Building our box out of wood?

MTVR

Well-known member
That is a good point, but you will probably enjoy living out of a $100K house for the next 5 years than a $25K house. I imagine a wood framed system would take a lot more upkeep than composite construction, but maybe that is part of the fun and not a concern.
That was just an example. A $100K house is not an option for us.
 

Simons

Adventurer
With conventional house framing I’d be concerned with it shaking apart on the back of that MTVR. That being said, lotsa guys build full wooden tear drops on steel framed trailers, and most old school campers and motor homes were wood framed.

I suppose if you glued, screwed and tattooed the sheeting to the studs you’d probably be alright.
You could glue aluminum sheeting to the exterior to weather proof. It’s available pre-finished in tons of colours. Roofing, siding, eavestrough suppliers.



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Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
Lots and lots of quality glue and resin, screwing, and intricate joints will be the key. Dados, Dovetails, Lap, and Tenons will make it much stronger than a butt joint ever could. Gussets will also help. Harbor freight sells some pretty good clamps, you'll need dozens. If done right it will be as strong as any other way you could build it.

3/4 plywood is unnecessary... it's expensive, heavy, hard to get too lay flat once it warps, and not a lot stronger than 1/2" for your purpose. If you can do tounge and groove joints between your plywood sheets it will be much stronger than butting them together. They make router bits to do it pretty quickly.

Frame it and then hang the interior plywood. You can easily run the wiring and then do the outter layer.

The outside needs to be a boat, think fibreglass resin and cloth. I'd probably do three layers of cloth on the joints and two everywhere else. It should be rock solid and pretty heavy when you're done. Some will say it's over kill, but I'd rather over build than have to make repairs down the road.

I would also frame the walls out of 2x3s instead of 2x4s. They seem to be straighter and have fewer knots. They are also lighter and a few cents cheaper. You will also get 2" more interior space, which doesn't sound like much-but it can be helpful.
 
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shortbus4x4

Expedition Leader
Talk to IdaSHO. He's built a very nice camper from wood. I think it's in the "other camper" forum. Right now there is a thread he started on changing its color.
 

C p weinberger

Active member
IMHO, Built right, wood will perform as good and more often better then many other high end material when subject to high vibration/ distortion. How do we know that? There are many wood and wood/ fiberglass boards that still float after many years of extreme use. You can build even a “long term” rear mounted living component out of wood.
As mentioned above the key is materials and techniques. Comment about Home Depot was very astute. Home Depot type place will increase overall costs for inferior product. There are several examples on this forum. One I particularly like is IdaSho’s. Looks great and seems to have performed well in real world useage.
Look into marine industry for wood/ fiberglass ideas.
Composite is indeed a great way to go, just not the only way..
Good luck.
 

1000arms

Well-known member
Most rigs don't like 4x4 wood frame construction, insulated, and skinned inside and out with 3/4" plywood, but I don't think that would be an issue for your rig. :) Fiberglass, or poor person's fiberglass, on the outside ... (Is that an echo I hear? :cool: )

Glue and screw. Rigid closed-cell for insulation, 2" +1.5" bonded together, and the plywood sheathing bonded to the foam and frame, inside and out. Cabinet grade plywood on the inside.

Look at glue and screw boat building for some ideas too.
We are looking at 4x6 outer rails in the floor to anchor our box to the truck bed, and a 4x4 built into the ceiling/roof to anchor a pair of small ATV winches to power our brawbridge back door to, but other than that, I would be inclined to just use 2x4s, with the studs on 24" centers.

And 3/4" plywood might be overkill, even for something like this...
Using 4x4s allows for more surface area to glue/silicone-seal the plywood to the studs.

3'4" plywood sheet would resist racking from wind force better than thinner plywood. On a lighter truck and truck capacity, I'd be willing to trade some plywood thickness for weight, and you might want to, but you don't need to.

A while back, I designed and built a small camper trailer to tow behind my Jeep. 45 degree angle at the back for departure angle. Same size rims and tires as on my Jeep. Same track-width. Torsion axle stubs. I welded up my frame with a receiver hitch front and rear on the trailer. Pintle ring inserted in to the front receiver on the trailer. Pintle hook in the rear receiver on my Jeep. Tongue long enough that combined with the pintle hook-ring setup, I could turn with the tongue more than 90 degrees from straight ahead towing, without Jeep body to trailer body contact. Trailer body built out of 2x layed flat and 3/8" plywood, with 3/4" floor. Silicone on every joint and sheetrock screws. No insulation or interior sheathing, so very easy to see how all the joints held up. I painted the outside with Rustoleum white metal paint. I towed it across the US. It spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest rain (and some snow), but had no leaks when I sold it 5 years later. :)
 
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verdesard0g

Search and Rescue first responder
Screwed and glued MDO ply with 2x2 frame with 2x4's in the corners. Exterior Acrylic paint over factory finish. Should last for several years.
There are several pages before this but the photo sharing site I used is gone!

1.jpg
 

s.e.charles

Well-known member
one thing I learned about MDO*: glue only penetrates the paper layer. take something apart, and you'll see what I mean.

* i've only used "2 sides". i guess if you used 1 side & glued just the wood veneer, it would hold.
 

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IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
If you really are considering wood..............................................

From a lifetime of construction experience and knowledge, as well as the first hand experience building my own true 4-season camper out of the material people have nightmares of...

I strongly suggest you stick to VG (vertical grain) fir for framing, completely encapsulated in epoxy, true BS1088 marine grade ply for exterior skins, glass, & epoxy.

VG Fir for strength-weight and rot resistance
Marine grade ply for its high ply strength, boil proof glues, and rot resistance
Glass and epoxy to blend joints and create a candy coating, then topcoat with your choice of paint.

My personal feeling is that anything less will result in the reasons people are scared to death of wood.
Start with quality wood products, do what you can to keep them intact, and you have a chance.

Mine has worked out beyond great. Its the equivalent of a true 4-season 10' slide in camper that weighs just 2200lbs dry.
Originally built in 2013/14 and until the last few weeks (in the shop torn apart for a refresh), has never seen the inside of a garage or even a cover.
It stays outside 24/7/365, and is no worse for wear.

Let me know if you'd like more info.










 

MTVR

Well-known member
If I'm gluing it, that means no vapor barrier, which means that moisture must be stopped before it gets into anything. To that end, coating the outside with epoxy resin (before painting it) would probably be more durable against tree branches scraping down the sides...
 

MTVR

Well-known member
3/4 plywood is unnecessary... it's expensive, heavy, hard to get too lay flat once it warps, and not a lot stronger than 1/2" for your purpose. If you can do tounge and groove joints between your plywood sheets it will be much stronger than butting them together.
That's what I was thinking...
 

MTVR

Well-known member
If you really are considering wood..............................................

From a lifetime of construction experience and knowledge, as well as the first hand experience building my own true 4-season camper out of the material people have nightmares of...

I strongly suggest you stick to VG (vertical grain) fir for framing, completely encapsulated in epoxy, true BS1088 marine grade ply for exterior skins, glass, & epoxy.

VG Fir for strength-weight and rot resistance
Marine grade ply for its high ply strength, boil proof glues, and rot resistance
Glass and epoxy to blend joints and create a candy coating, then topcoat with your choice of paint.

My personal feeling is that anything less will result in the reasons people are scared to death of wood.
Start with quality wood products, do what you can to keep them intact, and you have a chance.

Mine has worked out beyond great. Its the equivalent of a true 4-season 10' slide in camper that weighs just 2200lbs dry.
Originally built in 2013/14 and until the last few weeks (in the shop torn apart for a refresh), has never seen the inside of a garage or even a cover.
It stays outside 24/7/365, and is no worse for wear.

Let me know if you'd like more info.










I have read your build thread. And I have considered Marine plywood, at least for the outside.
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
My entire camper was assembled with PL premium and stainless brads. ;)

And yes, a solid candy coating of epoxy on the exterior is your moisture barrier (from outside moisture)
But dont forget about inside air moisture that will want to condense on the inside of the walls.



FYI, my exterior ply skins are just 6mm (1/4") thick. I would never consider thicker.
In my experience a good marine grade 6mm ply is bomb proof.

Interior skins are nothing more than 1/8" "door skins"
Very light weight, and do the trick
 

MTVR

Well-known member
Thanks.

We're not forgetting the inside- after all, we're planning on taking hot showers inside there.

I'm trying to reduce thermal bridging by pushing the studs out to 24" on center, so I'd probably use thicker plywood than you did...
 
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