Blueprint
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Build: Frame Trial

Bench Seat

Bench Seat [+]

Flanged Tube

Flanged Tube [+]

To make sure I was on the right track with the camper’s design and to give these nylon connectors a good test out, I decided to build a part of the camper that will be frequently used and one susceptible to quite heavy dynamic loads – the chairs!

The layout of the chair’s structure is highlighted in red in this design to show you what we’re testing out.

The measurements for the bench seat framework are 750 x 450 x 750mm (L x W x H). At both ends of the chairs are cupboards/access doors, for both inside and outside access.

In the close up, you’ll notice I’ve used Flexliner’s 15mm winged/flanged extrusion which allows for a 19mm board to be placed flush inside the frame.

Putting it together

Chair Frame

Chair Frame [+]

I put in an order for all the connectors I’d need and the special flanged tube. The standard 25 x 25mm tubing for the legs I just sourced locally.

After a few mitre cuts and a rubber mallet on the job, I quickly had the frame up.

I wanted to keep the frame simple at first, to see where it needed reinforcing the most.

Testing it out

The first test was then of course, to sit on it! Hopping on I could tell it had a lot of movement at the joints, obviously some stiffening was needed (& expected). Apart from that though, strength/compression wise, it felt more than up to the task.

Chair Test 2

Chair Testing [+]

Next I wanted to see if having the aluminium sheet walls fitted to all sides of the frame would stiffen it up enough.

Since the front & back of the chairs will be covered in sheet metal & riveted on anyway, these would act like large gussets and prevent the frame leaning & twisting (at least on the X axis).

I didn’t have any sheets large enough for this test so I had to make do with using strips of flat steel (& a thousand clamps).

The difference was like night and day! Both my wife and I were quite comfortable on it together and could easily hop on and off as we pleased without the frame leaning or twisting in either direction.

Final tweaks

Chair Corner Brackets

Chair Corner Brackets [+]

All that said, we can’t actually have sheet or anything covering the two open ends of the chairs, since these are the cupboard/access doors, but we do need it to be reinforced or it will lean & twist. I figured some corner brackets should do the trick and it was a bonus that they would also act as little door stoppers for the internal cupboard doors.

3D Corner Bracket

3D Corner Bracket [+]

Since I built this, my wife has bought me a 3D Printer (from Winplus) and I have been able to come up with my own printable designs for the corner brackets (& lots of other parts). Here’s a little teaser pic.

Drop a comment below if you want me to tackle a particular part of the build next. Happy building!

Aside

A detailed look at construction: #2

I recently came across these photos 1 & 2 of the construction of a camper. You can see how the frames are constructed and wouldn’t you know it? They use Qubelok!

That means no welded frames, all plastic connector joins and the outside aluminium sheet/skin holds it all firmly together.

They’ve also managed to have the fibreglass lid (likely around 20~kg) attach to the frame with a piano hinge (aka continuous hinge) with seemingly no ill consequences (they’ve sold a lot of these units over the years).

Here are some of the construction features I’ve been able to determine from photos and other sources:

  • The Foldover Lid/Bed is a made from foam-cored fibreglass (Check out ATL Composites for some examples of foam core sandwich panels)
  • The upper tent is made from Billabong Dynaproofed 10.9oz canvas – (Wax Converters Textiles)
  • EPDM Rubber Sponge dust/weather seal is used for where the edges of the fibreglass lid and body of the camper meet when closed up.
  • The entire internal frame is made with Qubelok and if you look closely at the photos linked above, you’ll see the connectors are held in place by either rivets or clamped with a nail punch/pinching tool.
  • The benchtops act like large gussets for two of the corners and the other side has two small triangle shelves to strengthen those corners.
  • 100mm Aluminium ‘I’ Beams are used as the support base with a 12mm plywood floor.
  • You’ll also notice the thick aluminium angle on the inside edge of all 4 corners of the camper, allowing the bolts for the jacking points to go straight through, making for a stronger brace.

The other construction methods are fairly straight forward and can be determined from the various photos available online.

Next post will be about some of my early concepts of various Qubelok/Aluminium Frame camper designs. Happy building!

Aside

A closer look at construction: #2

This camper is pretty impressive and definitely warranted a closer look.

Sketchup

Sketchup

It was one of the first Ute campers I had come across and wondered whether it would be a good base on which to design my custom camper. I took to Sketchup (3d design software) and came up with some very basic/rough ideas (note the cantilever bed for the Dual Cabs).

This camper is one of the lightest ute campers at around 370kg. Somehow they’ve managed to keep the weight way down but still using the usual materials (aluminium, fibreglass, wood, etc).

The construction is very similar to the Wedgetail, aluminium frame, fibreglass lid/bed, etc, etc.

I recently made a game-changing discovery about how these are built and will write up a post about this soon!

Wedgetail Campers
Aside

A closer look at construction: the wedgetail camper

So how do the pros make their campers?

It figures since I am planning to base my design closely off the Wedgetail Camper’s layout that I should look into how they are made & what they are made from.

The construction methods employed for the main framework on this camper is all welded aluminium square tube. According to their website, the base framework is made from 4 longitudinal 60 x 40 box section beams with cross bearers in between. The internal frames for the kitchen and seating, etc are also all aluminium welded tube.

Wedgetail Camper Lid

Wedgetail Camper Lid [+]

 

The camper lid/fold over bed is made from fiberglass with a honeycomb core, there are also a few aluminium pieces in there as-well (I think there may also be some framing, in addition to the accent pieces).

Wedgetail Storage Pod

Wedgetail Storage Pod [+]

 

The fold down storage pod/platform, by studying the photos, appears to be made of 40 x 40 box section (see pic). That unsupported area you see is where the shower base is (you can see the drain angles). This area is supported inside with a floating deck which obviously spans across to be supported by the framing underneath.