Trailer Project Part 2 - Cutting to the Bone / by Erin Wade

I had a little time last weekend to move forward on my cycling trailer project. My goal is to take a dilapidated 2000 Schwinn Joyrider bike trailer and repurpose it as a utility trailer.

This second phase of the project essentially involved getting the old, mouse-infested canvas shell off of the frame, and deciding which portion of that frame to keep.

As discussed in the first post on this project, this old trailer had been sitting in the rafters of the garage waiting for the past decade or so for me to get around to it. In that time our rodent friends had chosen to take up residence within the confines of its shell. Folded down as it was to get it to fit in upper portion of the garage I suspect it seemed a pretty nifty space for the mice, keeping them all comfy and cozy.

For the record, you do not want mice to feel either comfy or cozy... they have not yet embraced plumbing or sewage systems, and it shows when dealing with their nesting areas.


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This meant that the old shell had to come off. Last Sunday presented with a nice opportunity for this. The day provided with a persistent wind that was strong enough to provide some olfactory relief during the task without being so vigorous that it discouraged outdoor activity. And believe me this: unlike assembling models with modeling glue as a kid, this was not a task to be undertaken in a poorly ventilated area.

I gathered up my tool box and took it out to the garage, and moved the trailer out into the breeze. When I’d first approached it I had thought about finding some way to neatly detach the canvas shell as one piece (I was one of those kids who also carefully removed wrapping paper from presents. ...okay, I’m still one of those kids...). There was no immediately obvious way to do this, however, and I quickly came around to the realization that I was just going to throw away the damn shell as soon as I took it off anyway. So the first tool I pulled out of the box was my utility knife.

The right tool for this job

This allowed me to take the bottom panel completely off. Honestly, it appears that, for the most part, either the shell is only partially completed and then sewn up around the frame, or perhaps the frame is inserted, partially assembled, into the shell.

Bottoms up!

There is one portion of the frame that attaches thru the shell, where the inner wheel mounts attach. I initially cut around those in order to get the bottom portion off and see what else needed to be accomplished.

cut around

I left the bits of fabric there at that moment in favor of working towards getting the bulk of the rest of the very stinky canvas material removed.

Leftovers

Leftovers

I later took them off by removing the wheel mount.

With the bottom off, mostly it looked as if the canvas shell would lift off of the frame. However, there were a couple of impediments to this. First is a lightweight aluminum 3/4 hoop that runs through the shell to provide some structure. That needed to be removed, and once the Velcro straps around it were opened up, it slid right out.

Hoop in place

Hoop removed

The second was a set of Phillips head bolts - one on each side - that attached the "seat" to the frame.

Seat screws

Both of these were rusted at the top - most likely due to mouse exposure, since they were on the inside of the shell (none of the other bolts were rusted). Once those were removed, the shell came off pretty quickly.

This left me with the frame:

Base and handle

The collapsible upper frame is there to provide structure to the canvas shell, and also offered a handle - this had been a convertible trailer that could also become a stroller of sorts. I also have in the garage the struts and front wheel that get attached for that purpose.

I looked at the trailer with this part of the frame attached from multiple angles. I could see benefit to considering keeping it on the bottom frame. The handle could come in to use both in terms of its original purpose (a handle), and potentially as a mounting point for other things. But what I think I’m mostly wanting here is a flatbed trailer to allow for versatility, which keeping the frame would make much more complicated.

That’s amplified by the fact that the folding upper frame is attached on the inside of the bottom portion.

Attached on the inside

This would mean that any flatbed added would have to have holes cut in it to accommodate the upper frame.

So I took the upper frame off.

Upper and lower frame separated

However, I’ve mentally compromised a little bit by putting it aside in the garage in case I want to use it in future. To be honest, mostly what this probably means is that it will occupy space in the garage for the next several years, making me periodically wonder why I kept it, but for the moment I’m still hedging my bets.

I washed the frame to remove any remaining rodentius residue, as well as the general detritus of long-term storage. It’s clear the center section should provide a pretty decent support for a flatbed of some sort, and the existing bolt holes - perhaps with slightly longer bolts - would suffice to hold quite nicely.

View of frame alone

So now the next step is to determine what I want to make the flatbed out of. The simplest choice might be 1/4" plywood, but I’d like to explore other options as well to address weight and similar concerns.