Sawtooth XL Build


Many of you on this forum remember Jess Neal and his epic build of the Sawtooth XL, a trailer of his own design. Through an inspiring feat of perseverance he built a versatile little trailer, for which he now sells plans. Since I am lazy, and not very original in thought, I bought a set of plans and decided to give this a try. I packed up my Subaru and headed south to Kitsap County, Washington, where my brother the semi-retired carpenter lives, along with his myriad friends in the construction trades, and most importantly, our good friend Wayne The Welder. I can glue, but I can't weld, and Wayne is an artist with any welding machine. As a tease, here is the frame tacked together;


This build will start out slowly, as I am waiting for suspension parts to arrive (May 16), and then I have to drive to Salem to pick them up. Also have to find two Subaru wheels to take to the powder coater, and that is not proceeding as smoothly as I would like. While waiting for the suspension and wheels, I will buy the wood today and get that to the shop where the body will be built. And I also have to clean that up so it is usable. By the end of this weekend, I should have some noticeable progress.

Many thanks to all Jess Neal and all of those who have posted their builds, as I have without shame or blushing adopted (stolen) your ideas and the execution of those ideas.


In typical trailer build fashion, I'm off to a slower start than I planned. I ordered the wood yesterday, but it can't be delivered until next Tuesday. After working on the frame this coming weekend with Wayne The Welder, on Monday I will drive to Sequim to pick up the wheels for the trailer, and bring them back to Kitsap Powder Coating for powder coating. On Tuesday, I wait for the wood to arrive, then drive to Portland and Salem to pick up the suspension and other parts, returning on Wednesday. Then up to Port Angeles to deliver the suspension parts to WTW. On Friday, I can cut some wood, but then it is back to Port Angeles to work on the frame with WTW. It is going to be busy, but I really want to be making some sawdust. To paraphrase Helmuth von Moltke, no plan survives first contact (with the enemy).

Still pretty excited about getting started in any fashion, and the logistics are coming along. So pictures no later than Monday of the trailer frame.


Still slow

I went up to Port Angeles yesterday to work on painting on the trailer frame. However, Wayne the Welder has been working overtime at his day job, and was unable to work on it all week, and grandkids captured his weekend. This week is not looking to good either. I will be able to check on it Thursday when I deliver the suspension to him. However, I was able to pick up all the parts that I had shipped to him for the trailer body.


We also discussed a rear tire carrier swingout for the Subaru. That would be nice to have.

I moved all the parts to the shop where I will be building the body, assuming I can ever get the wood to work with.


This morning, I received a voice mail that the six sheets of 1/2 inch birch plywood I ordered that were to be delivered tomorrow were actually on back order, and not available for another week, maybe two. A few calls to other local lumber yards were all negative. So I checked the local Box Store, and sure enough, that had 47 sheets. I should be able to fins six good sheets in that bunch. I moved all the parts up to the shop, and now I need wood tomorrow. In the afternoon, I start down towards Salem to pick up the suspension from Scott at Compact Camping Concepts. Scott has been very easy to work with, as have the folks at Vintage Technologies and Oregon Trail'R. Very good people throughout this community, most particularly Jess,who freely answers my questions as I move ever so slowly through this process.
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Dan - Good to see progress... hate to see the delays. They are inevitable though... Keep after it. That is cool you are working with Scott on this. Good guy...


Trailer frame

Picked up the axle suspension parts for the frame last Wednesday from Scott at Compact Camping Concepts. A great guy and so easy to do business with. Hauled them up to Port Angeles on Thursday and tucked them in the shed out of the rain.


On Sunday, Wayne the Welder tacked up all the suspension parts. He hasn't closed up the ends of the tubing yet as we haven't decided on where to put the wiring loom. The tabs for mounting the body to the frame are fabricated and he was welding them on when I left.

I'm having difficulty uploading pictures. As soon as I figure that out, I will upload some shots.


Tacking the suspension to the frame


Also (not pictured) welded on the shock mounts and the tabs for mounting the body to the frame. In the process, I realized that I ordered the wrong hubs, in that I have free-wheeling hubs and I need drum hubs for the electric brakes. I keep learning that there is no problem in trailer building that cannot be solved with time, effort, money, or a combination of all or some of the three. Thankfully, Scott from Compact Camping Concepts can source the necessary hubs, and it will just be a little longer to get them and install them. I have plenty to do before I need them, and I'm not going to worry.

We also noticed that the front cross member has a slight bow in it caused by the heat from the welding. That will be straightened out this week so the top of the frame is flat and true.

We have not closed up the frame yet pending a decision on how the wiring loom will run. I should get that sorted out this week.


Looks great Dan. I had the axle brackets for brakes but never put them on...

I don't think this trailer actually needs the brakes, but I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy. Regardless, I have the drums ordered through Scott. Most of the rest of the day has been spent chasing down the correct lug nuts for the Subaru (OEM - who knew that a Subaru dealer would only have five lug nuts in stock in their parts department?) and tooling up. Being 3000 miles from my own shop kinda is not good. (Sentence structure intentional and edited several times to make it suitable for a general population forum). Picking up the rest of the plywood tomorrow if it is not raining too hard, as well as some MDF for jigs. Then I will get started on the body.


Nice to see your project off and going, also seeing one of Jess's Sawtooth trailers getting built. Yes, every project has a hiccup or two ...


kinda not good, like when I'm working in my driveway and my toolbox is at work... Yes. The worst kind of kinda not good.

Enjoying the read and the project. Keep at it!


An Interim Report

Oer the last several days, I've been trying to get all the parts and supplies together needed to get this build moving along. I think I am almost done, except for saw blades. And some Sika-Flex, but I can't find it anywhere locally and may have to go to Tacoma to find it. And the two-part epoxy that goes between the CPES and the Monstaliner. And the Monstaliner.

In Anchorage, I know where all the suppliers are, and most of them are within a mile or two. Here, I have no idea who sells the supplies I need, and have to search the interwebs - and then drive 10- 30 miles to find the supplier. I've driven 500 miles or so just finding the supplies I need for this project. It is funny in several respects, but I have crisscrossed from Bremerton to Port Angeles so many times I think I may be turning green from the moss (moss grows on everything here, whether stationary or moving at Mach II. The spores fly through the air and attach like limpets. It's amazing.).

After spending three hours hunting down material this morning, I returned to brother John's house for lunch and to check in. I found him with an ankle injury and in some intense pain. He was able to hobble around, so I went off to the shop to start cutting some wood.

First, though, I had to clean and tune the table saw. It had some deferred maintenance issues that had to be addressed before it could be used, and it took a few hours to get that sorted out. I put a new blade in a Skill saw, and laid out and rough cut some pieces for the wheel wells. When I started to trim them to final dimensions on the table saw, it was "Whoops! New blade needed here too!" So I stood down for the day and went back to John's place.

There I found Baby Brother with his foot in a tub of ice water and in lots of pain. He is restricted from taking anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications due to other medications he his taking, so ice, compression, and elevation are the only treatment options available. We got those all going, but it looks like a bad sprain or maybe a fracture of a metatarsal. I will take him to the doctor in the morning, and while he is being evaluated, I will get new saw blades for the table saw and the sliding compound miter saw. I am determined that I am going to cut wood. Or rather, at least I hope I am going to cut wood.

One thing I discovered today is that the prices I am getting from Scott at Compact Camping Concepts are very good. I discovered the hubs I just ordered from him were available locally at only 40% more than he is charging me, shipping included. I was stunned. Anyway, I'm happy that I am saving money buying from him.

And a chisel. I may need a chisel. And a block plane. Haven't seen one of those laying around yet. I can sharpen those with some sandpaper and a pane of glass . .


Wheel Wells and Floor

Finished off the wheel wells today, and cut the floor parts. I mocked up the floor, and will do the assembly (glue up) tomorrow.



I may have over done it on the pocket holes.



Glued and screwed and setting on some plywood.


Floor mocked up. Needs some trimming. Need to get that block plane.


Today's sawdust.


The table saw blade is not square with the cross cut fence, nor is it parallel with the rip fence. I will have to get under the table and adjust the trunion to get it squared up. I left that for tomorrow after I glue up the floor.


Catching Up

I just realized it has been over a week since I posted anything, not that anyone is clamoring for an update. It has been a week or so of baby steps as some health issues have slowed me down. Those seem to be favorably resolved, and I hope to be back at it full bore this week.

The frame, which was supposed to be done last weekend, has been delayed a little. The warp has been taken out of the front cross member, and the end caps have been welded on. It really just needs the mounting tabs welded on, the rear stabilizers welded on, and the axle hung. We are waiting on the brake drums (which I forgot to order when I ordered the axle) and the wheel adaptors/spacers so I can mount Subaru wheels to the 5 on 5 drums. The current plan is to go back up to Port Angeles on Saturday and put it on another trailer to bring back to Poulso=bo where I can paint it, wire it, and mount the trailer body on it.

As for the body, well, I've been making and correcting mistakes. I'm sure someone saw this picture above, and said to themselves, "Why is one "wing" shorter than the other?"


As you can clearly see, the one on the bottom left is the same size as the one on the bottom right, but it placed on the floor further aft than the right one. On the plans, dimensions are called out in feet and inches. Yours truly read the dimension 1' 6 3/16" both as "1' 6 3/16"" and "16 3/16"" When I cut the half lap on the floor on the left side, I measured, marked and cut it two inches shorter than the right side. Correcting it required cutting a new wing, matching the bevel on the trailing edge of the floor, cutting out the bad piece, and extending the dado/half lap. It took a few hours to get it correct and get it glued in place.



By then it was on the strong back, shown here upside down on the floor.


I was then able to glue and screw the wheel wells into place.


Laying out the side walls did not take long. The cutting took a lot longer. Nonetheless, here is the first side resting on the floor for an idea of what it should look like one day (soon?).


Then the question became, should I use the large windows I bought for the sides on the sides? Or go with the smaller windows I purchased for the doors?


The larger windows only left about 5 inches between the door opening and the window, and the window and the rear bulkhead. The smaller windows left plenty of room. I was concerned about the size of the windows weakening the walls, so I went with the smaller windows. I ordered 12-inch portholes from Vintage Trailer Technologies for the doors. Ventilation will be from the two side windows and the (two-way) powered roof vent. Lighting will be from those, plus a large front window and the two porthole windows in the door (as well as 12-volt lighting). If that turns out to not be enough, I can always cut a bigger hole. Experience has taught me it is difficult to make a large opening smaller.

After cutting the second side sing a flush trim router bit and the first side as a template, I went back to the first side and started routing the dados for the rear bulkheads and galley shelf, as well as the dado for mounting the sides to the floor and installing the roof, front and rear pieces. With an edge jig on the router, the latter took hardly any time at all. In fact, it was so easy I cut a dado too long in one place, and will now have to splice a piece of fir into that dado. This will not be a piano when finished, and only I will know where I buried my mistakes. And you of course.

Also, cut in the window opening and the door opening. After cutting the door opening, I'm very happy I decided on the smaller window.


You can see the second sidewall in the back of the last picture, resting on top of the table saw.
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