Portable Cargo Trailer Workshop




My church had a 6'x12' cargo trailer and we wanted to use it on mission trips. The main focus was to add shelving but keep the floor clear so we can haul material or personal items of the participants.  They charged me with installing some kind of shelving or organizational cabinetry.  Everyone kind of wanted to use pre-fabed shelving from one of the big box stores.  Instead I designed some overhead and upright shelving, this is an original design created by me.  I wanted to maximize space and make it safe, if you create to much of a top load on your trailer you can make it top heavy and it will sway or topple over the trailer when going down the highway.  I started by measuring out the inside of the trailer and sketching up some rough drafts of the design.  I also decided to put doors with hardware cloth (Squirrel Cloth) that way the tools would not come out going down the road. Also I decided to put some bulk tool storage in the front nose of the trailer, rakes, shovels, pick axe, sledge hammer, etc.  

Step 1:

I started with the upright shelves first, make sure to place these over the axles of the trailer it will help distribute the weight more evenly. Then you place the horizontal shelving across the top of the upright and tie the two together.  Then you screw the two units to the wall, I used self tapping metal screws and tied into the wall supports of the trailer.  This makes the shelves very strong, I weight 200 pounds and can hang off of the front.  3/4" cdx plywood was used for all shelving, it is strong, cheap enough, and if it needs to be reworked in the future anyone can work on it. Also I used 1x4's for the doors and face trim, it makes the doors light and strong enough to stand up to years of use.  I used pocket hole screws and kregs pocket hole master jig to make all the shelves and doors. I believe this is a stronger joint than a dado because you don' t dado out your wood.  The doors were made out of 1x4" material cut down to size, I then added hardware cloth so you could see the tools stored away but it would also keep the tools in the shelves.  Also added small wooden knobs from the hardware store as handles.  

Materials list:( will depend on size of trailer)
6 - 3/4" cdx plywood
12 - 1x4x8 white pine
2 - rolls hardware cloth
9 - 2" hinge pairs
12 - wood knobs
12 - sliding bolts ( to keep doors and drawers shut while traveling down the road)
3 - rubbermaid organizer strips and accessories

Step 2:

Next I added the rubbermaid organizer strips to the walls, we are going to hang multiple items from the wall.  Sawhorses, extension cords, air hoses, also a portable table saw.  I added anchor points to the wall so we can lock it down to the wall.  

Step 3:

The last step was to add the storage to the nose of the trailer.  I tried out several designs but this one worked the best with the height of the trailer.  I measured out the nose of the trailer and cut some plywood to length for the two sides.  Then I decided how I wanted to lay out the tools.  I decided to put the shorter tools ( sledge hammer, etc.) on the left side of the nose because it takes less room to pull them out.  These are the heavier of the tools, so I built a short rack that would work.  Make sure to install it to the internal framing of the trailer, that is why it is so low. The rake and shovel tool holder had to be mounted higher on to accompany the taller height of tools.  I designed it so the tools would go through the front instead of the top, because these tools are lighter.  I installed small hook and eyes to keep them in place, FYI after you install them if you bend in the hook slightly with a pair of pliers it will make the hook fit snugger.  The whole point of this project was to optimize space so the trailer can be multi-functional.  By building your own shelving you do this and make how you want.  If you have any questions about the project don't hesitate to ask.



    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • 1 Hour Challenge

      1 Hour Challenge
    • Pets Challenge

      Pets Challenge

    10 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I love this. The only thing I would do differently, even though you say there is a groove, I would have used scrap 4" abs pipe and screwed "cup" holders, leaving 1" to the floor for eaiser cleanup, at the bottom of the trailer to stabilize the handles of those picks, shovels and rakes.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Do you have a more detailed account/photos of the process to construct the horizontal/vertical shelving as individual boxes? I am wanting to make a window-seat style cabinet like this shelving, as well as outfitting doors to an existing bookcase in the style you have shown above. I'm also a complete n00b when it comes to woodworking despite years of interest growing up watching Norm Abram.

    2 replies

    #1 it is a travesty that they no longer air new yankee workshop on my local pbs station. Now the shelving unfortunately I don't have more photos, however I can describe it a little better. You will want to measure the area you want to put the window-seat in. I made my horizontal shelves identical to the vertical ones. They are just turned on their sides, I used simple butt joints with pocket hole screws. In my opinion this is a strong joint, after you decide how large you want your seat to be. You will need to measure and cut the wood, so you will cut the top and bottom pieces ( longest pieces). After that you will cut the end and back pieces, then you will need to decide how tall you want your window seat to be. After you cut out those pieces, they will divide the different storage areas up. You will measure and mark out the spacing for them, I would fasten the top, bottom piece and the two end pieces making a rectangle. After that you can install the divider pieces, you can get a pocket hole jig from the store or you can always toe nail or screw in from the outside. Now you will put the back on the window seat, next are the doors. I made these as simple as possible because they will be used a lot and will be simple to repair or replicate. You will need to decide if you want to recess the door in the opening or if you want it to be mounted on the outside. I chose to recess mine for space issues, on a recessed door it has to fit exact in the opening. I used butt joints and pocket hole screws again, KREG makes a great pocket hole jig. It is really easy to use and it makes a strong joint, If you go with recessed door make sure to leave a 1/8" gap all the way around. Also when you go to hang the door you put a shim in the gap and it will help line up the door. This will help with the fit of the door, because depending on the finish you put on the door and humidity the door may not fit in the opening.

    None of the PBS stations(3) were I live seem to be showing New Yankee Workshop either.<shrug > Granted I'm more of a Woodwright's Shop fan myself. What do you think of Rough Cut, American Woodshop or Woodsmith Shop?

    Nice job. Two observations, wouldn't it be safer to store the ax, pick and hammer head down and possibly secured with straps? The tool holder for the shovel may be too high, if the tools handles are off the floor the heads may bounce as the trailer is going down the road and eventually cause premature wear or even pull it off the wall.

    The cabinet and shelves look good, they deserve more close up shots.

    2 replies

    The heavier tools were previously stored this way and they always fell over. My new design allows the tools to move with the trailer and will not fall over. The rakes and shovels actually lock in a channel, and can't move around. It works out pretty well, I stress tested all the storage before signing off on it. Also everything is tied in to the internal metal framing of the trailer, this will ensure that the racks will stay on the wall and won't fall off.

    I only mention it as I've seen quite a few garden tool storage systems in my time. Son of a gardener/landscaper here, granted in the end dad just piled his long tools in the back of his truck(just too many to rack). Well if you have it set up the way you want it from experience, than you know whats best for your set up. Again nice trailer set up

    For the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I love how your project turned out, and I love the whole idea of your church going out and doing tangible work in your community! God bless you all.


    5 years ago

    Good job, wish every church had one of these