Introduction: Gypsy Wagon Construction
the georgian vardo ( Sold ... another vardo build in progress)
Updated : August 15, 2015 ...... Finished pictures posted under step 10
I am posting a photographic journal documenting my progress as I build a gypsy wagon. I have named her, the 'Georgian Vardo'. The pictures have been grouped into nine steps of construction and one page of materials. The dimensions can be found under step 11. As of August 15, 2015, the georgian vardo is essentially complete. Construction time was just over 3 months, working on it in my spare time and on most weekends.
I have no 'detailed' plans for building a vardo. Usually I design as I build. As with any project I take on, the inclusion of creativity or whimsical craftsmanship is a must. The same has been true with the construction of the gypsy wagon.
Although the interior construction of the wagon is pretty well complete at this point, it needs decorating and some whimsical touches. Feel free to make suggestions in this area as my spouse will argue I have zero decorating skills. Readers will probably understand the construction steps from the pictures (many with instructional comments) and, although sequentially posted, you can feel free to contact me if a step is not clear. Some additional details and a few more pictures can be found at https://georgianvardo.wordpress.com/
For the most recent adds and modifications refer to steps 8, 9 and 10.
About a year and a half ago I discovered a gypsy wagon several kilometres from home while on a walk. Forgotten and a little worse for wear, it was parked in the backyard of a home, being used to store unused garden tools and flower pots. There was something about it and the dozens of vardo pictures I discovered online that held my fascination as a woodworker and wood artist. It was rustic art on wheels. Unlike the beat-up discovery down the road, I now understand that historically, gypsy wagons, caravans or vardos were four-wheeled horse drawn living wagons. They were often intricately carved and vividly decorated. When I first saw one several months ago I was amazed at the detail and artistry that the builder had put into her wagon creation. Now there was a backyard woodworking project! It had all the elements that attracted me to do the same. And so I decided “I am going to build me one of those”.
Gypsy wagons can be grouped into different styles including the Brush wagon, Reading, Ledge, Bow Top, Open lot and Burton wagon. I think I like the Reading and Ledge style the best. Perhaps I could combine the two styles and use a recycled two wheeled utility trailer as the vardo base frame. I decided I would build a wagon built on a 4′ X 8′ trailer frame, remembering that the teardrop I rebuilt last year had an interior space of just under 4′ X 6′. Adding the ledges would give me 6′ X 8′, double the interior compared to the teardrop and more than big enough for a tiny wagon. Besides it would be easier to move around both while building and later when positioning at a campsite.
Using Kijiji, I located a well used but solid utility trailer with a heavy duty frame, axle and tongue jack that met my requirements. And it was cheap. I began construction in late April, planning on a 6 - 8 week build. As of today (August 9, 2015) I have about 90% of the exterior completed and inside I have completed a single couch / bed that extends to double bed (gaucho style). Will be adding a few more curly brackets, colourful trim, some shelving, an exterior lamp outside the door and perhaps a kitchen galley box. Will try to keep the picture gallery updated until the vardo is completed. By the way, it would be great to meet other local gypsy wagon builders. Feel free to contact me.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Materials and Tools
The material list is from memory and the exact quantities have not been recorded. This is most of it though.
50+ 6’ tongue and groove 3/4 x 5" pine boards
10+ 8' tongue and groove 3/4 x 5" pine boards
2X2's for framing walls (I used finger joint kiln dried spruce)
5 knotty cedar 8' 2x4’s for ceiling rafters
a few 8' 1x4's for door and window trim
2 8’ 5/4”x12 pine for ledge brackets
a gazillion feet of 5 foot cedar fence boards, ripped to 2” and a few to 2.75” for battens and corner trim
1 sheet 3/8 ply, 1 sheet ½ “ ply and 5 8’ PT deck boards (5/4”) all for the floor
Construction adhesive and exterior wood glue
Small box of 2.5” self drilling screws for fastening floor to steel frame
Box each of 1.5", 2” and 3” deck screws
Box of 1.5” roofing screws with neoprene gaskets
3 or 4 windows and an old door from the Restore (local used construction materials) – 4 windows and 1 door cost me $30 total
3 sheets (4' X 8") of mahogany veneer ¼” ply for inside ceiling
3 sheets of galvalume steel roofing
One used 8 x 4' utility trailer
Polyurethane, stains and paint
4 gate hinges and 1 gate latch
several pieces of embossed pine moulding ( 8' lengths)
several pieces of aluminum trim ( 8' lengths)
I worked with dimensional lumber where possible so there would be no need for planing.
Table saw, mitre saw, handsaw and hack saw
Carpenters square, speed square and adjustable bevel square
Hammer, screw drivers
Impact driver, drill and various bits
Hand plane and jack plane
Tape measures and pencils
Several ratcheting bar clamps (short and long)
Pair of saw horses with a sheet of plywood
A random orbital sander
Jig saw or scroll saw ( I used my band saw for all the brackets)
Paint brushes and sand paper
Step 2: Begin by Building the Basic Box
I began with purchasing a used, heavy duty utility trailer. The wood floor and side walls needed to be replaced but otherwise it was solid and the right price for my project. If the frame needed any modification or strengthening, this would be the time to do it.
The floor was built as a 'sandwich' from 3/8" ply, then 5/4" PT deck boards and a top sheet of 1/2" ply. The road side of the bottom sheet was given 2 coats of exterior stain before laying it down. The deck boards were screwed to the steel frame using self drilling screws.
Step 3: Building and Raising the Walls
The two side walls were built on the ground and lifted into position. The top and bottom plates were bevel cut at 7 degrees so that they would angle out from the ledge. This bevel cut was done before attaching the vertical boards (wall studs).Actually, this step was by far the quickest & easiest part of the construction.
Step 4: Adding the Siding
This was quite time consuming at first, making certain that each course was level to the board on the opposite side of the door. None the less quite satisfying to see the walls go up and for the wagon to start taking shape.
Step 5: Building the Roof
The basic idea I had here was to run three cedar 2X4's from front to back. They would sit on and be attached to a 'bench' above the door and the end window. I bevel cut the 1st and 3rd beam. The top of each wall was previously bevelled so now there would be 5 beams to bend a sheet of thin (1/4") ply over the beams and following the curve of the top of the wall. The whole structure was amazingly strong once it was all connected.
Step 6: A Few Exterior Details
Step 7: Roof Trim
A work in progress. Ends are weather sealed. Decided to add a couple of decorative brackets at the door end, outside wall between the ceiling and wall. Those are trivets at the top of the door frame.
Step 8: Trim, Door and Paint, Paint and More Paint
I used a good quality exterior latex paint with built in primer. Two coats. Cut all the brackets using a band saw.
Step 9: Gaucho Bed
Step 10: Finishing Touches
I think I am done. Now for the fun part. A second road test tomorrow and then a few small camping adventures at nearby campgrounds. Most of my friends think I have lost it and are shaking their heads. Oh well, I built it for me.
Step 11: Dimensions
The used utility trailer I found was roughly 4’ X 8’with 14” wheels. With the original weathered wood removed, the inside of the trailer frame measured 50” X 98”. This caused a bit of a problem initially, but I built it to accommodate 8 foot plywood for the floor and side walls.
· Box width = 4’
· Box length = 8’
· Ledges = 12”
· Length of sleeping bed frame = 74”
· Width of sleeping bed frame = 48”
· Walls = 46” along the hypotenuse
· Wall angle = 7 degrees
· Distance along arc of roof 96”
· Height from floor to midpoint of roof = 80”
· Door height = 72”
· Weight (estimated) 1000 lbs. Tongue weight (not known)
See my rough drawing plan. Pretty well went with the look and shape but redesigned as I went. Dimensions above are accurate.