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Old 01-24-2016, 04:31 AM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 54
Scratch building a hard side boon docker.

I'll start with the reasons why I have decided to build rather than buy.

My wife and I have been campers throughout our entire 25 years of marriage. Mostly dry camping as we are into ATV's fishing etc.

Together we have covered the gambit from small truck campers to 30' motor homes and everything in between.
For the last few years we have been without an rv as the kid is grown and off on her own .
We just lost interest I guess. Geez I've gotten fat.
Any way The kid meets this great young man who is hugely interested in everything out doors.
Back to camping...... I like this guy.

About 2 months ago ( maybe a bit more ) I asked my wife what she wanted in a camping rig , as we are likely going to start traveling again......
She ponders this question for a few days .( She has learned to be a careful thinker when I ask such questions ).

Now my wife is tight, very tight. She knows me very well .
I am a builder of toys. Big toys. Expensive toys.
It doesn't take much to get me started on a build.
Historically I'd rather build than buy.
My tastes tend to run more towards the vintage rather than the high tech. But I am a mechanical engineer.
So basically I'm conflicted and need to blend the old with the new.

She comes to me in early November with a plan.
I am informed that out of all our adventures and all of our various rv's the one she has the best memories of was our first. And that's exactly what she wants........

The first rv we ever owned was a 1985 Nissan 720 4x4 truck with a 7' Parris Valley camper .
We traveled all over the western United states and parts of Canada in that little rig.
It was cramped, it leaked , was crude by any standards.
It was also the rig we conceived our beautiful daughter in , had the most wonderful adventures in and the best memories.
It could literally go anywhere.
Best of all it was simple...

So we were off. I found a viable truck in Vernonia Oregon.
A 1985 Nissan King cab 4x4 ST with 12000 miles post restore.
Mechanically it was near new , adult owned and best of all had been a camper hauler in the past.
Cosmetically, it's pretty nice. No rust , fair paint , straight body. A good foundation for a build.

I took a few days shop time to go through the entire truck. Added a belly mount tie down system , suspension upgrades including air bags , heavy duty clutch , some well thought out hp upgrades and a quick paint job .

I now started to look for a small camper for the truck.
That's where the trouble started.
No one has manufactured a ( what I consider ) good hard side camper for an import truck for many years.
What was available on the used market was sketchy at best.
All were wood framed , waterlogged , poorly thought out campers.
Kind of like the Parris Valley I was trying to emulate.....
The only thing that was available were several brands of popup's.
I like to 4 season camp so a pop up is out.

One morning at coffee , the wife informs me that
" If I want a small camper , with my requirements I'm just going to have to design and build one ".
I think she was kidding, but what the hell...

4 days later I had a working shop drawing and the build was on....

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Old 01-24-2016, 05:10 AM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 54
The plan :
1x1 and 1x2" .065 steel tube frame .
It's light , 320 lbs .
Strong and ridged.
Won't suffer all of the problems of a wood frame.
Is as light as a properly built fully welded aluminum chassis.
And best of all at todays prices is very cost effective.
It will be lined with mahogany 11/32 underlayment sheets.
They are light and moisture resistant.
All exterior bulkheads , roof and floors will be insulated with R-tech ridged insulating panels.
Then the unit will be skinned externally with .035 aluminum sheets.
Projected weight is 1000 lbs dry.
I started the project by acquiring 2 old waterlogged Conestoga campers and dismantling them.
For a $100 investment I gained 2 working 3 way Dometic refrigerators,2 working ranges, power distribution panels, windows, doors, drawers, double sinks, pumps, etc.
Pretty much all of the basic hardware and appliances one would want in a nicely equipped camper.
I serviced and tested all of the gear I decided to use then stored the spares in my warehouse.
Trust me, this was a nasty job. One of the campers had a full black water tank....
The good : all of the appliances are pre computer.... Simple , fool proof and easily serviced.
On December 27th I started the build.

Once the fabrication was completed the fallowing Sunday,
I cold galvanized the entire chassis then coated it with a layer of etching primer.
I was now ready to start the interior.

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Old 01-24-2016, 05:19 AM   #3
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The floor was the first part of the skinning process.
I opted for 2 layers of 3/8" plywood for the floor.
A panel of R-Tech 1" was sandwiched between the 2 sheets.
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Old 01-24-2016, 05:27 AM   #4
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Sounds interesting looking forward to seeing your progress.
John & Cathy R.
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Old 01-24-2016, 06:04 AM   #5
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I was now ready to start the skinning process.
starting with the floor ( 2 layers of 3/8" plywood )
I sandwiched a sheet of 1" R-Tech between the two.

This was simplified by the light weight chassis.
I just flipped it on its side and skinned the bottom.

Added the R-Tech,

Then skinned the inner floor.

The interior bulkheads went much the same as the floor.

I started framing out the cabinets while the sheeting process ensued.

The drawers from the Conestoga's are a plastic unit that is very light and easy to clean . The wife likes them so in they go.

At this point I am using the door and drawer fronts from the 2 campers I wrecked out. They will be refaced once the camper is completed.

Fitted the rear door so the vertical storage locker could be finished.

I then moved on to the forward bunk.

This will be called the Knotty room. Get it ?

The distribution panel and wiring were an ongoing process during the entire job.

Again a recycled unit.
No computers here. A simple 30 amp Dometic charger and distribution panel.

I decided to make the rear panel ( passenger side) removable just in case I ever have to remove the fridge.

Got the overheads roughed in some where during the build.
They double as sofeting for the wiring.

Propane locker and battery bay.

Well now we are up to date. I am now awaiting the blue flame heater, tankless hot water heater and the water tank. All to be delivered next week.

I'll keep you posted as things progress.
Hope you enjoy. Happy trails.

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Old 01-24-2016, 12:09 PM   #6
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Can't see any of your pictures
2008 F450, 2016 Outdoors RV Glacier Peak 26 RKS
Tried being normal once, worst 2 minutes of my life!
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:01 PM   #7
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This looks great. I was thinking of doing something similar with my 52 Ford F-4 truck chassis (with upgrades!). How do you cold galvanize something? BTW, great mechanical engineering minds think alike!
Fran, Mary & Zoey (silver Cocker)
2006 Itasca Sunrise 35A, 2005 W-22, Allison 1000 5 speed
'13 Ford Focus ST or '10 Prius on Master Tow Dolly 80THD-SB or '00 Jeep Cherokee 4-down
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:07 PM   #8
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Cold galvanizing is a spray zinc product. ( Similar to spray paint )
It's available through most hardware stores.
Clean the steel very well before applying , then roughen up the steel with 80 grit sand paper and spray.
It's a good idea to top coat with etching primer as the zinc coating erodes when handled.
Thanks for the thumbs up . It's been a fun project so far.
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:41 PM   #9
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Cold galvanizing works pretty well. I used it on the shelves to our fridge, but it was a slightly different color from the original though. Did you paint over the galvanizing?

When I first saw this thread I thought I should find a link to the other similar thread so you could see it, then I realized it was the same thread with more pictures and some of the original posts missing, or something. Now I know it's a welded steel frame. I can't wait to see the exterior going on.

I wish I had the work space you have, I could be doing so much work on the MH.

Consider this another couple of thumbs up.

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Old 01-24-2016, 05:55 PM   #10
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Yes I did paint over the cold galvanizing . With etching primer....
Thanks go out tone of the administrators of this sight ( John RR ) for helping me re post all of the first set of pics.... I do thank you.
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Old 01-24-2016, 08:56 PM   #11
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Didn't get a lot done today.
I shot the passenger side exterior with a coat of polyurethane clear .
This will seal the back side of all panels wile finish coating the steel chassis.
The entire camper will be treated in this way prier to insulation and skinning.

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I also started the work on the teak water tank compartment lid.
It will double as the step to the upper bunk.
Because it is a grate by design it should allow the water locker to breath pretty well.

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Old 01-25-2016, 10:24 AM   #12
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I like your use of thin wall steel tubing. I've used it on a safari roof rack box. The weight wasn't a problem. Light. And easy to weld, unlike aluminum .
adventure before dementia
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:22 PM   #13
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My thinking exactly.
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Old 01-26-2016, 05:01 PM   #14
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I just love Hammerite. The appliances are, or will be ready for final installation once paint dries.
The wife chose black and copper. It's her camper to I guess.....

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Also fitted the water tank . It pays to have one custom made to fit.
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