Gypsy Wagon Workshop

by Kent Griswold on February 11th, 2009. 31 Comments
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Gypsy Wagons with Jim Tolpin

Learn the Art and Craft of Building Gypsy Wagons

I want to thank EJ for this great find. I know there are many people here in the states interested in this type of building and I haven’t found anything like this anywhere else. You need to get your name in now as the class is filling up fast. Here are the details:
In this week-long class we will explore how the late 19th century, English-made “Living Wagons” (called “Vardos” by the Gypsies)—were designed, built and used. Then you will discover how modern design and construction techniques can be used to create a wagon that will be enchanting and cozy, yet roadworthy for travel at today’s highway speeds. In the balance of the course you will learn the techniques and practice the hands-on skills that you’ll need to return home and build a Gypsy Caravan for yourself.

Here’s what we’ll be doing:

  • Drawing full size patterns for various components such as the end walls and the superstructure supports.
  • Designing a suitable chassis frame and running gear.
  • Building an endwall for a bow top.
  • Making a sample door and window.
  • Carving a knee bracket and a length of molding with “butterfly” chamfers.)
  • Designing the interior built-in cabinetwork
  • Bending hoops with a steam box and setting them to a form.
  • Designing electrical and plumbing systems
  • Designing the chimney for a wood-burning stove
  • Painting and varnishing some sample parts.
  • Talking about how to outfit a wagon for the road.

Included in the cost of the course are practice materials, detailed handouts and access to a free online forum where you can ask further questions and solicit advice.

To learn more and get the dates of this coveted class go here.

Photo Credit: Tim Lawson

gypsy-wagon bed

gypsy-wagon couch

gypsy-wagon sink

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31 Responses to “Gypsy Wagon Workshop”

  1. Wow, those are really quite beautiful. Thanks for sharing the link!

  2. Lellewynn says:

    Thanks for the link! I am so in love with the gypsy wagon idea. My favorite is either the reader wagon or the burton. I think instead of a traditional interior, I’m going to update it to look more like Jay Schafer’s tiny houses. Thanks a heap!

  3. Kent says:

    Lellewynn when you build it please take pictures and document your work, I would love to show it off here on the Tiny House Blog.

  4. Ben Brown says:

    I love the design work and style of these tiny gypsy homes. This has a lot of potential to be an owner builder version of the micro compact home. Unlike the micro compact home, this feels organic, warm and and rooted in natural forms versus the technologically clean, minimalist and contemporary of the micro compact home.

  5. Michael Jones says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I must say you’ve provided some great information. I’m thinking of building my own home on wheels now. There is one area I’ve noticed you have not provided much info on and that is where is a good place to buy the type of trailer needed for this and what type would be best suited to building a house on. Just thought you might dedicate a column or two to this need.


  6. carrey allen says:

    your whoopie wagons are nice but they are lacking the best half which is a good vanner to pull it. cushti divus

  7. This looks to be smaller than the Jay Schafer home — am I correct….

  8. Cath says:

    Yes, I love the designs but they’re all for car pull. Where do I find modern info on how to build one of these for my mare to pull??

  9. [...] team of Romani (Gypsy) assassins, hence the name Project Vardo.  (Tangent:  Check out the pictures of vardos over at this blog.  One day I will have one of these as my backyard office/studio.)  This team, Tobar (father) and [...]

  10. Wonderful website.
    What a beautiful design.

  11. latour says:

    pouvez-vous m’indiquer où trouver les plans de ce Vardo?

    merci d’avance

    jc latour

  12. Les Wattam says:


    That’s Reading waggon built by Duntons of Reading just out side of London England and pronounced Red-ing, and the Burton Waggon built in Burton upon Trent England. both in the turn of the last century.
    Please take a look at my webshot photos to see both types of horse drawn living waggon

  13. Love the idea of a gypsy wagon to take Wandering Wardrobe’s Whimsical Wear on the road!

  14. Dutchman says:


    ‘Been reading the great articles and viewing the pics as well.Thanks for sharing !!

    As I happen to live in the netherlands it’s not an option for me to attend one of your classes in building a vardo. So I was wondering if you might be thinking of making an dvd perhaps on vardo- building ??or a book??

    good luck to all the builders and enthusiasts here!

    Sincere greetings from the netherlands.

  15. Beautiful Wagons. Great work!
    If you are restoring your Wagon or need any parts then why not visit our site and see our brilliant range –


  16. Annemette Kristensen says:

    I was just wondering if there is a vardo community that I can join? My dream is to one day have my own vardo and to travel the world in it, but it would be more fun if there are others who would like to join me on my journey.

    • Wren says:

      I agree. I too feel the wanderlust and desire to take my home with me instead of feeling rooted in one place. Living smaller is just cozier. Someone please post communities that one can join if they want to pursue this lifestyle (both in the U.S. and Europe) thanks.

  17. Annemette Kristensen says:

    I can by the way be reacehed on Thanks.

  18. Harriet says:

    I love it!

  19. e. thompson says:

    Looking at the pictures, the roof is either translucent (unpainted) fabric or some sort of plastic or fibre-glass, in any case, a wonderful choice, as I’ve never seen an interior so well-lit.

  20. Christina says:

    Where can I buy a gypsy wagon?

  21. Gerri says:

    I love the look.

  22. Maria says:

    To add to your “go to” list…

    Amazing craftsmanship by Wally & Victoria Roth.

  23. Maria says:

    This would help, eh..


  24. Lea R says:

    Would like to get address of an American manufacturer

  25. Sonja says:

    American Manufacturer in Oregon

  26. thomas fitzpatrick says:

    Where is your class located? Very intrigued in your class. Looking for blue prints on these gypsy wagons.

  27. Greg says:

    Where can I find a set of plans for the wagon pictured in the article. It’s absolutely beautiful and I would love to build one but I’m having some difficulty finding plans.

  28. [...] Gypsy Wagon WorkshopAug 13, 2009 … It is said the Romani people first turned up in Europe in the 15th century. Tagged, "Gypsies" by some, the Romani were known for their nomadic … [...]

  29. Kendra says:

    Is the Roof made of Canvas?

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