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Like many small contractors, I do extremely varied work. One week I may remodel a bathroom, the next construct a deck, and the one after that build out an attic room. With so much variety, I never know what I'll need from job to job — and I despise having to drop everything and run for hardware, tools, or supplies.

I used to do the "tools in the back of the truck" routine, but it severely limited my ability to carry material. As my tool inventory increased and my back complained, I realized I needed something better. I looked at enclosed trailers, but they ran $5,000 and up for a quality unit. Even at that price, they needed to be "built out" inside, and their storage capacity was limited by the need for a pathway.

So I hit the drafting board and started working on a design of my own. I wanted a tool storage and transportation system that would free up my truck for material handling and nonwork use, make it easy to set up on site, and keep my tools as secure as possible. If the trailer also helped me work, that would be a bonus.

After several months and numerous revisions, I had my design. It took a few more months to source items, find a fabricator for the custom parts, and actually construct the "gdboss," which is what my wife named the trailer (it's a play on my company's name, gdcarpenter).

Landscape Trailer

The storage unit sits on a 6-foot-by-12-foot flatbed trailer — the kind many landscapers use. I paid $1,050 for it at a Texas Bragg trailer outlet in nearby Burlington, N.C. The model I bought came with 4-inch drop axles rated at 3,000 pounds. The trailer was already low to the ground and got even lower when I began adding weight, so I upgraded the axles to a 5,200-pound set with electric brakes. This cost an additional $1,100; it would have been cheaper to have ordered the heavier axles in the first place.

Body. The trailer body consists of a pressure-treated lumber frame that's lagged together, bolted to the metal trailer, and clad with MDO plywood fastened with glue and nails. I made the drawers and interior panels from AdvanTech, an extra-water-resistant type of OSB, and finished the shell with Hammerite paint (Masterchem Industries, 866/774-6371, www.masterchem.com), an exceptionally tough, quick-drying product with a hammered finish that's so convincing many people think at first glance the box is made from metal.

A 68-inch-high storage area occupies the front of the body; behind it is a 6-foot-by-91/2-foot deck with drawer storage underneath. The deck slopes from 48 inches high in front to 42 inches high in back, which helps drain off rain.

Front storage. The forward storage compartment is accessed through a bifold gate, which I had custom-fabricated from angle iron and heavy-gauge screening. Hinged doors weren't an option because they wouldn't clear the frame of the trailer and they'd be in the way when open. The gate folds up and out of the way, giving me full access to the compartment behind it. Closed, it's very secure, thanks to deadbolts on either side, index pins at the bottom, and heavy-duty strap hinges on top.

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A metal bifold gate covers the trailer's front compartment.

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It has hinges at the top and is secured with deadbolts at the side and pins at the bottom.

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Folding up the gate provides unimpeded access to a compressor and shop vac. The heavy-gauge screening lets in supply and cooling air when the compressor is running.

In the compartment, I store a 25-gallon vertical compressor, a shop vacuum, a retractable air-hose reel, air and vacuum hoses, accessories, and an emergency tarp. The space also houses a Wonder Winder containing 75 feet of 12-gauge extension cord that plugs into a job-site power source. The cord feeds through a switch to a GFCI outlet for the compressor, and from there runs to duplex receptacles on either side of the trailer.

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Inside the front compartment, an extension cord feeds to a GFCI outlet.

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From there, power is fed to a pair of outlets built into the sides of the trailer. Various storage spaces suit different tools: Delicate items have their own shallow niche.

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While larger ones reside in a series of drawers.

The front compartment is made of metal mesh so that when the gate is locked, the power-supply cord and hose can still run through the bottom gap and the compressor can continue to draw intake air and keep cool. Although secure, the mesh is quite a bit lighter than a solid gate. Rain can get in, but I don't keep anything in this area that would be hurt by a little water.

To make it easier to drain the compressor, I extended the drain through the bottom of the trailer and installed a petcock there.