Trailer Build – Day 2

Trailer Build Phase

We continued work on the trailer the very next day- Sunday, July 26. We punched a 10 hour day, from 11am to 9pm, and man it feels good to see such fast progress! We put in the remaining 5 ribs, as well as the section that will accommodate the axles, AND the tongue! There’s really just a few odds and ends that need to be finished up, and then we’ll be ready to get the completed trailer sandblasted and painted to prevent it from rusting. I forgot to mention in the last post that we were very fortunate to have most of our steel cut to size by the welding shop where we’re doing our work. There was just one 40 foot length of C-Channel we had to cut into 7’7″ pieces for the remaining 5 ribs. I was glad they didn’t do it all actually, because this way I got to see the bandsaw in action and learn how to use it. Here’s some pictures of us cutting a piece of steel:


IMG_20150726_125322There was a lot more welding to be done today, so we made sure to wear proper respirators (with the appropriate cartridges, of course) to protect ourselves from the fumes. It gets pretty stuffy and warm wearing glasses, respirator and a welding shield, but it is totally worth it to not have to smell gaseous phases of metals (duh).

The pair of us with our respirators.

The pair of us with our respirators.

I should explain the difference between tacking and welding- the ribs we put in on Saturday were just tacked, which means a small little blob of metal to hold the corners where they need to be. Once all the pieces of steel are tacked in place exactly where you want them, then you weld around all the edges to make it permanent. So we tacked in the remaining ribs, and then Tim welded all the top and bottom edges to the exterior main frame. The same applies for the small section near the centre where the tandem axles go.

IMG_20150726_120423We framed out some narrow rectangles on each side that will house the tires, and then put in two shorter ribs between those two sections to maintain structural integrity. We were kinda nervous about our pre-determined measurements for the wheel wells since we did all the math prior to actually seeing our tires (and by we did math, I mean mostly Tim). Decided to take a gamble and just tack in our pieces and hope for the best. The tires came with the rims on, so we just popped them on the axles and positioned them inside our wheel wells to check and see if they fit. Good news!! It worked out perfectly. Then we were set to attach the hangers.

A hanger!

A hanger!

These little do-dads are used to couple the suspension to the trailer frame. The suspension system is made up of two leaf springs on each side (under each axle) connected by an equalizer in the centre. All of this is held together by a series of nuts and bolts.

Suspension system on one side.

Suspension system on one side.

After we got all that fitted up and were comfortable with the axle situation, we were able to get at the tongue. The axle presented its own complications in terms of calculations to determine acceptable clearances for the tires and positioning of the leaf springs. The tongue on the other hand was a whole different kettle of fish. The tongue was all about trigonometry, transferring angles, and finding the exact centre of a triangle with undetermined angles. I am so, SO grateful that Tim has a head for math, because it just doesn’t really come naturally to me. I can follow it and understand what’s going on once it’s explained, but I wouldn’t be able to figure out what to do in order to get the desired result from scratch, like Tim did. IMG_20150726_175640In this picture, you can’t see the centre piece very well, where the two tongue arms meet, but Tim made a 4 x 3 box by welding together two 6 inch pieces of 4 inch C-Channel. He was hoping to find a scrap piece of 4 x 4, but I will add that I came up with this neat substitute 😀 (shamelessly proud of myself for a tiny contribution, lol). The smaller piece of HSS laid on the tongue arms parallel to the front end of the trailer needs to be cut down to size a little, and will be welded basically in the same position it is in the picture, but flush with the rest of the pieces. This is to add strength to the tongue. The hitch will be mounted to the front of the centre piece. You can actually see our hitch in the picture, sitting on the ground a little ways in front of the trailer (it’s painted black).
In a nutshell, what he did included the following:

  1. Draw the estimated angles for the bevelled end of the tongue arms directly on the HSS with soapstone.
  2. Bevel the ends with a torch + grinder.
  3. Find the centre of the front end of trailer, and place the centre piece that will adjoin the two tongue arms together at the correct distance from this point.
  4. Make sure that the centre piece is completely parallel to the front end of the trailer.
  5. Tack the two tongue arms in place.
  6. Measure everything again and ensure it’s all level.
  7. Weld everything.

He asked me to say that he would have liked to mark the exact angle on the tongue arms, but he would have needed some sort of protractor tool that he didn’t have, so estimation was required. It was ok though, because any small discrepancy could be made up for by a thicker or thinner weld- whichever was needed to make it perfect. Precision and accuracy were paramount for this part of the job, because if the tongue wasn’t perfectly centred, the trailer would not tow straight when being hauled by a truck. It would compromise the entire tiny house, in essence, due to unequal forces being distributed to either side during towing.

So excited to finish this off and hopefully not break the bank on sandblasting and painting! Thanks for reading  🙂

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