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Fer A Cheval: a mobile bar build thread

Marios Metalworks

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It's about time I put together a build thread now that the trailer is complete and we're starting to get more frequent bookings. I'm sure some of you have seen progress pics pop up on this site but not with descriptions or in this level of detail. Follow along as I share the entire journey here!

Specs:
- 1989 two horse back load trailer
- Food Type II certified and permitted
- Fully functioning sink w/ 7gal capacity off grid & unlimited capacity w/ hookups.
- 12v electrical system w/ 9hrs of run time off grid and setup to run 110v w/ a generator or hookups.
- LED lighting system for when the party stretches into the night.
- Commercial grade tap system setup to run Co2 or Nitrogen depending on what beverages you want dispensed. We can have your favorite beers, nitro brews, champagne on tap and even keg pre-mixes like margaritas or jack n' cokes.
- Bartender station setup for two bartenders and all the fixings!


Cliff Notes:
- I converted an old horse trailer into a mobile bar for weddings, corporate events and private parties.
- My best friends wife would always "what if" about a macaroon+champagne trailer concept. One day I decided to make her and offer she couldn't refuse and we've been business partners ever since.
- We went live March 3rd, 2020 and within a week the entire wedding/special event industry was shuttered indefinitely. Our business model imploded but we survived.
- She has 10+ years in the food services and hospitality industry working as a pastry chef in some of the premier AZ country clubs (she's still does).
- I left the corporate life in 2019 as a fintech-product strategy consultant. Money was good but I had a passion for incubating small businesses and a skill set that would allow Fer A Cheval to flourish without significant start up costs.
- It means "the horse shoe" in French.

This is how she sits now!
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Today marks 2-years from the day I responded to a craigslist add for a 1989 two-horse straight load trailer.

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The seller called me back that evening and we agreed on a price that made sense for us both. I drove out the very next day to pick it up alongside my business partner who was one very happy little lady.

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WhatExit?

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Very cool. You should have known you'd pour a ton of $$$ into it when you saw the Just Empty Every Pocket (JEEP) wheels 😂
 

Marios Metalworks

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Very cool. You should have known you'd pour a ton of $$$ into it when you saw the Just Empty Every Pocket (JEEP) wheels 😂
I hate those wheels so damn much. I made it a point to replace them with the earnings from our first event.
 

franky

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Awesome concept and look forward to the whole story but I have to ask why start with a trailer that is designed to carry 2 tons of horse? You can say, "stay tuned and you will see why" but I just like to jump ahead. Was it just for the feel of it cause that is pretty heavy duty for intended use. The final product looks great!
 

Marios Metalworks

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@franky great question and I don't mind jumping ahead. There's over a year of content I'll be dumping into this thread so no worries.

From a marketing perspective it just made sense. Katie grew up around horses and it plays into our genesis story very well. Aesthetically they look beautiful and fit right into the bigger events we target like the PHX Waste Management Open, AZ Bike Week & the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. You can't beat the looks and lines when compared to an enclosed trailer. I for sure wasn't building the first one from the axles up!

Safety wise I couldn't beat the price point for a steel framed, dual axle trailer w/ electric brakes. Katie is client facing so she tows the trailer around with an Audi Q5 on her own. The brakes and second axle provide a level of relief I'm good with while watching her drive away. The added factor of exposed wheel wells and thinner body make it easier for her to maneuver. Additionally, they're made with heavy gauge steel and I'd expect they limit damage to the body of trailer in the event of a tire failure.

From a design and fab perspective It's played out very well to modify such a well built trailer. The design called for three half kegs, 7 gallons of fresh water, a house battery bank, Co2 tanks and all misc wiring/plumbing ran up front. We're over 480lbs of kegs alone so once you add in ice along with the previously mentioned our tongue weight is way up there. Having a heavy chassis and body over the rear axles was very important to balancing out the overall weight. I expected to add about one horse worth of steel framing, counter tops, shelving & flooring and ended up close to 1300lbs. The other horse worth of weight was reserved for additional kegs, beverages, ice and whatever else we wanted to haul to an event.

Hope that answers your question :)
 

franky

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@franky great question and I don't mind jumping ahead. There's over a year of content I'll be dumping into this thread so no worries.

From a marketing perspective it just made sense. Katie grew up around horses and it plays into our genesis story very well. Aesthetically they look beautiful and fit right into the bigger events we target like the PHX Waste Management Open, AZ Bike Week & the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. You can't beat the looks and lines when compared to an enclosed trailer. I for sure wasn't building the first one from the axles up!

Safety wise I couldn't beat the price point for a steel framed, dual axle trailer w/ electric brakes. Katie is client facing so she tows the trailer around with an Audi Q5 on her own. The brakes and second axle provide a level of relief I'm good with while watching her drive away. The added factor of exposed wheel wells and thinner body make it easier for her to maneuver. Additionally, they're made with heavy gauge steel and I'd expect they limit damage to the body of trailer in the event of a tire failure.

From a design and fab perspective It's played out very well to modify such a well built trailer. The design called for three half kegs, 7 gallons of fresh water, a house battery bank, Co2 tanks and all misc wiring/plumbing ran up front. We're over 480lbs of kegs alone so once you add in ice along with the previously mentioned our tongue weight is way up there. Having a heavy chassis and body over the rear axles was very important to balancing out the overall weight. I expected to add about one horse worth of steel framing, counter tops, shelving & flooring and ended up close to 1300lbs. The other horse worth of weight was reserved for additional kegs, beverages, ice and whatever else we wanted to haul to an event.

Hope that answers your question :)
Right on, makes complete sense now. Equal parts aesthetics and functionality. I am sure that thing is built well. Following..
 

Marios Metalworks

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I quickly made the decision to use this build as a sort of kickstarter for my design and fab business. I'm an analytical guy and had been running a p&l in excel for the last 14-months; it was time to get off the pot. I had equipment at friends and family houses/businesses all over the place from too good to pass up craigslist deals and years of fabricating on the side. Been fortunate enough to save enough capital to fund 3-months of tool up and float the next 9 three times over assuming no sales. Financially it was a go but leaving a career I had built out of an internship and potentially spending every dime to my name was scary as hell. Haven't look back since!

Got the keys to my first shop in July, would work during the day and go drive around the valley afterwards picking up my stuff. 1037sqft with an office and bathroom up front and a full size bay door out back.

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This was the first thing I installed followed shortly by a mini fridge for obvious reasons!
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Slowly but surely I filled it up getting ready for the trailer.
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Mandelon

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Cool Thread.

I was thinking of something similar for a Fresh Juices and/or Hawaiian Shaved Ice mobile stand.
 

Marios Metalworks

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Once the flooring was out and the trailer was down to its basic form I inspected how it was built, drew up a few design and started cutting away.

I'm running a Hypertherm Powermax 30 AIR which runs on 120/240 single phase and has an air compressor on board. This was my first big purchase as part of tooling up the shop but It's paid for itself many times over.


This first section was to become the main serving window and bar top space.

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Marios Metalworks

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More plasma cutting up front! This section was a tough one as the trailer just didn't want to let this piece go.

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Marios Metalworks

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Cutting out the smaller front windows to make room for a much larger single window.

















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Marios Metalworks

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Here is where the fun starts! Finally starting to build parts for the trailer instead of cutting parts off. I absolutely love thinking through the design and fabrication process where you have to account for every little variable.
















Finished drawing on the left. Katie running the numbers on the right. That office brings back me memories!!
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Marios Metalworks

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Now time for the rear hatch and window setup. We knew we wanted a matching window in the rear but we also wanted to be able to access the entirety of the trailer floor to ceiling so I drew this up. Kept it simple.
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Rear window mocked up that also acts like a clamp over the doors. This allowed me to use a single large locking mechanism at the window that effectively locks out the entire rear entrance.
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Marios Metalworks

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It’s at this point I’ve learned some hard lessons:

1) The cost of sandblasting the trailer pre-fab is worth it’s weight in gold. The time and costs associated with local paint removal, weld contamination and toxic exposure is much much higher than if I had some fresh bare metal to work with.

2) Nothing in this damn trailer is square or plumb or symmetrical. It’s built like a tank but not evenly 😂
 

copterzach

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I had a used Bruton single axel, 2 horse trailer my first year of college. I remember when we changed out the floor we had to use ratchet straps underneath to keep it square while we put the new wood in.


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white tortilla

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A friend of mine from high school just got into something similar. Although he definitely didn’t build it. Working events in LA area.
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Marios Metalworks

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@Ladsm @Flying_Lavey I’m not inclined to explain how it’s done but I can assure you it’s abnormal and each county is specific.

We developed a work around that allows us to operate within regulations but more importantly reduce liability.
 

Marios Metalworks

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Now we're rolling along with the rear hatch and IMS just so happens to have some steel plate rem sitting outside. The big guys don't want it but it'll be more than enough for me! Overkill for the rear hatch skin but we have further plans where the rigidity comes into play.


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Here is the plate over at my brothers house. He's a mechanical engineer and an incredible fabricator. I owe a lot to him sitting me down in front of a tig and some pipe right after high school.

















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Marios Metalworks

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Next up was overhead shelving. I wanted something clean and simple yet functional. I took all shapes and sizes of bottles, glasses, purses, flower vases, small electric fans, etc. and came up with these.

The small shelf sits above the main bar top and is intended for use by our bartenders. Ideally they’ll keep personal belongings up there including cell phones as I’ll have provisions for USB ports. Figured if they’re texting or looking at boating forums while on the job it’ll look like they’re doing busy work.
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The front shelf was whole different story since I needed to juggle both ergonomics and storage capacity for glassware. The longer the shelf stuck out, the more difficult it was for our shorter bartenders to reach the back. The lower the shelf became, the worse it looked for both lighting as well as for our signature photo op of the bride/groom. At this point I’ve had a few bartenders and event photographers come look at the trailer so I could get their perspective on design.

I ended up developing two mathematical formulas which help identify how much glassware would fit in a specific area. Just need mock-up of the shelf and basics measurements of the glasses to figure it all out. Simple.
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And the overhead shelving is done!
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Marios Metalworks

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On to building out the under bar!

I settled on a 40lb ice bin which is all SS and insulated fairly well. I wanted enough ice to be able to handle a 2hr rush without having to refill and also a wide enough opening to handle two large ice-scoops as we intend to have two bartenders working the trailer for our bigger events. This process took a little longer mainly because nothing in the trailer is plumb but also becuase I had a few bartenders come in to look at ergonomics. Had a friend fire out a set of drawers on 10" sliders, the lower set of drawers are used as speed racks for liquor bottles.

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Marios Metalworks

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With the tanks and lines ran I now had an idea of clearance under the bar top for the sink. Dropped that in next.



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Marios Metalworks

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Thanks Trent. I meet with one of the premier event planners in Phx next week. Plan on wheeling and dealing to get this business of the ground.
 
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