The Trailer Build – Project Progress

Update on building a new design specialty utility trailer.  The trailer build is going well, and we thought you might have interest in following the progress.  Especially for some of the experimental new concept features. In our last post on The Economics of DIY Projects we hinted about testing some new concepts and the cost of creating them.  Here’s the current status as of February 10, 2018.

Completing the Design

3D CAD Utility Trailer Design ExperimentAll our trailer designs are done with full 3D CAD (a sort of virtual reality).  Usually we do only Pro/Engineer, but this trailer build is an experiment on many levels, so this time it’s SolidWorks too.  We have found SolidWorks does very well with simple things like weld structures, squares, rounds and the like, even if the software sucks for complex geometry.

For the sake of a new learning experience, this new trailer design is a mix of both Pro/E and SolidWorks.  It’s an experiment on the interpretability of working with the two together.  The new suspension concepts are from Pro/Engineer and the frame weldments are from SolidWorks.  (Summary:  After doing it, I don’t recommend the mix and match.  These two CAD packages don’t play well with each other.)

Materials For The Trailer Build

With the design complete and the analysis done, it’s time to order parts.  First, the longer lead items (like axles and custom fabrication parts).  In a future post I’ll explain the new suspension concepts, but for now, we’ll leave it at ordering a pair of Dexter Torflex axles through Redneck Supply.  I contacted local trailer parts suppliers, and found they order through Redneck with a surcharge.  That doesn’t make sense unless Dexter won’t deal with smaller suppliers.  Anyway, I need to understand that relationship, because if Redneck is a distributor, why do they sell to me cheaper?  Not sure.

Several custom shape parts for the suspension, tongue and hitch experiments come from a water jet cutter — Big Blue Saw.  I’m not a fan of internet ordering, but at a fraction of the price with twice as fast service, it’s hard to argue.  See below for a picture of the parts.  Also, Big Blue Saw manufacturers in the USA (which is good for me for shipping).  For those in Europe, with get you all set up.

Standard stuff for the trailer build like the steel, wheels, tires, etc come through our regular local suppliers.

Get Out The Chop Saw

Using the Chop Saw for the Trailer BuildMost of the steel comes in 20′ and 24′ sticks.  That’s great, except I don’t have space to store 24′ sticks in the garage, so the first step is to pull out the chop saw and get to cutting.  It took 5 hours to cut all the pieces (most was spent setting up and cutting special angles).  Straight cuts go quickly, but special, and especially steep angles with left and right take time to think about, set up and cut correctly.

Special Cuts

OK, not all the cutting is as simple as above.  There are 2 special pieces for the experimental suspension that require a bunch more attention.  I love the clash where designer meets fabricator.  Some designs are so simple to draw, but so obnoxious to build, and these parts are just that.  As you can see in the image, the cut is generally along the axis of the tube, so a chop saw is not a viable option.  However, since the chop saw is such a wonderful tool for removing metal quickly and accurately, I did use it from the ends as deep as the 15″ blade would go.

Cutting Steel Frame Member

The rest was done by pulling out several tricks for cutting steel.  Starting with a hacksaw (manual), a hack saw (pneumatic), a die-grinder (abrasive blade) and a diamond edge disk on an angle grinder.  Really, the right solution is a plasma cutter.

The temptation was certainly to drop it off for CNC cutting at my favorite machine shop, but in the spirit of DIY, I decided to muscle through it just to see how difficult it is for someone that does not have access to high cost CNC’s or plasma cutting.

It was not easy, it’s not that pretty, yet with hand tools I did much of it.  I have to admit, I did access a plasma cutter to finish it.

Hurray!  Experimental Trailer Build Parts Arrived

Water Cut Parts For Trailer BuildYesterday the special order experimental water jet cut parts arrived, and they look awesome.

All the steel is cut and ready for the trailer build.  Still waiting for the axles, wheels and trailer accessories, but they will be here soon enough.  It is now time for setting up the frame to begin the trailer build, fabricating and welding.

NextHow To Setup A Trailer Frame Build.  Posted as a Mechanic’s tip, with this project trailer as the example.

Then:  One of the new things that these experimental parts are for, A Better Folding Trailer Tongue.  Enjoy.

The Folding tongue is also an experiment with an extra long tongue which has towing stability enhancements.  Read about Choosing the Right Tongue Length for more information.

Check back for more updates.  We’ll talk about several other trailer build topics — including more of the experimental sections of the trailer.


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