We don't have a Dometic CFX-50 in our van, but we wish we had gotten one for our build. This is a great little fridge that many vanlifers happily own. It’s rugged and durable, and it keeps your food cold for less money than many of the other fridges out there. It also has a nifty side-open lid, which makes it a lot easier to open with a lower clearance.
If you’ve spent time at your local flea or farmers’ market over the last few years, you may have noticed the explosion that has taken place in the number of innovative small business concepts. From cool new clothing lines to ingenious fusion foods, the sheer diversity of the ideas on display really hammers home one of the key lessons when starting a small business: You need to find your key differentiator. For some this is their brand story, for others it’s the value of their service, but for many quick service restaurants and small retailers, it’s a distinctive core product line that demands the attention and interest of your customers.

We don't have a Dometic CFX-50 in our van, but we wish we had gotten one for our build. This is a great little fridge that many vanlifers happily own. It’s rugged and durable, and it keeps your food cold for less money than many of the other fridges out there. It also has a nifty side-open lid, which makes it a lot easier to open with a lower clearance.


So keep this in mind when choosing fixtures and display units: The ultimate purpose of fixtures and display units is to put your products front-and-center. But at the same time, the overall look, styling, and finish is your biggest branding opportunity. Choose cohesive fixtures and display pieces that coordinate with your product collections but don’t overpower them, like the successful looks below:
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When you’re first starting out, it can be hard to imagine that there are entrepreneurs out there complaining of having grown too fast. But for some, it’s not a problem that’s welcome. For every Ben and Jerry’s, (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield turned a rundown Burlington, VT gas station into an ice cream empire), there’s a Zynga or a Living Social that has enjoyed incredibly fast-paced growth, let their operating costs get out of hand, and then had to engage in mass layoffs when reality hit. If you’re enjoying fast-paced growth, make sure that this is reflected in your operating margins, not just the metric of revenue. You don’t want to be the butt of the old retail joke: “We’re losing a buck on every sale, but we sure are making it up on volume!”

First, as most eager but hesitant potential hobbyists realize, you have to be much more thoughtful about tool selection. A 14-inch band saw? In your dreams. In a small space, you're going to have to rely on bench-top or handheld tools. (It is possible to forgo power tools entirely in favor of hand tools, but that's a discussion better left for another time.)


I know in Missoula the garbage men do not like unbagged dust chips. They sent my friend a warning notice in the mail. Do you pull your drum out to the garbage and let the dust fly or dump it into a bag? My friend has garbage cans with 33 gallon liner which he pulls out of a sealed dust collection box beneath the cyclone… then he uses a hand truck to haul it out to the alley and then puts a fresh can in the box. It seems like a simple dust management method by not handling the dust by either scooping or dumping it out into a bag. I am always trying to think of ways to have less contact with harmful dust particles and I am curious as to how others handle the situation. Have a great weekend! 

Most people know they should document their homes contents for insurance reasons but they often ask why or how to do it the right way. If you have a loss due to fire, theft or a natural disaster your insurance company will need certain details to complete the claims process, including a description of the item, the model number, the serial number the date purchased the color and the purchase price.
Ultimately, your workshop should be a place that inspires you to be creative and to do your best work. When you take the time to plan the space for maximum efficiency and comfort, you’ll love spending time there — and that means you’ll get more done, whether it’s fixing up a car or building a new piece of furniture. No matter how you use your workshop, you should enjoy the time you get to work with your hands and make something brand new. So what are you waiting for? Get started designing your perfect workshop today.
To help, I’ve pulled together 40 small business ideas for anyone who wants to run their own business. Use these as a jumping off point to spark your own unique ideas.And if all else fails, live the words of Airbnb Co-founder Brian Chesky: “If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life.”
Trademarking is a lot less expensive than most people think (although enforcement is another thing entirely), but make sure to do your research! If someone else is already using your proposed name, your application will be rejected right away and you will not only lose your application fee, but the time invested would have been in vain. And as you know, time equals money.
For the large square windows near the tailgate I just used those big “magic auto shades” like these, which fit perfectly to cover up those side windows and the back window by the tailgate (I had four in the canopy) and another set up in the cab for my actual window. As for the longer side windows I just used a USPS box, haphazardly stuck up against the window. Nothing fancy.
Once you’ve planned the basic layout of your workshop and have added all the tools and speciality appliances you need, take a last look at the overall design to make it aesthetically pleasing. Add overhead lighting for general illumination and task lighting over your work stations so you can see your project clearly. For maximum flexibility, you can mount clip-on work lights to nearby shelves and point them where you need them, knowing you’ll be able to move them about as required for different projects.
Let’s face it, one of the most significant costs of your shop will be its foundation. While you’re at it, what about adding space above your shop? There may be regulations preventing you from building living space above your shop if it is in an urban setting or in an outbuilding, but there may be some flex­ibility depending on where you live. It is in the municipality’s interests to encourage infill housing that uses existing infra­structure. At a minimum, think about including attic trusses to create some space above your shop for drying lumber or storing equipment. Access could be from simple pull-down attic stairs or from the exterior if you don’t want to lose floor space to a stair or ladder. If you’re creating an addition to your house, you may be able to add a couple of rooms you’ve always wanted, such as a family room, office or in-law suite.
In all you can spend under $1,000 and be setup in a great workshop. But I know how it feels when you’re shopping for new tools… and you think… “why not buy the top of the line so it lasts longer”… or “may as well get the best while I’m spending money”… those kinds of thoughts won’t only get you into big trouble with your other half… it’s also COMPLETELY wrong.
Depending on your situation, you may need to upgrade to 200 amp electrical service in order to meet the needs of your house and your shop. It may also be in your interests to add in a separate electrical service meter on your shop so that you can clearly write off electrical use for your business, or in future rent the space out and clearly separate out the utilities for bill­ing your tenant. Generally, you don’t want to skimp on the power to your shop or on the lighting you include.

Since grid layouts are used in most grocery, big box, and convenience stores, they create a familiar feel to customers. However, due to this familiarity, they tend to impart a grab-and-go experience. A grid layout can be a good choice for small retailers who shelf-stock inventory in quantity, like toys, books, magazines, specialty foods, kitchenware, and home goods. However, it’s not ideal for retailers who want to create an upscale, branded environment that invites relaxed browsing.

If you choose to hire a draftsperson or architect, they may charge you based on the square footage of the area you are proposing, by an hourly rate for their time or as a percent­age of the cost of the structure. Costs of building permits will be a percentage of the estimated cost of the structure you are proposing (e.g., $15 permit fee per $1000 or 1.5 percent), or a cost-per-square foot depending on your municipality (e.g., $1.20 per square foot). Design work and permits will both dif­fer depending on the part of the country in which you will be building, so ask the questions as you move ahead. One of the costs that is often overlooked in planning is the increase in annual property tax you will pay once your improved property has been reassessed.

Love the design. I’ve got a 15 tacoma, which has rails that run the length of the bed and are what my shell is “clamped” into via a bed rail nut. Hence my problem with following your outline verbatim. Any suggestions for incorporating the rail as a substitute for the 2×4 you clamped into your truck? Essentially connecting the 3, 2×4 braces directly to the rail… I’m a construction novice, any suggestions greatly appreciated!
Do you have 3 goals left? Great! That's the perfect number. Do you have more? That's okay as well. If you have more time to work on your business, then you may be able to accomplish more then 3. But it also depends on the type of goal you are trying to accomplish. I just recommend not trying to over achieve in fear of not accomplishing everything you set out to do. 
A business license gives you permission to run a business within a particular territory. It is important to note that not all local governments require you to obtain business licenses, while others only require them for specific business types such as bars or restaurants. To determine whether or not your state or business type requires you to obtain a license visit SBA.gov for state-specific license and permit information.
When it does come time to choose a long-term space and negotiate a deal, it’s important to remember that there is more to discuss than just the monthly rental rate. Subjects you’ll want to raise include the proposed length of your lease and options for renewal, responsibility for ongoing maintenance and repairs, payment of utilities, and obligations around property insurance. Parking rights are also essential for many, especially businesses located in a small shopping center.
Unfortunately, the requirements across the country and across different industries are as varied as the bodies enforcing them. The only way to guarantee that your licenses and permits are all squared away is to seek out regulating authorities on the county, state, and federal level, as well as consult with the relevant industry-specific bodies for your business type.

The good news is this: You are not a statistic. Think about this — if it was reported that small business owners over the age of 50 were more likely to succeed, would you wait until you were 50 to start a small business? Not likely. You would start when you felt ready. And that’s the point — only YOU can know when it’s time to take the plunge. Likewise, only you can make the intelligent decisions that ultimately mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to launching your business.


I’m picking up a 4×4 Extra cab pick up tomorrow and selling my current 97 Tacoma. It’s older and it’s got a lot of miles but it still has a lot left to go. Mine is available in the 3 grand range. They’re hard to find and all the rust free trucks are out here in the west but mine is one example of many good Tacos that are available at an affordable price that will fit the bill perfectly.
At the very least get the basics of shop design right with great lighting, clean displays, and a well thought out layout. Once you have all of this pulled together you can add a dose of your own personality to the store's design to break through the noise and establish a connection with your target customers. The goal is to be memorable and maximize sales per square foot at the same time!
We think that insulating your van’s floor is worth the minimal extra cost it adds to your build. The best floor insulation is ½” XPS foam board due to its high r-value per inch and its compressive strength. But a layer of Reflectix will add some insulation while taking away less headspace. We used Reflectix, but if we did it again we’d go with the foam board.
Now that you have written everything out, now take out a calendar that has 12-month blocks and map out each business goal in the corresponding month that it has to be completed by (or accomplished). So you have 12 squares (12 months) and you are literally placing these ideas into the month you want to accomplish them by. By the time you are done with this, you will have a sheet of paper with all your ideas written into the months on the calendar.
Once you know your top priorities, you can start thinking about the space each element can take up and where it should go. It is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together when you're working with a small space, so don't get frustrated if it doesn't work out right away. And know that you'll likely have to make some sacrifices. Play with a few options, and choose the one that works best for your situation.
MPG: I'm going to be blunt and tell you that you're not going to find a campervan -- no matter how new or expensive -- that has great gas mileage. When you're driving your home, the miles per gallon are going to be lower than with a typical car. But it's good to ask the previous owner what type of mileage they were getting so you have an idea of what to expect. As a benchmark, our 1994 Chevy G20 got between 15 - 18 miles per gallon. Certainly not great, but there are worse out there.

While an electric miter saw is a convenience, it is not necessary to do good work.  A quality electric miter saw will run around $150-$200, that by itself would destroy our budget.  A hand saw with a miter box does the job just as well at a fraction of the price.  This highly rated Stanley version for ~$60 should get the job done, albeit with a bit more elbow grease.


Shop layout is all about making the best use of space. Place your machines so that you have adequate “safe space” that you need to work around them. The “buffer area” beyond that is the amount of room you need to run large stock though a given machine, keeping in mind that buffer areas can overlap between machines. If you want to get more organized, buy some 1/4-inch squared paper, make scale models of each machine including the safe space around each, and place them on your model shop layout. Remember that buffer areas need to be long enough to put an 8' sheet through a table saw, or a 6' plank through your planer, for instance. I raised my planer, so that I can use the area above my router table to pass long planks through the planer – all it takes is some modelling, and a little shuffling, and you will find the layout that works for you. Each space will have chal­lenges; I had the area under the stairs that was wasted space, so I installed the dust collector there.
Without organization, living in a van can feel cluttered and chaotic, so you'll want to make the most of your storage space. This is a good time to make sure you've paired down your belongings to a reasonable amount and to make sure everything has a place. (As a former engineer who loves making things as efficient and optimized as possible, this was Ben's favorite step!) 

High-velocity fans are also an important tool in their own right, particularly at your finishing station. Increased air flow will help dissipate fumes from paints and sprays for your safety, and you can train a fan on your project to help paint dry more quickly between coats on humid days. To get the most out of your fan, look for floor fans that are easy to aim or wall-mounted fans that will save space in smaller shops.
I used your set-up as a guide in building mine. It is a little different – it’s shorter a little bit, as I have a shorter canopy cover and I didn’t make the sleeping platform flush with the walls of the truck bed – but it turned out great! I’m really happy with it. Also, one of my favorite parts about it is none of it is actually attached to the truck. So I can take everything out and it makes cleaning a little easier. I’d post photos if I knew how. If you feel like seeing it let me know and tell me how to get them to you!

As part of my antique restoration work I do a lot of faux finishing – hence the supply of stains and paints. Since I didn’t want to dust the house, the new shop is not connected to the house heat and air system. But, having just finished our first winter I now know the shop didn’t get below 45 degrees – and, the oven in the corner can make the shop toasty in no time at all.


While you have a decent starter shop, it's important to keep in mind the projects that your tools can handle.  You are going to want to focus on projects that don't require your stock to be ripped to a different dimensions than what you purchased it at.  You are currently only set up to do crosscuts with your miter saw.  So while you can turn an 8' 2x4 into two 4' 2x4s, your not going to be able to turn that same board into two 2x2s.    
Nice video Marc. I did enjoy seeing the details of the construction process. Since becoming a homeowner and a woodworker (something that happened literally at the same time) I have become fascinated with anything having to do with the process of building and finishing and all the details in between. I thought of an off the wall question while watching this video and that is do you write yourself any kind of script for any of your monologues and/or narrating or do you just have a general idea of what you want to say and wing it?
Of course, if you’re going to build a sweet shop, you’re going to have to outfit it with an equally sweet bench. This afternoon I stumbled upon a UK bench-maker by the name of Richard Maguire. Built of kild-dried ash, Maguire’s benches are then finished with an oil and wax combination and feature twin screw vises which, while really interesting, might not be a perfect fit for everyone. While you can use these vises to apply more accurately distribute clamping pressure on different-sized stock, I could certainly see it becoming a wee bit of a pain when clamping stock that comes in contact with the entire length of the vise’s face. Having to equally screw in each side might frustrate some woodworkers. Still, these benches are a blast to look at.
The router—The router is the master when it comes to flexibility. Its potential far exceeds trimming and decorative edge treatments. A router will cut mortises, rabbets, and dadoes, and adding a router table builds in even more versatility, including biscuit joinery and raised-panel doors. But where the router distinguishes itself from all other tools is in its ability to produce identical parts using a pattern.

Above all, remember that all of these elements can form part of your negotiation. Unless you are pursuing a highly desired space in a hot rental market, there is usually a point of leverage available to you in every lease negotiation. When it comes to getting the best possible deal in these situations, you’ll want to seek quality professional advice, this will normally include a broker and real estate lawyer.
Power outlets are also needed for lighting, heaters, AC units, radios, televisions, CNC machines, 3D printers, and computers—all of which you’ll find in many workshops (although maybe not together, and maybe not all in your garage.) You simply can never have too many outlets and it’s much safer to have too many than not enough. Bring in an electrician to help install your outlets and setup 220v power if needed for larger shop tools.
We cut the supports 16 in. long, but you can place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can’t hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32-in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports. You can apply this same concept to garage storage. See how to build double-decker garage storage shelves here.
Sounds fun right? Well the truth is — yes! It’s more than fun, it’s liberating. Sure, there is some risk involved (and a bit of a learning curve). But for those who do it right, who take advantage of the technology available, who build the right support network around them, who get funding from the right sources, and who choose the right people to work with, working for yourself is the new job security.
I bought an energy-saving outlet strip for my TV and its components. One outlet controls several other outlets on the strip, so when I turn off my TV, the adjacent controlled outlets for my VCR, DVD player and receiver sense that no current is going to the TV anymore, and those outlets shut off. Then I decided to try it out in the shop. I use it with my router table, disc sander and orbital sanders, so when I flip one of them on, my shop vacuum also starts up to take care of dust collection. It also has two outlets that are independent for other accessories you’d like on all the time. You can buy the outlet strips at amazon.com. One choice is the Belkin Conserve Socket with Energy Saving Outlet (about $30). — D. Linley. Plus: 30 more smart tips for working in your home shop.
I save all my back issues of The Family Handyman magazine and love the projects and repair tips. The trouble is, I’m not always ready to do the project when the issue arrives. To make my favorite articles easy to find at a later date, I put a stick-on label on the cover and then add notes for easy reference when the time comes to do the job. — Willie Schreiber. Plus: Check out this small workshop storage solution.
First, try to remove all the extraneous household items that don’t facilitate making stuff. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to dig past kids bikes or empty luggage to get to your paint supplies. In the real world though, storage is hard to come by, so you’ll have to give a little to get a little. Consider a line of demarcation in your garage to separate “household” from “workshop.” If you don’t have enough room, consider a smaller-space workbench, or rent off-site storage. You could even build a shed for more covered storage.

Now, photographs or video tape will also be very useful especially to pass along to your insurance adjustor. Now the problem is this documentation won’t help you at all if it’s lost or destroyed so consider saving your information electronically. Take your photos with a digital camera and create a list of all your valuables, and save both in a computer file. This file can be saved to a disk you can keep at work or upload it to a website that you can access it from anywhere including your home.
You can typically find paneling in pine and cedar. Pine is cheapest, looks fine, and will do the job. Cedar is more expensive, but it looks and smells awesome - and it’s resistant to mold and mildew. Paneling comes in different thicknesses, but we recommend using ¼” (5/16”). Thinner paneling weighs less, costs less, takes away less interior space, and will bend with your van’s contours.
Use this model whether you’re looking to turn your team of one into a two-person shop or you’re hoping to build out your marketing department to a team of 10 or more.  By focusing on the skill sets your business needs to be successful — rather than on the resume of an individual candidate — you’ll ensure vital functions are covered while expanding in a sustainable way.
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