Thursday, June 12, 2014

Promoting - Trailer Work

Ah, the trailer.

What started out as a glimmer of an idea a year ago had turned into something much, much more.

Trailer when I picked it up.

Trailer at the dealer.
6' tall inside. Tall enough for me, not for some of the taller folks around.

Trailer at the dealer.
Note the pristine leading aluminum trim piece.

I think the first week with the trailer? It was raining.

If you look carefully you'll see the window hatch things are pointed above horizontal. They streamed water into the trailer. If we had used the window support struts they'd have been pulled down a bit and water would have flowed away from the trailer. Next time.

The last week at Bethel.
Note the not-so-pristine leading aluminum trim piece.

The trailer worked well at Bethel, based on its "unmodified" status. With full size tables inside we didn't have that much room. No organization so it took a while to pack up. No finish on any surfaces so spilling stuff caused a ruckus as we scrambled to clean things up. It certain beat a tent, though, and on the rainy day it was great.

The trailer and tow vehicle in their glory.

After the 2014 Bethel Spring Series ended I embarked on a project to fix up the trailer to make it much more efficient. I wanted to make it a bit more pleasant looking as well, more professional. Finally I hoped to make it a bit more durable, by finishing the wood, and by doing some preventative stuff to the steel frame.

I took some "before" pictures, after clearing out the trailer. I made the mistake of washing the deck and hosing it out. I think I should have sanded and then just stained. Washing it out, just before a few days of heavy rain, meant the floor absorbed a lot of water, probably warping it a bit.

However it's done so I went ahead and took pictures before staining it. I used Wolmann's deck stain, solid "Cedar". Solid means it covers the most, masking imperfections the best. Since the floor was made with low quality 3/4" plywood it was basically the worst looking wood you could get. Not a problem for a contractor or car hauling trailer but I wanted the trailer to look a bit more like an office and a bit less like, well, like a beat up contract or car hauling trailer.

Unfortunately we spilled some stuff inside the trailer so there were some stains (coffee, hot chocolate), hence my "washing" effort. Overall though that isn't a bit deal, I'm more worried about the floor rotting than anything else.

I have to seal the bottom of the floor as well, meaning from outside I have to spray up to the exposed wood underneath, so that's on the agenda somewhere. The wood is currently painted but I have no idea how durable the paint is; I want to use automotive undercoating that's flexible and chip-resistant.

View to the rear, after the Bethel Spring Series.
D-rings in the floor are rated for 5000 lbs each, apparently anchored to the 6" steel frame tubes.

The wheel wells intrude because the trailer is the legal maximum width of 8.5 feet. This means the wheels need to be recessed. On a 7 foot wide trailer the wheels sit out at 8.5 feet and the trailer's interior walls are straight. I opted for more room, especially considering that the "foot print", meaning the width at the tires, is the same. Cost increase was negligible, and towing won't be hugely affected either, with the 7' and 8.5' trailers only a couple hundred pounds different weight-wise (the 8.5' trailer is also 4' longer, accounting for most of that extra weight; both use the big 6" steel frame tubes).

View to the "back" of the trailer, the left side (for me the "front" is the side with the concession windows)
Note more D-rings. There are eight in the trailer.

I ordered four extra D-rings because I need to tie down tents and such. The best place to put all the mass is just in front of the front axle. Basically everything heavy will sit between or directly in front of the wheel wells. If I stuck with the four original D-rings I'd have anchor points at the corners. Adding four more anchor points just around where most of my gear will sit… that was a no brainer.

The nose of the trailer. I added the fire extinguisher because that's the way I roll.
Forward D-rings.

Up front I plan on loading the bins with lightweight things like numbers, release forms, radios, printer, first aid kit, small microwave, stuff like that. I have maybe 10? bins for up there. I set them up in a row between the front D-rings and pull one tie down strap over them. That's super secure and works well.

I hope at some point to have a little fridge up there. A fan will be necessary in the summer. I'd like to have real heat but I need to figure something out. The big windows on the side will negate any attempt to fully heat the trailer, but to keep it "warmer than freezing" would be a good thing.

I added the fire extinguisher just because.

Deck Stain

The first layer of deck stain.

After the first coat on the floor.

I didn't mask or anything so it's a bit rough. Also no sanding, so the floor is literally a bit rough.

Wood Verticals For Folding Table/Desks

I want to have built in tables for registration. By using narrower tables (18 inches instead of 36 inches), there will be more room in the trailer. Also we don't need tons of room on the tables - we just end up piling our own junk on the big folding tables we used earlier.

Okay, I piled up my stuff on it, not everyone else, but still, we don't need all that table top space.

I planned on wood verticals to hold hinges. The tables will normally be open but they can be folded down if I need to put something big in the trailer, like a car or something. The verticals will support the back half of the desks, I'll have legs for the front half.

Trimmed the wood to clear the baseboard, if you will, and the vent hole.

The verticals have screws running to the steel studs in the walls (the studs seem to be about 1-1.5 inches square steel tubing). Since the tables will have legs the verticals will only need to keep them from tipping over, they won't support all the weight.

Wood verticals between the windows.
The verticals are poplar, the softest of the hardwoods.

The center verticals are shorter due to the wheel well intrusion. The verticals are "screwed and glued" to the wall. The glue will help secure the verticals to the plywood walls, while the screws into the steel actually anchor them. You can see the tube of construction adhesive on the wheel well in the picture above.

Originally I was thinking of a set of shelves between the two windows, to hold the printer and such, but I realized that when it rains all that area will get wet. Therefore no shelves right now for the printer and such.

The forward part of the trailer, the forward wood vertical is leaned up against the wall.

Although I would like to have shelves up front for now I'm leaving that alone. I'm more concerned with the tables and securing some of the load against the back wall.


The next step would be the primer. I used Zinsser acrylic (water-based) primer. Zinsser because I had some and could get more. Water based because of the easier clean up.

Primer (Zinser).
Note the wood on the wall about a foot above the wheel well - this is for storing the tables and such.

I decided that I'd install lightweight D-rings on the wall. I'll place the folding tables (for release forms and such outside the trailer), the folding tables, and other lightweight stuff. I'll keep them "floor supported", meaning the objects will sit on the floor, and I'll use either bungee cords or tie down straps to hold them against the wall. This means the D-rings will only need to keep the stuff from tipping over, not actually support the weight.

The spare tire is mounted in a similar fashion. The tire sits on the floor and the bracket is there simply to keep the tire from falling over.

Primer layer, looking at nose and back wall.

You can see the wood planking on the wall for the lightweight D-rings.

Primer layer, nose.

You can see the breaker box up front. There are three circuits, one for the overhead lights, one for the front plug, one for the rear plug. The big cable drops to the outside and plugs into an RV type plug or, with an adapter, into a generator.

The silver thing next to the breaker box holds the cable for storage.

The big rectangular bracket is for the spare tire. The little bracket is for the fire extinguisher.

The box up top is the battery for the electric brakes. If the trailer detaches from the tow vehicle a cable gets yanked and it deploys the electric brakes. Since the trailer is detached there's no power from the tow vehicle so the trailer has to have a battery.

Second Layer Primer

I decided to do a second layer of primer. I wasn't sure if the wood would bleed through the first layer.

Primer layer, tail of trailer.

Primer, more detail on the wood on back wall.

Close up of my rough primer job and the two verticals between the windows.

Note that I didn't prime the "baseboard" bit of trim. I planned on painting them black and figured black doesn't need primer. I was also contemplating buying proper baseboard vinyl type trim but that's not in the budget for now.

Semi-gloss White Paint

I used WeatherAll from True Value, their outdoor paint. Lifetime warranty or something.

Semi-gloss outdoor paint, one layer.

If it looks a bit tan it's because I painted it and then sanded the floor. The dust from the sanding went everywhere and the walls have a film of tan dust on them.

Semi-gloss outdoor point, one layer, windows (which are shut obviously).

Looks much better, more together.

Tail of trailer, white semi-gloss.

The back looks better also.

White semi-gloss, back wall towards the tail.

I really wanted to do the baseboard but ran out of time. I was spending 3-5 hours at a time working on the trailer, in lieu of training or yard work or whatever else I might do while Junior is in daycare. I only had two half days during the week (daycare time). For a couple weekends I spent all Saturday and Sunday working on the trailer, with the Missus kind enough to look after Junior for that time.

Back wall with semi-gloss coat.

Sanding Floor

I decided to sand the floor because it was so rough. When I hosed down the floor it really raised a lot of wood grain and I didn't want to have chunks of floor catch on stuff. I only have the little sander so that's what I used. I went through three packs of good quality sand paper. I used some cheaper stuff and that lasted literally a foot of length of the trailer and even then I was only sanding the smoother bits. The good stuff lasted maybe two to three feet of floor, and I used it on the roughest stuff.

Sanding the floor before the second layer of deck stain.

Deck Stain Plus Baseboard Paint

Once I got the floor sanded I brushed the dust off the baseboard area (it was pretty thick) and painted the baseboard. Good brushes let you paint trim accurately, and the Purdy brush we had at home was great (1.5" angled XL). The brush really helped, I could draw a nice straight edge without any taping. It was nice also because I was tired and I lay on the floor while painting the baseboard.

After the baseboard paint I did another layer of deck stain, backing out to the front door like the first time. Since I'd sanded down a lot of the stain in places the coating wasn't super even but it's what it'll be for now.

Baseboard done in black, second layer deck stain done also.
I didn't do any extra layers on the ramp, it's just one coat.

I did notice that the original layer of stain had penetrated deep into the wood. This is good because that was my intent, protect the wood. Also if I dig the edge of a leaf blower into the floor it won't be raw wood right away, it should be stained wood for a bit.

Not that I, ahem, have dug the edge of a leaf blower into the floor.

Baseboard done, second layer deck stain.

Baseboard and second layer deck stain.
Trailer is full of deck stain colored sanding dust, it needs to be wiped down.


The biggest initial project for me was making tables that worked inside the trailer. Due to the jutting wheel wells the folding tables ended up crooked inside the trailer. Also, since we didn't need all three feet of table, it took up a lot of room.

My plan was to make two 18" deep tables, about 6' wide (the width of the trailer windows). They would be mounted on piano hinges and fold down out of the way, with folding legs. As I learned more about what I needed to do, and with the realization that I needed to simplify things, I modified my plans.

Eventually I went with slightly wider tables, about 79" so that the tables extended about 3" to each side of the window. This would allow me to use big hinges on each side - the piano hinges would bind if the wood warped, and with all this stuff exposed to the elements, I figured I'd be looking at warped wood.

John S, a long time friend and supporter, made the tables for me, so my thanks to him. He also advised me on some of the logistics of securing the tables to the sides, weight bearing things, and other topics that I didn't know I needed to know.

For legs I decided to get the type that screw into the base of the table top. The folding legs would involve more hardware, more planning, and for the screw-in legs I just had to buy four legs and four plates. It took a few minutes to secure the plates, a few more to mount the tables.

As far as unfolding the table it takes about 15 seconds to install a leg, it's a one person job, and in less than a minute I can have all four tables set up. I plan on leaving the tables up since the 18" depth doesn't take up much space.

Tables, with finished legs.

For wood people the tables are made with 3/4" plywood with a veneer thing on them (I forget the name of the veneer).

I got the legs and plates at Lowes, finishing them with Minwax stain and a spray can poly.

D-rings, strap bars

I wanted an organized place to store some of the often-used lightweight stuff. This included the folding tables, folding chairs, tripod, tie down straps, broom, some other stuff.

Tie down strap rack.

I spend an inordinate amount of time untangling the straps if they're in a bin. This way they're easy to use, "pre-loaded" if you will, and easy to put away. I used two 18" towel bars, anchored in the 3/8" plywood sides. I don't put a lot of tension on the straps, and in fact many of them are loose but the hooks keeps the strap in place.

Yellow straps are heavier duty, red ones are lighter duty.

Although used for transportation (tying things down in the trailer) they also get used to tie down the tents outside. When setting up it's nice to have organized straps.

Securing lightweight items like tables, chairs, tripod, and, later, a step stool.

The floor bears the weight so the sides only have to keep them from falling over. I've secured wood on the side of the trailer using construction adhesive as well as screws anchored in the metal studs. The idea was to keep the light stuff vertical and out of the way. Based on my trip to and from White Plains, including some pretty rough pavement, everything works fine.

Tape hooks.
I added white duct tape (ideally a finish line is a black line in a white background).
The curtain rod is currently not used, looking for a better idea for a sun-screen type thing.

So that's the trailer, as it is now. I'll do a post on the White Plains Crit, where I used the trailer with its modifications for the first time.

Hopefully I can get some more things done to it and make it an all season trailer.

Supplies bought at:
Valley Home and Garden, Simsbury, CT ("VHG") - everything but what I got at Lowes, so paint, stain, hooks, bars, all hardware for securing things to the walls, fire extinguisher, paint brushes, all tapes (Caution, blue painters, white and black duct tape), paint supplies, drill bits, sandpaper, and who knows what else.

Lowes, Bloomfield, CT ("Lowes") - wood, table legs, table leg plates.

No comments: