Introduction: A Dog House for the Dog Who Loves the Open Road

About: My name is Eric Page. I did some woodworking in my Dad's shop when I was young but took a 25 year hiatus to pursue other interests. Back at it again and really enjoying it. I recently got engaged to an amazing…

Hi all, I made a 1/10" replica of our RV, nicknamed the Slim Roller, as a dog house for our dog Pickles. We call the dog house the Mini Slim Roller. Thought I would share it with all of you in case it helped nudge you along on one of your projects.

As a family (2 of us plus Pickles) we absolutely love going on adventures in our RV. Now Pickles gets to pretend he is on the open road, even when we are at home. Every evening, after a hard day at our office, he plops down in the RV for a little bit of relaxation time.

My wife's favorite part: On the side of our real RV, we place stickers of all of our favorite destinations e.g. Zion National Park. For the Mini Slim Roller, I made stickers for each of his favorite dog parks e.g. Stinson Beach near San Francisco ;)

I had a great time making this dog house and hopefully, it inspires some others to do the same!

Note - My goal for this project was to mimic, as much as possible, not only the shape and design but also the material of the full-size RV e.g. the cab is made out of metal, the house is primarily wood, etc. Because there are a large # of different materials, I'm going to assume some base level of knowledge of how to work with each type of material. Otherwise, this Instructable would be even longer!

Step 1: Background

This project started because I wanted to build a piece of furniture as a gift to my fiancee. I told her about some different ideas I had but posed it in a generic way to gauge her level of excitement (nothing worse than building a piece of furniture and then having the recipient think, "actually, I really loved the X that we already had"). None of the standard ideas (coffee table, kitchen table, etc.) really caught her attention. Then I said, as a bit of a joke, "what about a replica of our RV as a dog house for Pickles?" That received a huge shout out of excitement so I knew I had a project AND the conversation was phrased in a way that she didn't know I was actually going to do anything with the idea.

But I got to work designing the dog house that evening...

Step 2: Design

To design the mini Slim Roller, I took photos of the real Slim Roller from the front, back, left and right sides and then used those photos to design everything in either Illustrator (for laser cutting) or by hand (for metal work and any other 3d part). There are two basic steps here, which is to mimic the RV and to figure out the desired dimensions for the dog house.

Mimic the RV in Illustrator

1) Import each photo into Illustrator as a separate Illustrator file

2) Draw lines, circles, etc. in Illustrator to mimic the major features of the RV

3) Repeat for each different type of material

e.g. I used MDF for the house panels so I traced the white portions of the house panel. For the grey cabinets down below, I used acrylic so I traced the grey portions in a separate Illustrator file

Step 3: Files

I am not very adept at CAD (yet!) so I built all the dimensions inside of Illustrator. Although I'm going to try to build this out in CAD, as a test of my recently developed CAD skills, these should do the job. All of the uses for these files will be explained in subsequent sections.

Step 4: Building the House Frame

I built the frame out of 1x2 and a little bit of 2x2 and connected everything with screws. Unfortunately, I don't have a general design diagram for this. If people request it, I can probably put something together pretty quickly.

Step 1 - build the back square out of 1x2. My dimensions were 20" tall and 18" wide. Even though, in the final version, the bottom piece will not be there, for structural support during the build process, I added that piece. I just made sure it was easy to remove in the future. Also, because we'll be adding the pop-out in a bit and need a place to attach the drawer sliders, add a 2x2 across the top, inside the square. In the photo with the cab in the foreground, you'll see what I mean re placing the 2x2.

Step 2 - build the front square out of 1x2. Same thing - add the bottom piece even though it will eventually get removed. More stability. Also add the 2x2 across the top inside the square for the pop out sliders.

Step 3 - Connect the front and the back squares to form the sides of the house. The side length of the house is 30" so the length of the sides should be 28.5" (30" - 2x0.75"). On the right side of the frame, connect both the bottom and top pieces. the bottom piece should be centered 5" from the ground, largely because that's the height at which the house (white MDF) and the cabinets (grey plastic) meet up. You can also add the extensions to bolt on the back right wheel at this time. That's basically a spare 6" piece of 1x2 that extends from the bottom side piece to the ground.

Step 4 - Build the pop-out: Here's where I deviated from the actual specs of the RV. The real pop out (the side of the RV that extends when parked) is about 8' out of the entire 24' length. That wouldn't have given Pickles enough room to move around. So I made the entire side of the house a pop out. Basically, build a box that is 1" or so smaller than the interior measurement of your side frame, giving you 1/2" on the top, bottom, left and right sides. Don't get tighter tolerance than that because you'll be adding your panels to the top, right and left sides - they all take up some space and you want this to slide easily.

I also added another 1x2 parallel to the ground and going from front to back, 5" from the ground, because that's where the house panels and the grey cabinets meet up - I needed to attach both of those to the frame.

I then connected 2 2x2s (left and right sides) perpendicular to the square. Imagine if you turned a table upside down and then only had two legs on it. That's what you'd have. Those 2x2s are going to have the drawer sliders attached to them in a moment. For now, it's pretty rickety so be careful. Once you add the panels on, it will become stable.

Step 5 - Paint it: I neglected to paint it, thinking it would be hidden from view. Nope! so I had to go back, after I had already attached the panels, and spray paint everything. It was a pain. Instead, just paint it when you have the frame together and nothing else.

Step 6 - Connect the Pop Out. there are tutorials on how to attach sliders so that drawers slide in and out so I won't re-explain that here. Attach the sliders to both the pop out and the frame. Make sure they slide in and out easily before you continue.

Step 5: Cutting and Building the House Panels

The house panels were straightforward. The top panel is just a rectangle so I don't have a file for that - it was 18.5" x 30"

Step 1 - Cut the panels to size: use whatever saws you have available. I go to TechShop so had lots of options and don't even remember what exactly I used. Doesn't matter, just get it cut to size

Step 2 - Cut the windows: you can use either hand/power tools, a CNC or a laser cutter for these. I used a laser because it was easiest for me to get accurate interior cuts.

Step 3 - Attach the left, right and top panels: I happened to use a combination of screws and glue. Because it isn't structural, you could probably get away with just glue. The screws caused some aesthetic problems down the line so, if I were to do this over again, I'd probably just glue on the panels.


1) Do NOT attach the back panel because that's going to be the door. We'll come to that later

2) the ai file for black acrylic is because my grey acrylic was 1/8" and the MDF house panels were 1/4" so I had to get them to get them flush somehow. Plus I thought it would be nice to have black show through the slits in the grey cabinets.

3) Don't attach the acrylic (bottom grey cabinets) yet because the dog house will get moved around quite a bit during construction and it will all get snapped off...

Step 6: Building the Cab

The cab is made primarily of sheet metal plus acrylic for the grill and bumper.

1) Design the parts in Illustrator. Like earlier steps, I imported the photos, traced the cab and ended up with the attached .ai files.

2) Build the front bumper - I used a laser cutter to cut the bumper. However, the bumper needs to wrap around the sides of the cab. To get that bend, I used a heating element and bent the warmed acrylic to a 90 degree angle on both sides, using a block of wood to ensure that it was as close to 90 as possible.

3) Build the front lightsand grill -

a) Cut each part. The grill is MDF and the lights are clear acrylic with green tint.

b) bend the lights using a heating element. it should match the bend of your front bumper.

c) glue everything together - the lights and the grill. Use a spare piece of acrylic as a backing for both parts.

4) Build the Cab

I built the cab out of sheet metal. Originally, I tried to spot weld the cab components together before powder coating it but that didn’t work as you can likely see from the photo with the really dull white/gray cab.

I used machines optimized for sheet metal, really just so I could learn how to use them. I used 26 gauge sheet metal, I believe. It is a little flimsy but it's lightweight, for when I end up moving it around. Of course, you could hand cut this, waterjet/CNC it, etc. your choice!

After cutting the pieces, I sand blasted and powder coated all of the pieces.

To connect all the pieces, I used epoxy. Although I assembled the cab at this time, I'd recommend waiting until the end to do that. It's not the sturdiest piece and you'll be moving the house around quite a bit between now and the finish.

Just put these to the side awaiting final assembly. Also, don't worry that it's looking a little ugly right now. We'll be covering up the ugly seams, etc. at the end.

Step 7: Building the Cabover Bunk (on Top of Cab)

This was the hardest part of the project and, honestly, the least noticeable. If you look at the photo of me washing the RV, you'll see that the cabover is a 3D shape with very few flat panel areas. It slopes down at varying angles from the top and from both sides.

In an effort to match this, I decided to vacuum form a piece of plastic. It also served as a good way for me to learn how (not) to vacuum form... Unfortunately I don't have photos of this process but, even if I did, I'd be showing you what not to do! I'll tell you at the end of this step what I would do differently.

Here is what I did to build a mold for the vacuum former.

1) laser cut parts that gave me a framework that was the appropriate dimensions - 18.5" wide, 6.5" tall, with the right curves from top to bottom. Every 1.5", from left to right, I added essentially a joist that was laser cut to the right dimensions.

2) Filled it in with a foam spray.

3) Tried to vacuum form around it. Learned that the plastic got sucked into the spray foam

4) Cut out the spray and replaced it with Bondo. Sanded the bondo, etc.

5) Vacuum formed again. The bondo wasn't thick enough so it had indentations, etc.

6) Added more bondo, increase the size of the mold by about 1/8", which had no material impact on the overall project.

7) Vacuum formed again. This time it worked reasonably well, although I could still see the joists.

Step 8: Creating the License Plate

This was super fun. I really wanted Pickles to have a personalized license plate

1) Started with raw piece of sheet metal.

2) Cut it to the dimensions that looked good - roughly 4x7 - rather than trying to match 1/10 of the original size. Rounded the edges, etc.

3) Sand blast and powder coated it white

4) Searched Google for images of CA license plates until I found images that contained all the characters I wanted: ROLLWME, "California", the month and the year. In honor of Pickles' birthday, I chose Jan 2015.

5) For ROLLWME and California

a) I imported the photos into Photoshop and cut out the parts of the image that I wanted.

b) Imported the letters and "California" into Illustrator

c) Used a CNC vinyl cutter at TechShop to cut the letters. followed the standard instructions for how to place vinyl stickers

8) For the JAN and 2015, I wanted to replicate the feeling of a true license plate - both of those stickers are very thick. So I printed out the JAN and the 2015 on thick card stock on a color printer and just glued them on to the license plate.

I attached the license plate to the house using velcro.

Step 9: Creating the Dog Park Stickers and House Accents

The stickers were also a fun part of this, and probably gets the most attention from people who visit our house.

Dog Park Stickers

If you look at our RV, you'll see that we place on it stickers of all the cool places where we have been gone on adventures. Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, etc. I thought it would be fun to replicate that, but for Pickles.

So that's why you see stickers of all of his favorite dog parks ;) - Stinson Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field etc.


1) Figure out what stickers I wanted

2) Design stickers in Illustrator

3) Cut out using a CNC vinyl cutter.

4) Place on house panels

5) Hide from fiance until the big reveal.

Honestly, it's amazing to me but I think the stickers are her favorite part...

RV Accents

Both the house and the cab of the real RV have stickers, like the brand and model name (e.g. Itasca Navion for me). However, I didn't want to name the dog house Itasca Navion so, instead I searched Google Fonts for a similar looking font and replaced Itasca Navion with Slim Roller. For everything else, I just traced the outline in Illustrator. I then found vinyl that more or less matched the color of the original and used that to cut everything. I had the mini Slim Roller right next to the vinyl cutter so I could immediately place the stickers

Step 10: Recreating the Edging, Cabinets, Doors, Etc.

OK, now we start working on the final aesthetics of the house. Basically, I used the same technique for this as I used for the house panels - import the RV photo into Illustrator and trace the lines. Some if it I wasn't able to match up perfectly because a dog house isn't an RV e.g. the side with the pop out will have different cabinets. but not a big deal

1) Trace the parts in Illustrator

2) Cut on a laser cutter

3) Attach using super glue

I could go into more detail here but if you've made it this far, you probably have the routine down. let me know if not

Step 11: Attach the Back Panel (door)

Attaching the back panel is fairly simple. I attached it with two cabinet hinges and then use magnets to keep it shut.

0) Remove the bottom temporary strut. It is no longer necessary. See the difference between the two photos of the entire back panel to see what I removed.

1) Chisel out the the holes to fit the hinges on both the door and the house

2) Next, I glued the hinges to the door because I didn't have any screws short enough to not pop through the 1/4" MDF. (Note: if anyone has any better ideas, let me know)

3) Attach the magnet door locker to both the house and the back panel

4) After the glue was dry, I attached the panel to the house

5) I then attached the wheel and the license plate

Step 12: Attaching Everything Else

Now it's time to attach all the different pieces. There's nothing complicated about this step although a few items should be noted

Cabover Bunk

To attach the cab over bunk, I cut a few wood strips and glued them to the cab over. I then used those strips to secure the cabover to the house


For wheels, I just searched online for wheels that somewhat matched my wheels. The only thing that really mattered to me was that the wheels were air filled rather than solid [anything]. This enabled me to easily make sure that the wheels appeared to be bearing the weight whereas, in reality, there was a support column hidden behind it. Keep in mind there are only 3 wheels - the back left wheel is missing because the entire left side is a pop out and it looked really weird to have a wheel popped out. These are the wheels that I purchased:

Cabinet handles

If you look at the grey acrylic along the bottom left and right sides, you'll see that these are cabinets/drawers. To mimic the handles, I cut 1/4" holes in the acrylic and cut very small 1/4" rubber circles to fit in the holes. They pop out about 1/4", which provides a nice, small aesthetic.

Step 13: Final Results

Overall, the project was super fun and I got to learn a lot of new things, like working with sheet metal, vacuum forming, using CNC vinyl cutters, sand blasting, powder coating and more.

Pickles loves it. He spends time in there every day, especially on days where he senses we're going to put him in the bathtub. Most importantly, Shirin loves it. She smiles every time he goes in there, especially when he is looking through the front window into the distance.

Hopefully some of you get some use out of this!

Pets Challenge

Second Prize in the
Pets Challenge