Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

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Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby plectrudis » Sat Feb 20, 2016 10:12 pm

Hi all--

I've posted a few inquiries here and there while I gathered supplies and mulled things over, but now I'm ready to begin building for real!

Mr. Plectrudis & I want a teardrop because:

(1) His back rebels against sleeping on the ground
(2) We often seem to find ourselves camping in monsoons and sub-freezing arctic blasts (or the Texas equivalent). We need something that provides more protection from the elements than a thin, flimsy tent from Academy.
(3) We're frugal(ish) and like to take cheap vacations.
(4) We're plant nerds and like to go hiking and botanizing.

CRITERIA:
    Has to be big enough for a queen-sized mattress and a back galley
    Needs an air conditioner
    Needs to be made more or less on the cheap (except for the AC)
    We don't know how to weld, and while we're marginally handyish, we're no woodworkers--we need a plan that is kind to n00bs
    Must be cute

THE GROUNDWORK:
I checked out tnttt's selection of free plans http://www.angib.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/teardrop/tear00.htm, and while I was originally leaning toward the very cute (but not free) Cubbie, it didn't look like it was going to be long enough for a Q-sized mattress and a galley of any size. Also, it was not free. So I went with tnttt's Grumman instead, whose old-school futuristic curves are so adorably old-fashioned.

I downloaded the free version of SketchUp and followed Dan Lott's wonderful tutorials to design my trailer based on his SketchUp-ized Grumman plan. http://tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=49302. Note--I'd never done any kind of 3D modeling in my life. But during a week's convalescence with walking pneumonia, I learned everything I critically needed to know from Dan and made a go of it. My iteration has a 10-ft foundation, with an extra foot of length (& storage!) provided by the curved nose and tail.

Viola! The Little Ferdie!

Image

(Named for Ferdinand J Lindheimer, pioneering Texas botanist and one of Mr P's personal heroes).

Image

But how to get it from my computer onto a piece of paper? Professional printing is molto $$$$, so that was out. I finally shanghaied a friend into helping me (thanks, C!), and we used a projector at work to project the image onto a wall. I'd bought a big roll of 4' wide white paper from amazon (like the kind teachers use to decorate blackboards) and taped that to the wall. Then I traced the profile view of the design, making sure that it was blown up to fit within certain dimensions (4' tall, 10' base). Frankly, there was some distortion with this approach, as the projector can't project an 11-ft wide image. So we had to project it in pieces. But it ultimately fit within my size constraints, and I figure the critical thing is for my two sides to match each other--it doesn't matter so much that they don't match the Platonic Ideal of Grummanness. So there's probably a better way to do this. I just don't know what it is.

THE TOOLS
We have a few elderly, cheap power tools, plus a friend's mom was downsizing and put a whole garage-full of goodies on sale. So I snarfled some more key items, and now I think we've got the critical stuff, minus a few clamps--apparently one always needs more clamps:

circular saw
router
mitre saw
sawsall
scroll saw
cordless drill with regular and keyhole bits
orbital sander
belt sander
kreg jig
staple/brad gun
Some clamps

THE WORKSPACE
I build a basic workbench out of an old formica table, and Mr P installed some electric outlets in the garage

THE TEST
I really don't know if I can bring this project to fruition, as I definitely don't have the brain of a carpenter. (I have the brain of a liberal arts major. This will enable me to pick out some lovely textiles for furnishing the interior...)

So before I drop a pile of dead presidents on the trailer, I've set myself a test. If I pass the test, I'll take it as a sign that with enough baling wire and gorilla glue I can make something that won't fall apart on the road. If I fail the test, then for the safety of myself, my loved ones, and the general public, I should probably just scotchguard the tent and invest in a really nice air mattress and some waterproof blankets.

(cont).
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby KennethW » Sat Feb 20, 2016 10:29 pm

You have to be really bad to build something that blow's apart. I built a TD out of foam with no wood in the roof and it did not blow a part at 80 mph. So have no fear and go for it.
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman: THE TEST

Postby plectrudis » Sat Feb 20, 2016 10:58 pm

The test is this: I have to "stretch" some plywood. The profile is (a hair less than) 11' from bulge to bulge, so a 4x8 isn't going to be big enough--I have to splice two pieces of plywood together. I had never so much as turned on that router, I'd never cut a board using a clamped-on guide, I'd never heard of Titebond III. I thought nails came in lengths shorter than 1/2" (not at Lowes, they don't).

I asked the forum for advice on how to do this http://tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=63635 (thanks, guys!), and TODAY, I STRETCHED SOME PLYWOOD. OH HELL YES.

It's 1/2" exterior grade (deplorable, crappy, knothole-ridden from Lowes, but the specialty lumber places wanted some $80 per sheet. So Lowes it is), and I made a 2" lap joint (I'll be nailing it to poplar studs, so it doesn't need to be super strong). I routed my first... route today, which was exciting.

Image

Thank goodness I had been advised to do a trial run before taking on the real thing.

It turns out that my router has an "edge guide," which in retrospect is a mixed blessing. It took us about 1/2 an hour to figure out how to attach it, and then we had to develop an approach to clearing all the material between the 2" guide limit and the edge of the board. This probably isn't the right way, but it did get the job done: we made a series of channels parallel to the edge about a 1/2" apart. Then we used a sort of small back-and-forth movement to clear each remaining ridge of material. This way, the router was supported on both sides as long as possible. Clearing that last ridge at the edge, though--always messy. The router leans a little and digs more deeply into the wood. I think it will be okay, but it was definitely not lignified perfection.

If we hadn't used the guide, we could have followed some advice I received to clamp some plywood on the other side of the edge, where it can support the router. This is probably what I'll try next time. The guide does make cutting the farthest-from-the-edge channel a breeze, though. Go from left to right and zoup-zoup: it's done.

Anyway, after the adventures in routing, I glued the two routed faces together using Titebond III, with waxed paper above and below, and sat heavy paint cans on them.

The plywood--in addition to being knotty--is also warped, so this afternoon I bought a staple gun to encourage the splice to stay spliced.

When I pulled the paint cans off after a couple of hours to apply the staple gun, the joint popped apart (we're still on the trial run, here. But we've learned a very important lesson.) I stapled it back together, but I'm not sure how strong the join will be in the long run. Fortunately, is just scrap wood.

Then I repeated all those steps (minus a few of the cock-ups) on the good pieces of wood. By myself, I might add, Mr P having pooped out. The joint is glued, stapled, and paint-canned, lying on the garage floor to cure.

Celebrating may be premature, but this was a weird, hard thing for me, and I was really intimidated by it. But we tried it, and after some goof-ups, we figured out a way to make it work. Even if the joint doesn't hold, we'll just make adjustments and try again. I feel like, either way, I learned enough and made enough progress to justify the next stage (buying the trailer).

So. For real. We're going to build a teardrop trailer.
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby plectrudis » Sat Feb 20, 2016 10:59 pm

Thanks, Kenneth! I'll pass that on to Mr Plectrudis. He gets nervous...
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman - USING THE ROUTER

Postby plectrudis » Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:32 pm

I'm posting some boring details about how to use the Craftsman 315-25070 Router, for my own reference later. Probably won't be a very scintillating read. You've been warned.

If you don't have a copy of the user's manual, it's available free here: http://www.manualslib.com/manual/480024/Craftsman-315-25070.html?page=6

But I prefer my own instructions, so I'm recording them here.

CHANGING THE BIT
(1) There's a small metal leaver with a piece that fits into a notch in the bit's collar[?]. Press it and rotate the collar till the piece finds the notch. Now you can screw/unscrew the collar with the special wrench to let the bit out.

(2) Insert the new bit, but then back it out a hair before tightening with the wrench. We didn't do this at first, and the bit kept creeping deeper and deeper.

SETTING THE HEIGHT
(1) Loosen the "wing nut" (the finger-bolt on the back of the unit)
(2) use the right-hand "ELEV ADJUST" to raise and lower the main body of the router until the bit is just touching the surface of the wood while the router is perfectly level with the surface. The "ELEV ADJUST" dial is sticky-- you can pull or press on the body of the router to encourage it to move.
(3) Turn the left-hand "ZERO ADJUST" dial to zero. This is the unit's baseline. From here, you will tell it how deep to plunge.
(4) Lean the router back so the bit can descend without touching anything. Use the right-hand "ELEV ADJUST" dial to raise and lower the bit, reading the depth from the ZERO ADJUST dial. This is confusing. Do not try to set the depth using the ZERO ADJUST dial--it won't work.
(5) Tighten the wing nut good and tight.
(6) You're now ready to begin routing.

ADDING AN EDGE GUIDE
If you want to add an edge guide, it makes the most sense to do it before setting the height.
(1) Find two parallel channels in the router that run parallel to the ground. The two long shiny rods fit into these channels, though you'll have to loosen a couple of screws on the underside of the unit first.
(2) Fit the two shiny rods into the two parallel channels in the top of the edge guide. Again, you'll need to loosen some screws first.
(3) Measure the distance from the lip of the edge guide to the middle of the router bit hole, and adjust the edge till is reaches the desired distance for a channel you wish to cut or a lap joint you wish to create. (There has to be a better way--this is ridiculously imprecise)
(4) Tighten all the screws.

Here's how the route looks with the edge guide in place, doing its thing:

Image

As I mentioned in my previous post, to make the face for the lap joint, I first cut parallel grooves in the region I planned to remove. Then I used a sort of scrubbing movement to remove each of the ridges of wood between the channels, one at a time. This seemed to work nicely.

Image

The problem with the edge guide is that as you remove the last ridge of wood, there's no more support for half of the router face--it's just hanging out over space, and it naturally tends to lean toward the user a bit, causing inappropriately deeper channels.

Image

If, instead of using the edge guide, I had clamped a second piece of plywood butted up against the first, and then had clamped a couple of straight edges in place to circumscribe the movement of the router, it would have always been supported = no unsightly gouging. I'll probably try this next time, when I stretch some plywood for the the other wall.

However, for this iteration, I'm hoping that copious wood glue and staples will hold the thing together, regardless of gouges.
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby Hepcat » Sun Feb 21, 2016 7:48 am

You´re doing great. Keep on learning on scrap wood, just like I did years ago. The good thing about tear shapes is that they tend to stabilize themselves when all comes together.
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby plectrudis » Sun Feb 21, 2016 12:27 pm

Thanks, Hepcat! One of the guys who advised me on stretching plywood said you either sit in the "moaning chair" beforehand to plan or afterwards in regret. I'm trying to keep that in mind. Also, I keeping muttering, "Meaure twice, cut once; measure twice, cut once..."
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby KCStudly » Sun Feb 21, 2016 6:36 pm

I'm enjoying your writing and positive attitude, so keep up the enthusiasm! :thumbsup:

You can strengthen your plywood pieces for handling by temporarily screwing a couple of 2x2s across the joint lengthwise, extending past the joint a couple of feet on either side. Could have the added benefit of holding your pieces up off of the work surface for additional cuts, etc.
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby pchast » Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:59 pm

HI next time use another piece of the same plywood against th e one you are routing
as you get to the last pass. This will provide a support for the router.
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby noseoil » Mon Feb 22, 2016 7:49 am

If you start at the outside, then work back & forth to the inside you will get a clean edge. Starting from the inside, you will run out of support & things can tip too easily. A router is a great tool, but always practice on some scrap, the do the finished passes once you're confident that things are set properly. Also, keep the bit well tightened. Nothing worse than having a bit creep out as the job is being worked on (don't ask how I know...). You might also look into getting some carbide bits at some point, they won't burn up like high speed steel will.

Great job on your plans & looking forward to this build. It should be really nice when it's done!
Build log: viewtopic.php?f=50&t=60248
The time you spend planning is more important than the time you spend building.........

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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby Talia62 » Mon Feb 22, 2016 11:19 am

Have you considered doing a spline joint instead of a lap joint? If I recall correctly, they're stronger and it's a lot less stock removal with the router.
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby tony.latham » Mon Feb 22, 2016 12:26 pm

Talia62 wrote:Have you considered doing a spline joint instead of a lap joint? If I recall correctly, they're stronger and it's a lot less stock removal with the router.


I really like spline joints in 3/4" plywood when I'm using the stuff for the skeleton in sandwiched walls. Quick and easy. They're strong with the interior/exterior layers of plywood (that act like a gusset) cover the joint. Without that, in compression-tension, they snap.

I would do the lap joint for solid wood walls. Much stronger for a stand-alone joint.

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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby plectrudis » Mon Feb 22, 2016 10:22 pm

I checked the joints last night--they're working great! Both the trial run and the final product seem surprisingly sturdy. The staples really made a difference--thanks to Tony, who had suggested reinforcing the joint with nails (I couldn't find any short enough, so went with staples.)

I need to stretch a second piece of plywood for the other side, but I may cut out the first profile first, on the grounds that it's a little more exciting, and as a reward.

Am planning to trace my pattern onto the plywood, roughly cut it out using a circular saw, and then cut it out more precisely using a scroll saw. Does this seem like a good plan??

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

KC, I appreciate the compliment! Here's hoping I can keep up the steam ;-)

Good suggestion re: using a second piece of plywood, pchast--that's probably what I'll do on the 2nd wall.

Starting from the outside is a little counter-intuitive to me, noseoil, but I'll defer to your expertise here and give it a try. I think the bit I bought actually is carbide--thanks to KC's recommendation :-)

Hi Talia--I've heard people praise splines for being newbie-friendly, but actually the lap joint didn't turn out to be so bad... if you have a tolerance for some imperfection.

Nice suggestion about temporarily bracing the joint with 2x2's, Tony. Although the joints seem gratifyingly sturdy, I am a little concerned about what happens when I need to handle the plywood extensively.

Cheers--

Melanie
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby Vedette » Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:18 am

Hi Melanie
I know there are a lot of well wishers here on the Forum that would like to help you (or "guide you) thru your project. :thinking:
Many of them are very talented, successful teardrop builders, with better than just average skills!
I know you have already spent money on equipment and supplies, that you will never use again unless you plan on building ten more Teardrops after this one.
And my how I hate to ever sound "Negative".....but reading between the lines in your posts, I would suggest that your dream is not going to end well. :roll:
It would be such a shame to lose someone that sounds a fun a yourself to our camping community.
Teardrop Camping is the best! :thumbsup: And the people are even better! :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
But, the cool part about it is the "Enjoyment of Camping Comfortably in something that is Unique and Personalized" ;)
This being said, I would suggest you cut your loses and stop right now! :( I know this is hard for a Frugal (ish) person to do........but you are headed into what is going to become a money pit or black hole, that is just going to end up depriving you of the wonderful Teardrop experience.
IMHO you should leave the gratification of the building to the real builders! Do what you do best.....use your artful eye to decorate and personalize the Teardrop you "BUY"!
Trust me ;) No Matter what it costs??? It is going to be cheaper than where you are headed.
And it will guarantee that you will joining us for one of life's most wonderful journeys.
We are 3 years in and Love It! :wine:
I am currently on my second build and even with my 48 years of building experience, great shop, all of the tools you could ever imagine, and lots of drive; I can tell you that every day is still a challenge. And on most days, I just wish I was out camping?? :twisted:
Sorry if I have rained on your parade? :NC
Hope to meet you camping some day!
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viewtopic.php?f=50&t=50912
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Re: Little Ferdie - 11-ft Grumman

Postby KCStudly » Tue Feb 23, 2016 1:47 pm

Vedette makes some valid points about buying vs. making. One of the things that drove me to decide to build was that I thought I could make a better quality camper than I could buy for the same money, which is proving to be true... but, I'm at least 25/ct over my high end budget and I have been working on it, steady mind you, for 4 years.

... and I wouldn't change a thing about those choices or the money spent... but it wasn't exactly the plan when I started.

So don't get discouraged. Many people are able to build a quality camper for a reasonable budget in a reasonable amount of time; you just have to have a plan, stick to the basics, don't get caught up in feature creep, and keep working on it steadily. Building with basic materials and standard finishes can keep the budget down and the build moving. Try to do high end finishes, two or more contrasting wood species, and every feature known to man and you will need more time and money than you may have bargained for.
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