Trailer Fabrication

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Prerequisite Skills


Identified Standards

Obviously all standards below are not a perfect fit.

However, with a bit of legwork and collaboration, CTE teachers and regular ed content teachers will identify and adapt the needs of their students to the "working situation" being created in the fabrication process.

For example:

Math teachers may find students picking up and actually utilizing math standards involving measuring, geometry, ratios, etc. in a CTE environment that they may otherwise not identify with.

Writing teachers may work collaboratively with the CTE teacher by allowing students to prove proficiency with standards involving technical writing, plans of procedures, and even with the creation of letters designed to persuade by suggesting partnerships and requesting materials and support from the entities providing needed materials and supplies and shipping.

The idea here is to supplement and add depth to the CTE and regular educational experience, give credit where credit is due and support the end result and product of hands on learning. Connecting the programs by sharing and interweaving standards will ensure a well rounded student who is able to think "out of the box" and is willing to develop and put forth greater effort due to a rewarding outcome.

Basic Standards: CS4.1-Connects work habits to career skills

CS4.3-Pre-employment Skills and Goal Setting


Listed Standards:

5.04 - Explores (e.g., using technology, career/interest surveys, and discussion) a variety of potential future outcomes and participates in a field trip to at least one of the six potential future outcomes (e.g., skilled trades, post-secondary education, entrepreneurial endeavors, service learning, subsistence, and business).

6.01 Identifies, applies, interviews, and obtains a position in a simulated corporation, business, organization, etc.

6.02 Performs duties and responsibilities within the simulation utilizing business skills (e.g. self evaluation, forming group consensus, goal setting, communication, self-directed task completion, role specialization, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity).

6.03 Demonstrates transferable/employability skills needed in any career (e.g. communicating; working in teams; maintaining good work ethic; striving for accuracy; problem solving; attendance; punctuality; accepting advice, supervision, and criticism; and understands the concept and importance of networking).

Materials Needed

Pre-note: In an effort to create a sustainable "post graduate" Work-skill/Career for our students, I encourage CTE instructors to use equipment that is attainable and easily maintained by rural populations. I tend to encourage the use of "garage mechanic" type tools and equipment, i.e. a Hobart Mig handler 145 110v welder, A Cut Master 39 110v plasma cutter, 110v Craftsmen 20gal air compressor as well as metal saws and grinders that can be bought at vendors like Lowes,Alaska Industrial Hardware, Weld Air Alaska, etc.

Now... before the scoffing and sneering begins to super-cede my intentions, please hear me out.

My functional rationale has formed and morphed through the years by "bush logistics". In other words we as CTE teachers(as well as our Students) confront numerous obstacles and unique circumstances. Nothing is "easy" in the bush, my wish is to NOT compound the costs and expenses of the trade. Given a few basic tools, the students leaving our programs can contribute to the local economy, provide services and become a contributing member within the community.

The expenses, shipping logistics, storage restrictions, energy costs and workspace restrictions all need to be factored into the final equation. Most homes or personal shops may not support 220V welders, saws or Plasma Cutters. These commercial tools are great in a true commercial fabrication setting, and are obviously better suited for large scale production, yet the initial costs, equipment requirements and limited spaces may make these pieces of equipment "cost and logistically prohibitive".

I believe we need to teach our students with tools that will sustain them in their current environment. Additional trainings and certifications are available through institutions like UAA AVTEC, and Job Corps. My job is to open the door and give them a push, once the gears are set in motion, forward progress towards a certification and a future career is likely.

Material List

Steel: Four 10' sections (cut into 5' sections for mailing if needed) of 1.5" box tubing, wall thickness dependent on trailer application. Our program tends to utilize 1/8" wall square tubing. 10' of 1/8"X2" angle iron.

Hardware: 52" Trailer Axle kit, ATV tire kit, and 1&7/8" Ball Coupler from Northern Tool (they mail parcel post!!)

Fasteners: 3/16 by 1/2" flanged rivets, 1/4" lag bolts with nyloc fasteners and 1"fender washers

Miscellaneous: Rust Prohibitive paint, brushes, 3/4" plywood, 2-8' sections of 2X2's


Tools Needed

Personal Protective equipment: Safety Glasses, face shields, Welding Helmets, ear protection, particle protection, leather boots, sleeves, and heat resistant leather gloves and clothing.

Measuring hand tools: 16' tape measure, right angle square, framing square, sharpie markers

Cutting tools: Hand held Reciprocating saw with Bi-metal Blades, Stationary Metal cutting saw (band saw, chop saw)

Grinders: 4.5" with various wheels, abrasive flap disks, and wire wheels

Welders: Hobart Mig Handler 145, Lincoln SP140-T or similar


Miscellaneous: 4-8 Vice Grip clamps, 4 10" C-Clamps, Rivet Gun, Cordless Drill and bits, Counter sink, extension cords, Paint and wood finishing materials.

Nice to have on Hand: 1/2" Impact Wrench, saw horses, plasma cutter, air compresser

Items to consider:

Shipping needed materials to a rural site, even a "hub" site, in bush Alaska creates economic stress for any CTE program and entails excessive "cost added" to final products. Materials such as steel, aluminum, welding wire, machinery, etc. often require an extensive start up budget and cost recovery can create financial frustrations and limitations. Your CTE program will have to walk a fine line of recovering the cost of materials vs. the need to sustain the CTE program's supplies and materials. In other words, your program needs to sell the final product, so the price may ultimately reflect a loss, or if lucky break even.

To help offset costs associated with shipping, it may be best to work with the vendors and various shipping venues as closely as possible. One such Example may be to have any items that are "mailable" shipped via the USPS. Steel angle iron, box tubing etc. can be cut down to 5' sections and mailed as long as the weight remains under 70lbs per bundle. Finding a material vendor in Anchorage or Wasilla is easy, explaining you shipping needs and budgetary limitations may be more of a challenge.

The bottom line is: Establish a partnership within industry on a state-wide level, explain that their business is helping to educate students, and they may just go the extra mile and save you a substantial amount of money.

Longer or bulkier materials will need to be considered a "shipping cost-lost" item and budget considerations will need to be reviewed before the final order is confirmed.

On a more local level, ask your students to help explain you program to the local IRA, Native corporations, and city and/or public works. They can meet standards presenting proposals for projects and by creating needed items for members in the community. These institutions may possess materials left over from building projects or have a supply that is more reasonable in costs due to bulk purchases. The benefits of students and these entities interacting are significant and meaningful, building partnerships and support for your CTE program.

Lastly, upon checking local sources or working with the local entities, don't be afraid to "recycle" materials through your program. Be on the lookout, chat up the local "movers and shakers" cruise the local landfill, talk with your students about resources and teach the value of "one person's scrap may become an a.t.v. trailer".

One would be truly amazed at the "materials" you can find locally. Just be aware that this will be a very limited supply, and at times, permission is need to acquire it. However, it may be just the "value added" portion of a project to help offset a significant portion of the overall shipping costs. Again, keep in mind there are tremendous opportunities for students to meet many standards by writing letters of request, attending meetings, etc. all in a effort to help sustain your school's CTE program.

Fabricating a Trailer

1. Develop a plan or procedure list: Safety First, Tool review, Safety tests etc. Materials needed, purpose of trailer or item being fabricated Logistics involved, needed tools, space, training, shipping of materials

2. Develop teams, or a team, base leadership roles on experience. Identify individual skills and or natural abilities.

3. Students prepare a set of technical drawings, designating all dimensions, and variables needed.

4. Begin cutting, grinding and preparation of steel as plan of procedure states. I find it important to only intervene if there will be a design flaw or significant waste of materials. Students will quickly establish trust and ask each team member for reassurance and approval before proceeding with major steps.


Whenever possible, fabrication of the FIRST trailer is a total class project. This process goes a long way in developing individual skills. I tend to rely on experienced students to "lead" and help demonstrate proper tool technique. The CTE teacher should control all aspects of the fabrication process, allowing students to concentrate on specific tasks. i.e cutting steel pieces, grinding, measuring etc. Once the pieces are cut and laid out, the teacher should demonstrate "truing" the frame and tongue, discuss the pivot points and weight distribution. CTE Teacher may now "Tack" all pieces and allow students to weld once the frame has been secured as true and straight.

It is important that ALL students "work" the tasks or jobs associated with the fabrication process. Later they can "specialize" and use their specific skills when they are part of a production team.


Complete trailer, "Economy Version" This set up does not utilize a leaf spring axle, no top rails on wooden sides.

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