Lots of things keep me busy but woodworking is one of my favorites. Here's the build of my teardrop camper. I'll share all my custom tooling and critique my design decisions here as I go. I'm a software engineer, not a cabinet maker, so I continue to learn as I go and reserve the right to get smarter.

There’s a chain reaction of design changes that happen when you change plans in flight.  I’m using a Northern Tool 5 x 8 trailer as the foundation for this project but really didn’t like the wheels that came with it.  I upgraded to 15″ car-size wheels and that required a change to a longer axle since the backspacing of those rims was deeper than the trailer rims, and the tires also balloon out more than the trailer wheels so to get the right amount of clearance I had to go with a 72″ face-to-face axle.  I then decided to get brakes so I would be 50 state legal (and just safer overall).  The axle came with spring seats that needed to be welded on.  That is the only part of all this that I hadn’t planned for.  I checked the site I ordered the 3500 lb. Dexter axle from and, yup, it was clearly stated that they were shipped with the axle but needed to be welded on.  I poked around Austin for welders and the quotes I received were in the neighborhood of $150 which is exactly $36 more than the price of the axle.  Seemed like an egregious rip-off ($150 for about 8 linear inches of welding) so I took to the internet and started shopping for a welding machine.  I need one for the Pietenpol Air Camper project so I went with TIG.  The garage is pretty congested as it is so I decided to make a cart/cabinet for the setup while I waited for the shipment.  So, to save $150 I ended up spending about $1400.  …but now I will have the machine and everything I need for future projects that involve welding.


I sketched up a little drawing with the basic dimensions of the machine in mind.  Since most of my projects are woodworking and airborne sawdust settles into everything, I wanted to incorporate a dust hood for the welder so that it doesn’t get ruined.  …and the dust hood can also support another tool (belt sander maybe?) since I don’t anticipate using the welder all that much.  I also wanted to make sure that I had a cabinet below the machine where I could store all the welding related items (grinder, gloves, wire brushes, pedal, tungstens, welding helmet, etc.) so every welding project wouldn’t have to include an hour of hunting down items in different boxes around the garage.  So based on that I came up with some rough dimensions and a quick drawing to guide the process.  I find drawing fun and thought provoking because you really get to do a lot of thinking and planning.


Figured out what I needed vs. what scrap was laying around already and figured I could build a lot of this with just scrap.  I did pick up 2 sheets of 1/4″ plywood and 2 lengths of PVC pipe and some fittings.

After that I just hooked up the phone and Bluetooth speaker and let Dire Straits loop while the project came together.  The problem with a glue only project is that:

  1. You often have to wait for 1 piece to dry before you can glue the next thing to it
  2. You are limited by the number of clamps you have on hand.  I should get about 20 more clamps.

The back of the cabinet will house the Argon tank and 6 tubes for varying sizes of welding rod.  It has 2 x 8″ wheels in the back and locking casters in the front.  This will allow me to roll it anywhere I need it in my garage.  It is also wide enough that it’s incredibly stable.  (Don’t want the cart tipping over)

To make efficient use of the cabinet space, I made a lightweight ply box to hold all the items and still give me room to stack things on it.  Couldn’t find any cardboard boxes that were the right size and a wooden box would obviously be more durable.

After a couple weekends (and a lot of great Dire Straits) I’m about ready to weld.  The second poly coat on the cart is drying and it should be ready for firing up the TIG by the weekend.