse trailer nicknamed “Son of a Buggy” is a solar powered gem that features some of the most clever and multi-faceted interior options one could imagine.

Stealth 2

Inside the Stealth Trailer

The walls, at first site, seem blank and sterile even. But interior designers would call them Scandanavian-inspired in that they are minimalist with high function yet little decor. The idea Bill insists is to make the space appear larger than it is by keep lines clean and make all furnishings and adornments invisible. The walls themselves are made from a honeycomb-type material that is recycled cardboard and covered with a thin birch veneer. The floors are recycled, compressed Mulberry bushes from Sustainable Flooring of Boulder, CO and is actually more durable  and more hard the Teak.

Stealth 4

Inside the stealth trailer

To make the trailer more comfortable and homey the sleeping arrangements are for a king size bed while the bed consists of one stationary twin which doubles as a sofa. When the bed is stowed, a drop down table can be slid into place to make a dining area for four. The entertainment system is a 26″ Samsung LED TV swings out above the bed for Apple TV or HD DirecTV. The printer , computers and WiFi storage is in the cabinet next to the TV. This level of technology is something that is becoming more predominant in tiny houses as even Tim and Shannon’s tiny house features a retractable movie screen with a HD projector and a surround sound system.

Stealth 6

Kitchen area inside the stealth trailer

Southworth designed and built his little cabin on wheels to use solar, battery, and power management and it’s designed to store for on board storage so that Bill and his wife can go for weeks off the grid and even off the radar!

Your Turn!

  • Would you want to disappear entirely with your tiny house?

Via

Building My Closet For My Tiny House On Wheels

One thing I talk about a lot is taking care to design your storage in your tiny house very carefully.  Making your storage work for you is very important because in such a small space, to not have an ideal setup for you can make things tough.

How To Design A Closet For A Tiny House

tiny house closet design

When I first approached designing my main closet, I knew that I’d be storing mainly clothing, a few containers of office items and toiletry items.  So with this in mind I knew that the bulk of the space should be dedicated to clothes.  Not only should it be dedicated to clothes, but designed to suit the way I store my clothes.

I have written about my dislike for clothes in general, obviously I need something to wear, but trends, fashions and shopping is something I could do without.  For me I don’t like anything that needs to be hung.  I basically have one jacket, one suit, and one button down dress shirt.  I measured how much this takes up and it only needed 4 inches of hanging rod, I added 2 inches for good measure and that’s all I dedicated to hanging items.  I much prefer to have things stacked or piled if it won’t wrinkle too bad.  So for that me that meant drawers.

I needed one drawer for socks and underwear, one drawer for shirts, one drawer for pants and shorts and another for other miscellaneous items.   I then needed a single drawer that was over sized for my dirty laundry until laundry day.  This totaled 5 drawers in total, with one being much larger than the others.

 

 

 

So here is a video which in the beginning shows of my closet space in its raw form.

Building The Dresser Cabinet To Store Clothes In My Tiny House On Wheels

From there I built the outside walls and the main interior wall out of 3/4″ birch ply.  Right now its in a raw form, I will later face it out with 1×2 trim parts.  After that I decided to take a crack at building the drawers.  This was also the most technical part of the closet because I wanted to make the drawers from scratch and to do that I wanted to use a technique called dove tail joints.  The exterior of the drawer unit was made of more birch ply, but the drawers themselves were made of poplar.  I should note, I am brand new at this stuff, I’ve never done it before, so its certainly not perfect; I just call the mistakes “charm”.

Building Drawers For My Tiny House

Here you can see the outside of the main drawer bank.  I used dados that would later become the drawer slides.  I opted for a wooden style drawer slide because I really liked the look compared to what it would look like with the metal slides.  Also quality drawer slides are very expensive, so all around I’m happy with my choice.

One thing to note is you’ll see on the top I used pocket screws made with a kreg jig (these are amazing, get them here), I opted to put these on the top side because I’m going to put a top piece of wood that will cover the holes completely.

tiny house wardrobe build DIY

tiny house pocket hole joints

Next I tried my hand at making dove tails.  Technically I used “half blind” dovetails.  The jig I used was a dove tail jig from porter cable, which you can find by clicking here.  This jig made it pretty easy and was great for this project.

dove tail joint jig

dove tail joing drawers for wardrobe

Next up I cut the drawer bottoms, which I was going to seat in a internal dado of the drawer box, but then I decided to do the drawer slides like this.  So I made the drawer bottoms 1/4″ too big on each slide and they nested in the 3/8″ dados really well.  After tacking it all together, I dropped it in the dresser and then mounted the drawer pulls.  Here is the final drawers.  The gaps are not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with them none the less.

tiny house clothing closet

tiny house clothing closet with drawers

rubbed bronze drawer pull on dresser

 

 

 

Beetle Camper

I saw this little camper floating around and thought it was not only odd, but pretty neat too!  I liked that the ball was on the roof, which gave the car a lot more maneuverability.  The camper was from 1974 and was designed for small cars to take on a quick trip with the family.

vw-camper-beetle1

Spinning Some Tiny Tunes

To build off of Andrea’s most excellent suggestions for entertaining in/around a tiny house, I’ve been thinking about my personal Tiny House Playlist. And since I’m still knee-deep in creating the time-lapse video of our floor build, I wanted to do something fun here in the meantime.

Here’s my anthem for building and living in a tiny house. Old Man Luedecke is an amazing blue grass banjo player and songwriter, and I highly recommend his music if you like that sort of thing, but all of us can identify with the message in this particular song, “I Quit My Job,” even if you happen to like your job right now.

 

 

Your Turn!

  • Spit it out, what are your Tiny House Songs?
  • Which artists/songs represent the freedom of tiny living, or the fun/trials of tiny building to you?

Tiny House, Squared

Unless you are building a round or organically shaped house made from cob or adobe (in which case, cool!), keeping the corners of your floor, walls and roof square is a critical task that lasts for the entire construction process. Constant re-evaluation of your squareness will make your life easier at each subsequent step of the building process.

Or so we’ve heard.

There are many good reasons to “square as you go,”and I think we can all agree it’s a best practice for building anything, but there are many forces working against square corners, including:

  • Lumber is seldom straight,
  • Fasteners (nails and screws) seldom go in level,
  • Weight or pressure can shift boards,
  • Existential chaos and entropy

squaring the floorOf course, understanding you need square floor joists is a completely different animal from having square floor joists. Here’s where I reiterate that Alan and I are far from experts and can only share our unique trial-and-error experiences. When we began our procrastiprepping, we agreed we’d need to check for squareness frequently. What we didn’t realize at the time was, this checking and rechecking would also require fixing and refixing: if something is out of square, you have to do something to correct it, something that may interrupt your building timeline. It can be incredibly frustrating, repetitive and disheartening, but also necessary. I don’t want to be on the roof six months from now, realizing I have to cut a weird miter to fit my non-square upper left corner 12 feet in the air. I mean, we’ll probably have to do that anyway, but at least if I make efforts now, I won’t be blaming my past self, just my present/future self. Talk about existential chaos.

P1060304Anyway, there are a number of references and established processes for checking the squareness of your floors and walls while building. As a hobby painter (one who has built her own canvases), I like the “measure your diagonals to see if they match” method:

And my high school friends thought we’d never need geometric theorem notation! Ha!

What this means is, if the length of both diagonals match, the square or rectangle has 90-degree, or square, corners. If one diagonal is shorter than the other, then the corners with the shorter length have an “obtuse” angle, or an angle wider than 90 degrees.

Another way of telling whether you are in or out of square is the Pythagorean Theorem:

P1060306 This method is helpful when you can’t access all corners of your square or rectangle, like tall walls, or if you are working alone. The shorthand version (demonstrated at the bottom of my most excellent drawing), the 3-4-5 rule allows you to just measure off three feet on one side, mark it, four feet on the other side of the angle, mark it, then measure the diagonal between the two marks. If the diagonal is equal to five feet, you’ve got your 90-degree, square corner. The 3-4-5 rule works because Math.

Once you’ve determined you’re not square, which is most of the time, there are several ways to fix it, most of which involve propping, pushing, pulling or yanking. John Carroll’s book, “Working Alone: Tips and Techniques for Solo Building” and the This Old House website are good resources for time-tested methods. But our Fencl floor proved a special challenge, and not in the good-special way, because the wheel hubs got in the way and prevented us from squaring the whole floor at once. Plus, the steel rods that hold the house to the trailer frame also held everything pretty firmly in place, so we didn’t have much control.

corner out of squareHere’s the problem we faced with the floor’s left-hand corner, closest to the trailer tongue. You can see that the corner is about a quarter-inch out of square in comparison to our speed square. Oh Noes!

Incidentally, I heart speed squares. They’re invaluable. We have this big orange one and a smaller steel one. When we get to the roof rafters, we’ll probably get a big framing square too, the one that look like the letter L and has all the rafter dimensions printed on it.

Our problem was compounded by the fact that one of the steel rods held runs through the sill just a foot or two away from this corner. Therefore, we couldn’t just push the far corners closer together, because the rod was holding the outside of the sill in place. The wrong place, but in place all the same.

We adapted one of the classic squaring techniques (attaching a diagonal chain and tightening it to pull opposite corners closer together) to a smaller area. We attached the chain to the sill in two places with several nails, then attached a turnbuckle to the chain. You can see the welded steel rod under Alan’s right arm in the third photo.

Sorry for the changing POVs in these photos… it’s making me a bit motion sick.

P1060274 P1060275 P1060279

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another aside: The guy at Lowes didn’t know what a turnbuckle (the hooked thing in the middle photo) was when we asked, so it took us 20 minutes longer to find them than necessary. If you need to know where to find turnbuckles in Lowes and probably Home Depot, they’re with the door and gate hinges, instead of the rope and chain.

By tightening the turnbuckle, we accomplished the bending of nails most efficiently. But we also managed to bring this corner into square, so the sacrifice of six nails was glorious indeed.

squared corner

Success! Mostly! At least it’s noticeably better than it was! Beer for all!

Ok, so it’s not perfect, but it’s within our arbitrary tolerance of “less than 1/8th of an inch.” It’s also not perfect because we accept that, although the corner is close to square, the sill will bulge out around the steel rod a bit, meaning the wall won’t be perfectly straight, but I think we can work with that problem better than kerflunky corners. At least, I hope we can.

Your Turn!

  • What rules, such as “always check for square corners,” have you given yourself?
  • What is your preferred method of squaring frames?
  • How do you decide when good enough is good enough?