Dog's Life: DIY
Shasta-Style Puppy Camper Playhouse
The Shasta-style puppy camper started out as a labor of love and a personal challenge. I've been a woodworker for many years and I earn a living making musical instruments (well… banjos...). A few years ago, just for fun, I started making birdhouses inspired by the old Shasta and Teardrop camper trailers of the ’40s and ’50s. At a friend's urging I opened an Etsy shop, and now I can barely keep them in stock. Almost since the very beginning of the birdhouse project, my wife has been encouraging me to try to scale one up for a dog playhouse. Finally, for her birthday this year, I came up with a design and built one.
I designed the Puppy Camper for indoor use only, and for a dog of up to 30 pounds—three of our five rescued dogs fit that size. It took a while for our dogs to explore the camper, despite mining it with treats at first—they’re suspicious by nature. It took so long it almost hurt my feelings. But now Cocoa Rae Bean eats all her meals in there. At meal times she sprints from the kitchen and runs into her personal "diner," wagging and dancing in anticipation of another great dinner “on the road.” On nice days, we sometimes pull it outside so they can play in it on the patio, but it wasn’t built to withstand weather. Plus, we believe dogs should be sleeping under the covers with their humans, not outside in doghouses.
The full Puppy Camper House instructions can also be downloaded.
The camper is constructed of ½” Baltic Birch plywood, sometimes called cabinet plywood, because it is very high quality, has multiple plys for stability and has no voids. It comes in 5' by 5' sheets rather than the more normal 4' by 8' plywood. My design is of such dimension that both sides and the bottom will come from a single sheet of Baltic Birch. Another size factor is that I wanted to add a layer of aluminum flashing to the top, for that metallic look, and the widest I could find at a builders supply is 20 inches, so that determined the maximum width of the top.
The top is curved by bending a special plywood called, oddly enough, bending plywood, available on special order from a hardwood supplier (who should also have or be able to order the Baltic Birch). This comes in 4' by 8' sheets, 1/8” thick. The grain runs in one direction only, which is why it can bend - this also makes it just a bit fragile. It can be ordered with the grain running either direction - lengthwise or across grain, so it's important to specify that the grain run crossways, since the bend will be along the length. The top is comprised of two layers of bending plywood, laminated with yellow glue for strength. The Puppy Camper is for a dog of up to 30 pounds, and has a 2" thick memory foam bed (20" x 28") that fits the bottom snugly. This size is available online.
See the drawing for the shape, which measures 34¼”L x 23½”H. The bottom measures 19⅞”W by 36”L, including the integrated tongue. It is important in bending the plywood top that the sides are matched exactly or the top will tend to run off one side or the other and be frustrating and cause much cursing. To avoid this, make a pattern from a lesser grade of ½ inch plywood, which should be carefully shaped. I drew the shape freehand, then adjusted with straight edges and a French curve until it was "eye sweet", as boat builders say, then I used the band saw to carefully cut out the shape, trying to split the pencil line, and then filed and sanded it fair. It is important for the finished edge to be perpendicular to the face because this will be the guide for the bearing on the pattern router bit when making the two sides. This is also a good time to figure in the door. From the bottom of the side, measure up 3¼" to the bottom of the door. The door measures 10”W by 14½”H. Draw the dimensions on a piece of ¼” plywood (for a cutting pattern) then use a compass to arch the top and round the lower corners. Drill a hole to start the jig saw, cut out the door shape, then sand and file carefully to the line to make a smooth-edged pattern. Lay this on the side pattern (see drawing for location), scribe with a pencil (I prefer a 7mm mechanical pencil because it's always the same diameter and doesn't need frequent sharpening), remove the ¼" pattern and rough out the door in the side pattern with the drill and jig saw. Clamp or tack the ¼” ply door pattern onto the side pattern and, using a router with a top bearing pattern bit, rout the door opening. Now you're set to make two sides, one with a door and one without.Laying out and cutting the sides:
Use the pattern to lay out the sides on the sheet of Baltic Birch, keeping in mind the bottom needs to also come from this sheet. Lay out one side and the bottom parallel to the grain and one side perpendicular to the grain to fit it all in. Scribe the sides against the pattern with a pencil and rough out with the jig saw. Use the side pattern to locate the door on the "front" side panel, scribe, then rough out with the jig saw. Clamp the side pattern in place, using at least three clamps so there are always two holding it in place while moving the third out of the way of the router. Rout all the edges, including the door opening. Remove the pattern and make another side, but without cutting the door opening. Place these sides together to check that they match exactly. Using a router and ⅛” round-over bit, rout all inside edges of both sides and the door. Then use a ¼” round-over bit to rout all outside edges. The reason for two different sizes of router bits is that the plywood is only ½” thick and if the ¼” round-over bit has routed a side there is little bearing guide surface left for the other side and a center ridge will be left which must be hand sanded smooth. For the inside, ⅛” is enough edge relief, but the outside needs a smoother, more rounded look.Making the kerfing pattern:
Now to make a pattern for gluing the kerfing (which we will make soon) to the side panels. Start with another cut out and routed panel like the left side panel without the door, cut from ½” plywood of a lesser grade. From this pattern we'll mark and remove a strip around the edge where the top goes, allowing for a reveal of ⅝”, ¼” for two layers of the top, and ½” for the width of the kerfing (for a total of 1⅜”). With a compass set to 1⅜", scribe a line around the edge - this represents the inside edge of the kerfing and the outside edge of our pattern to be. Locate and mark the two lower 1⅛" by 1" braces. The rear brace begins at the point the curve of the top begins to straighten out and become parallel to the bottom edge. Draw a line perpendicular to the bottom edge in line with the front of the rear bottom brace - this marks the end of the kerfing in the rear. Measure up from the bottom edge 1" and mark and mark again at 1½”. Draw two lines parallel to the bottom edge across to the curved front edge - the space between these lines represents the floor of the puppy camper. In the lower front quadrant, scribe a line ⅝" from the edge (this represents the outside of the top) to find the point where it intersects the top line of the floor. Add 1/16" above the floor to allow for paint so the floor will slide in without binding. This point, 1/16" above the top of the floor and on the scribed line representing the outside edge of the top, determines the location of the front lower brace. This point is the bottom left corner of the brace. Draw a line from the edge through this point. Since the edge here is curved it will not be perpendicular to this edge, but will bisect the angle formed by the curve.
Carefully cut the scribed strip on the bandsaw, starting with the two short terminal cuts then around the perimeter. File and sand to the line. Since this is merely the form for bending the kerfing it need not be as perfect as the edge of the templates for routing, but it should be close. When you clamp this pattern to the inside of a side there should remain a space that is even and follows the shape of the side closely. The drawings are made from the actual patterns I used, both the side pattern and the kerf pattern, with details filled in, and reduced in size to fit a normal page.Making the kerfing and gluing blocks:
Now to make some kerfing. Kerfing is used to provide a gluing surface - such as in guitar construction, where the sides meet the top. The material is so thin that there is very little surface area to hold glue to make a joint between sides and top/bottom. Kerfing is a piece of material with many closely spaced cuts that don't quite go all the way through so that the piece can be bent in a smooth curve without breaking. The closer the cuts, the smoother the curve. You will make this on the band saw. I made two pieces of kerfing from two 8-foot lengths of ordinary pine trim, ½” quarter round. The setup includes a piece of wood with a partial saw cut through the edge. Then this is placed on the back side of the bandsaw blade, with the blade in the slot and clamped in place with just enough of the blade exposed so that a piece of ½” quarter round will be almost, but not quite, completely cut through. The curved part of the quarter round is cut almost through to the back, flat side - it's good to leave about 1/16". Too much, and it will be hard to bend in a tight curve, too little and it could break. Try a short sample piece first. Put a pencil mark to the left of the blade at ¼” - this is your guide for the cuts. Push the quarter round into the blade to the wood stop, pull back, move to the left until the cut lines up with the pencil mark and cut again... repeat many, many, many times. Don't space out during this repetitive task and add your fingers to the off cuts. Once you've cut a bit you'll find the cut portion of the quarter round will bump into the support arm of the band saw, so you will need to clamp a piece of wood to the table to gently guide it just past this point. Moving the left side of the kerfing so it will miss the support arm will require some counteracting pressure to push the quarter round into the blade, so minimize this by having the clamped guide steer the quarter round just barely past the arm - your sore, aching, fingers will thank you. When the quarter round is uncut it's fairly stiff and easy to hold and guide into the blade for each successive cut of the many, many cuts. As you accumulate cut quarter round on the left, however, it will become more flimsy and bendy and you will need to jerry rig a long board (I used a piece of aluminum angle I had handy) to the left to support the cut side for the full 8 feet.
Finish one piece of kerfing. Take a break, count your fingers. Massage any remaining fingers - they may be cramping. When you're ready, take a deep breath and make another piece of kerfing. Now you know why luthiers' suppliers sell short sections of kerfing for such a high price.
Now you will need to make gluing blocks, many of them, about 9-10 per foot. The idea is to cut strips of ¾" plywood (again from lessor grade plywood) about 1" wide, then cut a shoulder ⅛" wide and just under ½" high along the ¾" edge - this is to hold down the ½" kerfing when it's glued up - which is why it's just barely under ½" - so it will apply some pressure when clamped down. (see drawing for a detail). Now cut another shoulder, ⅛” high and ⅛” from the edge of the shoulder you just cut - this is to give some space for glue squeeze out, so you won't be gluing the blocks down hard at the same time as the kerfing. Some of the blocks may stick, even stubbornly so, but this relief cut will allow you to tap them and they'll come off. Now cut this strip with the two shoulders into pieces about ¾” - ⅞” wide – you will need a bucket full, and clamps to go with each one. A woodworker once said - you can NEVER have too many clamps - and this is one of those nevers. If you don't have enough clamps to go the whole way round at once, you'll need to glue a section at a time. It will need to dry overnight for full strength, but yellow glue will set up enough in an hour or so to allow gluing the next section.Gluing the kerfing:
Do a dry run. Clamp the kerf pattern to a side pattern (INSIDE of the side, please!) using the blocks, start at the rear end (where the curve is tighter - easier to bend it now when it's long) Place the kerfing against the form, cuts to the inside and flat bottom against the side surface, firmly secure the bitter end by placing a block and clamp, press the glue block tightly while clamping - you want pressure downward and also tightly against the form. Bend the kerfing around partway, support it so it will stay on the side and not fall off (and possibly break) but not bound tightly yet. Go around and place glue blocks, leaving a small space between them. You want points of pressure against the form close, especially here at the tight curved end. Work your way around until you get near the front end and can overlap the kerfing on the form itself, mark and cut the kerfing to length so it's a decent fit but not too tight at the end. The ends will be trimmed later, to allow for the cross braces, so it's not critical to get the length perfect now. It's easier to bend a tight curve past the point and trim back later than to try to get the length exact now and glue it precisely in place.
When you think you have the hang of it, Remove everything and place the blocks and clamps where you can get to them quickly. I like Titebond II glue. It's an inexpensive yellow glue, tacks quickly, spreads easily and holds very well, plus it's waterproof when dry. When gluing the kerfing, it's important to get glue mostly on the outer edge of the kerfing, where it's not quite cut through, and some on the bottom, but you don't want to slather it on over everything. You will have to carefully pry the bending form out after the glue has set and too much glue will cause much cursing and frustration. To this end it's a good idea to apply a good coat of wax, a hard finishing wax, to the edge of the form to help keep the kerfing from sticking, before gluing up. When you think you're ready, spread a bead of glue along the outside edge of where the kerfing will go (use the scribed line on the side as a guide) and start clamping the blocks in place, working your way around. You won't be able to bend the kerfing all the way around at once, you'll have to work it along a foot or so at a time, so support the kerfing above the side with long thin sticks across the form, under the kerfing, to avoid smearing glue where you don't want it. This will also allow you to apply glue a foot or so at a time as you go. The first part is the hardest because it's the tightest curve. Clamp along, being sure to press it tightly against the form as you go and make sure the blocks press it down to the side. Move the kerf support along as you go. You'll be able to bend longer stretches as you go over the gentler curve along the top, but still be careful to press each block tightly to the form. The very end may need some coaxing with a piece of wood to get it tight to the form around the last curve. You can go back and make some minor adjustments, but the glue will begin to set up rather quickly so work fast! Let this set up overnight.
Next day remove all clamps and blocks (again, some may need some persuasion with a small hammer and stick of wood). Hopefully, none of the blocks have so much glue under them that they bring part of the side veneer with them (which would require filling and sanding). Now use a putty knife to pry the kerf pattern up from the side itself, starting at the middle of the bottom, where marks won't show - if there should be any. Usually once the putty knife has (gently!) started movement the form will pry right out. Clean up the joint surface where the flat kerfing edge meets the side. Since the inside will be painted and all these small kerf cuts will act like the nib of a pen to hold paint and produce runs and drips and much cursing and frustration, run a bead of cheap acrylic chalk along the cuts and wipe it with a finger to make a smooth surface. Let the caulk dry completely. Clean any chalk that runs over onto the inside edge. Repeat for the other side. Place one side on top of the other to check that the kerfing edges match.Making cross braces and assembling carcass:
Place one of the sides on the worktable, inside up. Remember the mark on the side for the end of the kerfing? Now we'll mark and cut it to allow for the cross braces. The four main cross braces are milled to 1⅛" x 1". Measure accurately the actual width of the flashing and add 1/16” - 3/32” for the length of the braces. There is paint thickness to consider and you don't want to face trying to trim a sliver from the edge of a 6-foot length of flashing, so give a little leeway. A snug fit, rather than tight is what we're shooting for for the top. Cut the four braces at the same time with a block clamped to the cross cut guide on the table saw to ensure they are exactly the same length, with perfectly square ends. The square ends are important because they will help you to get the carcass together accurately so the bending ply and aluminum will go around with a minimum of fuss.
Measure back along the kerfing from the starting points for the ends, both front and rear, to allow for the braces width and cut the kerfing completely through (but only the kerfing) carefully with a dovetail or small back saw. Use a small hammer and block of wood to pop the short piece of kerf off and clean the surface with a chisel. Choose two points on the top of the side, roughly spaced across from the bottom braces. You basically want four supports spread somewhat evenly. The placement of these two top braces is somewhat arbitrary. The four braces are to support the two sides parallel to each other, with the sides lined up. The bottom braces spread the sides exactly and also provide an attachment for the ends of the bending plywood (which will be under some pressure) and the locations of which are critical, while the top two braces merely spread the sides exactly. It may be easier to locate these top two by first choosing spots on one side, marking the width of the braces and cutting the kerf and removing those sections, then place the sides together and line everything up, and mark the uncut kerf using the cut kerf on the other side as a location guide. The outer edge of the braces line up with the edge of the kerfing so there is a continuous gluing surface all around when the braces are in place.
Set up the table saw to cut the bending plywood. Set it up slightly under the width you cut the braces, again to allow some leeway, say 1/16". Cut two strips of bending plywood. Lay a side on the work table, overhanging enough to reach to the bottom braces, inside facing up. Place a brace in position and nail in place. I use a brad air nailer. I suppose it's possible to hold the brace in place with one hand while using a hammer in the other and a nail in the third hand to do this, but an air nailer will be most accurate and easy to single hand. Think of it as an excuse to run out and buy one if you haven't already...oh, AND a compressor too, you'll probably find the nailer works much better with a compressor. I am used to working alone on complex projects and figuring out ways to replace a helper with inanimate objects clamped together, so my approach is as a lone woodworker in the wilderness. If you have assistance, more power to you.
With the carcass on its side still, place a piece of bending plywood, again starting at the rear where the curve is tighter. Allow a bit of overhang that will be trimmed later, and clamp the end of the ply to the rear brace. It's good to use C clamps here - the ply will be under some pressure and the end needs to be very secure when glued. You can use a backing strip of wood to help. Spring clamps are appropriate for the rest of the perimeter. Carefully bend the ply around the form as tightly as you can and mark the other end, again allowing some extra which will be trimmed later. Remove and cut the end you marked. Now for a dry run. Again clamp the rear end to the brace, bend the ply around tightly and clamp it to the front brace. Use just a few clamps of the spring variety in front because we are going to snug the ply more tightly with strap clamps and so the clamps now are just to hold the ply in rough position and will be loosened to allow movement as the straps are tightened.
Place three strap clamps (cargo ratchet tie downs) around the ply starting at the top. Hook the ends together to make a loop, with the hooks and ratchet in the space where the bottom will go and snug it down - just snug, don't crank, yet. Place the top strap and snug, then one in the middle. Check inside to see that the ply is pulled up tight to the form all around as you tighten the clamps. You'll have to place the clamps that hold the end to the braces leaving space for the straps. Crank the straps and recheck the fit inside. When you're satisfied, remove everything, place within easy reach, run a bead of glue around the kerfing, both sides. Too much and it will start to drip all over everything. You want enough for a good joint but not an excess. You can't do this gradually, a foot at a time like the kerfing because you're doing both sides at once. Be quick! Get the kerfing glue applied, then run glue along the rear brace - be more liberal here, as it will be under more pressure. Slap the ply on, clamp the end with a few to three clamps and get to bending around while that glue is displaying its obedience to the law of gravity. Glue up the other brace, throw on a clamp or two to hold it temporarily, get those straps in place! Don't get right next to the edge of the ply or you'll glue the straps in place too - allow ½ inch or so from the inside edge. Snug the straps - you'll have to release the clamps on the front once the straps start holding the ply to allow it to move as you crank the ratchets down (don't test the breaking strength of everything, but crank it down and check inside to see that the ply is seated to the kerfing all the way around, especially along the flatter top section). Now go back and add C clamps to those ends, at the outermost edge of the braces, where the pressure will be greatest. Check to see that the ply is seated completely at both ends. Now relax, breathe, the excitement is over - until the next layer of ply. Let this set up overnight.
In the morning, remove the straps and clamps, clean the joint between the side and top with a scraper. You can trim the ply overhanging at the braces with a mat knife, making repeated light to medium cuts against the brace as a guide until you cut through. You may want to support the edge as you do this so you don't pull the ply loose at the edge as you cut with the mat knife, just don't support it with a slashable body part like a finger. Clean the face of the braces with the scraper. Test fit the second layer of ply to see that it'll go around without binding. If it does bind, check for glue on the inside of the side you may have missed. As a last resort, sand the edge of the ply where it's sticking. Clamp the rear end in place, bend around to the front and mark the length, allowing some extra to trim later. It will be a bit longer than the first, because of geometry involving circles and pies. Remove and trim the front end to the newly marked line.
Apply liberal amounts of glue all over the first layer of ply. I used a small medium nap paint roller and pan of glue to apply a lot quickly, then went over it with a serrated putty knife to be sure it was spread evenly. You have to be quick! Do this later in the morning, after you've had your coffee. As soon as the glue is spread, apply the second layer of bending ply, again starting at the rear, lots of clamps to hold in place, allowing space for the straps top, middle and bottom, straps slightly away from the edge (deja vu yet?) Snug the straps lightly, massage the ply, back to front, to make sure it's seating all around, especially the flatter sections, as the straps can't apply as much pressure there - the straps can actually apply lots of pressure where the bends are tightest in rear and front and prevent the flatter section on top from sliding around forward to seat fully if you just crank the straps tight. Crank the straps down, check the outside edge to see if there's an equal reveal all around indicating the ply is seated. Wipe the glue joint on each side with your finger or a small putty knife to clean up some now and have less scraping later. Breathe, relax. Let everything set up overnight. In the morning, remove all clamps and straps. Clean up the joint between top and sides with the scraper. Now is the time to prime the interior – almost.Making and installing floor supports:
First we must make the two strips that support the bottom. They measure ⅞" x ¾” x 24", and are attached to the inside bottom edges of the sides, just above the tangent point of the ⅛” routed edge (on the flat part, not to put too fine a point on it). They are cut long and held in place, tight against the rear brace, and scribed to the curve of the front edge. Cut this curve on the band saw, sand smooth, rout the inside top and bottom edges with the ⅛” round-over bit, glue in place and clamp till dry.
Set the carcass upright and, having figured your paint scheme already mark it with a pencil line, which is extended across the front and back of the now two-layered top. Many trim variations are possible, but the simplest is a straight line dividing the top and bottom colors. I made a rough measurement and cut a piece of flashing a bit long, placed the cut piece on the top and taped it to the line in front, marked the rear line on the flashing and removed it and cut it to length. Note: you can use a backing board and a straightedge to sandwich the flashing, then cut with a mat knife (it'll take five or six strokes to get through it), then file the edge smooth.Making the fenders:
Now at last it's time to prime - almost. First we have to drill for the axle, test fit the wheels and make some fenders. We'll start with the fenders. Clamp the axle in a vice (gently, strongly enough to hold upright but not to warp it out of round), and slide both wheels on. I used 7" lawn mower wheels, I found some online that even had a small hub cap for a cool, finished look. The axle is a three foot piece of ½” hollow round stock from a builder's supply (Lowe's, Home Depot, etc). Cut four strips of the leftover bending ply, wide enough to reach from one edge of a wheel to the other. Wrap a ply around the wheels and mark a length shy of overlap and cut all four to length. Wrap two of the plys tightly around the wheels and secure with masking tape wrapped around several times. This will be the form for bending the fenders. The reason for these two spacer plys is to have a small ¼” gap between the fender and wheel when mounted on the side. Apply glue liberally to the third sheet of ply, add the next, last layer and wrap these tightly around the wheels and first two spacer plys and tape tightly in place. It is important to have the edges lined up closely because this will be the edge held against the table saw fence when cutting out the fenders. Let this set up overnight. In the morning remove the cylinder with a gap you've made and very carefully cut two 2" strips from this curved piece. It's not a bad idea to cut the first strip a bit wide, so as to create a uniform edge, in case the edges weren't lined up perfectly when glued. Then cut another strip and reset the fence to cut the two fenders. Use the first cut edge against the fence when re-cutting. This is a dangerous operation, cutting a relatively narrow strip from a curved piece of stock, so be sure to hold it securely against the fence all the way through and go slowly and carefully, with the blade raised just enough to cut through plus some tooth clearance.
Now lay the carcass on its side, locate the axle hole, 3" from the rear brace and centered in the ⅞” piece that supports the bottom. Drill a ½" hole in each side and test fit the axle - You may need to work on the holes with a rat tail file to get the axle to slide in. It's a snug fit and it will be hard to line both holes up exactly, so some file fudging may be required. When the axle slides in with a minimum of force, pop a wheel on the top. If the axle is a loose fit now due to overzealous filing, clamp a vice grip gently on it inside, next to the bottom to keep it from sliding through as you work on the fender. Slide the axle into position, pop on a wheel then move the fender strip around until you like the even reveal around the tire and mark its location with a pencil around the outside edge. Also, mark the ends of the fender, right where it meets the tangent point of the routed bottom edge.
Now finally, it’s time to prime. Remove the wheels and axle. I prefer Zinsser cover stain oil based interior-exterior primer for priming because it dries very quickly and covers well, though it does have a bit of an odor. Because of the odor and the enclosed space (your head will be inside the carcass unless you can paint well by Braille) it's not a bad idea to have a fan going for ventilation. Woodworkers in general have few enough brain cells, let alone any to spare to paint fumes – something even more apparent now that I'm older and no longer enjoy the invincibility of youth.
Lay the carcass on its back side so the door allows some extra light to enter from above. (I propped the whole thing up on blocks) I use a disposable chip brush for priming. Sometimes cheap chip brushes drop bristles but it's easy enough to pick them out now, and it is just a prime coat. Prime the back side and top as far as you can comfortably see/reach, then flip it over to prime the opposite side. A work light may prove useful since the door no longer lets in light. Once this is dry enough to sand, usually a few hours, I sand it lightly to remove any ridges and flatten any drips I missed, then paint the interior with a good grade of enamel paint. Rustoleum gloss white oil based enamel was my choice. This will have to dry overnight.
Now it's time to prime the exterior. For the top, you won't have to prime under the aluminum flashing, just the vertical inside edges of the sides with a bit of overlap onto the top along the edge, but you do need to prime the bottom below the flashing. It's not a bad idea to run a thin bead of calk along this joint and wipe it down with a putty knife to fill any unsightly gaps before priming. You don't want to wipe this into a fillet with your finger or you may run into trouble when the aluminum has to fit (the last thing, to keep it safer from scratches and dings).
Take care around the fenders to get a nice even layer of primer. After this prime coat is dry, touch up with light sandpaper. Layout the paint scheme and mask off, then paint the bottom (again taking even more care with the fenders, especially if it's a dark color) When you get to the door, paint around to the inside edge, where the ⅛” round-over ends, you should be able to do this neatly without masking it off. Remember when running masking tape around the side edges to the top to keep them lined up with the original line and don't let the tape lie flat and wander off around the curve of the edge. This is an important detail to remember (to have remembered) back when you were marking the line for the flashing along the top. It's rather like marking a waterline on a boat - it stays the same height all the way across the sides, around the edges, and across the front and back. Remove the tape as soon as you are satisfied with the finish coat (another boat-oriented reminder is to always work with a wet edge when painting a large area for a smooth coat). If you leave the tape on while the paint dries it will leave an edge and may even pull some paint with it when removed later. By removing it now, when the paint is starting to set but not yet dry, you will allow it to settle and taper to that edge. Let this dry overnight.
Next day, mask and paint the top, remembering the portion under the flashing won't need this coat either. Remove the tape when satisfied and let dry overnight. Install the axle and wheels, remembering to get an accurate length for the axle which includes enough for the end caps. Don't make it too tight a fit. Fashion the bottom by cutting it to width so it will slide, remembering to allow for several coats of primer/paint, and be sure to leave enough for the tongue. Slide into position, mark across where the top lines up, also measure the distance from surface to tongue when the bottom is level and make a note of this measurement for the little front support that will be added later. Remove the bottom, lay out the tongue (again, I made a pattern first out of ¼” ply to mark the tongue on the bottom and then to be a guide for the router). Make a note of the measurement from the back edge of the bottom to the pencil line, prime the bottom all over. You can prime one side at a time and let dry between, or hang it and prime both sides at once.
Lightly sand the primer, mark, mask off, and paint the interior portion gloss white, both sides. Make a piece to act as a jack stand for the front of the tongue. You can use some closet rod or make something of your own (I made a piece that followed the shape of the tongue itself) and cut to length according to the measurement you made and noted. Attach to the tongue with that brand new air brad nailer. Mask off the white painted section and paint the tongue and jack stand gloss black. Each of these gloss finish coats will have to dry overnight, being oil-based enamel. When dry, insert into the body, lay that on its side, drill and countersink six screws, three on each side, through the ⅞” support piece and into the bottom, and secure with screws. Turn the whole thing back upright and take a step back and admire - you're almost done!Installing the aluminum top:
Now it’s time to install the aluminum top (flashing). The laminated bending plywood top is not perfectly smooth, even when clamped and massaged into place when glued up. This would cause wrinkling in the aluminum flashing and I didn't want to go to the length of fairing the top completely smooth and even, so I don't glue the aluminum flashing down – I only secure the ends. If the front end is secure and the flashing is stretched tight for the rear end to be secured, the flashing will find its own level and lie flat, bridging over any unevenness or slight undulations in the top. It's not like the puppy camper is going to be hauled down the road behind a small doggy car or have to be wind and waterproof like a real camper.
Glue the front edge of the flashing with a bead of silicone and tape it in place with a wide piece of masking tape across the joint and also with three or four long strips vertically, so you can pull against it to stretch the material tight without worry that it would let go. Then stretch it as tightly as you can, using tape strips for handles, massaging from front to back, and secure the other end in the same manner with silicone and wide tape. Use enough silicone to glue securely but not so much that you have a lot of squeeze out to clean up. Let this set up overnight.
Making the trim:
Make and install the two "winglets". These are a signature feature of the old 50's Shasta campers (Google vintage Shasta camp trailers to find some photos). The winglets are purely for show, which is why I like them. There is a pattern for them on the drawing. I routed the edges of both sides of these with the ⅛” round-over bit. Position each winglet and mount them from the inside with small finish screws like the trim.
All that is left is to install the memory foam pad you ordered in time for the grand finale and coax your lucky doggy inside with treats.
Dog's Life: DIY
Recently, a bark reader turned us on to Ravelry.com, an incredible online community for knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers and those who simply need a dose of inspiration to get started. Beginners can find instructional videos, and numerous groups and forums offer personalized advice, expertise or just enjoyable crafting chat.
A search for “dog” returns a long list, ranging from “Dog Rescue Knitters” and “Big Dogs Need Love Too” to “Spinning Dog Fiber” and “Gone to the (Small) Dogs.” The Snuggles Project, with its mission to make comforting blankets for shelter animals, has a group there too. There are also patterns galore; some are free, while others are available for a modest fee.
When we visited the site, we came upon these fabulous, eye-catching designs for three adorable doggie sweaters. Knitwear designer and knitting maven Lorraine Hearn created the patterns for her charity e-book project, which helps raise funds for her daughter’s school, the Aspley Guise Lower School in Bedfordshire, UK. The human models are students at the school and the Pug pup, beguiling Gladys, is now the school’s mascot.
All of Hearn’s charity e-book designs, including those she created for the children, are made with Cascade Yarns’ Ecological Wool (Cascade, along with Rico Design, supports Hearn’s cause).
Karen Parker took these charming photographs. Catch the video and slideshow of the photo shoot on mypdfpatterns.com, and while there, be sure to purchase an e-book and sign up for Ravelry.com.
Dog's Life: DIY
Make a silhouette in six easy steps
1. Prop a photo of your dog about three feet in front of you. You may also pull it up on your computer monitor, if you prefer.
2. With the scissors in your dominant hand and the silhouette paper in the other, use the scissors as your drawing tool instead of a pencil, pen or paintbrush. It’s best to keep the scissors nearly stationary, while guiding the silhouette paper to make precision cuts that reflect what you see.
3. Begin in the bottom corner that shows the chest area of the pet. Start cutting, going up the dog’s body, making small snips as you go along. Be sure to include the texture of the fur, while following the contours of the body carefully to get an accurate likeness. Make your way up the profile, looking at each shape, one by one, and then cutting out that shape. You may want to follow this sequence: the chest, moving upwards to the lower part of the snout/chin area, the bottom lip, the muzzle area, then the nose. The next areas you will draw with your scissors are the eye area, eyebrows, the forehead and the top of the ears.
4. Stop at the top of the black paper, and now move to the opposite lower corner. Cut an s-curve along the bottom of the dog’s neck toward the left edge of the paper. This is the traditional cameo shape at the bottom of a silhouette.
5. Then focus on drawing the back of the dog. Work with the same approach, cutting up the back of the body of the pet, following the contours of the body. If you have measured correctly, the cut will meet perfectly at the top of the 5 x 4" paper.
6. Apply rubber cement to the back of the portrait, then center on the white paper and glue it down. Place silhouette in frame and you’re done!
Whittling is a great pastime, and it’s easy to get started—all you need is a knife and a piece of wood. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to a satisfying summer project.
Your knife should have a sharp 1-1/2 to 3 inch blade, a standard pocket knife will do in most cases. Keep your knife sharp throughout your project. A dull knife is more dangerous because you will need to push harder to make a cut, with less predictable results—if you slip the added force can do some damage. You can also use a special woodcarving knife, specifically designed for whittling, available at most hobby stores.
For some fun patterns of dogs, see these examples from the 1945 how-to manual Whittling Is Easy, made popular by generations of Boy Scouts. When you finish your project, we’d love to see it—take a photo and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the wonderful, miniature world of whittler, Steve Tomashek, in this video:
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A dog sprawls comfortably, relaxed despite the clatter and thump of a nearby printing press. The smell of ink fills the air as a skilled craftsperson rolls a layer of pigment onto the printing plate, then checks the position of the paper.
While this scene could be from the 16th century, it’s being enacted daily across the country as a new generation of artists and entrepreneurs embrace the tactile, handcrafted quality of letterpress printing. Similar to artisan movements in cooking, design and fashion, the craft of printing is experiencing a revival of traditional techniques. Dogs enter the picture—often literally—not only as shop companions but also as muses. At Hound Dog Press, BirdDog Press and Paisley Dog Press, canine-inspired cards, posters and stationery are carefully pulled the old-fashioned way, using a type of press that Benjamin Franklin would likely recognize.
When Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type and the wooden printing press in the mid-15th century, he started a revolution, and the technology he created prevailed for four centuries. At its finest, the process combines metal, ink and paper to create a three-dimensional effect: metal type presses ink into the paper, depositing it only on the floor of the impression and leaving the walls clean. A rich texture of light and shadow gives letterpress printing its unique beauty.
With the invention of commercial offset lithography (the method by which The Bark is printed) in 1904, letterpress gradually fell out of favor as customers migrated to a faster, cheaper form of printing. But fine letterpress printing has never completely gone away. New practitioners, respectful of tradition, are bringing fresh aesthetics and inventive techniques to the medium, evolving letterpress into something new.
Many of their working presses were built over a century ago and are operated by levers and wheels; type is set by hand, one character and space and dingbat at time. Little has changed, including the shop dogs who keep the pressmen and women company. Like the lucky dogs they are, they remind us that sometimes, what is discarded or lost can find its way back into our hearts.
News: Guest Posts
Jessi Hull takes our idea and runs with it!
Like quite a few Bark readers, Jessi Hull of New Boston, N.H., was inspired by our article on how to make papier-mâché dog sculptures. (See a gallery of reader creations.) But, she took it further than most. She made 15 canine papier-mâché vases, which she used as centerpieces for her May 21, 2011 wedding. (About the time our story on dogs in weddings came out in Bark.) How’d she do it? Jessi breaks it down:
Big idea: Our wedding was in our backyard and was children- and dog-friendly. Dogs were specifically invited, and our dogs were our wedding party. When I told my fiancé and friends of my plans to make the vases into papier-mâché dogs—no one believed I could do it. So I made three examples by myself—at which point everyone came on board.
Papier-mâché party: My girlfriends threw a bridal shower party for me, during which we made all 15 dog vases and one cat vase by my now sister-in-law. The party was filled with laughter and very messy! Our hands were covered in papier-mâché, so we had to drink wine with straws! I painted them all myself and another friend helped put on the collars and wedding-sticker dog tags.
Wedding day: It was especially fun for those guests who helped shape the dogs to see the finished products at our wedding. The vases became the centerpieces on each picnic table. We filled them with lilacs, which another friend gathered for us. Everyone loved them! Now they are proudly displayed in our kitchen, atop our kitchen cabinets.
Technique: I used a mason jar as the body of the dog, built the shape out with newspaper, and used newspaper and toilet paper rolls to form the head, legs and tail. Then I covered all with masking tape, as your article suggested, papier-mâché and painted. I used our wedding sticker as the tag for the collars on all the dogs. Total hours to make—probably about 24 actual hours of work on five different days (needed time for drying at various stages), with a total of 10 people involved.
Inspiration: Jessi and her husband are vegans, and they regularly foster dogs for a rescue group called WOOFFUN (Waiting for Our Forever Homes Up North). But they also have four dogs of their own, who served as models for several of the vases (see photos). Their brown and white Chihuahua, Pidgewidgeon (like in Harry Potter), is 8-years-old and came from the Anderson County South Carolina shelter, where she was a backyard breeder discard once she was too old to have puppies. Diego is a three-year-old tricolor mutt from a private rescue person in Manchester, N.H. Cisco, black with a grey muzzle, is 12 years old. He is being treated for and in remission from Leukemia, Jessi found him as a stray wandering the back roads of upstate N.Y. Finally, her six-month-old Beagle mix, Jeter, is their our most recent foster from Georgia. "We fell in love and decided to adopt him as a wedding present to ourselves," Jessi says.
News: Guest Posts
Give your old moth-eaten sweaters a second life!
Dog and cat beds can be very expensive at your local pet boutique, and they tend to look either too generic or too froufrou for my taste. My Chihuahua, Gertie, needed a new one, and I wanted something simple and handmade that wouldn’t break the bank. So I looked around at the raw materials I had available, and my endless stash of thrifted wool sweaters called out to me. Perfect!
Here’s how to turn old sweaters into a cushy pet bed:
1. You’ll need scrap-bound sweaters—either sweaters you know you’ll never wear culled from your shelves or find castoffs at your favorite thrift store. I pulled a pile of leftover sweater scraps from other projects in a color assortment I liked and went to town with my scissors.2. Cut your pieces into strips and roll into balls. Mine ranged from 1 inch to 2 inches depending on the thickness of the sweater (1 inch for thicker ones, 2 inches for thinner). You may want to make a test swatch before you cut up all of your strips to check the gauge and thickness of your fabric. Cutting thinner strips yields more square footage, but you’ll want the bed to be nice and thick so it’s comfortable. See what works best for you. 3. Begin crocheting the circle. With a jumbo hook, chain 2, then make 5 single crochets into the second chain from the hook. Do not join but continue around, increasing every stitch for the second round, every other stitch in the third round, every third stitch in the fourth round, and so on. Work in this manner until your circle is the size you want the bed to be. 4. When working with sweaters, I join by simply overlapping two strips for a few inches, twisting them together, and continuing on with the new one.) 5. To make the sides, stop increasing, and work the next round even (one stitch in every stitch). 6. Working in the front loop only for the first round of the sides helps create a sharp turn where the bottom meets the sides. Work several more rounds, until you have achieved your desired height (after the first round of the sides, revert to working in both loops). When the bed is tall enough, work a few slip stitches to blend into the edge, and finish off. Weave in your tails.
Optional: Make a pillow. Use some more sweater scraps to stitch up a pillow for the bed, and stuff with poly-fill or still more sweater bits. You could also crochet another flat circle piece to cushion the bottom of the bed.
Now find a sunny spot for the bed and invite your best friend to try it out. And hey, you deserve a nap, too!This project, originally published at CraftStylish.com, is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Turn your unwanted t-shirts into tug toys.
Last weekend I was cleaning out my closets and quickly created a pile of t-shirts that I didn’t need. Over the years I’ve collected my fair share of wearable memorabilia from college events, walk-a-thons, and vacations.
Before I brought the clothes to the Salvation Army, I wondered if there was anything crafty that I could do with the shirts.
Inspired by Genuine Dog Gear’s Jersey Tugmaster, I decided that I’d try my hand at making a tug toy for my pups. I picked out a blue t-shirt that I hadn’t worn in years and started by cutting it into strips.
The width you cut depends on how thick you want the tug toy to be. My dogs like thinner tugs, so I cut the strips about 2 inches wide. I took six strips and doubled them up to make three strands. Then I bunched them together, tied a knot at the end, braided the middle, and tied another knot at the other end.
The toy actually came out better than I thought. And since I had extra material left, I decided to try another version with a handle. This time I cut longer strands and didn’t double up. As I got to the end, I made a loop and wove the unbraided end into the braided section and tied a couple knots to secure the handle.
Tug toys aren’t cheap, and because I bring them with me to agility trials and to class, I’m always misplacing them. Or if I’m not careful, my pup Nemo finds them and makes the tug toy into a chew toy. This craft is an easy way to reuse old t-shirts while making an affordable toy for the dogs.
Do you have any favorite doggy craft projects?
Pumpkin carving fun for both canines and their humans.
This weekend I went pumpkin-picking to get in the Halloween mood. Unfortunately, dogs weren’t allowed at the pumpkin patch, but my pups will get to help carve by cleaning the tasty pumpkin insides, which also doubles as a healthy treat. This year, while looking for carving tips, I found patterns for dog lovers.
Inspired by the American Kennel Club’s list of top breeds, Better Homes and Gardens’ art director, Diane Starkey, designed 13 canine pumpkin carving stencils. Best of all, they’re available for free on the BHG website, complete with carving tips.
The stencils include a Beagle, Boxer, Bulldog, Chihuahua, Dachshund, German Shepard, Golden Retriever, Jack Russell Terrier, Lab, Poodle, Pug, Scottish Terrier, and a Yorkie. Some require more skill than others. The Scottish Terrier looks like a particularly hard challenge for the novice pumpkin carver!
The website allows you to vote for your favorite design and even create your own pumpkin stencil. If your favorite breed is missing, they’re also taking input for next year. I’m hoping for a Sheltie! In the meantime, I’m going to start with the Jack Russell Terrier design.
Dog's Life: DIY
Immortalize your pup in yarn by following the patterns in Knit Your Own Dog by Sally Muir and Joanna Osbourne. Using just simple knit, purl and loopy stitches, capture a Bulldog’s wrinkles, a Poodle’s curls or an Afghan’s flowing mane— 25 breeds in all. Download the pattern below to try your knitter’s hand at the Jack Russell Terrier pattern.
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