Gypsy Wagon Construction




Introduction: Gypsy Wagon Construction

About: Life 2.95 achieved! Former teacher and college instructor currently enjoying my workshop, outdoor cooking, traveling and camping, woodworking, rebuilding small vintage campers, steampunk crafts and mods, and f…

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

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

Vardo 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.


Currently I am completing a number of modifications to a new teardrop camper that readers may be interested in seeing. Some of the mods and add-ons should work with other models of campers.


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    2 years ago

    Excellent build! Did you have do any paperwork to make it road legal?

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for you compliment. I had it on the road just once, to move it to the site of the new owner. Approx 8 km on country roads. I just went slow, attached a slow-moving vehicle sign, temporary light bar for brake lights and away I went. It held up just fine and pulled easy, even through the fields for the last half kilometer.


    3 years ago

    Absolutely LOVE! Your vardo is simply adorable. Thanks so much for your post. Very inspiring. Maybe someday I'll do one too. Stranger things have happened.


    4 years ago

    Hi Scott. I'm admiring your work...and trying to steal ideas for my first build! I have my walls framed and I'm looking to start the roof. I'm hung up on the arch. How did your friend calculate the arch of that template?


    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 4 years ago

    It was her idea but here is how I adapted
    it. On a sheet of ¼ inch plywood that is at least a foot wider than the vardo,
    draw a series of arcs, varying in height but having exactly the same width of
    the top of the wall. Then tack the sheet
    to the wall, stand back and pick the arc that you prefer. I chose one that was
    approximately 18” higher than the top of the wall. Your choice. Now cut out the sheet along the chosen arc
    using a jigsaw, re-attach to the end wall and nail or screw the remaining wallboards
    temporarily. Using the plywood template as your pattern, draw the arc onto the
    top boards, then remove the template and top end boards, cut the curves and
    reattach. This is more difficult to write than to actually do. Hope this makes
    sense, and good luck with your project.

    jt bond
    jt bond

    5 years ago

    like Tinkerlady and Jay, I love the style though like most people I want to do it a little different. A few months ago I dumpster dove and came home with about 26 triple pane plexiglass windows that are about 5'x5', with the outer pane being opaque. I'm planning on using a couple to form a V in the front to cut down on wind resistance and also allow the light to shine through. I've got some more ideas I want to build into it but it would take to long here.

    One question , how did you seal up the roof so that the front wouldn't leak?

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 5 years ago

    Short answer, lots of caulking. I ran a thick bead of caulking around the top of the wall before attaching the the roofing which over hangs by 4 inches at the front. Then caulked again on the outside after the roof was secured. The ran a piece of trim on the outside all around with another bead of caulking under that. The three layer roof was sealed on all edges using ice and water shield before attaching the eave. I think the pictures in the steps show each of these details. Good luck with your project.

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    6 years ago

    A few of you have inquired about the weight and I can only estimate as I have not taken it to a scale. Using an approximate weight for the number of square feet of lumber used, and then adding in 100 lbs for fasteners and the roofing, I would think the total weight (not including the trailer frame itself) would be between 750 and 900 lbs.

    Great job! I was planning on building a teardrop but this project is making me think twice.

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I have built both. I'm in the process of steampunking the teardrop that I restored last year. Lots of copper pipe, brass, taps, guages and retro whimsy. Will post a short instructable soon.

    This is just brilliant. The trim details are so perfect. A genuine work of art. How about some faux wooden spoke wheel hubcaps? I know you'll enjoy every moment spent in your 'georgian vardo'. Great work!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I agree with tinkerlady. This is brilliant, and I too want one. Some better day, perhaps when I have a little more time.


    6 years ago on Step 11

    Brilliant. I am amazed, and I want one. This looks like an awesome place to hang out and draw inspiration for more projects. Well done!!!

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 11

    Well thank you tinkerlady. And you are correct about the inspiration. Decided last evening that it needed some homey comfort decorations ( gypsy style of course). Perhaps my daughter will advise. I will post an update in a couple of weeks.

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. So do I. First camp adventure with the vardo next weekend.