Author Topic: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?  (Read 6080 times)

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Offline mackenzie

  • Posts: 227
A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« on: November 30, 2014, 12:25 PM »
I'm UK based and I'd love a work truck like Curt Boyer or Ron Paulk, or even a trailer to work in however our roads are small and space is always an issue so sadly that option will need to be put to bed, at least for now  [big grin]

I've been thinking about this for sometime now.  I currently rent a house and have done for quite a few years now.  The previous house had a dry single garage, I installed french cleat cabinets to the walls and it got me by.  The current house has a slightly damp double garage (not solely for my use though).  I've noticed slight rusting appearing on some of my tools, mainly drill bits so I'm not too fussed but I'm planning to buy a few more machines next year to improve my work.

I've been thinking about buying a trailer or a van to keep my tools in, I don't use the woodwork tools for work but I would still like to be mobile.  I'm planning to buy a boat in the coming years to live in so I'd like to rock up to it with most of my tools and just work on it.  A trailer or van would also give me a sensible sized area with which to deal with condensation instead of a double garage that isn't even mine.  The last house we had to move out of because a family member of the landlord wanted to live there; I had only recently installed the cabinets so I'm trying to avoid that happening again.

Would a trailer to work FROM rather than work IN be my best option as it's more of a fixed/mobile workshop I'm after but easily transportable.  These types of trailers seem to be more common in Australia than anywhere else; just lift up the side doors and you can access your table saw, drill press, mitre saw or whatever

A large van would be great but still too big as it wouldn't fit in my garage and there is the extra cost of keeping another vehicle road worthy.

Trailer prices in the UK are pretty steep though.  I've spoken with a few trailer companies so I'm starting to build on my trailer knowledge and I need to think about weight too.

Let me know what you think.  Thank you

Offline RobBob

  • Posts: 1378
Re: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2014, 04:35 PM »
As you may already know, Ron Paulk has recently switched from a truck back to a trailer.  In the first two videos of his new series he talks about why he made the switch back to the trailer. 

Here they are just in case you have not seen them...

« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 04:43 PM by RLJ-Atl »

Offline curt boyer

  • Posts: 203
Re: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2014, 07:03 PM »
I used to live on a 24 acre property with a big house and a barn. I had a shop setup in a 20'x30' portion of the barn. I used a pickup to go back and forth from work. This worked fine when I was on big jobs that lasted months. For the last ten years I've lived in a townhouse with a one car garage and when I needed to do any shop work, I'd move the car out and setup my shop from tools in my pickup. Then at the end of the day I would cleanup all the tools and put the car back in the garage. This was a huge time waster! At the same time my jobs changed from months to weeks and sometimes days. I maxed out the pickup with tools and materials but I still spent a lot of time chasing materials and tools from storage.

 When I saw Ron's truck I found an answer to my problems! I work in the Philadelphia suburbs and occasionally in the city where a trailer isn't a viable option. I could park it at maybe 60 % of my jobs which would have me walking back and forth all day for tools and materials. I can't park a truck where I live let alone a trailer and forget about trying to get around in the winter with bad roads. If your just transporting tools and materials and working out of a vehicle I would recommend one of the great vans you lads have access to. Good mileage, easy to park, and will fit in a garage.

My truck is a 8'x16' box truck and is my shop. I don't bother with the garage car shuffle anymore. I just backup to the garage and plug in and I'm ready to work. The dust and noise is contained to the truck which makes madam happy! By setting my truck up to work in as a shop I have an advantage over my competition in that I can do things on site that would be difficult for them to do, especially on small jobs where it's not possible to setup shop in the house. I'm not in the house making dust and noise while I'm building builtins or milling custom moulding. When the weather is bad I can still be productive at the jobsite. This has also led to customers adding work as well as recommending me to their friends. I also sub for other contractors which allows me to be flexible when going from job to job. For me the truck shop saves me time, makes me money, and has made work more enjoyable.
Good luck on whatever you choose!

Offline wow

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Re: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2014, 07:44 PM »
I'm firmly in the trailer camp for several reasons:

1. You can disconnect and leave the trailer parked at a job - or at home if you don't need it.

2. Trailers typically have lower floors, so easier in and out.

3. Trailers are a LOT cheaper.

HOWEVER - as Curt says - I live in ranching/farming country where there are lots of wide open spaces and streets that are many times wider than your 'cart paths'.  And thats not a snarky comment, but rather a nod to the heritage you have of thousands of years of history to our mere tens of years for most streets!

I have spent some limited time in Europe, and I am amazed that you can get a truck (lorry?) down most of those streets at all! I've seen it done and I STILL don't understand how it happens!

For your case I'd agree with the plan to buy a van - perhaps like the Sprinter so you can go vertical and stand in it?

Trying to be one of the most helpful members on the FOG.

Offline Jaybolishes

  • Posts: 399
Re: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2014, 08:02 PM »
My 16' trailer has so much stuff in it, I couldn't imagine dragging all that stuff with me everywhere I go. But I live in rural Vermont, where you can easily turn around almost everywhere, but you can get a smaller trailer.  I highly recommend a good rack on top for ladders, aluminum planks and lumber. If you work on jobs for longer periods of time, it's great to leave the tools at the job.  And wow is so right about the low floors, I love that about my trailer, so easy to get in and out. I went with double swinging doors rather than the drop gate.  I can open and pin the doors to the sides and back right up to garages or entryways.  With a drop gate you have to be 6-8 feet away to drop the gate down, just something to consider.

   If you're driving everywhere with your tools, the gas you're eating up lugging it around is pretty costly.  I used Ron Paulks ideas for my cabinets and drawers, very simple and easy. And you can always pull out two small drawers and replace with one double sized one with his system. I also made the drawers the right width to allow me to remove drawers and replace with systainers if I need to.  My trailer was $5400 brand new and I outfitted it the way I wanted. Many used trailers are way too highly priced and never are setup the way you want.

 I understand why plumbers and electricians use vans, they are always bouncing around from job to job.  But buying a trailer and customizing it to my needs has been such a great time saver, it really depends on what you do for work I guess.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 08:20 PM by Jaybolishes »

Offline Tom Gensmer

  • Posts: 788
  • Residential Remodeler in Minnesota
Re: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2014, 08:35 PM »
I went through this debate myself a few years ago when I was driving a 1/2 ton truck towing a trailer. My considerations were:

Available parking: When working in the suburbs, exurbs and rural areas, of course a trailer is nice. That being said, recently I have been working A LOT in Minneapolis and St. Paul proper, where it can be tough to find a single parking spot or I'm parking in a small driveway, absolutely no way to get a trailer in to 50%+ of my jobs. If you think a trailer would impede your ability to get to even 20% of your potential customers, you have to seriously question whether you can afford to turn away that much work.

Theft: Trailers are notoriously easy to steal or break into. If you plan on leaving a trailer at a job site for more than a day or two, you are presenting a tempting target to thieves, even in "nice" neighborhoods. If you immobilize the trailer, the thieves will simply cut a hole in the side, bypassing the fanciest of locks.

Without going into too much more detail, I ultimately opted to go with a Sprinter. It's small enough to get into nearly any project, gets great fuel economy (~20miles/gallon), has TONS of room for tools, and still allows plenty of space for construction materials or oversized tools (Honda generator, wheelbarrows, scaffolding, etc.....). Next time I want to get the longer wheelbase Sprinter, unless my work changes dramatically I'd never go back to yanking a trailer around. Just my $0.02, hope it helps!

There's some footage in this video of the inside of my van:

CT-MIDI, C-18, RO-150, RO-90, OF-1010, OF-1400, MFK-700, MFK-700EQ/B, EHL-65, DTS-400, LS-130, MFT/3 (x4), MFT/Kapex (x3), KA 65 Conturo, endless Systainers

Offline Linbro

  • Posts: 203
Re: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2014, 09:08 PM »
'Tool trailers' are very popular down here, mac sparrow - but only with those that don't do much city or shopping centre work. I used to see them every day when I was doing residential work, but since I've been doing commercial/shopfitting work, I haven't seen many, and haven't worked with anyone who uses one.
The two biggest complaints are parking and security.

Offline mackenzie

  • Posts: 227
Re: A trailer to work from or kit out a van as a mobile shop?
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2014, 05:07 PM »
Some really good informative answers here, thank you all.

I'm going to take a couple of days to reflect and see how I feel.

My current requirements would guide me towards a static trailer inside my garage to work from but is easy to move.  Hmmmmmm.....

Thanks again.