Neal's Unique Aluminum DIY Tool Trailer

Ultralight, ultra-compact


USED FOR Carpentry
BODY Enclosed Trailer, V-Nose


Ceiling storage
Roof storage
Interior lights
Wired electric
Stand inside?

See more


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Install work tables on the outside of your tool trailer. more »


Neal McMillan


Neal's tool trailer is a unique build based on Australian tool trailers. His setup is 100% custom, with the entire superstructure designed and built by Neal.

While most American construction tool trailers are an enclosed, walk-in style, Neal's trailer is designed to access his tools from outside. His design makes his trailer light and compact. By integrating major tools and their associated stands and outfeeds into the trailer, he can set up and takedown his mobile workshop quickly.

Trailer Construction

Neal's major goals for the trailer were that it be both light and compact. If you removed all the empty space from a typical tool trailer, you'd end up with something like Neal's.

Bringing the Inside Out

Instead of working inside his trailer, Neal works on the outside of it. This is accomplished with:

  • Flip up doors that can provide sun and rain protection
  • Slide-outs that move tools outside the trailer
  • Integrated supports for outfeed tables
  • Exterior flip-up tables for supporting tools and providing a workspace
  • Numerous outlets that provide electricity
  • Work lights that provide interior and exterior illumination
  • Slot storage that can take multiple sheets of 4'x8' material

Neal lives and works in a dry climate. This setup wouldn't be well-suited for cold or wet climates where work pieces and tools would be exposed to the elements, or where temperature and weather would make it uncomfortable to work.

That said, there are many handymen that use contractor caps on their pickup truck to achieve an effect similar to what Neal has done here.

Neal's Unique Aluminum DIY Tool Trailer
Neal's DIY Aluminum Tool Trailer Image from Neal McMillan

Car Trailer Foundation

Neal accomplished his goal of making the trailer lightweight, coming in at 1840 lbs. without tools and inventory. He used a 1976 aluminum Trailex car trailer as the foundation for this build. While it was rated for 4000 lbs. he reinforced the frame and installed twin 3500 lb. axles. He doesn't anticipate needing the 7000 lb. payload capacity, but wanted to beef it up a little.

Mostly Aluminum, Some Plywood, a Little Steel

Many enclosed trailers make heavy use of steel in the frame and body construction. Even all-aluminum enclosed trailers still use several sheets of plywood to skin the trailer which adds a lot of weight.

But Neal used practically no steel and a relatively small amount of plywood on this trailer:

The framing is aluminum tube and the sheathing is 1/8" thick ACM, which is a sandwich of two pre-painted aluminum panels and polyethylene sheet. ACM is light and durable, and gives you a stiffer, thicker panel that is cheaper than solid aluminum.

The sheathing is glued and riveted to the framing with Loctite PL Premium glue.


From end to end the trailer is 16' 6" long and the enclosed part is 10' long, 5' wide, and 54" tall. Neal says that he likes the small size because it makes it easy to travel down narrow streets and he only takes up two parking spaces in a parking lot or on a street. The trailer has an extra long tongue to allow for tight turns without his truck contacting the trailer or jack.

Tool Integration

Because the trailer is custom, Neal was able to make tool deployment fast and efficient.

The DeWalt table saw slides out of the side of the trailer. Its outfeed table is oriented along the length of the trailer and supported by a horizontal piece of aluminum tubing that slides into the aluminum ladder on the front of the trailer.

The DeWalt miter saw is set up similarly. It's support "table" is narrower, and the horizontal support arm pivots down from the front-mounted trailer ladder, instead of sliding in like the table saw's support.

Since the table supports for both saws are integrated into the trailer body, Neal doesn't need to worry about setting up on an uneven work surface - outfeeds are at the same height as the equipment already.

Neal uses similar slides and flip up work tables for other equipment, such as his mortising machine, belt sander, planer, band saw, and drill press. Equipment slides in and out as Neal needs it, meaning he doesn't need to lift or carry heavy tools on to a job site.

Drawers and Tool Grid

Most of Neal's large tools are attached to the trailer, but corded tools and fasteners need a space, too! He built two plywood drawers that ride smoothly on skateboard roller bearings that contain these smaller items. They pull out the back of the trailer and are each 12" high, 2' wide, and 6' long.

His cordless power tools hang from steel wire grid on the center line of the trailer. He likes the grid because it makes it easy to clean the trailer out with a blower.

Large and Long Hauling

Many contractors prefer to have most materials delivered to the job site, but still need space for hauling large items.

It might not look like it, but Neal's trailer is no exception! The trailer interior is split into a right and a left. The gap between each side is plenty large enough to haul sheet goods and his work tables.

The trailer has an aluminum roof rack built for hauling ladders or materials and a roller integrated at the back makes it easy to load the roof.

Since Neal wanted to be able to walk on the roof of the trailer, he layered Baltic birch plywood and aluminum to create the trailer's ceiling. This adds some weight to the trailer, but most typical enclosed trailers require a catwalk so that you don't damage the roof.

Electrical Power

Neal installed plentiful 120V outlets wired with MC cable inside and outside the trailer, so he can plug in multiple tools any time. He uses an RV shore power male receptacle to plug into the grid on a job site. He keeps his workspace illuminated with LED bar-shaped lights inside and LED flood lights mounted on the outside.

Trailer Changes?

Neal says there are a few things he might do differently in the future. He sometimes works in the street, and his street-side flip door sticks out a bit much. This would be better as a bi or tri-fold door, he says.

He's added a few pieces of reinforcement, such as some aluminum plate at the upper corners to prevent racking.


Overall, this is a beautiful and well-thought-out tool trailer build. Neal has built many convenience features that reduce fatigue and strain, plus his trailer is a rolling billboard for the quality of craftsmanship that he can provide.

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