Friday, September 6, 2013

Projects Continue

As always during R&R, I've been keeping myself plenty busy with projects.  In addition to working on the dog trailer, I've also been helping Trish prepare her home to rent out.  That's primarily been a job of moving boxes, moving a bit of furniture, doing a few minor repairs and doing a LOT of cleaning.  We are finally at a point where we can advertise it, though.

Meanwhile, weather permitting, I've also been working on the new dog trailer, and I've made good progress.  What started out as a terribly dilapidated dog box set up for a pickup truck has been transformed into a pair of boxes, each with four large compartments, mounted on the trailer and now ready for a couple of coats of paint.

The original dog box was designed with 10 compartments, but since it was intended for a truck with only an 8-foot bed, they were tiny, especially in relation to our larger dogs.  By removing 1 partition in each, and shifting the others, I was able to create enough space to more comfortably accommodate our Stardancers.

To accomplish that, new doors had to be installed.  That was one of the more challenging aspects of the project, but my friend Mike Green explained how to do it in a way that saves expensive materials and results in a more tightly fitting door. 

First, make a template of the door to use as a pattern.  After carefully measuring twice, set the template over the space you want the door and trace around it.

Door template
Next, use a circular saw to carefully start the straight cuts on the edges of the doors and vent (window).

Using circular saw to start straight cuts.  Be VERY careful when manipulating the guard.
When all of the straight cuts have been made, mount the hinges and latches across those cuts.  Leave the corners intact until after the hardware has been mounted.

Mounting hinges and latches before cutting out the doors

Using a jig saw, cut out the corners of the vent first (let that just fall into the box) and then the door.
Cutting the corners
There you have, a perfectly fit and well hung door for each compartment.  Once all the corners are cut out, it's easy to just open the door and mount the grates for the vents on the inside.

The way I've designed this trailer, the faces of the boxes are mounted on shelves welded to the top rail of the trail and extending out over the fenders.  This leaves about 2/3 of the boxes extending over the space on the interior of the trailer.  That's a lot of weight for just a few carriage bolts to handle, so I needed to instal pedestals to support that weight.  I didn't want to fill in that space entirely, as it makes a handy area to stuff smaller pieces of camping gear and supplies.  Here is how I did that.
Leaving an opening along the top of the supporting pedestals creates space to carry small stuff.
When transporting sleds on top of the boxes, the runners of the sleds fit between a pair of parallel rails to prevent it from sliding around from side to side.  That makes it a lot easier to secure the sled for transport.  To do the job, I just removed the tops of the boxes, measured carefully twice, and clamped the 2 X 2 rails into place.  Then I flipped the top over, screwed them down, and reinstalled the tops.

The dog box on my truck uses hinged "foot boards" that flip up as a back-up to the door latches.  If a latch vibrates open on the road, the foot board prevents the door from opening and the loss of a dog while traveling at high speed down the road. 

The problem with foot boards is that the weight of the board stresses the hinges.  On the truck the solution was to use blocks of wood as supports, which also creates a handy ledge on which I can mount the end of the ramp I use to load our heavy dogs rather than lifting them by hand.  Since the trailer sits lower to the ground than the truck, it is easier to just train the dogs to jump straight into the boxes rather than using the ramp. 

So, to have the safety of a full-length door lock while reducing the stress on the hinges, I installed "drop boards" of 1 X 4s.  They are hinged at the top of the box where they don't have to take any stress.  In use, they just drop down across the tops of the doors to hold them in place.

Sled rails and drop boards in place.
Now all that remains is to pain the boxes and mount them permanently in place.  The resulting trailer can easily confine and transport at least 8 of our dogs, and more if we double up in a few compartments.  We can carry a sled on top of the boxes on each side, and a third right down the middle aisle, though it's more likely that space will be used to transport equipment and camping gear. 

There are likely to be some more improvements made to the trailer over time.  I'm thinking of adding an additional, separate dog box on each side as there is enough space at the rear end of the trailer to do so.  Another option is to just build a storage boxes for gear in those spaces.  For now the immediate goal of having enough capacity to transport every dog in the kennel in a single trip is accomplished.  Once I have the things painted I'll post some more pictures.

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