Jay's Custom Contractor CNCed Tool Trailer Build

CNC = Speed and reduced weight


USED FOR Construction
BODY Enclosed Trailer


Floor storage
Ceiling storage
Interior lights
Wired electric
Stand inside?

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Jay Bates

Jays Custom Creations LLC

Mathiston, MS USA

Jay built this custom enclosed tool trailer for a contractor, working out of his shop in Mathiston, MS.

This is a unique build for a few reasons:

  • The trailer is a horse trailer.
  • 23 of the 25 sheets of plywood in the build were cut with a CNC router, which resulted in some slightly different construction methods.
  • The base build of the cabinets and drawers was very fast, due to the CNC machine.

Make sure to watch Jay's videos detailing the design for the CNC machine and the cutting and construction of the plywood cabinets and drawers.

It's a Horse Trailer

One of the unique things about this tool trailer is that it's based on a horse trailer. The trailer has some unique features:

Three side cargo doors - Most enclosed trailers only have one side door on the passenger side, but this trailer has two passenger doors and one driver door. For this build, access to all doors was preserved. A downside to so many doors is that they occupy storage space if they can't be blocked.

A tack room - A tack room in a horse trailer is for all the horse riding gear like saddles and bridles. It's normally closed off from the horse-carrying area, so the trailer owner made a pass-through between the two areas.

The Plywood Foundation

The base for the build is about 25 sheets of plywood. Jay said he used mostly 1/2" plywood, with a few 3/4" and a few 1/4" sheets.

It's typical in a tool trailer build to use a 50/50 combo of 1/2" and 3/4" plywood.

But Jay could make the verticals thinner since they don't have "slides" routed into them. This should result in a lower overall weight.

Some builders brush off weight concerns, but it's quite easy to come close to your trailer's GVWR once you're loaded with tools and some materials.

In the tables below, you can see that a Jay's construction method reduces weight by about 162 lbs. compared to a typical 50/50 combo. This doesn't account for wastage.

Thin Construction Plywood Weight
Quantity Weight
1/2” softwood 20 812 lbs
3/4” softwood 4 243 lbs
Total 12 1055 lbs
Thick Construction Plywood Weight
Quantity Weight
1/2” softwood 12 487 lbs
3/4” softwood 12 730 lbs
Total 12 1217 lbs

23 of the 25 sheets were cut on a CNC machine. The vast majority of tool trailer builds do not use a CNC machine for cutting, which means that Jay used some different construction methods, such as the box joints and the many mortise and tenon joints for the drawer construction.

Jay's Custom Contractor CNCed Tool Trailer Build
Jay's Custom Contractor CNCed Tool Trailer Build Image from Jay Bates

CNC = Fast Assembly Speed

This build was put together exceptionally quickly!

A typical plywood trailer build takes 2-3 weeks for a single person. This build was mostly constructed and installed over 2 days by 3-4 people. They spent 34.5 man-hours building and installing the base cabinets for the trailer.

Wiring, auxiliary cabinets, and outfitting still needed to be completed, but CNC construction likely shaves many, many hours from a typical build.

Using router/dado construction (not CNC), a typical 7' or 8.5' wide tool trailer build will take 80-120 hours to go from a bare trailer to fully outfitted.

Make sure to watch the assembly video here.

Barn Doors for This Trailer

A frequent question tool trailer builders have is:

Barn doors or a ramp door?

This trailer has barn doors, which are good when you park in dense areas. Sometimes you don't have room to drop a ramp door, and barn doors have much less swing. In a pinch, you can back into a tight parking space with the doors open.

Barn doors are also good place to store long tools, clothing, cords and hoses, and thin step ladders if you aren't concerned with walk-by theft.

This contractor uses a simple hybrid approach:

He has barn doors, but also uses a piece of plywood as a ramp when something needs to be wheeled in or out of the trailer.

Bulky Stuff on the Driver Side

The driver side of the trailer is devoted to bulkier items like large tools, lumber, and sheet goods.

There are several 8 foot long slots for plywood, offcut lumber, and a walkboard. These slots are the length of the storage cabinet on the driver side.

The two offcut lumber slots also have windows running their length that make it easy to see and retrieve lumber that would otherwise be "lost" in the slots.

Son of a Carpenter did this a little differently with slots in their false floor in a carpenter van build. Thin plywood slides at the bottom of the slots could be pulled out to get at material that was pushed to the front.

The slots are relatively low and easy to access from the ground outside the trailer.

Large Tool Storage

Larger tools like the miter saw are mounted higher up in dedicated compartments.

This is only one way to store these tools. The most common configuration is to store these tools at countertop height, which makes removing and replacing them easier, but there are other ways:

Many contractors like to store them low on the floor, or will attach them to their dedicated, wheeled stand for easy deployment. Some contractors have built saw table and vacuum setups into their trailer so saws don't even need to be removed for use.

How you store these tools should be dictated by how often you use them compared to how often you use an item that could go in its place.

Your options are a little more limited when you have a smaller trailer. A small tool trailer will typically have proportionally less inventory and materials and more tools.

The Workbench/charging Station

At the back of the trailer on the passenger side is a workbench. This location is good because:

  • It is well-lit by natural light.
  • It provides a "holding area" for tools or materials.
  • Many quick-grab items are located here, like batteries, bits, commonly-used hardware, marking tools, and tape measures.

Several tool battery chargers are located around the perimeter of the workbench.

Plywood Drawer Construction

Jay built the drawers a little differently than we normally see, with some great ideas!

Easy Labels

First, every drawer is numbered with CNCed and painted numbers.

This system makes it faster to find tools and materials since numbers are ordered, which makes it easy for your eyes to find the correct drawer.

Labeling the contents of a drawer makes it slower to find a drawer since you need to read every label to discover the contents.

The difference is this:

Numbered drawers: "Get the tape out of drawer #26."

Labeled drawers: "Get the tape out of the drawer with the label that says 'Tape'."

Once the contractor knows the system ("Tapes in #26") it's easy to direct helpers to tools and materials.


The drawers are built with mortise and tenon, which helps keep the cabinet structure light. Typically, tool trailers use drawers with routered or dadoed drawer slides. This can add weight by requiring thicker plywood for the cabinet verticals.

Drawers are lubed with wax, but you can also use bar soap. Look for wax in the canning section of the grocery store.

Unusually, the large and heavy drawers use drawer slides instead of sliding on plywood. Drawer slides take up some space, but the effort required to pull out a heavy drawer is well-reduced.

Drawer Retention

Keeping doors in place while driving can be challenging. For this build, two long aluminum bars are vertically fitted to cover drawers. The bars need to be installed and removed before and after transport.


This trailer is a great example of what you can do when you have a CNC system at your disposal. The CNC construction helped decrease the weight and significantly decreased the build time compared to a conventional tool trailer build.

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