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.
Second Prize in the
Travel Contest 2017
2 years ago
Wow. I wish to be here often with queries which can be solved. I wish i could do something innovative in waste management and ecological buildings but i lack the technical-know-how🤦🏾♂️.
Where will my help come from.
Anyone willing to help me acquire these sets of skills can get tl me on whatsapp +233243198749. Thanks
Reply 2 months ago
U missed the point, it's not a tutorial for proving Ur inabillity, it's how to get out of a crappy situation, and see the design, identify it's commonality, forcus on it's purpose, and even your day will come to make something ingenious, practice patient and enjoy the moment.
2 years ago
Great design and very useful idea, but can you explain the welding? I tried regular old stick/SMAW welding with the thinnest rods (1/16" 6013s) and they blew right through the conduit. MIG or TIG equipment should do for such thin tubes, but that's far more expensive.
Reply 2 years ago
Over the years I've had a lot of experience welding thin metals with a stick welder (3/4" EMT, etc.), but then decided to get a MIG/Flux Cored Welder from Harbor Freight a few years ago. I used the wire welder for this project since it doesn't blow through as easy.
For thin metals you need to set the welder to the lowest amperage possible that will still allow welding of the metal. This is usually at a setting where the welding rod will occasionally "stick" to the metal when it's cold yet. (If you use a wire welder instead of a stick welder, you will also need to slow down the wire feed rate.)
Tip: When trying to weld thin metals with either welder it's important to get both edge pieces of metal hot before attempting to do the weld. It takes a bit trial and error until you get the best "feel" that works with your welder. I actually lightly "touch" both of the metal edges briefly with the welder rod/wire tips a couple of times to get the metal edges hot, and then weld right away. Good luck.
10-4-20 Update. I found a YouTube video that might also help. The fellow uses thin square tubing, but the technique can be adapted to round tubing as well. "Welding thin steel tube with a stick welder": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLCpg_qjkjU
5 years ago
You’re a genius, sir! Terrific! Thanks for sharing, & keep up the good work & sharing it! Aloha
Reply 5 years ago
Thanks for the nice comments.
One of the things I didn't mention in the initial Instructable was that I bought a portable privacy tent to go along with the portable commode. Mine is the KingCamp Portable Pop Up Privacy/Privy/Dressing/Changing (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015WF7E0Q?psc=1 ). I rarely have a need to anchor the tent to the ground and the tent is nice when there are unexpected rain showers. It is easy to fold up with a little practice, and there are a few different methods that will work. The method I use is like the following:
I'm a bit taller (6 foot 1 inch) than the lady in the demonstration, so here are a couple of things I do different. First, be sure to hold the tent against your stomach when you start. Next, when bending the tent over to the ground I put a foot on tent to hold it -- it makes it easier to finish the bend. The process only takes about 30 seconds to fold up and put in the bag.
Reply 3 years ago
Tho if like to camp alone, and really if there is nobody around, there is nothing quite like going #2 in the great outdoors and enjoying the scenery.
4 years ago on Step 7
Awesome. Very well planned out, detailed descriptions and photos are amazing. Lot of work went into this. Wish I could make myself one. This old lady is not that handy but I still like camping. Very space saving. Thanks for sharing.
5 years ago
Hahahah this is awesome! :D
5 years ago
Incredible! Voted in a sec!
6 years ago
This is an amazing instructable. Maybe the best I've ever seen.
6 years ago
Fantastic solution to an age old problem! Very nice!
6 years ago
Wow awesome. Perfect for tailgating.
6 years ago
I think that this is the first "port-o-potty" that I have seen that is portable enough that a person could move it without any equipment.