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I'm building a bike camper and wanted to go pick up 1" by 1" by 8 feet lumber for my build. It does not seem to exist at major hardware stores - home depot, lowes, etc.

When I go online I can find it, but it is in small sizes.

I've had stores offer to cut it from other pieces, but the tolerance for my connectors is pretty tight.

Is there an easy way to get this material? What would be a typical use for 1" by 1" lumber in other industries - perhaps if I had better search terms I could find it near by in Austin TX.

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    1x1 lumber seems a bit too small for structural building, actual size is 3/4 or less these days. Would think for a bike camper aluminum tubing might be a better choice.
    – crip659
    Dec 10, 2023 at 19:14
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    This sister site might be better. bicycles.stackexchange.com
    – crip659
    Dec 10, 2023 at 19:52
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    If you're willing to pay a LOT more than local custom processing should cost, you can get up to 12 foot (including 8 foot) from aircraftspruce.com/catalog/wppages/capstrip.php (not affiliated, but if you want top-quality lightweight wood at "if you have to ask you can't afford it" pricing, they are the source.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 10, 2023 at 19:59
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    The thing is, wood expands and contracts with moisture, so tightly toleranced connectors don't tend to stay that way (except for a some clamp types with bits sticking out in awkward directions. If you're socketing it and then using screws to fix it into the socket, I might be inclined to size slightly over and plane (and/or saw/chisel depending on how much you have to remove) just the bits to fit in the socket
    – Chris H
    Dec 11, 2023 at 11:49
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    @crip659 as a regular there, I'd say anyone who could help there is here as well, and while making accessories is certainly on topic there, woodworking isn't often discussed. There is also woodworking.se though
    – Chris H
    Dec 11, 2023 at 11:50

4 Answers 4

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Other than "go to a different material that's actually sold as 1x1", you have to custom cut it if that's what you settled on for a size. Aluminum extrusions might be a better choice, on sizing and strength-to-weight.

2x2 which is actually 1.5x1.5 is about as close as you'll find, and you'd be more efficient cutting about 6 pieces from a 2x8 (1.5x7.125 or perhaps 7.25 - you'll lose enough in saw kerf that you can't get 7 pieces from a nominal 2x8.)

For a board you'd have to buy a 5/4 board (1.25" rough) and plane it to 1" actual, as 4/4 lumber comes out 13/16 to 3/4 when planed. Even if you wanted to use it rough, rough 4/4 lumber is not accurately 1" as it's sawn when green, and you'd still need to rip strips to width from a wider board.

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Try looking for square dowels. Another option would be the local cabinet or millwork shop. They can easily mill 1"x1"x8' squares from any species wood type you choose. If you have access to a planer, then you can cut and plane 2x2 down to 1 inch. (Most rough lumber will be skip planed, so 1 inch won't be 1 inch). Full rough lumber will be the right thickness, but rough.

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  • Good answer, but even with dowels made from species of wood that are known for straight grain, it won't have the structural integrity the OP needs. Dec 11, 2023 at 22:57
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    "square dowels" -- isn't that an oxymoron? I was under the impression that "dowel" implies a cylindrical shape.
    – Dan Mašek
    Dec 12, 2023 at 14:22
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    I agree, but a stick by any other name. Round or square dowels serve the same purpose and square ones are easier for dado slots and other externally visible connections of wood. Good also for mortises. They do go by the name of square dowels, though, if you are looking for them.
    – RG Hughes
    Dec 12, 2023 at 17:22
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There's more than one type of lumber.

The basic "dimensional lumber" you find at Home Depot or Lowes is very low density juvenile white pine or redwood "pecker poles", small diameter stuff. You can see from the rings. Any thinner than two-by, the stuff has no strength. I've tried ripping two-by down to get one-by, and forget it - it's just too flimsy to do anything with. Actual store-bought one-by is cut from better wood. At 1x1 inch actual, that wood is no good and would just snap on you.

So if you want 1" square wood to be serviceable, you'll need better species, and it won't be the cheap stuff.

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  • +1 Most wood grain is so twisted and curved that trying to get 1x1 stock that has any kind of structural integrity just isn't practical. You might find it in very limited quantities or in specific species that is known for straight grain, but even then, that structural integrity isn't high enough for the kind of stress the OP wants to use it for. Dec 11, 2023 at 22:51
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    I agree, wood is a heinlously bad choice of material for a bike camper, as it has all the weight and 1/10 the strength of other materials. Going to regret the wood when actually having to pull it lol. Dec 12, 2023 at 3:00
  • I disagree with the ineffectiveness of ripping down 2x as a blanket statement. Ripping down 2x4 or 2x6 is much different than ripping down a 2x8 or 2x10. You can get some great, straight, tight grained boards if you 're willing to look through the stack of 2x8+ boards.
    – Brad
    Dec 12, 2023 at 12:22
  • @Brad perhaps your region gets better wood than mine. FYI, Stackexchange is a Q&A site. Calling answers "blanket statements" is always wrong, since answers are in the context of a question. Dec 19, 2023 at 8:57
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I'd forgo wood completely, and start with a base made from 1" to 2" box aluminium tubing. This also becomes the chassis to hold the draw-bar and the axles.

If you can tig-weld it that would be lightest and strongest, but bolting it together with corner brackets would work. If you use bolts also make and fit crush tubes inside the box-sections.

For a solid camper, I'd aim to keep it as low as possible else towing it will be a lot of work for the rider. Tall enough to sit up inside would be a fair compromise - give up on standing inside because it will act like a sail.

Upright members could be 1" aluminium angle, and again welded but also rivets or bolts are more workable too.

As a cladding, coroplast works well and even offers a degree of insulation while remaining lightweight. Mostly in white helps reject insolation too.

Tent material works as a cladding also, and can be removed and bundled up for the ride. However its not warm so only suitable for summer.


Why is weight so important here?

The average cyclist will produce around 100-200W of motive power when riding, or around a quarter of a horsepower. If everything weights 100-150 kg that's a Power-to-Weight ratio of 2/3 to 2W/kg.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club recommends that you aim for a minimum of 40 hp/tonne.

A car towing a caravan would be around 2000 kg each, for 4 tonnes, or 160 horse power. That's well within the capacity of most modern cars.

Apply the same ratio to a 150 kg load would suggest a power requirement of 6.7 horsepower, or around 25 cyclists.

Clearly bicycle-towed campers have enormous weight restrictions that don't apply to car-towed campers, hence the need for lightness.


Extras for experts - make the camper smaller for towing but extendable for camping. You could use a pop-top design where there's a roof that goes up on tent poles like this "Kamp-rite midget bushtrekka or another technology could be an inflatable like these examples The upside is easier to tow, but more setup required on-site.

Or just load a regular tent into a general-purpose bike trailer.

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  • This answer addresses OP's underlying question of "how to build a camper for towing with a bike trailer" rather than the surface XY question about buying timber.
    – Criggie
    Dec 12, 2023 at 21:19

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