How to Steampunk a Tiny Teardrop Camper




Introduction: How to Steampunk a Tiny Teardrop Camper

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…

How to Steampunk a Tiny Camper?

This Instructable includes an introduction, suggested materials list, a few instructions and suggestions and pictures of my steampunked trailer project. Since my re-purposed materials will likely be different than what others may have available, the instructable serves more as an inspiration than as a step by step description.

Part 2 of this project can be found here.


Why would anyone want to Steampunk a Tiny Camper?

Modified small campers, teardrop trailers and restored vintage ‘canned hams’ are, in some ways, an artistic self-expression of the owner or builder …. counter to established camping norms. Outdoor enthusiasts who prefer a wheeled off ground camping experience may gravitate to a simpler and less ostentatious camping experience that a tiny camper offers. In some ways steampunking compliments a simpler technology, a technology that is not hidden beneath an array of microprocessors and luxury gadgets that demean the outdoor experience.

Steampunk is perhaps best described as a type of science fiction that integrates advanced steam-powered technology of the 19th century into present day and blends it with design and fashion that draws on an industrial aesthetic. Utilizing pipe, valves and gears … and building with copper, brass, glass and leather … completes the steampunk design.

And besides all of that, it is highly creative and a whole lot of fun collecting and incorporating all these bits and pieces into the design..

Here is an example of how I incorporated a steampunk theme into my tiny teardrop trailer.

Step 1: The Teardrop As I Received It

I started with a rescued and partially built teardrop trailer that was in serious need of repairing a bit of floor and a lot of hatch rot. The ceiling leaked and needed rebuilding. Weatherstripping was replaced and added, the wiring was redone and the kitchen galley was rebuilt. Next, after cleaning the aluminum skin, I decided to paint the fenders and wheel caps. Although I liked the effect I decided several weeks ago to add a steampunk theme to the trailer. If you are interested, here is how you can do something similar.

Step 2: Materials and Tool List

Suggested Materials List

  • Copper pipe ( ½ and ¾ inch copper pipe) – used is cheap or free, new is easy
  • A variety of copper fittings
  • Copper offsets and or pipe straps
  • Copper or brass taps, faucets, drain pipes, towel brackets
  • Copper or brass items (frames, barometers, gears, hinges, handles, clock parts etc … ( source out the local Restore or flea market)
  • Gloss copper paint or copper lacquer
  • Clear (gloss) lacquer spray
  • Stainless steel screws or other fasteners
  • Caulking specifically for aluminum flashing


  • Copper soldering equipment
  • A selection of wrenches, screw drivers, a drill and drill bits

Optional Tools

  • Table Saw
  • Drill Press
  • Riveting tool

Step 3: Collect and Prep Materials

Begin by gathering an assortment of parts, bits and pieces that you may or may not use as you design and build a steampunk theme. I wanted to include a couple of steampunk elements on each side of the teardrop as well as the front and galley end. Pieces of used copper pipe, fittings, taps and copper offsets will be useful in creating an industrial 'plumbed' look.

Copper pieces can be cleaned by immersing them in a solution of water, vinegar and salt and letting them sit for 10 minutes. This should remove most of the oxidation. Assembling the copper will require cutting the pipe, prepping each of the connections and the fittings and then soldering. If you have not soldered before here is a link with simple clear instructions.

To attach the copper pieces I used copper standoffs (offsets) from Lowes. Copper pipe and steel fasteners should never come in contact with bare aluminum and so I used copper fasteners, stainless steel or separated the dissimilar materials with a wood backer. This will minimize galvanic reaction with the aluminum skin on the trailer.

Step 4: Assemble, Paint and Attach

Here you can see a few of the pieces I built and incorporated into the steampunk theme.

Step 5: Be Creative

This is the fun part. Now that the exterior is nearly complete, it is time to go camping.


Checkout part 2 of the steampunked makeover at

Recently this camper was sold to an enthusiast from the East Coast. Since then I have acquired a commercial brand of teardrop camper. As you might guess, I have begun a number of modifications that make the new camper (a 2017 LittleGuy) fun and practical while camping. Check out the mods to the new S.S. Tearjerker here.

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    8 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Can't wait to see the new improvements! Since many of the groups I camp with (vintage groups) have plastic lawn flamingos, I took a page from one of the authors here and steampunked my flamingos. I always forget to take pictures of the process, so can't publish here, but may someday put my finished pics online. Refrigerators look wonderful with a steampunk finish. Anyway, hope to see you down the road! Lynnabelle, aka The Duchess of Pig's Eye........


    4 years ago

    I am in the middle of a restoration of a 1962 Yellowstone camper into a neo-Victorian / Steampunk vision of my own, and I howled to see what you have done! After extensive research, I discovered that those that lived in the age, contrary to popular belief, actually loved bright colors and had a true appreciation for humor. I think they would "get" the fun of your camper. As for me, I am, ahem, appropriating several of your ideas for my "Lady Rose," with your kind permission........

    (p.s. Once you start fiddling with your camper, it is NEVER done!)

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 4 years ago

    Sounds like a great project. I really like the yellowstone camper. There is a great vid of a restoration on youtube.

    And thank you for comments on my tiny teardrop. You said it right on, "It is not done". I am planning on replacing the rear tail lights with a steampunked set I will make from metal wine goblets and red stained glass from an old window. I have also begun to cover the inside of the camper doors with padded leather and brass chair tacks. Also thinking of using faux copper ceiling tiles. There is a steampunk festival in my neck of the woods next summer that I hope to attend and perhaps receive additional inspiration. Best wishes, Scott.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea, but slapping some copper tubing and gears on something doesn't make it steampunk.

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your reply and I think why, at first glance, you might think that. However the trolley top is true to design with the round glass windows allowing light to the interior of the camper as well as permitting ventilation and protection from rain while the vent is open. The faux coach lamps accept 2" diameter candles and were quite illuminating when lit at the camp site. The bumper is purely cosmetic and the plumbing on the side wall was just for fun. It generates the most laughs so far. So I am pleased. Given that steampunk is based purely on science fiction and a unrealistic application of steam technology, it has become more recently all about free choice with fashion. 100% true to form ...? perhaps not, but I think I have hit upon a new application ... and like I said " it was a whole lot of fun".

    PBR Street gang
    PBR Street gang

    Reply 5 years ago

    Just a thought but could you incorporate a rain catcher tub on the top and plumb the water thru a steam punk looking filter then into the side plumbing...

    GeorgianBay Scott
    GeorgianBay Scott

    Reply 5 years ago

    Hmmm... good idea. With yours and a few other suggestions, I may never be completely finished. I will be applying a 'rose compass' decal, with a gear for the outer ring, in the next couple of days. Will post an update. Then off for a wee camping trip.


    5 years ago

    I LOVE what you did... great, clean job, with a lot of creativity. (and a biiiiig "well done" in the face of the "stream punk police".... lol)