Great website! I spent a summer living out of a ford focus hatchback while road tripping around the United States. The rear seats were replaced with a small platform to store gear and the rear windows were tinted. I enjoyed the freedom that anywhere I parked no one would see me hop from the drivers seat to my platform for some zzz’s. Also no one would guess that someone is sleeping in a 3dr ford focus.
Instead of permanently mounting my 6-in. vise to a work-bench, I attached it to scrap plywood so I can clamp it wherever I need it. Stack two pieces of 3/4-in. plywood and screw them together with 1-1/4 in. drywall screws. Mark the vise-mounting holes on the plywood and drill 3/4-in. guide holes through both pieces. Recess the nut by drilling through the bottom sheet with a 1-in. spade bit using the 3/4-in. hole as a guide. Fasten the vise to the plywood with bolts sized to match the vise-mounting holes. If the bolt shafts are too long, cut them off with a hacksaw. — LuAnn Aiu. Plus: Learn how to use vise grips to pull nails.
Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.
Concrete garage floors can work as a workshop surface, but over time they stain and you’ll end up tracking a lot of dust and dirt into your home. An epoxy floor finish is easier to clean and can also provide extra grip. For a softer surface that will help your joints when standing a long time, check out those restaurant grade rubber floor mats or some durable options that include garage floor tile.
There you have it! Now you have no excuses, you must start planning right away. Please remember this can take a lot of time and a lot of work, so be sure not to stare at your task list in its entirety too often. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed knowing all the things you must get accomplished. Just focus on the goal that is the most important and attack it, task by task. Need help organizing these goals? Check out my Goal Planning Worksheets here:
Gutting: We actually took on a pretty big project when we bought our van because it came with a preinstalled wheelchair lift that we had to remove. Unbolting all the parts took both of us working on it for a full day, and it wasn't the most glamorous job. The good part was that we were able to sell the lift and the reclining bench seat for a combined total of $260. If there's anything to remove from your van, do this first.
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.

In my shop I use a large number of Jorgenson F-clamps. I use many of the small clamps, the most useful being the 12" version. Large F-clamps are essential for cinching down parts on bending forms. I also like aluminum bar clamps because they are much lighter than steel clamps, and therefore less likely to damage a carcase should you bang into the wood dur­ing a glue-up.


3. Think vertically. Displaying items on various levels maximizes space and is visually appealing to customers, says Jerry Birnbach, a Somers, N.Y., store-planning consultant. Hanging shelving at different levels is the easiest way to achieve this effect. You also can mount drapes and other items from the ceiling to the floor to draw the eye up and create the sense of a larger space, Langdon says.

While we think a battery isolator and a 200-watt solar kit provide more than enough power for most vanlifers, some people may want additional ways to generate electricity and charge up their batteries. Especially if you’re planning on running power-hungry electronics like TVs and air conditioners, adding a generator and/or shore power hookups will help you deal with the extra load.
I got extra batteries for my cordless tools, but I could never remember which battery was newly charged and which was run down. Now I can easily tell them apart because I painted a number on each battery with my kid’s white nail polish. It dries fast and is— you got it—“tough as nails.” — Tom Baker. Plus: Learn how to double the life of your car battery.

I will challenge myself to use this space creatively to tell the story of each year. Ultimate Small Shop Guide When I started thinking of all the possibilities, it really inspired me to start getting organized and collecting some great memories. And don’t limit yourself to just photographs, your scrapbook pages can really be accentuated by other types of memories. Here are some ideas to get you started. Looking for some great Halloween crafts for your Halloween party, haunted house, or just for trick-or-treaters? A fun craft is something that can keep you occupied for hours on end especially if you enjoy it. Here are some ideas that will hopefully set you on your way in preparation for your next Halloween…If you live in a house that has a wood-burning fireplace, then chances are that you have access to tree stumps or large blocks of wood. These are great for making stands for your Jack O’Lanterns. You could use a chisel to slightly hollow out the middle of the stump so that the lantern can sit stably or simply use some Blu-Tack or Velcro. Get some small or mini pumpkins and hollow them out to use as candle holders. If open flames are out of the question, you can put glow sticks instead of candles for a different effect. You can carve, draw or paint faces on the pumpkins too. Instead of pumpkins, you could use apples as well. Ensure that you choose apples that sit well and flat or cut off the bottom to make a flat surface. Remove the stem and cut around it deep enough for the candle. It is best to use taper candles for a better fit. Get a large pumpkin and hollow it out to use as a salad bowl or to serve fresh vegetables. Cut off the top, hollow and clean it out and let it dry in the sun. You could carve a jagged edge design on the top. Do the same with some smaller or mini pumpkins to use for dips or salad dressings. Make a scarecrow in your front yard. You need two pieces of wood, one put into the ground and the other nailed across for the arms. Use old jeans and a shirt and stuff them with newspaper. Add some straw for effect. You can use a plastic pumpkin for the head and draw a face on it. This makes a great Halloween craft for the whole family. Tie glow sticks to helium balloons and let them float around the house. Ensure that some string extends below so that people can easily reach them if they get stuck somewhere or simply to play with them. Use publicly available Halloween fonts on your computer to make banners or invitations for your party. It’s a fast, easy Halloween craft you can use instantly to enhance your party theme. Ultimate Small Shop Book Print them onto inkjet iron-on transfer paper and put them onto your favorite t-shirt or Halloween outfit. A visit to your local hardware store for some basic items and you could make your own tombstones transforming your garden into an instant graveyard. Paint them grey to resemble stone. Do not worry about the details as it will be dark, but do put on some exciting or scary wordings. By the way, your local hardware store is loaded with Halloween craft ideas.
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.
Plywood comes in several different types, the most common being pine and lauan. We used ¼” lauan plywood for the walls in our van. Lauan is cheap, it bends easily, and in our opinion its grain pattern looks nicer than pine. Hardwood plywood like birch costs more than pine or lauan, it weighs more, and it’s more difficult to bend. This type of plywood is a great option for furniture, but we think lauan is a better choice for your walls and ceiling. 

In our Complete Coffee Shop Startups Kit, we spend a good amount of time discussing your health department requisites, your coffee equipment, and even the design of your coffee shop. Since this makes up a significant bulk of your startup costs (equipment, space requirements, etc.), we recommend that you spend an extra couple of hours strengthening your knowledge base with listening to our audio interviews.


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?
For small business owners, these tools present an incredible opportunity to set smarter business goals and easily identify some of the key factors of success and growth in their business. However, when you couple the breadth of technology options with decisions about basic store and restaurant equipment, such as espresso machines or air conditioning units, it can become a little overwhelming to figure out what is actually worth the investment.
For the next step up in convenience, consider adding a dedicated beverage cooler to your workshop as well. Though many people set up an old refrigerator in the garage for extra soda and beer, a dedicated mini-fridge will help you save on electricity, since new models are far more efficient than old ones. You can pack your beverage cooler with your favorite soft drinks for a pick-me-up while you work or use it to store a lunch to enjoy on a break —all without tracking dirt and or grease into your clean kitchen.
GoWesty, a well-known Vanagon restorer and parts maker, recommends not buying a Westy unless you have at least $25,000 to spend overhauling it and replacing aging components. Even if you find a cheap Westy hiding out in a garage somewhere, be prepared for frequent breakdowns and expensive mechanical headaches unless you spend the cash to fully rebuild it.
You can see in this step how I notched each rafter to fit more securely to the walls.  I also used a metal hurricane strap to secure each rafter to the wall.  Even though this was not required by code, I felt my tools were far to valuable to be left to chance over such an inexpensive solution.  The walls are a simple board and batten system.  The 1x3 trim covers the joints of the 4x8 OSB.  They make much more high quality sheets goods to use as siding.  However, the cheapest I found was $35 a sheet and the OSB was about $5 a sheet.  I sealed the OSB and painted it with exterior paint.  If I run into problems in the future, I can just add a second layer of more durable material or simply have siding installed.  It has held up very well over the past couple years and I see no need to spend more money on it now.
Tired of holding a flashlight between your teeth while working in the dark? Make a light stand by bending a 2-ft. section of 12- or 14-gauge electrical cable into a U shape. Duct-tape the light to the ends of the cable. The wire can be shaped into a hands-free supporting base for the flashlight or bent into a hook for hanging. — Paul and Haylee Lytle. Check out another hands-free light hack.
Do you want to create the next great retail dynasty? Do you want to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago? Or are you just looking for a simple local lifestyle business? Are you hoping to create a franchise model? Or do you see your local business as a testing ground for an ecommerce business? Your end goal will clearly inform your decisions, so it’s worth considering what it is early on.
As a carpenter, I need to bring certain items with me every day. I bought a cheap plastic tote in the tool storage area at a home center and modified it for my needs. I made a small plywood deck, drilled a couple of 3-in. holes for coffee cups or glue bottles and then fastened it to the tote. Another piece of plywood has holes to keep pencils upright and organized. My tote sits nicely on my bench seat, but it could also be attached to the floor with hook-and-loop fasteners. You could easily customize these totes for plumbing, garden or painting tools, electrical supplies—what have you. — Don Simms. Check out this jumbo tote for fasteners.
Since there’s less wiring involved, installing LED strip lights is much simpler than puck lights. You also won’t need to cut any holes because strip lighting should come with its own adhesive. We’ve seen most vanlifers stick strip lighting down the side edges of their ceilings. However, it’s not as easy to create separate lighting zones as it is with puck lights.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an open-celled foam board (think styrofoam) that is the cheapest of all the foam boards. It does work, but we generally don’t recommend using EPS in your van. It insulates less than XPS (R-4 per inch), and the gaps between the foam cells allow moisture to penetrate, which degrades the insulation over time. Polyiso and XPS are much better choices for a slightly higher cost.
Just a quick note about light spectrum. I went with 6500k because that’s what I like to film in. The daylight spectrum makes it easier for me if I decide to open the blinds, letting in some natural light. For the average woodworking shop, I think 5000k is probably a good choice, although some folks really enjoy the crispness of a 6500k light. But you should test them out for yourself to see what you prefer.
As always, great article! While my dirtbag adventure will likely only be about 6-7 months, I am starting to wonder about logistics. You mention that most people use the automobile they have. I drive a Prius. Not ideal for sleeping in, but I’m a pretty content ground dweller. I know that long-term I may start to question this. Here’s the proposition I’m considering: by saving on gas (45-50 mpg), I can occasionally cough up the money for lodging when I feel the need for added comfort. I can definitely do the number crunching, but I’m wondering if you’ve encountered people doing this or did similar analyses of your own at any point. I’d love to hear any insights you may have on this.
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.
Marc, I enjoyed the video. Thank you for sharing your dream shop with us. I would be interested in seeing a demo video on your Clear Vue cyclone dust collection system. Which one did you obtain & what type of duct work did you use (seamless?) Do you plan on enclosing the unit in a closet to reduce noise and keep dust confined? Do you have to purchase special expensive plastic dust bags for the drum? Is it hard to pull the bag out of the drum for trash collection? If you could address these questions in a demo video I would appreciate it. Oh, perhaps you already have one …. I will check out your video archives. Thanks again and keep up the great work!
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!
Remember the social media networks we asked you to secure in section five, Choosing a Business Name? Well, now is the perfect time to activate those channels. Use social media to build excitement about your grand opening and keep potential customers informed about special promotions and sales. People want to know what makes you special, so tell them why your store or restaurant will be different to what is currently available. From sharing pictures of that new fancy espresso machine or sneak peeks of your store’s interior, you can gain buy-in to your central message and build some anticipation before you even open your doors. Knowing how to to leverage key social channels is imperative to starting a success small business that will stand the test of time.
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.

I will also typically secure those sorts of items under my locked platform if I am gone for a few days in the backcountry, because in reality I could probably care less if someone broke in and stole my box of food, versus someone who stole my clothes or expensive down jackets, which would be much more problematic (and costly) to replace on the road.
I framed and sheathed each wall individually and then stood them up with the help of long 2x4 braces.  My neighbor let me borrow his framing nailer, which made things go much faster.  I added a second cap of 2x4 on the top to make the walls a little more rigid.  I then laminated 4 2x4's to construct a ridgeboard.  I nailed in some temporary 2x4 supports and had a friend help lift it into final position.  Once all of the rafters are cut and nailed into place, the supports were removed.
Once you’ve considered your commercial property options and their associated leases, it’s time to choose one or more commercial spaces and negotiate the leases. When formally entering into a commercial lease negotiation process, you’ll want to start by requesting the terms in writing. This request can come from you or your broker and is supplied by the landlord’s broker.
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.
With all the time and effort you've put into properly merchandising your products, the last thing you want is for incoming customers to hurry past them — this ultimately limits the number of products they'll purchase. One way retailers combat this is through creating breaks that force them to pause. These are sometimes referred to as "speed bumps." Essentially, this can be anything that gives customers a visual break and can be achieved through signage or special/seasonal displays.
I decided to do Optimus for many reasons. One big one was that no one else in the world had done it. There are tons of Bumblebee Camaros and other replica cars, but no other fan of Transformers has replicated the T4 (fourth Transformers movie) and T5 (fifth Transformers movie) Optimus trucks. So if I am to show my son through action what it means not to be afraid to take a chance, I figured Optimus was the best way to try.
Well I think I’ll have plenty of light once we get all of 24 bulbs in place. I’m really glad I saved those old fixtures. Hey another thing we’re reusing, and I’m really glad I saved, is these old cabinets that we took out of a kitchen renovation a couple of years ago. This will be perfect to serve as our base cabinets so that we can build our sturdy countertop on this side of the shop.
A track saw, such as those by Festool and DeWalt, makes things even easier and offers greater accuracy, but these saws are also quite a bit costlier. With a circular saw, you have to keep the shoe pressed against a guide while pushing the saw forward. Track saws, on the other hand, pop onto their tracks and need only to be pushed forward. Track saws often feature splinter guards to help reduce tearout as well for smoother and straighter edges.
There are some variances in the features and reliability of different model years, and differences between the Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge Promaster - so make sure to do your research. The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook is an incredible resource on all things Sprinter (and van conversions in general), and it goes over all the options in detail.

Inventory management — especially when first starting a small business — at its most basic level consists of counting how many of a given product (let’s say apples) you have for sale in the morning, keeping track of that number, then reducing it by one each time an apple is sold. At the end of the sales day, you count the leftover apples and make sure the number of apples in your inventory system matches whatever you actually have in store. When you have an accurate apple count, you call your supplier and order as many as you need to make sure you have enough on hand for the next day.

However, while this product might draw the customer through the door, it will not, on its own, make your business a success. A strong small business has to be resilient to the challenges the world can throw at it, whether that means an economic recession, sudden fluctuations in commodity prices, or problematic suppliers. And a big part of resilience comes in the form of diversification.
Congratulations !! I think 62 days is quick ! thats a big project. Now that its done and you got to get everything else set up it kinda sucks that you will also need to start making the payments, yuck. However I think it will be a good investment as your show continues to grow . I certainly love it ! I look forward to what you have in store. Thanks
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.
State Parks/Developed Campgrounds. Every once in awhile, it’s kind of nice to stay at a state park or other developed campground - and a big reason why is that they have showers (and sometimes laundry, too). This is what we’ve done most often when we need a shower on the road. Many state parks also have small day use fees if you don’t want to actually camp there.
Garages are usually dark, which makes setting up task lighting a priority for a productive workspace. Track lighting is an easy option to install and gives your some directional overhead lighting, but it can cast shadows (especially if the light source is behind you while you work) and you’ll need another lighting source for task and overall room illumination. A simple, adjustable work lamp is helpful for soldering or when you need bright focused lighting.
Congratulations !! I think 62 days is quick ! thats a big project. Now that its done and you got to get everything else set up it kinda sucks that you will also need to start making the payments, yuck. However I think it will be a good investment as your show continues to grow . I certainly love it ! I look forward to what you have in store. Thanks
One example is testing your products and services for their desirability through ecommerce. It might turn out that your core product line will actually be much smaller than you originally envisioned. Equally, there are now a number of services (such as storefront.com) that will allow you to secure a pop-up lease in some incredible spaces, often for only days at a time. It might just turn out that your dream location isn’t as great as you originally thought.
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.

I think it would work pretty well for a music festival, I don’t see why not. I wouldn’t say it is robbery proof, but generally robbers are looking for quick and easy targets, like a purse sitting on the front seat, just smash and grab. If someone really wanted to rob what was under they platform, they surely could, but they’d need more tools and more time to do so. And they don’t even know if there is anything good under there… I’d like to think of it as a really good robbery deterrent.

A commercial real estate lease is a long-term rental agreement between the landlord of a commercial space and a business. There are many types of commercial leases and many types of commercial spaces. Leases include full service leases, net leases, and modified gross leases. These leases help tenants rent out office spaces, retail and restaurant locations, as well as industrial spaces.


That headline struck me as discouraging. As an entry fee, $5,000 seems high enough to exclude a number of potential woodworkers, myself included. Christiana softened the blow by saying that used tools could cut the cost roughly in half. That figure seemed much closer to my experience, which involved buying a mix of new and used tools. Having said that, buying the right used tools is much more difficult than buying from a catalog or dealer who stocks everything needed to build a great shop. It requires a bit of guile and a good plan, but the payoff is worth it. Through careful choices and good fortune, I was able to outfit my shop with a blend of new and used tools for around $2,000. 

When starting a small business, many store owners underestimate the value of a persuasive shop design. What they don’t realize is that people are visual creatures. In fact, 90% of the information transmitted in the human brain is visual. Clear, consistent store design will ensure that you attract your ideal customers into your business by delivering a subconscious uniform message.
There’s a reason why some of the biggest players online have names that are essentially gobbledegook: Zappos, Skype, Zynga. While there’s certainly some psychological naming principles that often come into play, at the most basic level, it’s simply easier to find this space online and then strive to own the brand name in the minds of consumers. How important this will be to your small business will depend on a number of variables, including your intended size, location, and your desire to exploit ecommerce as well as a local brick-and-mortar business.
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