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Jun 15, 2020, 08:23 PM
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Build Log

A shell build for my truck

I started this project last month, but had no idea where to post it.

I broached the idea of building a shell for our truck with my wife and she said "well start buying and ordering the supplies now. Shell for a ford F250 Super Duty are a bit out of my price range. Lots of luck finding a used one, and even then rather spendy. So I' rolling my own.

Trying for something that looks decent and thought out. But not real hard to build. So I made the side straight up instead of at the same angle as the back of the cap. That would have looked better I'm sure. I also did not want to break the bank ( a very tiny bank too).

I have been building and flying model airplanes since I was a teen in the 60's. Been a bit of a woodworker also having built a few furniture pieces. And I have decent amount of wood working tools, But still some basics I need.

I made a cheep 2 day wonder (wonder what the heck that is) about 2 years ago for a trip from California to Kansas. It was crude but did the trick. Then last year I made a better bed cover that had 2 hinge lines to bi fold, to enable carrying my planes in the truck bed. Worked good, did not leak. I used a split and cut bicycle inner tube under the hinges. But it was limited in depth and a shell it sure was not. I really needed a shell.

Since this thread is starting about a month after the build start I will try to catch it up.

The basic framing is just 2x3's. Those sit on a 3/4" ply plate. The plate is my clamping to the truck surface. I did that with the 2 bed covers Works great, cheap, easy.

The bed box of an F250 is is the same across the different classes, but the outside is wider at least in the front. So the outside of the bed tapers to the back. So a simple square structure will not work. The frame needs to taper. That is another thing the ply plates do for me. Allows me to angle my base 2x3's to be wider in the front.

The basic frame is slightly wider than the outside of the truck bed. The idea being to have the side come down a little past the top of the bed to shed water and not have it wick under the bottom of the shell. I will use a seal, but the less it has to deal with the better, at least I presently think so.

The shell is 24" high in the front, so is cab height, and is 28" high in the back. It is 78" wide in the front and 71" wide in the back.

If this is not an appropriate thread here feel free to say so. Just couldn't figure another place to post out. I have posted a small amount in my Pacific Ace build as this is right in the middle of that build.

Looking forward to getting this thing on the truck. I can't go flying until then.

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Jun 15, 2020, 09:12 PM
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I should have mentioned that the windows come from a fiberglass shell I picked up right after I got the truck 2 years ago. It was leaning up against a tree in some ones yard with a for sell $50 sign on it. I knew I would not work for my truck. Looks to have come off a compact truck. But I was seeing 4 windows For a third of what I could buy one new window for.

The rear window was in a frame that I just could not make work for my build. So the solution is to make my own frame for the rear window. Will be framed out of Maple. Also the hinge for the lift gate will be screwed to Maple. I will use a piano strip hinge. To keep water from working it way in I will use a cut and split bicycle inner tube. I did that for the previous 2 bed covers. It actually works real good. And the hing keeps sunlight from rotting the rubber.

Before I had the roof epoxied on I was moving the shell and lost my balance. Wear flip flops was probably not the greatest idea I've had. As I started to fall my head was turned such that I saw the shell coming down on top of me. I remember thinking this is going to hurt. Yep I was right. Hurt like h*ll! I did manage to block the worst of it with my arm. I laid under the shell for a bit hollering for help, but no one heard me. So once the pain levels were under control I pushed it off of me and just went into the house for a while. No injuries other than to my pride. Contusions and bruises. At least I was lucky. Good thing there was a concrete driveway there to break my fall

I lost a week of working on the shell when my knee flared up real bad after a particularly long day. Also the temps hit as high as 105 and I simply get sick to my stomach when trying to work in those temps. I do have a 10' x 10' canopy to erect over the shell while working on it. And a pole fan to blow at me. But I pretty much have to catch the cooler days.

All edges are being rounded off. I use a power plane to rough it in then a belt sander, also an oscillating disc sander.

The glass I am using is 3.5 ounce. I ordered 25 yards of 27" width. Looks like I am going to have lots left over. It will get used for planes and other projects All the seams still need glassing and also all edges and corners. Once all of the glass is done then I will butter coat with another coat of resin.

The epoxy I am using is West System 205, and 206 hardener. I bought a gallon of the resin and a 1/5 gal of the hardener. I think I am going to have to order more.

Not planning on glassing the inside. But I will apply resin over all of the inside.

Auto paint is to rich for my blood, so I am thinking an Acrylic paint, White to be somewhat close to the truck. Rustolium sells a gallon for $50.

I deliberately cut the ply panels (Birch) a bit short to make them easy to fit into the rabbits on the framing. Filling all gaps with epoxy and micro-balloons.

I have the lift gate cut out. But have not started framing for the window or the hinge. The top of the sill will be cut at an angle just like a house's sill is to shed water. I guess I will sort of have 2 sills A top and a bottom. They will both be cut at an angle. And will be fiber glassed The inside frame will bolt to the outer. I will drill and tap for screws.

I need to clear the work bench and table saw to have working room. I've just sat tools there at the end of the day. I also still have some of my Pacific Ace build there also.

I need to sand the widow frames yet before spraying them black. I have 150 yards of Dicor Butyl Seal Tape for the windows.

Jun 17, 2020, 06:52 PM
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I have been doing some of the fiddly stuff. And some jobs that I have to let the epoxy get hard before moving on to the next task. A lot of putty work with epoxy and micro balloons.

I did a test fit today. I put the sell on the truck. It was all that hard to do. I sat it on its back, backed the truck up close to it (to close had to pull forward a bit) and tipped it on. I did have a board screwed to the back so as not stress the frame by spreading or compressing the back as I lifted, and another board under the front that is wider than the track or shell. Then got in the bed (a three step step ladder is needed) removed to 2 boards. Good fit I could have gone a 1/2" wider in the middle, but after I trim the ply below the bottom frame it will be perfect. The outside of the bed widens as you go down. And I left the ply long on the bottom on purpose so I could adjust later.

Had to order another gallon of resin and another 1/5 of hardener. the first batch are almost out. But I should have plenty left over for airplanes later on.

Nov 01, 2020, 09:01 PM
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Still working on the camper shell for my truck. Just didn't take any pictures for a long while or post. During the summer there where times I just did nothing but sit in the house in front of a couple of fans it was so darn hot.

But I started to push again last month. I think we are closer to getting the house sold and out of this stinking state (Ca).

I framed up the rear window frame. The outside portion is made from Maple, the inside frame is Poplar. The outer frame is epoxied right to the lift gate itself. The inner frame is attached with screws to the lift gate. The screws go into the Maple outer frame. I am using #10 screws. The inner frame is what clamps the window in place.

I fixed the the back of the shell by squaring up the area I had rounded over and did not leave room for the lift gat to sit in flush. I added some stock to the now flat area, and then rounded it over leaving room for the lift gat to sit inside of the opening.

I also finished all the the glassing. At first I thought the rounded corners would be a nightmare being compound curves. Heck they were easy.

What I have found is no matter what I try I can not fiberglass over a 90 degree corner. And with only marginal success can I fiberglass inside a sharp corner. So the side and front window openings are not fiber glassed. I thinned some epoxy and brushed that over the exposed end grain ply wood. Sort of a poor man's clear penetrating epoxy. That actually seamed to seal the edge wood. I then brushed normal epoxy over that a couple of times. I think I have a very good seal at this time.

We decide to wait on painting both for cost and time. Will paint it proper next summer after we are settled in Kansas. That is something else that has changed. Going to Kansas instead of Tennessee. Will be close to my wife's daughter that way. So what I have done is applied a real good butter coat of epoxy. Next year some light sanding and the paint.

I also decided to add gussets to all of the roof framing. They are 2 pieces of 3/4" ply cut ito triangles. So every joint is now gusseted. The roof actual is stiffer now with the gussets than it was without the gussets. So a good call there. I did all of the gussets in one day and my back payed for it. I had to take some old narcs I had to manage the pain. The next I spent in my recliner. Then I went back at it. Made sure I had a good coat of epoxy on all of the insides.

After I made the window frames I found a disaster. All of the windows were stored in the garage up against some shelfs. The side and front windows are still in there aluminum frames, but the back window was not. I don't know what happened but I found that the back window was shattered into little pieces. After a couple of days of being really pissed off, I decided to order a 24"x48"x1/8" plexiglass.

So I hurried up got all of the window framing made. I solved the problem of wrapping fiber glass over corners by eliminating corners. I use my router and 1/2" cove bit to round over all of the outside corners and sanded the end corners round as well. This made glassing the window frame parts easy.

Yesterday I cut my plexiglass. I used the finniest blade I had in my jig saw. But turns out not fine enough. I broke a corner off and had a short crack on the other end. At $50 bucks for the sheet I could not afford to replace it at this time. I epoxied the broke off piece back and sandwiched it between two pieces of fiber glass. Same thing on the other side with the crack. The repairs seem to just as strong as original. Just visually marred. I will live with it till next year and use the plexiglass as a template to have a piece of safety glass cut for it.

I installed the plexiglass today. The outer window frame over laps the cut out in the lift gat roughly 3/8". I put a strip of the Dicor Butyl Seal to the inside lip formed by the frame overlap. Some sticky stuff. Next I laid the plexiglass window in. I then put a strip of Dicor Butyl Seal on the inner frame and screw it down. 80 #10 screws roughly every three inches. Then tightened all the way around till I had some squeezer out of the seals.

Next mount the lift gate and install the hardware for it, the handle and lock rods and the lift struts. I will set the shell on some cement blocks in that garage so I can het inside of it for those jobs

The the side and front windows will get installed.

The shell will then go on the truck. I am going to use 3" clamps. 6 to a side. I will put them in 3 pairs to a side. The individual pairs will be clamped so their handles overlap. That way I can zip tie the handles together so they can't unscrew.

Last edited by greyflight390; Nov 02, 2020 at 12:46 PM. Reason: Edited for spelling (plexiglass)
Nov 12, 2020, 09:22 PM
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All of the windows are installed. Decided to wait to install proper window locks on the side 2 sliding windows and screens. Time constraints.

I made a little pad out of maple for the latch to screw to. The screw are under the handle wings when the lift gate is locked shut, so no one is going to remove the screws to break into the shell. The screws are also T25s, Not many people carry around a screw driver with a T25 tip.

The latch rods that I had were a little to short. And the metal bell crank fixture that attached to the latch shaft was not useable as was. I made that actually work for me by imbedding the fixture into some maple. Some drill work with Fostner style bits and a 1/4" wood wood Chesil. Then epoxied it into the maple. By epoxying the metal bell crank fixture into a piece of maple I was able to get more throw and thus the latch rods will now reach. Near the ends of the maple arms I drilled and tapped for 1/4 20 bolts to bolt the latch rods.

After I installed the latch I found a major OOPS! The maple arms that drive the latch rods should have been offset by 45 degrees. I fixed the problem by band sawing of the excess thickness and the sanding further to both smooth and reduce thickness as much as possible. I made a new arm and dadoed out a slot for the original to glue into with epoxy after I removed the now excess length of the original.

Before calling it a night I epoxied on 2 rails to the lift gate inside just clearing the shell frame opening. These are for the lift struts to attach to the lift gate. The other end of the lift struts attach the shell frame in the lift gate opening. I had to remove the the lift gate before adding the 2 rails for the lift struts to fasten to.

When I reinstall the lift gate, I will add my hinge seal. The will be a bicycle inner tube cut in half and split. The upper porting will get a little silicon caulking between the rubber and the shell to add just a bit more water barrier.

So I think 1 or 2 more days.

Nov 15, 2020, 08:57 PM
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I have the lift gat fully working now!!!!!!
The latch handle is installed. The latch rods work. And the lift struts work.

I fixed the the latch arms. I cut the old wrong angle arms. Made apart holder so I good rune the center section thru the table saw making it thinner ( just cut the wood one side. Then made a new latch arm and dadoed it out to receive the center section. The next day after the epoxy was cured I install the latch rods. Following that I drilled receiving holes for the latch rods in the shell frame. Took some trial error to get them both working correctly.

The next step was the lift struts. Latch the lift gat and took my best educated guess as tp were to brackets should be. Took some experimenting, but finally figured out were they should mount. I only worked on one side till I got it right then transferred the measurements to the other side and installed the second strut. The struts will lift the lift gate up once you start to raise the gate rather smartly. May end up getting my chin smacked by it in the future. I will say I am not 100% happy yet. The lift gate does not raise above about 80 - 85 degrees. I think I can sister to the strut attach rails a taller peice of maple and get the raise height I want that way, and with out changing the lower attachement of the lift struts. I will try that tomorrow.

I still need to install the rubber seal under the hinge, and the seal strips to the sides and bottom of the lift gate.

I AM ECSTATIC!!!!!!!!!!!


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