vardo sketch

Building a Tiny Gypsy Wagon                                            Spring & Summer 2015

I am posting an instructional and photographic journalgv_complete_Sept2015 documenting my progress as I build a gypsy wagon. I have named her, the ‘georgian vardo‘.

Why did I decide to build a gypsy wagon?

I love camping, cooking outdoors and woodworking. As an experienced, amateur builder, I enjoy large creative woodworking projects, built out back for our yard or a campsite. Often I build from a collection of pictures or sketches that have attracted my interest. Detailed plans are rarely used or required, as I design as I build. With any project I take on, the inclusion of creativity or whimsical craftsmanship is a must. And so last year, as an example, I restored and rebuilt a tiny teardrop trailer  with free license for the galley kitchen and the sleeping area. Pictures are posted below. It was fun to build, modify and make a few changes as the teardrop_decal_crteardrop came together. It turned out that it was easy to tow and a great way to meet other outdoor craftsmen, camping enthusiasts and people who enjoy a simpler and somewhat old fashioned wheeled camping adventure.

About a year ago I discovered a gypsy wagon several kilometres from home while on a walk. Forgotten and a  little worse for wear, it was parked in the backyard of a home, being used to store unused garden tools and flower pots. There was something about it and the dozens of vardo pictures I discovered online that held my fascination as a woodworker and wood artist. It was rustic art on wheels.

Unlike my beat-up discovery down the road, I understand that historically, gypsy wagons, caravans or vardos were four-wheeled horse drawn living wagons. They were often intricately carved and vividly decorated. When I first saw one front up and right there, a few months ago, I was amazed at the detail and artistry that the builder had put into her wagon creation. Wow there was a backyard project. It had all the elements. And so I decided “I am going to build me one of those”. Perhaps this one. Or one of these … Vardos of the United Kingdom

1902 Caravan by William Wright

But then I would need a really big horse. And my horse is a jeep. Time to rethink.

My Design

Vardos can be grouped into different styles including the Brush wagon, Reading, Ledge, Bow Top, Open lot and Burton wagon. I think I like the Reading and Ledge style the best. Perhaps I could combine the two styles and use a recycled two wheeled utility trailer as the vardo base frame. Time to check out what others have done and start scouring kijiji for a frame. Here’s a few places to start. Wagons Online, Daphne’s Caravans, and Instructables Gypsy Wagon .

I decided I would build a wagon built on a 4′ X 8′ trailer frame, remembering that the teardrop I rebuilt last year  had an interior space of just under 4′ X 6′.  Adding the ledgesDSCN3908 would give me 6′ X 8′, double the interior compared to the teardrop and more than big enough for a tiny wagon. Besides it would be easier to move around both while building and later when positioning at a campsite. In case you are interested here is the same teardrop that I have recently steampunked‘. The instructable is located here

Here is a copy of my first drawing of my planned vardo, which of course I pretty well ignored, adapting and making changes as I went.

rough plan

Using Kijiji, I located a well used but solid utility trailer with a heavy duty frame, axle and tongue jack that met my requirements. And it was cheap. I began construction in late April. As of today (August 9, 2015) I have about 90% of the exterior completed and have finished building a single couch / bed that extends to double bed (gaucho style). Will also be adding additional brackets, colourful trim, some shelving and an exterior light near the door.

Will continue to update the picture gallery until it is completed.

By the way, it would be great to meet other local gypsy wagon builders. Feel free to contact me.