Introduction: Accessible People Trailer
My friends at http://zenomountainfarm.com/ contacted me earlier this year with a challenge... we need to get groups of people from the swimming hole up to the 'big-house', including wheelchairs.
Zeno is a camp, and many other things, nestled in the mountains of Vermont. They host camps for people with disabilities, brain injuries and retreats for Vets. They have a swimming hole about a 1/4 mile from the main building, down about 500 feet of elevation and on unpaved road. Not exactly conducive to people with wheelchairs or limited mobility.
Hell, even I don't like hiking back up a steep hill after a nice swim. But I do like an engineering challenge (I also like spending my weekends in their amazing workshop making stuff!)
Step 1: Plans & Tools
The guys at Zeno, in collaboration with another amazing group http://www.accessportamerica.org/ have some old boat trailers from the watersports camps they run. They proposed putting seating on one of those trailers but with one caveat.. As the trailer would be sitting outside all winter, wooden framed seats would not last long.
I pitched a design with metal supports and wooden bench & back support. I gave them the following materials list and cleared my schedule for two weekends.
8 of: 8' 2"x2" 11 gauge square steel tube
6 of: 8' 2"x2" 3/16 steel angle
Check out their workshop, check out my camper van that I lived out of while working on the trailer.
The tools I used were pretty basic
Metal chop saw (actually just an old circular saw that I modified to cut metal)
Miller Tig welder
Wire brush, lots of wire brushes!
Step 2: Create Supports
To get that slight angle in the post for the back rest I cut a notch in the tubular with an old circular saw that I modified. I bent the tube and tacked it. Then went over it with the tig and welded together again.
The biggest challenge throughout this project was the state of the trailer. As the trailer was used in salt water there were questionable sections in the frame. Using an angle grinder I removed the rust and made repairs where necessary.
Then where the posts were going on the trailer frame I angle ground down to fresh steel for the welds and braced them again with some 2x2 angle.
It's super important to reduce impurities in the weld. Otherwise you'll end up using an unnecessary amount of supplies (welding rods, gas and tips if you are tigging) plus have a subpar weld.
It's pretty solid, getting all the seat supports on the same plane was a major PITA due to the variance in the frame but it worked out.
Step 3: Weld to Frame and Prep for Paint
It so happened I was there during one of the camps and I co-opted a few volunteers to do the important yet tedious job of wire-brushing off the rust in preparation for POR-15.
POR, or 'paint over rust' is an expensive but durable paint and rust inhibitor. With the paint on I was complimented by someone on having built the entire frame from scratch it looks that good. Again, POR15 is expensive but if you expect your project to last a while it is well worth it.
Step 4: Apply Wood
Being Vermont, lumber is not hard to find. In fact, the camp regularly receives stock donations from yards and happened to have a lot of 2x 8", 10" and 12" on hand.
The back rests and seats are fixed to the posts with 4 1/4" gutter bolts. The challenging part here was finding a wood/steel drill bit that was longer than 4 inches. The process involved clamping the wood to each post as I went. If you try to drill all the holes first and insert the bolts afterwards you'll have the darnedest time lining up the holes. Clamp as you go.
I was not able to finish the front seats but they've since completed the job as per the plans and the trailer was a hit at camp. Next year I'm heading back up to build a rear gate that also acts as a wheelchair ramp.
Step 5: Bonus: Bernie Sanders Officially Sanctioned My Trailer!!
The trailer was ready just in time for 4th of July 2017. And while not 'road legal' the local enforcement turn a blind eye for home made floats on public roads. The trailer was used at the legendary Warren Parade where our crew dressed up as Bernie Sanders and his security detail.
Guess who showed up to the parade!!