New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0 (lotsa pics!)

Whether it's brand new and stock, or customised for your needs, show us what you tow!
Heifer Boy
Been here a while
Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0 (lotsa pics!)

Unread post by Heifer Boy » February 5th, 2011, 8:23 pm

Welcome to the new and improved “Camper Box Build – Ver 2.0”.

All the photos for this build can be found in my PhotoBucket Album at http://s1101.photobucket.com/albums/g42 ... ?start=all. Just a few have been added to these posts.

If you have seen my previous attempt at a camper lid for my ute viewtopic.php?f=134&t=105324 you will know all the requirements I had and the positives and negatives of that experience. It's what brought me to design and make this current camper.

Prelude – RIP Camper Lid Ver 1.0

The first thing I did was tear apart the old lid to see what a few years worth of offroad abuse and living outside full time did to it. It wasn't pretty. There was water seepage and rotting had started and all the galvanised exterior wood screws has started rusting. The construction adhesive I used came apart fairly easily on all the joints with only some laminations hanging on and breaking with a very loud pop!! All the joints failed at the glue and not the plywood which is the sign of a glue not designed for building a camper with. The only real positive was the self adhesive foam seal used around the joint between the lid and the tub. It was in excellent condition and didn't let in any water after all those vibrations and weather.

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So that definitely put that camper experiment to rest as there was no rebuilding it. It did us well for a while but time to move on to bigger and better things.

Stage One - Research

Because I wanted to something that would be waterproof and dust proof I first thought of just enlarging a ute tool box to my dimensions and fitting it out inside with drawers etc. I couldn't understand why all the slide-ons I had seen had steel frames with either steel sheet or alloy sheet attached. Surely a 3mm checker plate alloy box would be strong enough. No!!! Further research showed many people had thought the same and how many alloy tool boxes had cracked after thousands of kilometres of corrugations in the outback. A steel box wasn't going to happen because it would weigh more than my truck and a framed box wouldn't work because I would just lose too much space on the inside (remember I have a tub, not a tray). What to do...

My search took me to exotic materials way out of my price range and back again before finally landing on all the hundreds of wooden boat building websites, teardrop camper websites and expedition trailer websites. These taught me the wonders of epoxy glues, waterproofing and encapsulation ideas. Building methods utilising lamination, stitch and glue and fibreglassing to easily build things strong, light and tough. I had my building method and I could do it myself. If it was good enough for a T-Van it was good enough for me!!!

Stage Two - Testing

So I read and read and read but I still couldn't get away from the idea of “12mm ply with screws holding it together” so I needed to do some tests. I got a sample epoxy kit from BoteCote (great Aussie company in QLD) and some bits of ply to play with and away I went. With the exception of boats, most wooden camper and teardrop builds use a frame but I wanted to build a torsion box slide-on design so I needed to test simple butt joints.

First I glued and screwed three 12mm ply dado'ed butt joints with PVA glue (white glue), PU glue (yellow polyurethane) and epoxy mixed to a glue, waited a couple of days, removed the screws and broke the joints with the following results.
  • 1. The PVA glue was like tearing paper - very easy.
    2. The PU glue was tougher but still broke at the glue joint. It fills the gaps well but only with foam which has no strength.
    3. The epoxy glue took a bit more force to break than the PU but this time the ply was the weakest link instead of the glue joint. All the gaps were filled well and it pulled the ply apart. Perfect.
These were the expected results but it's nice to see it for yourself. So epoxy it is!!!

Next I made another joint out of 12mm ply and epoxied and screwed the corner. When dry I removed the screws and filleted the inside of the joint with a thickened mix of epoxy and filler. This adds enormously to the strength of the joint and provides a radius for the fibreglass tape to fit around. I also routered the outside edge and then laminated on some fibreglass tape inside and out. The result is a corner joint I cannot break!!! I've clamped it to a bench and hauled on it, hit it was a hammer, hit with a 4lb hammer and jumped on with my 80kgs. Nothing, Nada, Bubkiss!!! It is one hugely strong joint!!!

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Then I thought “they build kayaks and racing dingies out of 4mm ply” so I couldn't see why a camper needed to be out of 12mm. So I repeated the test with 9mm ply and this time only fibreglassed the outside joint. The result was exactly the same. One hugely strong joint I still haven't broken!!!

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The last test was durability. I painted 9mm ply with fibreglass matt and epoxy on one piece and just epoxy only on the other piece. I want to find out how much the epoxy only and the epoxy with fibreglass strengthened the ply and what impact resistance it had. When clamped to a bench it was easy to snap a piece of ply with no epoxy at all but it took my full weight to break the one coated in epoxy only. But I had to stand on the piece with fibreglass in it to break that!!! I then hit the remains with a hammer to test impact resistance, twice flat and twice with the edge of the hammer. The epoxy only piece dented with a loud pop and the epoxy cracked like plastic (which it is). The piece with the fibreglass barely dented when hit with the corner of the hammer and I can't find where I hit it with the flat!!! It added a lot of impact and flexibility strength overall.

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The end result of all this is a easy build process that should be light and strong. So the plan is -
  • 1. The camper to be built with a mixture of 12mm and 9mm exterior grade ply.
    2. Epoxy glue all corners. Clamp screws to be removed afterwards.
    3. Fillet all inside corner joints.
    4. Coat interior with penetrating epoxy for waterproofness.
    5. Fibreglass all exterior surfaces and joints for waterproofness and strength.
    6. Paint exterior.
cont/
Last edited by Heifer Boy on February 5th, 2011, 8:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

Heifer Boy
Been here a while
Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » February 5th, 2011, 8:36 pm

/cont

Stage Three – The Design

I've had the design in my head in various materials for over a year so I had to get it down on paper – literally!!! Some of the corners and voids I couldn't “see” in my head or in drawings so I built a little model out of paper and sticky tape and this made it so much easier to think about what was good and bad about the design. Highly recommended. I never took a photo of it but I do have this Sketch Up drawing instead.

Overall it's a fair bit higher than Ver 1.0 because we now have a roof rack for an awning and with the tent on the camper it will be the same height as this. It gives us a lot of extra space above the storage drawer and fridge and I put in some side doors for access. I tried some other ideas but came back to the K.I.S.S principle. This solves most “what if” ideas – as does a little paper model!!

The basic layout is the same as Ver 1.0. Fridge, jerry can and storage down the RH side and kitchen box and storage on the LH side. The RH “wing” will house the water pump, the hoses and some power points for the fridge etc. The LH “wing” will be left open to allow extra width for a removable kitchen box on the slide. The floor will slide on runners into the ute tub and the roof will have some internal supporting alloy cross members to bolt the tent to. The floor and centre panel (the spine) are 12mm with the rest being 9mm. Doors and door frames are laminated for strength.

Here's a couple of bad SketchUp drawings but you will get the idea -

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Stage Four – The Trolley

The idea is that the camper box is removable but instead of having wind up legs I have gone with a trolley idea. It is the same height as my tailgate and I will just slide it on and off the ute as required. The trolley is on casters to move it around for storage and it makes a perfect workbench to build the thing on in the first place.

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Stage Five – Initial Layout

I picked up some sheets of 12mm and 9mm exterior B-B A-Bond ply. I didn't need marine ply as it's not a boat and won't be submerged and it costs twice as much. But A-Bond glue is important so it won't rot and there are less voids in exterior grade too. It's much, much better quality than the stuff from Bunnings I built Ver 1.0 out of. You can feel the weight in it because it's so solid, it doesn't warp much and it has a nice finish too. There was a mix up at the supplier so I ended up with A-A marine grade 12mm sheets for the price of the exterior stuff. Score!!!

The first thing to do was mark out the floor and laminate on an extension. A lot of the big panels in this build are larger than the 1200mm width the sheets come in which is a pain so I have to add on extensions to the floor and roof and watch my wastage. I routered out a 100mm x 6mm lap joint in both pieces and epoxied glued them together. Then I could finalise the actual dimensions that would fit in the tub and start cutting some of the walls. Everything was dependent on the floor being accurate.

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The next critical part was the centre panel which is the spine of the whole camper box. This is also 12mm for strength and I have set this into a dado cut into the floor, roof and the back wall to give extra surface area for glue. This piece has the most work in it as it has dado's running along it's length at 2 different heights to support the middle floors, holes cut in it for fridge ventilation and rebates along the top edge for the alloy cross members under the roof. The front needed to be shaped for the door too. The RH wall is high to clear the fridge and the panel has a hole cut in it for additional access to the water and power in the RH wing. There is a dado cut along it for a middle floor section too. The rest of the walls are easy and are just the height of the ute tub.

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I've clamped bits and pieces together before to get the layout right but now it was finally time to screw some of it together. I have all the pieces in place for the first build up.

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I pre-drilled pilot holes around the edges because I was going to be screwing into thin 9mm ply and didn't want to split anything. I used 6g 18mm self drill needle point wood screws with a Tri coating so they screw in really easily and I can bed down the screws with control. It makes it easy to get things lined up and I didn't split one bit of ply. Yay!!! The screws are just placed at random to hold the timber as these will only be used for clamping the epoxied joint and will be removed once the epoxy is dry.

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It's nice to see it all come up so well so far. I'm a happy boy!!!

Next up - Epoxy Gluing 101. See ya next time.

HB
Last edited by Heifer Boy on February 16th, 2011, 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

Heifer Boy
Been here a while
Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » February 9th, 2011, 5:01 pm

Stage Six – Glue Time

So after getting all screwed together and making sure I had nothing else to do to the panels I just pulled it apart again. But not before I had a quick test fit in the back of the ute. I think it's going to look all right. Not to big, not to small, just right.

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It was time to glue so I made sure I had everything ready to go. I'm new to this “mixing epoxy and using it before it gels” idea so I made sure I had thought about the routine and had everything ready. It was pretty easy once I got the hang of it and got the consistency of the filler right. I was pre-coating the joint with epoxy and then adding the filler to the rest of the pot and laying this down while the pre-coat was still wet. Besides being a bit messy and wasteful with stirrers and pots etc, once the joint is together cleaning it up is easy and you end up with a really tidy joint.

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The next day it was time to fillet all the inside joints. The BoteCote book said make a fillet about 2-2.5 times radius of the thickness of the timber. I'm using 9mm ply so I made up a coving stick about 40mm in diameter and it worked well. Getting the mix of the fillet right was a bit harder. Some came up a bit dry which stuck well to the vertical corners but was hard to cove neatly. I really concentrated on the mix later and seemed to get it right but then the last batch I though was perfect has slumped in the corners. So I will have to sand back a bit and re-coat later. It's just a couple of joints and it's only aesthetic but I will probably fix them up anyway otherwise I'll know and it will bug me. Already the camper is getting a lot stiffer and there's no horizontal panels yet. I'm a happy boy!!!

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Thanks for looking.
HB
Last edited by Heifer Boy on February 16th, 2011, 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

Heifer Boy
Been here a while
Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » February 16th, 2011, 7:10 pm

Stage Seven – Front Wall and Door Frame

This is the first of 3 door frames to be made up but is a little different to the side doors. It’s the largest door and also the front wall of the camper box. Because my storage drawer slides will run on the floor of the camper, the front wall doesn’t have a bottom surround so it was pretty tricky cutting and trimming the thin 3-sided frame. The frame is 2 pieces of ply with the outside being 12mm and the inside 9mm and the inside piece is 15mm smaller all around to create the door jamb.

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After a lot of test fitting these 2 pieces were laminated together, glued to the front of the side walls and held it in place with temporary screws. I had to be careful when I was moving them around until they were laminated as they flexed all over the place. The frame is only 40mm thick!! There is a tiny connection tab at the top of the centre panel but overall the frame has very little support until the middle floors and top section go in. It’s pretty solid though and will strengthen up once I fillet it. The corners have a rabbet joint with the side walls formed by the 2 pieces ply so there is plenty of glue surface for bonding.

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I’m also thinking of adding additional support down the RH side to support the door. The wall is 21mm thick already but the door will be about 1100mm x 800mm and hinged from the side so an extra strip of ply epoxied inside for strength might be a good idea. I’ll take a look at this tomorrow too.

Remember, more photos in PhotoBucket (link in first post) and see you next time. Thanks for looking.
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

Heifer Boy
Been here a while
Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » February 25th, 2011, 9:20 am

Stage Eight – Floors

Not a whole lot done this time. I just cut and dry fitted the floors for the upper storage areas. It’s good to get this done as it really shows the size of each of the storage spaces.

The LH side is pretty big and we will be able to get a lot of stuff in there. I’ll probably divide it up a bit to hold plastic boxes etc without them sliding around the place too much. The RH side obviously has a step in it to clear the fridge height so the space it a bit broken up. On the upper section at the back I’m going to put the second battery with fuse box and outlets in front of it. There will also be a small hatch cut into the top panel to allow access to the water jerry can to disconnect the hose when it needs to be swapped. In the photos you can see I made the lower RH section out of two pieces which are joined with another lap joint. This is because if I didn’t I would have to buy a complete sheet of 9mm ply just to make this!! With the strength of other lap joints I have made I don’t think this is going to be a problem!!

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The idea is to bootline these areas but and although I would like to do that before the top goes on I think it will have to wait until we have done a couple of trips and really know how it’s going to be organised. We know what we generally take but I don’t want to have to try and rip up carpet and redesign the insides after it’s all built.

I also started making the drawer slides. These will hold all the storage boxes, the kitchen box, fridge etc. They still need a lot of work but I was able to get true dimensions off the LH one so my partner can start designing the removable kitchen box we have planned. These are made out of 12mm ply and have small extensions lap jointed to the ends to use up the offcuts and give the length I needed.

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It’s a pain that the length of everything in this build is just over the 1220mm width of a full sheet so it all needs to be cut out of a full panel. It took an initial bit of patternmaking to minimise the waste so I didn’t just keep buying more plywood each time I needed a new panel cut. Well worth doing though and I check my drawings each time to make sure I cut the right panel from the right sheet.

It’s really starting to look like a camper now and not just a pile of plywood panels. Yay!!! I hope everyone is enjoying the write ups and please feel free to comment. Feedback is always welcome.
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

Aaron Schubert
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Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Aaron Schubert » February 25th, 2011, 6:56 pm

Awesome work mate; I am going to watch this!

Aaron
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stretch4x4
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Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by stretch4x4 » February 25th, 2011, 7:02 pm

Top work
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ROBSKI
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Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by ROBSKI » February 26th, 2011, 9:30 am

Yep top work I enjoyed reading this thread... :D
opti wrote:Yep a massive 100kw engine that wouldn't pull jesus off his cross .

Heifer Boy
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Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » February 27th, 2011, 11:00 am

Thanks for the feedback guys. It's nice to know you are enjoying reading about it as much as I am building it. I can't wait to get it on the road (and off it) but there is a bit more work to go. Did the side door frames yesterday so will post that up soon.
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

Heifer Boy
Been here a while
Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » March 6th, 2011, 3:30 pm

Stage Nine – Side Door Frames

The next step was to make up the side door frames. These were the same as the front door frame – 12mm ply outside, 9mm ply inside with a 15mm step around the opening to create a door jamb. Also on the inside piece are some rebates for the ends of the aluminium angle cross members that will help support the top.

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These were then dry screwed in place to check everything but won't be glued up until the interior is finished a bit more. If I put the floors and walls up I can't get into the box so I have to finish it in certain order or I'll make it very hard for myself.

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I also glued up the lap joints I made last time for one of the floor pieces and the storage drawer slides. All nice and solid now.

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2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

Heifer Boy
Been here a while
Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » March 6th, 2011, 3:36 pm

Stage Ten – Doors

The three doors are also made of two pieces of ply laminated together to make a stiff, strong door with a 25mm overlap for the seal. The inside is 12mm ply with a 4mm skin on the outside. This leaves a 8mm gap for the compression bulb seal I'll fit to the doors. I removed some material from the inside panel of the main rear door to save a bit of weight as it's going to be side hung and is 1.3m long so I didn't want it sagging too much. You can also see the holes cut for the compression locks I'll fit – two for each side door and four for the main door.

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I pre-coated the panels with epoxy and then spread on some runny thickened epoxy for glue. I thought of various ways of clamping the doors but decided to just weight them down on a nice flat surface so used everything I could find in the garage. Over about 40mins I just kept removing the bits of epoxy squeezing slowly out of the joint and now it's all dry I'm really happy with how stiff and strong the doors appear to be. They should seal up well.

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So nearly all the ply has been cut out and dry fitted now but there is still a fair list of things to do -

1. Epoxy interior.
2. Fit water system.
3. Fit electrical system.
4. Glue up floors and walls.
5. Cut and fit aluminium cross members.
6. Make and fit top.
7. Make storage drawer box and fridge slide box.
8. Make kitchen box.
9. Make drop down table for door.
10. Fibreglass exterior
11. Paint it.
12. Fit doors and bottom slides.
13. Fit the roof top tent.
14. Go camping!!

The water system is basically done. I'm still planning electrics but have a fair idea of what to do. I'm pretty sure I've done nearly everything I need to to the main box so can start mixing up epoxy and painting it on and then finish up glueing the floors and door frames.

Keep in touch!!!
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

stretch4x4
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Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by stretch4x4 » March 6th, 2011, 4:11 pm

I like how far you can plan ahead :)
I tend to plan so far then can't visualise anymore till I actually start :p
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Heifer Boy
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Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » March 6th, 2011, 4:32 pm

I didn't say I know how to do the things on my list. I'm making it up as I go along!!

No, I can plan to a point but then have to actually do it to finalise the details. I do lose a few nights sleep thinking out some details and I am doodling on scraps of paper as I go. I've already made a few mistakes but nothing critical so far. After the fact it's always easier to see how it could be done better next time.
2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

stretch4x4
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Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by stretch4x4 » March 6th, 2011, 5:02 pm

So ture :)
Yeah I like to think things over instead of sleeping. Sometimes you get good ideas.. other times you just stress and get nowhere..
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Heifer Boy
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Posts: 176
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:15 pm
Location: Jervis Bay, NSW

Re: New and Improved Camper Box Build - Ver 2.0

Unread post by Heifer Boy » March 7th, 2011, 3:44 pm

A few people have asked me what seal I am going to use around the doors.

I'm using the attached EDPM Buld Seal with Wing one which was recommended to me by Scott at Concept Camping Concepts http://compactcampingconcepts.com/ (thanks Scott). We had a chat about seals and he sent me a link and I was about to find the same seal in Oz.

Because my camper box (and Scott's Explorer Box) is wood it is very hard to attach a pinchweld seal to the door or frame unless I muck around with angles or channels. It's easier to use a self adhesive strip and this one is perfect. I've used self adhesive foam tape before and it sticks and doesn't let go. This bulb seal should be a whole lot better at keeping out the weather though.

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2004 RA Rodeo TD, 2" OME Lift, Long Range Tank, Snorkel, Cooper ST's, Custom Camper Box

Camper Box Ver 2.0 Build Thread viewtopic.php?f=134&t=106588

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