What are some aluminium framing methods?
During my research into ‘weldless’ aluminium framing methods I came across many techniques and products that could be used to build a camper. Some of which I have mentioned before but will repeat for completeness.
8020 Framing System
The most impressive would be the 8020 framing system which is basically extruded aluminium profiles that through the use of various fastening methods can be joined together to form a strong, vibration proof join in many different angles. The system is available from a few different suppliers under a few different names but they are essentially the same concept.
- Quick to assemble
- Easy to use
- Strong and Vibration Proof
- Weight could be a factor, they would definitely weigh more than hollow square tubing
Gussets and RivetsAnother method was that used on air plane fuselages. This uses mainly rivets and gussets to join tubing together. It’s an effective method of fabrication and relatively easy for the DIYer. This would probably be the cheapest method of fabricating an aluminium camper frame.
- Cheapest method I’ve found
- Only basic tools needed
- The gussets may be in the way when installing walls, bench tops and cupboard doors.
- Extra care/planning would be needed to ensure you don’t have gussets in the way of moving parts or where a nice flush finish is required.
QubelokThe easiest method I’ve come across so far is something called Qubelok or Connect-It depending on local suppliers. It’s a framing system that uses plastic connectors that slot into 25.4mm (1″) tubing. It is surprisingly strong, especially when building in cube-like structures. The plastic connectors are around $2 each and are available from 3 to 6 way connectors.
- Fairly cheap connectors
- Easy to build (just hammer it together)
- The Qubelok extruded tubing is available with an offset lip so you can mount bench tops or glass ‘flush’ within the frame (pretty cool actually)
- The aluminium tubing isn’t really a standard size and the anodized finish makes the price of tubing a little higher than you’d expect. Especially the lipped tubing.
A little more on these tube connectors
I wondered whether these plastic connectors would be strong enough for building a camper. Especially one like the Wedgetail or similar with the fold over lid.The Qubelok/Connect-It system is actually really popular in the 4x4ing and touring communities. They use them a lot to make slide out drawers and shelving for their camping and 4×4 equipment (fridges, cooking, winch gear, etc).
I’ve heard of a few reports though where these plastic connectors will crack over corrugations or if you put too much weight on them, which gave me a few concerns.
I pondered over this and thought that as long as you didn’t overly stress any particular join and if you reinforced some of the joins with gussets it may be the best of both worlds. (E.g. Easy to build & still strong)
So that’s where I’ve started. I would design a Wedgetail style camper out of Qubelok/Connect-It components and where I had to reinforce it I would use gussets.
On to the design!