Teardrop Trailers: Camp-Inn Mills Birch Plywood and Maple Parts

Posted by Bill Esler | Posted: 07/02/2014 10:21PM

 

It's a classic American success story. Visionaries meet in garages and great ideas emerge. One such idea is the line of high-quality, vintage-style teardrop trailers from Camp-Inn tinycamper.com. Petenwell Industries LLC, Necedah, WI, is the parent company.

click image to zoomCamp-Inn cuts components for its tiny campers using a Laguna Tools SmartShop CNC with 5x10-foot bed. Camp-Inn arose when Craig Edevold was planning a family trip to the Grand Canyon. Edevold and his friend Cary Winch, both mechanical engineers, saw a teardrop trailer in a magazine and decided to build one.

What is a Teardrop?

The camper consists of a plywood structure over which an aluminum or stainless steel skin is stretched. Generally the interiors are lined and built out in plywood and solid wood.Edevold and Winch explain the history of the classic campers at their site.

A Teardrop is a compact travel trailer consisting of a sleeping cabin and a kitchen compartment. The Camp-Inn is styled after teardrop travel trailers from the 1930's and 1940's. A Teardrop gets its name from its unique streamlined shape. Teardrops were popular in the 1930-40’s and have recently been regaining popularity.

Their streamlined shape, small size and low weight allowed for easy pulling by the under-100-horsepower engines of the 1930-40's. Today, with ever rising gas prices, the Teardrop means better gas mileage and no need for a gas-guzzling truck or large SUV. Teardrops can be pulled easily by a midsize family car or smaller SUV. The Camp-Inn trailer weighs as little as 850 lb. and as little as 130 lb. tongue weight.

Vintage Teardrop camper design. Although Teardrops are small, they have more than enough room for 2-3 people. The Camp-Inn sleeping cabin holds a queen-size bed on 500/550/560 models. There is also room for storage of your gear. The sleeping cabin is hard sided and topped, eliminating the need for set up or tear-down. The sleeping cabin can double as storage/cargo space during travel.

The kitchen area is accessible from the outside rear of the trailer. The kitchen compartment has ample storage space for a cooler, dry-goods, portable stove, cooking and eating equipment and utensils. The Camp-Inn kitchen has 5 feet of countertop and loads of storage. The kitchen can be used with minimal setup. It even works well for a quick meal at a roadside rest area.

Over time, the campers have caught on, and the duo began to produce the trailers full time as they moved from garage to airplane hangar to full-blown factory that incorporates Laguna Tools CNC technology for cutting components.

"The heart of Camp-Inn production centers around the SmartShop II 5 x 10 CNC router we bought about a year ago," says Winch. "It's a custom-size unit because a lot of the birch veneer we use is five feet wide."

Though much of the plywood panel production begins as 4x 8 foot sheets, "The flexibility of the larger unit more than justifies the small difference in price we paid," Winch says.

The router is equipped with a dual-unit vacuum pump, an eight-station tool changer, and a dust collector.

"The pump and tool changer have saved us countless time," says Winch. 

"We added the dual vacuum pump at the suggestion of our Laguna Tools sales rep. He pointed out to us that most marine-grade plywood, which we use to form body panels, doesn't lie flat without vacuum assistance."

The tool changer, Winch says, is "like having an employee who works for free."  Other CNC machines he looked at "either didn't include a tool changer, charged as much as $20,000 to add one, or were small shop units that we knew wouldn't hold tolerance with heavy use."

Winch says the tool changer will pay for itself within two years, since it eliminates the need for someone to change tools manually and constantly monitor the operation of the machine.

"Even more importantly," continued Winch, "The router and tool changer have improved our whole production floor and product quality in ways we couldn't have anticipated. Our parts have a better fit and finish than they did a year ago. We've found we can add little assembly details like tabs and slots that we couldn't or didn't use before.

"Our trailers look the same as they did last year, but there's a marked improvement in what was already recognized as a quality product."

The SmartShop is used to cut parts out of plywood and solid maple, as well as aluminum for trim pieces and Plexiglass windows.

"We even use it to create our own signage," Winch says. "CNC routers were quite complex as recently as 10 years ago." The SmartShop II "couldn't be simpler to program and use. It's almost a matter of 'push-and-go' and the machine takes care of everything else."


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About the Author

Bill Esler woodworkingnetwork.com

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Associate Publisher/ Editor in Chief, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for editing Custom Woodworking Business and coordinating content for Wood Products , CLOSETS , WoodworkingNetwork.com, and related newsletters. Bill’s expertise includes using innovative print manufacturing techniques to grow audience engagement, digital printing, purls, QR codes; and lead-generating webcasts, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at besler@woodworkingnetwork.com or follow him on Google+.

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