Building the Trailer

One of the reasons I had originally planned to buy a trailer is that my metal working experienced is somewhat limited.  Plus what little I had done in the past didn't prove to be a very enjoyable experience.  Not that it was bad, but I just didn't enjoy the process.  But now I had committed myself to building this 20 ft structure.  Nothing like jumping in half blind! 

I decided the best course of action was to order the Glen-L plans for the Series 1700 trailer and their book about trailer building. It cost $24 for the combination. I would highly recommend them both to any one considering building a boat trailer. I have never built anything like this before and have so far been amazed at how easy and fast it has been. The plans and book have answered all the questions I have had and given me the knowledge I need to construct a good looking and solid trailer. I have seen a lot of homemade trailers and most look it! Not this one.  I think it will look as good as anything you can buy.  I am really glad I decided to take on the project.

But I honestly feel there is another a good reason for my change of heart about metal working.  Most projects before I struggled through with hack saws, hammers and my welding "torch". One of the airplanes I built was made of metal tubing and I bought a small oxygen/acetylene welding setup for it's construction.  I became proficient at gas welding and have used it on metal up to 1/4" . But it is less than ideal for anything over 1/8".

I am usually fairly tight with a buck (tools are somewhat of an exception) but I decided IF I was going to do this I was going to have the tools I needed. So I got out the checkbook.

As I mentioned before I purchased a Lincoln 175+ Mig welder and I am very pleased with investment (with accessories - $900) as it is a tool that I will a have for the rest of my life.  It handles 1/4" steel with no problem and MIG is a breeze to weld with - even for a beginner like me.  I am not an expert by any means but I can make them stick together with a strong but sometimes less than beautiful weld.

The final major purchase was a small metal cutting band saw.  I have wanted one of these for years and this finally pushed to part with the cash ($200).  I could have built the trailer without it but it sure has made it easy.  I am going to throw those darn hack saws away!

My torch set came with a cutting head which I have never used much.  I tried it on the 3" x 3/16 channel that the frame is made from and it wouldn't cut it cleanly - just melted it. The tip that came with the set (#000) included was too small. I bought the right tip (#2) for $10 and now it works fine. I think the trailer can actually be built without the cutting torch if you have the band saw mentioned above.  The main use for the torch was to cut the flanges away on the cross members to form a tongue to fit inside the flanges of the side rails. See this photo for a clearer description.

If you reversed the outside rails and pointed the flanges out you could just cut the cross members straight and butt weld it to the rails. This would have no effect on the strength and actually would be quite a bit easier to build.  I thought about doing this but decided to go the extra mile simply for the appearance.  I like the look of the flat side out.  Along the same line you could build the trailer with only the torch (no band saw) if you are somewhat adept at using it.

Another tool important tool  that I already had was a handheld angle grinder.  Mine is a 4 1/2" unit that I had paid about $60 for a few years ago. Besides grinding you can use it to cut metal by installing a cutoff wheel.  These cost less than $2 each and work great.  Again, a great replacement for the hack saw. 

Can you tell I really don't like hack saws! Actually it is not just hack saws - it is any tool that doesn't "plug-in". Yea, I'm impatient and maybe a little lazy at times.  Give me POWER tools!

So here we are.  I have spent $1100+ for the tools to build a trailer that I could buy for $1400.  And that's not any material yet!  To start the project I needed 80' of 3" channel.  I have a good friend that operates a large metal working shop (repairs industrial equipment) and he ordered the four 20' sections I needed and sold them to me for his cost - about $80.

The photo at the top of this page shows the trailer in the first stages (wide angle lens makes it look longer than it is!).  I started by popping a chalk line on the floor for the centerline. Then squared out the shape of the rectangular portion and popped the lines for it.  Knowing that the chalk lines would be rubbed away quickly I then used a Magic Marker to make permanent lines that important points of the frame.

Because of the axle I ordered (more on this later) I changed the width of the trailer from 68" to 71".  A 20' section of channel was laid down along the lines forming each side.  Since I am building a "V" bottom boat the cross supports needed to be v'ed also. The plans called for a 6" drop which came out to about a 10 degree angle.  The cross members were cut and welded in place as can be seen in the photo. (Trailer is being built upside down.)


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