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Aluminum framing for flatbed truck camper


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#1 Logi

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Posted 03 January 2021 - 10:26 PM

I’m looking at building a flatbed truck camper similar to fwc fleet. Wondering if people have done this before and what size aluminum they would recommend for frame as well as design for frame. Thanks
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#2 Kolockum

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 04:14 AM

FWC and ATCs are made mainly using .125 thick 1x1 tube. A few spots have 1x3 or 1x4 and a thicker C-Channel for the front cab over. Google FWC frames and you will find lots of good examples. There are also several threads of people building their own.


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#3 Logi

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 09:34 PM

Thanks for the info. I had just seen mixed information on other threads saying that fwc uses 1x1 .040 6063-T5 or something smaller than .125 thick. And curious what threads are the ones of people building campers? I have only found a couple of people building aluminum ones. Thanks


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#4 Kolockum

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 11:04 PM

I have only seen a few threads here but there are a lot more over on expeditionportal.com. Although they have a tenancy to overthink everything.

 

Here is on on WTW that just got started. https://www.wanderth...v-camper-build/


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#5 Logi

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Posted 05 January 2021 - 01:11 AM

Gotcha thanks
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#6 lmwilco1

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Posted 05 January 2021 - 03:40 AM

I did some frame modifications to my 2019 Grandby and the aluminum tube is much thinner than 1/8 inch.

 

Louis


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#7 ntsqd

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Posted 07 January 2021 - 04:07 AM

I have been pondering a camper build myself, so I've been thinking about these sorts of considerations. I have a couple issues with using aluminum for a camper frame, and neither has anything to do with welding that metal.

 

First is that it is a very good thermal conductor. If you use 1" tube and you make the walls ~1" thick (plus the inner & outer skins) then you've just built-in some excellent hot/cold paths.

 

Second is weight vs. cost vs. strength. I did this analysis on a small trailer and using aluminum didn't pay off. By the time the tube were big enough or thick enough for the anticipated loads there was no weight advantage. And those tubes would have cost almost 3 times what the steel tubes (that were smaller) would have cost. I would definitely have a look at this before committing to using aluminum. Given the normal constraints placed on the design of a camper it could easily be that using steel saves money and weighs the same or less.

 

My own thought process has taken me in the direction of build a camper using cold molding boat construction techniques. I'm not sure yet just how adaptable those techniques are to constructions with square corners, but I'm still researching and learning. If this is feasible then the camper shell could be every bit as strong as one with a metal frame, will likely be more rigid than a metal frame, and quite probably will end up being lighter. Though my chief reason for all wood construction is thermal insulation and a complete lack of hot/cold paths.


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Thom

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#8 Wandering Sagebrush

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Posted 07 January 2021 - 12:58 PM

I have been pondering a camper build myself...

 

<snip>
 

My own thought process has taken me in the direction of build a camper using cold molding boat construction techniques. I'm not sure yet just how adaptable those techniques are to constructions with square corners, but I'm still researching and learning. If this is feasible then the camper shell could be every bit as strong as one with a metal frame, will likely be more rigid than a metal frame, and quite probably will end up being lighter. Though my chief reason for all wood construction is thermal insulation and a complete lack of hot/cold paths.

There are a number of good boat building books on cold molded techniques that might help you make a decision.  One that would be a good starter is the Goegeon Brothers Book on Boat Building.  The link will take you to a PDF version.  
 

With power boats, the most obvious sharp corner is where the transom connects, and that is usually a solid piece of wood.  I believe a cold molded pop up from wood is very doable, but it’s also going to be very labor intensive.

 

Interesting...


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#9 ntsqd

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Posted 08 January 2021 - 02:57 AM

Yep, have that pdf, but have not yet had time to study it in depth. I don't think that I would build it exactly as a cold molded boat. For instance the sides and top would be whole sheets rather than strips of okume ply or similar. However I do envision the roof having somewhere about a 200" or larger radius to it rather than being flat. Still, those thin sheets shouldn't have any trouble bending to conform to a radius that large. The other, likely obvious deviation would be some form of insulation between the ribs of the entire shell. (An insulated & radiant heated floor might be nice......)

 

Since a camper is fairly rectilinear (particularly as compared to a boat) I suspect that the amount of labor involved will be less than a boat of similar volume. That isn't to say that the labor time investment will be puny, just that I'd expect it to take a lot less time than a boat would. I do need to wrap up the 1/2 dozen or so on-going large projects that I'm currently working on before I can even consider building a camper.

 

The other consideration is the tools required. I'm estimating that alone would be a $2k-$3k expense on top of the limited wood working tools that I already have.


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Thom

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#10 Wandering Sagebrush

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Posted 08 January 2021 - 02:01 PM

Thom, my philosophy on tools.  Use it one time, it’s paid for itself.


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