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Woodworking on a Half-Shoestring #45: Harbor Freight Folding Utility Trailer Build

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Blog entry by Paul Bucalo posted 06-24-2015 03:34 PM 34866 reads 4 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 44: Franken-Rack gives life to Harbor Freight trailer Part 45 of Woodworking on a Half-Shoestring series Part 46: Sewing Thread Spools & Bobbins Rack: Fully Populated »

I have been busy with multiple woodworking related and household projects this Spring, which is mainly why I haven’t been on Lumberjocks in that time. Previously I posted two small projects worth mentioning. I am currently working on a commission for a new neighbor. One project that consumed a month of my time was the building of the Harbor Freight 4’x8’ Folding Utility Trailer with a custom-made stake bed.

I needed to be able to haul 4’x8’ sheet goods from the box stores to the workshop, pallets from around the area, equipment too big for the insides of my SUV, and of course junk to the landfill and recycling centers. The Franken-Rack I built last year was a temporary fix that gave mixed results. It was time to get that trailer I always wanted and desperately needed.

Here is the finished trailer, less some tie-down hardware I have been too preoccupied to screw into place.

For those of you interested in how this was assembled (the HF kit) and the construction of the stake bed, Let me know and I will point you to my Goggle+ posts that show over 50 images of the build from start to finish. I am only adding the walk-around here.

I build the stake bed with a dual-gate design. The hinged gate is enough for sheet goods and some items that might be longer than the 8’ bed length.

Carabiners are used to secure the hinged gate’s latches when the stake gate is used, otherwise I can use the padlocks when without.

To minimizer flex in the stake bed side and keep them from compressing when tie-downs are torqued tightly across from side to side, I created cross braces that sit atop of the top horizontal frame and latch into the stakes via sliding latches. To keep the latches in place, carabiners are used. Effective. Simple in design. So far, fool proof and very convenient when I need to remove them or store them inside the SUV.

Here are some pre-finished pictures of the trailer in use. You can see the racks sides, tailgate and stake end are unfinished, but this shows how the rear end can be accessed.

Two ancillary devices were purchased that have been very helpful. The first is the swing-away trailer jack, seen in the finished project pictures. The second has become a necessity since I can’t back into my driveway and need to disconnect and move around the trailer by hand.

This trailer and stake bed have been an interesting project and challenge. I had some unexpected problems during assembly. How to build the stake bed to fit my needs was not obvious and took some out of the box thinking. For instance, the trailer dimensions are exactly the same as a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood, which required half-lapping the first rail into the stakes to keep the inner dimensions the same. I also wired it differently, seeing as this will never be folded and can’t be as I built it. The trailer does not come with washers or lock-washers, with a handful of exceptions, so about 200 of each were purchased. Extra hardware alone cost half again the price of the trailer kit. When done, this cost me a little over $400.00. Not bad, compared to the competition.

Would I recommend the trailer kit? Most definitely. Be prepared to upscale. Anyone interested in how to do that, let me know.

-- -- Paul @ PMB Creative Works



16 comments so far

View jinkyjock's profile

jinkyjock

488 posts in 1654 days


#1 posted 06-24-2015 07:59 PM

Paul,
looks like you now have an excellent piece of kit at your disposal.
This investment will surely pay for itself in good time.
Cheers, Jinky (James).

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

642 posts in 1439 days


#2 posted 06-26-2015 12:26 PM



Paul,
looks like you now have an excellent piece of kit at your disposal.
This investment will surely pay for itself in good time.
Cheers, Jinky (James).

- jinkyjock

Thanks, James. I’m happy to say it already has shown its worth. Later this summer I will be hauling a lot of junk out of the dungeon to make more room for the workshop and free us of the slavery in packratting. :) It does well in hauling pallets and reclaimed lumber. Looking forward to seeing what it can do.

-- -- Paul @ PMB Creative Works

View handsawgeek's profile

handsawgeek

645 posts in 1475 days


#3 posted 06-26-2015 05:23 PM

Great project, Paul.
A perfect alternative for those of us who don’t (or no longer) have a truck

-- Ed

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

642 posts in 1439 days


#4 posted 06-26-2015 06:09 PM



Great project, Paul.
A perfect alternative for those of us who don t (or no longer) have a truck

- handsawgeek


My old Chevy Blazer gets treated like a truck, and does a surprising amount of odd-ball lugging. When the goods to be hauled were too wide, long or tall, I was out of luck. The trailer has already been a godsend. Even though I do have plans on getting a truck (later this year or early next) I can honestly say I don’t have the driving urge right now. That’s worth something right there.

-- -- Paul @ PMB Creative Works

View tommypotatoes's profile

tommypotatoes

1 post in 887 days


#5 posted 03-10-2016 04:34 PM

How strong do you figure those cross braces are? I’m twiddling with the same trailer and want to carry a canoe on the top of it. What are your thoughts?

View Schutz's profile

Schutz

1 post in 797 days


#6 posted 06-08-2016 09:02 PM

Hello Paul,
I am wondering if there is a way that I could connect with you to get the pictures on how you built your trailer. I would like to build something very similar. Thanks. Schutz

View metallicvett's profile

metallicvett

1 post in 514 days


#7 posted 04-04-2017 02:15 PM

Are you still able to share the google+? I’m new to this, and I don’t know what metal brackets you used.

View matt176's profile

matt176

1 post in 355 days


#8 posted 08-24-2017 03:09 PM

I am also interested in more information about this build. Can you please send me the link? Thanks in advance.

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

2201 posts in 1302 days


#9 posted 08-24-2017 05:19 PM

I have a 16’ x 6’ twin axle trailer that I use for big stuff, but a trailer that size sure would be handy for so many things that make hitching up and pulling the twin axle a real downer. Those staked sides add to the usefulness 10x.

Nice job!

View Mournblade's profile

Mournblade

1 post in 131 days


#10 posted 04-05-2018 12:11 AM

Hello Paul,

Nice work on the trailer. I have the same one and would love to see the detailed pics if you could share.

Thanks!

-- Brian, Virginia

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

642 posts in 1439 days


#11 posted 04-05-2018 12:38 AM


How strong do you figure those cross braces are? I m twiddling with the same trailer and want to carry a canoe on the top of it. What are your thoughts?

- tommypotatoes


Not very. I used them to keep contents in the trailer, not to strengthen the sides (keep them from bowing outward under shifting load). I figured that I would lash them to the sides if it came to that kind of worry. So the intent was never to put a load atop the braces. As to whether they could support a canoe…possibly. Depends on the weight of the canoe, and of course, lashing the ends of the braces to the side so they can’t bounce around while traveling. It wouldn’t take much of a design change to accommodate your need.

-- -- Paul @ PMB Creative Works

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

642 posts in 1439 days


#12 posted 04-05-2018 12:54 AM

Since I’ve had a few requests for more information, the easiest way for me to share this information is to repost the pictures that I have in one place. This would take some time, as I would have to gather the originals and re-edit for size. I don’t recall offhand how tall I made the stakes, but really, that can vary with your need. I didn’t work off of measured plans, just winged it as I went. The trailer has been a dependable workhorse.

I haven’t had it on the road since since last summer due to a lack of need. I’ve neglected the wood, so I will need to strip it down and rebuild. The next time around I will make changes that will simplify construction and make the setup stronger and more versatile. When that will be, I can’t tell you. Last fall I shattered my right heel in an accident and am still unable to walk or stand for long, nor carry much weight around. I wouldn’t be surprised if I left this for next year.

I apologize for such a late reply to some of you who posted requests a year ago. I haven’t been here in a while and last fall until now haven’t been in the workshop.

-- -- Paul @ PMB Creative Works

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

642 posts in 1439 days


#13 posted 04-05-2018 12:59 AM



Are you still able to share the google+? I m new to this, and I don t know what metal brackets you used.

- metallicvett

I closed out my Facebook account the other day, in light of all that has transpired. I’m somewhat active now on Google+. I may build an album of the pics there. If I do, I will post my Google+ page here in the comments.

Regarding the metal brackets: simple. I used home construction brackets that can be found in any home hardware/lumber store. Bring the 3/4 view pics with you and help can show you where there are.

-- -- Paul @ PMB Creative Works

View danny1241's profile

danny1241

1 post in 76 days


#14 posted 05-30-2018 04:35 PM

Paul,
I really like looking at your blog pictures and workshop pictures and ideas. I do have 2 questions about the trailer that I couldn’t determine from the pictures.
- Did you put wood cross pieces on the metal frame cross members and then attach the plywood on top or just attach the plywood to the perimeter of the frame?
- Did the tailgate end of the trailer come with stake brackets originally welded in place or were there holes already there where you added the 2×4 and then attached the stake brackets?

Danny1241

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

642 posts in 1439 days


#15 posted 05-30-2018 05:11 PM

Hey Danny,


Paul, I really like looking at your blog pictures and workshop pictures and ideas.

Thanks!

I do have 2 questions about the trailer that I couldn t determine from the pictures.
- Did you put wood cross pieces on the metal frame cross members and then attach the plywood on top or just attach the plywood to the perimeter of the frame?

No added bracing, just bolted the 3/4” pressure-treated plywood to the frame, both having the same outer dimensions.


- Did the tailgate end of the trailer come with stake brackets originally welded in place or were there holes already there where you added the 2×4 and then attached the stake brackets?

The kit comes with stake brackets: two on each end and two for each side. They are bolted onto the frame. I added the wood at the end of the trailer bed to extend it enough so I could close the lower gate on sheet goods, and to have mounting points for the lower gate hinges.

-- -- Paul @ PMB Creative Works

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