Introduction: A Hut on Wheels

Picture of A Hut on Wheels

I built a wooden hut on top of an old caravan (trailer) chassis. The inspiration came from the design of traditional English shepherds huts and also a mobile home on wheels which I saw on Instructibles built by a guy called Paleotool. I've wanted to build one of these for years and used to sit on the train to work, sketching designs. Eventually I left that job, to pursue my own interests, including this project.

I bought Douglas Fir cladding & framing timbers from a local sawmill which specialises in home-grown timber. It was not "cheap" but was good value, I think. The trailer-load of timber pictured was fairly expensive at around £700-£800 but it was locally sourced and native and "fair trade", from a sustainable source. I think this is important . I'm sure that bulk purchase or home milling or using standard construction grade framing timber could have saved money, but would have been a lot more work (time) and perhaps not from a sustainable source.

In total, including the stove & pipework, it cost me £4,500 GBP for the materials. I could have reduced costs by using salvaged door, windows & stove. Plywood is expensive but strong for its weight & bulk.

It took me about 500 hours to build. There was a lot of time spent problem solving, so a second build would be quicker.

The hut measures 2m wide x 3.6m long. It is wide enough for a full size bed to go across the width.

Step 1: Floor Is Built on Top of the Old Chassis

Picture of Floor Is Built on Top of the Old Chassis

I sourced an alloy chassis to avoid corrosion. Cost was £75 GBP. The weight rating of these chassis is usually stamped on a plate somewhere. Note: the tow hitch may have a different plate with a different (usually higher for safety) rating.

Step 2:

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The floor is made from two layers of 9mm structural, waterproof ply with a sandwich of 50mm rigid insulation between 75mm x 50mm batons. I used home-grown (Scottish) Douglas Fir for the battens for its lightness & strength. All joints were glued with polyurethane, expanding glue and screwed. I wanted it to be rigid, light & strong enough to handle the jolting of road travel.

Step 3: The Framed Walls Are Built

Picture of The Framed Walls Are Built

I bolted the now complete floor to the chassis using the original mounting points plus two extra ones (probably unnecessary) giving a total of 7. I drilled upwards from underneath to avoid error. I tightened the dome headed bolts until the 9mm ply compressed about 3-4mm. I dragged the chassis "indoors" to a covered car-port (Costco £240 GBP) for weather protection. I used the completed floor as a workbench and template for assembling the walls. Again using 50mm x75mm Douglas Fir studs. It's a very pleasant wood to work with, takes screws well and is relatively lightweight for its strength and also pretty weather durable if you use the heart wood. Watch out: it is listed as an aggressive irritant if you inhale the dust. Great smell when cut.

Step 4: Walls Framed Out and Skinned

Picture of Walls Framed Out and Skinned

Walls were skinned with 9mm OSB (oriented strand board) called "Smartply 3" It's weather resistant, FSC approved and relatively "green" (being made from waste material) compared to plywood. Cheaper too. Again, all joints screwed & glued. OSB fixed with 50mm ring-shank galvanised nails from the trusty nail gun (a godsend)

Step 5: Making the Arched End Walls

Picture of Making the Arched End Walls

I cut the arched, gable wall tops from 9mm OSB. They were notched, ready to take the roof purlins. The radius of the roof was 1.6m. Tip: I later wished I had made a spare template of these arches, it would have saved a lot of time. The arches were framed with 50mm x50mm Douglas Fir battens. 50mm rigid insulation was placed in between.

Marking the radius onto the ply was a bit tricky. I used the now-finished floor as a table, squared the ply up by marking a centre line on both it and the floor, and used a tape measure with its zero end screwed through onto the table. A pencil held at the 1.6m (1600mm) mark of the tape was used to draw the curve. I had tried using string but it was impossible to pull it taught without stretching it, and thus making errors in the radius. You need a material that is rigid. A piece of long, thin timber with two holes at 1600mm would have done a good job too.

Step 6: Raising the Walls

Picture of Raising the Walls

With all the walls now built as flat-pack, I raised each one, temporarily held it in place on the vertical with long battens tack-nailed onto wall & floor (working alone can be a pain, get a helper if you can). Note that you will need to think about how your corners are built; one wall will "overlap" the other at the corners. Draw a sketch first to work out your corner details. I made detailed drawings of each wall and its stud-work before I started. Note: I let the "skin" of the ply wall overhang the floor by 50mm. This would allow any water or condensation to overshoot the floor and fall on the ground. It also gives another surface for screwing the wall to the sides of the floor, for extra strength.

Step 7: Fitting the Central Arch & Purlins

Picture of Fitting the Central Arch & Purlins

I made a central arch out of three sections of 22mm plywood glued together and cut to the radius of the ceiling. Note, the arch was 100mm wide, so the radius of the lower curve is 100mm less than the upper curve. Notches were cut for the purlins, but only to half depth, the purlins also being notched. Joints were glued with a long, thin screw inserted to tighten the joint while the glue dried. Note: By the time I finished the hut, I had cut the curve shape eleven times in four different materials. Like I said, I really wish I'd made a template.

Step 8: Top of Walls and Ceiling

Picture of Top of Walls and Ceiling

I ripped a 2x4 for the top of the long walls, with an angle which corresponded to the roof curve. This was easy on a table saw but could also be done with a circular saw and a jig to keep everything true. The ceiling was formed from four sheets of 8x4, 3.5mm ash-veneered ply, bent over the roof ribs and screwed in place using the ribs to hide the joins. This worked well and is lightweight & pre-finished. I put a coat of danish oil on the ply's internal surface. It is quite pricey but makes for a quick job.

Step 9: Wiring and Internal Walls

Picture of Wiring and Internal Walls

I ran wiring through the studs, keeping to 300mm above the floor for all horizontal runs. That way I know where the wires are, after the walls are finished. three wall lamps and three double sockets were provided for. I used a "Garage Consumer Unit" to provide a protected power supply. I allowed a generous margin for safety in the spec of the cable I used. Note that if electrical cable is run in an insulated space it's current carrying capacity is downrated slightly. The length of the run is also relevant.

The internal walls were insulated with the 50mm Kingspan.

Step 10: Internal Wall Finishings

Picture of Internal Wall Finishings

The walls were finished with 3.5mm maple veneered ply with one coat of danish oil. I debated a lot about what material to use internally the alternative being T&G cladding. I reckoned thin sheets would be faster & simpler but I'm not so sure now. I had to cut some complex shapes in thin sheets with little margin for error. Not much fun. T&G would have allowed more flexibility as I went along. Having said that, I do hate varnishing and the though of sanding & varnishing T&G was off putting. Wiping the ply with danish oil was quick & easy.

I also used reclaimed church pews for cladding for the gable walls. The ply was looking a bit flat & boring and needed some relief. The old pine looks nice and gives some much needed character to offset the man-made materials.

I used this strips of wood, cut on the table saw, to finish the joints between the sheets. I left the small screw heads exposed, I think this looks OK.

Step 11: External Walls

Picture of External Walls

The external walls were covered with breather membrane and then battened for the cladding. Vertical 15mm battens were added first, to allow an air circulation gap behind the cladding. Next, horizontal 25mm battens were nailed on. These would be used to fix the cladding onto.

Step 12: Roof

Picture of Roof

The roof was made by screwing 75x50mm CLS battens onto the ceiling purlins, through the thin ply ceiling. This provided a gap for the roof insulation. First though, I fixed a layer of shiny Protech 200 vapour barrier to the roof for condensation protection. The weather was very rainy throughout and I had to use a tarp to keep things dryish.

Step 13: Roof Insulation

Picture of Roof Insulation

The roof was insulated with 75mm re-cycled glass-wool "batts". (fiberglass). I seriously thought about using sheep's wool but was put off by tales of damp rot, mice & moths. It may well have been OK, but I was very concerned to make a hut which would last for years with almost no maintenance. I was reluctant to put an organic, perishable material into an inaccessible space above my head.

The fiberglass was covered with breather membrane to deflect any condensation drips from the tin roof. This was stapled into position. I left an un-insulated frame for the chimney flue to poke through later on. The flue requires a 50mm gap to any combustible material.

Step 14: Wrinkly Tin Roof

Picture of Wrinkly Tin Roof

The roof was finished with corrugated steel from a local supplier. They also make pig arks for farmers and are used to bending the stuff. I forgot to add the depth of the roof joists (75mm) to the radius of the tin roof and just made it the same as the ceiling (1.6m). This meant I had to make the roof joists in three different thicknesses from centre to edge, to fit the resulting crescent. Oops. Note, you can't stack same radius curves on top of one another AND keep a consistent gap between them. (I know I'm not explaining this well)

The corrugated roof has a "non condensation" anti drip coating. Essentially, a slightly wooly finish on the underside which traps any condensation and allows it to evaporate slowly into the air, rather than drip. I also opted for a ploymer coating on the tin which adds a few years to its lifespan. I probably would skip this finish next time, since it's probably unnecessary and I'd like to have the option of collecting rain water off the roof for washing & perhaps drinking (once boiled) The tin for the roof & fixings cost around £270 GBP.

It was tricky to get the tin sheets to line up without "steps" at the edges. Perhaps because one edge of each sheet is going over its neighbour and the other is going under, resulting in a very slight cone shape to each sheet.

Step 15: Wall Details

Picture of Wall Details

The top of the walls, under the tin roof, was fitted with an "eaves comb", designed to keep out birds and small mammals. (This does seem a bit unkind, but I didn't want guests in the walls or roof space)

I fitted an insect mesh to the top and bottom of the air-gap battens to keep out wasps etc. I'm not sure how effective these measures would be

Step 16: External Cladding

Picture of External Cladding

The walls were clad "batten & board" style with 15mm think Douglas Fir cladding. Each board was nailed in its centre, so each nail on;y passes through one cladding board. This allows expansion & contraction of boards between wet & dry weather.

Boards were fitted with any "cups" facing inwards (ie convex side in). You can work out which way a board will cup from its end grain pattern. I used stainless steel nails throughout. This proved wise because the single galvanised nail I used (a 3" nail on a tricky corner) started to produce staining within weeks. The stainless nails are worth the slight premium in price. All fired form a nail gun which, as well as being quick, also means less damage to the boards.

I cut all the boards too long and then ran along the bottom with a circular saw before the counter battens were fitted. I angled the saw to produce a drip edge. The cladding overlaps the floor by about 25mm

Step 17: Windows & Door

Picture of Windows & Door

I intended using standard window sizes for cheapness but could not find any that I liked. I really wanted astragals in the windows and not many suppliers had them as standard. I ended up getting custom made windows, pre-finished, with toughened safety glass. They are double glazed and were pretty expensive. They are "casement" windows (open like a door). I made an error when estimating the window size. I forgot that an opening window has two frames, not one, so the actual glass area was less than I envisaged. Oops.

Next time, I will source cheaper windows before I start and build the walls to suit. I may even make the frames myself.

The "stable" door was made by Neil Philip woodcraft in Creif. It is very well made and is fitted with draught excluding strips> I am very pleased with it.

Step 18: Internal Work

Picture of Internal Work

I made a sliding bed frame which converts from single to double by pulling out the interlocking section. Using old caravan cushions it was easy to create a flexible seating/bed arrangement. (that's what they are designed for).

The stove was installed according to domestic building regulations. I could not find any regulations for huts. Cutting the elliptical holes in the curved ceiling and tin roof was tricky. It is important to establish an accurate centre line for your flue. ( I used a plumb line for this) Everything else follows from this point. Once I established the centre line, I drilled a small hole in the ceiling and used this as a datum for the cutting of the ceiling & roof.

I was reluctant to cut a hole in my lovely tin roof and rely on a rubber gasket to keep out the rain. Perhaps next time I'll take the flue out through the wall and then upwards under the roof overhang. That way, it doesn't need to be a watertight penetration. However I'd need to work out how to cut the tin neatly first. My method of drilling lots of holes leaves a ragged edge. (currently hidden by the chimney flashing)

The stove is the "Wendy" 2.5kw woodburner from Windy Smithy blacksmiths in Devon (UK). It is an idea size for such a small space and reasonably priced.

Step 19: Finishing.

Picture of Finishing.

The hut will be used as a quiet retreat in a garden to do art & crafts & relax. I didn't plan this hut as a "touring" affair. It would not be aerodynamic and it's not designed for the open road. The wheels are simply to facilitate moving the hut onto its final site and to allow it to be built in one place and situated in another. If I build another I will maybe use a heavy duty, twin axle trailer.

Having said that, I did build it so that it can withstand the movement of being towed. The plywood skinned frame is very rigid, much more so than I had hoped. When I wound up the corner jacks for the first time after building it, I expected the building to sag just a little at each end but it didn't move at all. The chimney unhooks to reduce height and I'd put a seal over it for transporting, otherwise the "venturi" effect would maybe suck ash out of the flue.


jbgrimshaw (author)2017-10-18

Hi Wulbert, Im having a go at this, have done the base, my base is 14ft long the same as the original caravan, im thinking of ways to save weight on the chassis, do you think 3mm ply would be adequate to skin the walls?


Wulbert (author)jbgrimshaw2017-10-19

I would think that 3mm on the inside is fine but the outer skin would need to be thicker, in my opinion. I am not an engineer though, so I may be wrong. I used 9mm OSB (oriented strand board) on the outside.
It is a strong way to build, making a sandwich of stud wall with ply skin. I was surprised just how rigid it ends up, so a thinner skin may well be OK. Ply would be stronger than OSB I reckon. Weight is a key issue, its easy to end up heavier than you planned. A building engineer could do calculations for you to work out optimal sizes. You could make up a test panel to try out your design.

IngenuityAtWork (author)2017-06-18

Nice build!

Conor Larkin (author)2017-04-22

Love the look, probably agree on the double axle for next time.. but absolutely love the feel that it gives

hazel williams (author)2016-05-19

Hello there,

Thanks for posting all of this fantastic information.

I am also planning to build a shepherds hut style structure but am hoping it can be towed on the road. Do you know any details about the legal length/width/weight etc? I want to build something 8ft by 22ft ideally. Could I do this using a caravan chassis?



Wulbert (author)hazel williams2016-10-17

Hi Hazel,

If you take measurements from a touring caravan that will let you see what is "allowed". I think 8ft wide seems to be the maximum for towing with a car. I'm sure DVLA or VOSA could advise.

PaulS69 (author)2016-08-31

"A Hut on wheels" seems totally inadequate to describe this little work of art. Such a beautiful job with great attention to detail. I think I could happily live in one of these :-)

Wulbert (author)PaulS692016-10-17

Thank you for your encouraging comment.

jʎɐɹ-ɾ (author)2016-07-22

Where did you find a chassis so cheap? I can't find anything even close to that price.

Wulbert (author)jʎɐɹ-ɾ2016-10-17


I'm in Scotland (UK) The chassis is the base of an old touring caravan. They can be bought here for £50 - £150 for a twin axle model. I'm talking about something that might be 20 years old or more, so basically scrap/salvage material. The wheel bearings and brakes are often fine though, caravans tend to be very under-used as road vehicles.

GordonD6 (author)2016-07-05

Nice little Cabin on the trailer frame.I like the idea also easy and cheap to build here in Western Canada.Alberta that is ;-) .Nice idea also but I'm going to do one up to put on the back 40 on the farm here to use as a hunting cabin.Over the cost could run from about $100.00 to $2000.00 dollars Canadian that is.It's like you said if you make it the highway or just sitting in the back 40,That would make the difference in in the cost also reusing things also cuts cost also.But still looks very nice.

GordonD6 (author)2016-07-05

Nice little Cabin on the trailer frame.I like the idea also easy and cheap to build here in Western Canada.Alberta that is ;-) .Nice idea also but I'm going to do one up to put on the back 40 on the farm here to use as a hunting cabin.Over the cost could run from about $100.00 to $2000.00 dollars Canadian that is.It's like you said if you make it the highway or just sitting in the back 40,That would make the difference in in the cost also reusing things also cuts cost also.But still looks very nice.

nailuj (author)2016-03-27

How much did the whole project cost?

Wulbert (author)nailuj2016-05-06


This is covered in the description and also in the comments below. The cost was around £4,500 GBP. You could build it a lot cheaper by using recycled windows & door and milling your own timber. Price is very variable, if you want to build cheaper you can do it. I went for strength & quality and paid a bit more.

nailuj (author)2016-03-27

How much did the whole project cost?

MadocT (author)2015-10-17

Hu Wulbert- lovely hut and amazingly detailed description of how you built it. I'm thinking of building a similar thing in the woods but would need someone like you to help (as i haven't a clue!). Would you ever consider dong a job like this? Could you e-mail me on if so? Thanks so much. Madoc

beverly (author)2015-07-23

i want to know if bathroom could be put in it

Wulbert (author)beverly2015-08-03

Hi Beverly,

Sorry for slow reply, I've been on holiday. Yes, you could put a bathroom in there if you wanted. There are small portable toilet units that can fit in a very small footprint. I'm very wary of showers in small buildings though, mould & condensation are a problem if there's not enough ventilation.

RussPNW (author)2015-07-23

I really like your hut on wheels. I especially like your roof because it is curved "against the grain" of the corrugations. I've seen pictures of lots of vardos with corrugated metal roofing that curve "with the grain". Yours is much better. Also, as commented below, your attention to moisture and critter control is to be commended. I did not do as good a job in that regard with my gypsy wagon. Finally, one question: we have lots of Douglas fir here in Washington state, USA. It was named after the Scottish botanist, David Douglas who first descried it here in the US (Wikipedia). Do you know if your DF the same tree as ours?

Wulbert (author)RussPNW2015-08-03

Hi Russ,

Sorry for delay in replying and thank you for your kind comments. I do not know enough about trees to know if your Douglas Fir is exactly the same as ours. I'm sure its the same family, but may have slight genetic variation. In terms of building it should have similar properties, in fact, if your climate is colder than ours, your timber may be slower growing and therefore better.

chrisjlionel (author)2015-06-19

your tent is nice! but hut is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

how to build this tent? got any instructables for it?

Wulbert (author)chrisjlionel2015-06-19


I did not build the tent, I bought it from a store. They are easy to find if you look for "garage tent".

chrisjlionel (author)Wulbert2015-06-21


Wulbert (author)chrisjlionel2015-06-22

You used the word "tent". I thought you were asking about the white garage tent which I used as a workshop. You asked me if I had "any instructible for it".

chrisjlionel (author)Wulbert2015-06-22

Sorry I was asking about the white garage tent. I don't know how I posted these question marks"?". Thanks for the reply

mnwingnut (author)2015-05-24

Beautiful work, sir! Your attention to detail in handling potential moisture problems is to be commended. Sawing the exterior at an angle to produce a drip edge? I never would have thought of that. The only issue is that, if you don't take it out on the road every once in a while, people won't have a chance to admire it.

How has the insulation performed? With your draughtstrips (weatherstripping to us), you must have quite the snug little space.

( it too snug? Is there a cold air entry of some sort for the stove and moisture control for the interior?)

Again: beautiful project.

epitts2 (author)2015-05-16

You didn't have to reinforce the trailer for it to be able to handle having a little hut and your belonging in it?

Angel27551 (author)2015-04-26

What size is the trailer?

Wulbert (author)Angel275512015-04-27


The trailer is 2m wide x 3.6m long.

JayB7 (author)2015-04-01

Neat project, well done, I know this has been asked a couple times, and the response both times was that you already said, but... I can't find anywhere where you actualy mention the cost of this project

so is it possible you could mention how much this cost to build? and please don't say "see above" because i don't see it above anywhere

Wulbert (author)JayB72015-04-27

Hi, I've now added the cost of materials to the first page, since so many people have asked. It cost £4.5k.

Wulbert (author)JayB72015-04-01

Hi JB7,

I answered this in response to a question by "Nacho" 5 days ago. Sorry for confusion about "below" or "above", the comments display differently in my control panel. The cost of a project like this is very dependant on where you live & source the materials, the specification of your materials and what you can fabricate yourself. For example a window can cost £500, or it can be free from salvage, or you can make one yourself for £80. Anyway; here's my response, thanks for your interest:

Hi Nacho,

No comparison, a useable, used trailer can be had for a tenth of what this cost me and zero work hours. I spent a lot on the windows and stable door and I'm certain I could reduce these costs drastically next time. The stove & flue pipe were around £650GBP, pretty expensive and again savings could be made (get a used one, use single skin flue, or use electric heating) The basic sawmilled timber for framing & cladding cost £800 from a sustainable source, again cheaper options available. Plywood is very expensive but solved the weight/strength equation very well.

Total materials were around £4k. I could probably knock £1,500 off this by using reclaimed doors, windows, timber. Milling the timber myself would save money but cost time. Time wise, hard to be exact, do you count the hours sketching & problem solving or only when you are using hand tools? I'd say around 300 hours.

Cost effective? Not a chance. Satisfying? yes. I think I've made a well engineered structure that will last decades and age gracefully. Maybe my kids will use it one day. I built this to teach myself some skills and to learn. I could have paid for college courses but I like hands-on experiential learning.

The guy who inspired me, built his much more cheaply I think, and is a far better craftsperson that I am. (look up "Building a Gypsy Wagon" by Paleotool on this site)

JayB7 (author)Wulbert2015-04-01

"The cost of a project like this is very dependant on where you live & source the materials"

how does where i live affect your cost of your project? and im still not seeing where you mentioned how much it cost you, could possibly point out where you mentioned how much it cost you or maybe just tell me again?

or are you avoiding the question because you don't want to tell people how much you paid?

Wulbert (author)JayB72015-04-02

Hi JayB7,

You must be seeing something different to me on your screen. I posted a couple of paragraphs about costs in my reply to your last question. However, here it is again : It cost me £4,000 GBP (Great Britain Pounds) in total. No I'm not avoiding the question. However prices for self build projects are not fixed; cheaper suppliers, ingenuity, a different solution, re-use of discarded materials, DIY, can all reduce price. I wouldn't want anyone to think that they would have to pay the same as me.

The cost can vary depending on where you live because raw materials have different local prices relative to income; For example I live in an urban area of Scotland, UK. We import timber and it is expensive. Someone living in a forested area in the USA where Larch grows, will be able to buy lumber cheaper than I can. Someone living in a forest in Poland will get it cheaper still.

Thanks for your interest.

inoble (author)2015-03-19

Very nice I was wondering what you're overall cost of this project . Thank you for your post

Wulbert (author)inoble2015-03-29

Hi Inoble, sorry for delay. I've answered this question above somewhere. Thank you for your interest.

stuffman (author)2015-03-19

This is really fantastic. I built a teardrop trailer last summer, and it's nice, but this is really well done. Great job! (By the way, I logged into my instructables account for the first time in years to post this, that's how awesome I think it is!)

Wulbert (author)stuffman2015-03-29

Thank you Stuffman. All these great comments give me the confidence to try another project. It can get a bit isolating working on your own.

hobbybuilder (author)2015-03-17

I love it. I looked at those stoves for the cabin I built, but they wouldn't ship them to the states because of our EPA regulations.

Very good job!

Rob54 (author)hobbybuilder2015-03-19

Hello hobbybuilder,

If it was a small stove you wanted, you could always make one yourself using a propane canister. I am in the process of making one for my shed/workshop/hidey-hole.

godson1952 (author)Rob542015-03-19

Hey ,thanks for the idea,I believe they are called a 35 pound propane tank that is used on a fifth wheel trailer or a bigger holiday trailer.the idea that I'd use is one on top of the other with a space in between,to make the the bottom one as the fire box and leaving the top as a heating part,plus to let the smoke go throw.I seen them built for wood stoves but very large in size.Trappers used them to heat there cabins in the woods.they work quite while.Also I've seen the used with 2 old gas barrels (Petro Barrels),usually the the heavy gauge type.Again thanks for the wonderful instructable and the a great idea about making the stove..... :)

Wulbert (author)godson19522015-03-29

I'd recommend lining your DIY stove with fireclay. It makes the fire burn hotter and allows "secondary combustion" (wood gassification) to ocurr, which makes your stove more efficient, less smokey and needs less logs.

Wulbert (author)hobbybuilder2015-03-29

You couldn't install it in a domestic house here in the UK because because the maker has not submitted the stove for HETAS certification. It's designed for use in outdoor structures, boats, yurts, huts etc. It costs a lot of time & money to get products tested & certified, sometimes its too much for small company to afford. What about "Three Dog Stoves" in the US?

jcushard (author)2015-03-19

Might I say , well done Sir. I am duly impressed with your build.

Might just use a bit of this to build a little hiding place, just somewhere to go with out the family. Yes this might well lend itself to life in the woods and the peace of such.

Wulbert (author)jcushard2015-03-29

Thank you for your comment J.

chris.manning.982 (author)2015-03-23

estimate of cost?

Hi Chris,

See above.

Wulbert (author)Wulbert2015-03-27

Sorry, See below :)


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