Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Father and a Gypsy Vardo

A few weeks ago, I wrote my father an email asking him about the feasability of building a Vardo or Gypsy Wagon. My father is skilled in woodworking and construction, unlike my partner and I. He told me it would be fun, but not something that would be quick or cheap, and I gave up on the idea.
Yesterday, however, I was chatting with my mother on the phone and she told me that my father was seriously thinking about building a little Vardo... a cheap, simple, light one. Light enough to be towed by a normal car, and furnished with all the decorations that make a Vardo so desirable.
Thinking about that makes me feel full of squee.
I'll have to talk to him personally,  but if he does decide to make one I will apply serious pressure to get him to be a co-author on this blog and keep it updated with his progress. If I can't get him to do that, I'll get my mother to take pictures occasionally, send them to me, and I'll write the dang updates myself.
In short: If there is Vardo, there will be Vardo Updates.
My mother wasn't sure what would be done with the Vardo, if they would keep it as a camper or guest room, or if they would sell it. If they were to sell it, I would scrape together every last penny I have to try to buy it. I would use all my food money until my diet was just rice and beans to be able to buy it. I told my mother if I had any money I would PAY him to build one for me.
While he wants to build one, and is more than capable of building a beautiful one, I'm not sure if my father will be able to build a Vardo. The company he works for is closing, leaving him unemployed... and my mother works for the elementary school and will not have work at the same time. They have all their savings budgeted out so they can continue to pay for house/car/food/children while they are out of work. There is nothing to spare for fun projects. Everyone wants the Vardo to happen, but I'm just not sure it can.
Anyway, I guess I'll close this blog entry with the email I sent my father that got all this started.

Hi Papi,
I have been thinking a lot recently about acquiring some sort of movable home, the theory being that it would be easier to find some place to park than to find some house to rent. Since you have the most carpentry experience of anyone I know, I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on a few of my ideas. How difficult would they be to build? How much would they cost? How long might it take?
My current favorite idea is the Gypsy Wagon, and this is my favorite example.
Here are some pictures of the construction process.
If I were building a Gypsy Wagon, I wouldn't expect it to be as fancy as that one.
While quite a few people on the internet seem to build gypsy caravans, they don't tend to feel the need to share the plans. The best I can do with plans for a gypsy wagon, after hours of searching online, is this one

But it isn't pretty, and doesn't seem to be very livable. On the plus side, they say it can be built for $1000. On the other hand, If I want to feel like I'm living in a  tent, I might as well buy a wall tent. (which is another thing I have considered).
Of course, the all-around luxury model for tiny movable houses are the tumbleweed houses. My favorite is the Fencl
It would probably be a lot harder and more expensive to build, and also probably not as light, which would mean it would be harder to tow, which is a serious consideration since I don't want to own a huge truck.
Anyway, I look forward to hearing your thoughts,

And his Reply

I got your email a few days ago, and I've been thinking about it since. I very much like the Gypsy wagon, I've wanted to make one of those myself. Also there is what's here called the "sheep camp" I like it because of the wood burning stove they usually have, and because of the rounded sides that give more room. I think they are more widely known as sheep camp wagons.
The first Gypsy wagon on your email looked very heavy. I can see why they needed a double axle. I think I would use an eight foot bed of a pickup, made into a wagon to start with. then I would line the box with 3/4 inch plywood, and have it stick out the back another two feet to make it ten foot long. The sides could be framed over the edge a foot or two also, because you can go up to eight foot wide before a vehicle is considered oversized. I think the straight sides of the Gypsy wagon would be easier and less expensive than the rounded sides, though the rounded ribs could be made by clamping two 1X2's together with wood glue around several small chunks of wood which are screwed to a wood floor in a circular pattern. The rounded frame could then be covered with cotton canvas, and "sized" with a mixture of water and white glue like they used to do with theater flats to tighten them up. and then painted with an exterior paint. I would use 2X2's for the framing instead of 2X4's, or even 1X4's for the door frame. The whole thing, whether with rounded or straight sides could be covered with either translucient or metal roofing panels, though if I did the straight sided Gypsy wagon, I think I would use 1/4 inch plywood, probably Luan, it's about the cheapest, and is good quality, and looks something like mahogany when varnished.
It would be a fun project, though not a fast nor simple one. still a good sheep camp will last a life time.
On Wednesday I was at my work when some of the workers were cleaning out a storage shed in preparation for the big shut down next month. I mentioned that if they had any canvas tarps that they were getting rid of, I would like them for making sweat lodges. They said there were some, and to take them right now because otherwise they were going to the dump. We loaded two huge wall tent canvases into my little truck, which was about all it could hold, in fact I had to tie then down to keep it all in. It took four of us to lift each canvas in, and it was all we could do to lift them into the back of my truck. One of the tents they told me was in good shape. Having helped set one of these monsters up this fall, I would guess it to be at least 15X20 feet, and probably at least 12 foot at the peek. I don't have the poles that go with it. If you wanted the good one you would be more than welcome to it. I'm not sure how we could get it to you. I'd love to drive out and deliver it and visit with you, but I know that the gas would be a lot of money. I don't know what it would cost by UPS. It doesn't come with a wood stove, but it does have the chimney hole with the liner. Perhaps you could even use parts of the canvas and the chimney hole for a Gypsy wagon.
I think you could make the Gypsy wagon for around a thousand dollars, depending on how much the truck bed costs you. That's a lot of money, but on the other hand, if you pay $500 or so a month in rent, you could make up for it pretty fast. If you wanted the monster tent, and it cost you $400 to get out there and another two hundred to get the poles etc, you might be ahead that way too.
Have fun with your plans and let me know what you decide. I'm glad to help in any way I can
Les amo,

We decided against me taking the monster wall tent because it would be way too big for one or two people to put up, and we might need a crane to get it up on top of our car. It just wasn't practical. I'm thinking the canvas might be useful in building a Vardo... even if it wasn't used for the outside, it might be able to be used as the interior walls, covering the insulation (because insulation is imporntant). It would probably be a lot lighter than having wood or plywood or sheetrock interior walls. 
Anyway. These are my thoughts for the day. 
P.S. If you want to see some of my father's woodworking expertise in action, check out his blog. He never updates it.

1 comment:

Tarot by Woodsong said...

I've used a lighter fabric than tenting for my bowtop vardo -- but it really doesn't use a lot of it. (see it at my Vardo page) Using part of the wall tent for a vardo topping would be a good idea.

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