Introduction: Travel Commode (Port-A-Potty)
This tutorial will show how to make a portable commode for travel, camping, hunting, fishing, events without facilities, etc. I created this portable commode for a variety of reasons: I couldn’t find any that would accommodate a handicapped person (higher than standard 15” commodes), most took up too much space during transport, most would not accommodate people over 250 pounds, most didn’t have toilet paper holders, and most didn’t have full sized commode seats (including oblong).
Basic dimensions & weight: For transport, 18” x 26” x 5”. When setup, base footprint is 18” x 18” and height of seat is 22”. I have tested the commode with weights of over 350 pounds. This design uses a regular oblong commode seat (the seat shown is a soft, padded oblong version – mainly to reduce weight during transport). Weight: 10 pounds. Commode can be transported with bags attached and ready for immediate use after setup – crucial for some people while traveling.
Initially, I decided to make a prototype first, but since there were no changes needed I ended up making the final product instead. Rather than build another commode for this Instructable, I decided to simply explain the build process using photographs of the end result. My total cost was under $45.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Drill & drill bits
- Circular saw / table saw / jig saw
- 1” holesaw
- Router & round-over bit
(1) ¾” x 2’ x 2’ sheet of plywood
(1) Oblong commode seat
(2) 1” x 10’ EMT conduit
(2) 1” EMT conduit 2-hole straps
(2) 1” EMT conduit 1-hole straps
(4) 1 1/8” vinyl end caps
(2) ¼” x 3” hex bolts
(6) ¼” x 1 ¼” hex bolts
(10) ¾” #10 screws
(18) ¼” washers
(8) ¼” locking nuts
(1) ¼” x 18” rod
(1) ¼” rod hold down clips
(1) ¼” thread protector cap
(4) Mini-clipboard clamps
optional: paint, sandpaper
Step 2: Saw the Plywood Base
The plywood base was cut from a 2’ x 2’ piece of ¾” plywood. I placed a new oblong commode seat on the plywood and used the commode seat to trace out the inside hole. For the outside I traced, around the front edge and along the sides until I reached the widest points, then drew lines straight back to just beyond the commode hinges (about ¼”). Using a router and sandpaper, I rounded and lightly sanded all edges. At this point, the plywood base measured 15” x 20”.
Step 3: Cut, Notch & Weld Conduit
The commode legs form an “X” pattern when assembled, with outside and inside sections. In order to check the proper dimensions, cuts, etc., I “dry fit” the pieces before welding. For the notches I used a Harbor Freight Tube Notcher and a 1” holesaw, but a drill press and holesaw would work as well. It is important that the notches be parallel and that the legs be the same lengths.
The four notched sections are 22” (center-to-center of holesaw), the two base lengths I cut to 18”, the inside cross section is 10” and the final two attachment sections were each 2”. The second photo above shows the basic layout of the pieces before welding.
In order to insure my notches were parallel I created a jig for this purpose. I used my table saw to cut “V” notches length-wise from two 4” x 4” post remnants, and then inserted two screws near the ends (see photos). To use I then place a section of conduit into the jigs and place a string from screw to screw and use the string as a marking guide. I then place the conduit in the Notcher or under the drill press and rotate the conduit to align the marks directly under the drill bit of the holesaw.
Step 4: Drill, Paint and Assemble Leg Sections
Position the internal leg section inside the external leg section allowing a ¼” gap between the ends of the sections (see first photo). Measure the midpoint between the bases (13” in my case) and mark where to drill the pivot holes. While the holes can be drilled using a hand drill, I have found it much easier to use a drill press.
Before assembly, be sure to clean the metal with acetone or paint thinner and then paint.
To assemble, insert ¼” x 3” bolts, washers (3 for each bolt) and secure with ¼” lock nuts (see photo).
Step 5: Drill & Attach Commode Seat to Plywood Base
Position the commode seat on the plywood base to determine where to drill the holes. After drilling the holes, I then painted the plywood base before attaching seat. Use the commode plastic bolts & nuts to fasten the seat to the plywood base, then trim the bolt ends flush to the plastic nuts with a hacksaw. The nuts usually have a flat end and a beveled end. I reversed the nuts so that the flat end was against the plywood.
Step 6: Attach the Legs to the Plywood Base
Lay the plywood base upside down on a flat surface and place the back of the legs on the rear of the plywood base to determine where to drill the attachment strap holes. Center the rear legs near the back of the plywood and use each of the two hole straps to position the location of the holes needed for the straps. I positioned the straps 1” from the back of the plywood, marked the holes and drilled the ¼” holes. Using ¼” x 1 ¼” hex bolts, two washers and a ¼” lock nuts, attach each two hole strap (see first photo).
Next, attach the front attachment hardware. The front mounting hardware consists of two modified one hole straps (see photo 2). I modified each one hole strap by cutting off a portion of the curved end until the front portion of the leg assembly would slip snugly into the straps. I located the straps about 1” from the edges of the wood (see photo) and drilled the two ¼“ holes. Attach each using a ¼” x 1 ¼” hex bolt, two washers and a ¼” lock nut.
The base leg end caps (white in the photo) were attached at this time.
Step 7: Attach Toilet Paper Holder & Hold Down Clips
To create the toilet paper holder I used a ¼” x 18” rod. I first made an eye loop on one end and then bent 1” of the other end at a right angle to the eye loop. I painted the rod and attached a ¼” thread protector cap. I mounted the rod to the plywood base using rod hold down clips just in front of where the seat hinges are positioned when the seat is closed (see photos). This allows the toilet paper holder to slide in/out for use or transport.
For the toilet bag clips I needed clips that would fit under the commode seat. For this I bought four memo clipboards from a Dollar store and “harvested” the clips by grinding off the attachment rivets. I drilled the holes for a slightly larger screws and positioned under the seat bumpers and attached with ¾” #10 screws (see photos).
All that’s left is to attach a tall kitchen garbage bag or a commercial privy bag and it’s ready to use.