Different approach in that they hung one end of the sleeping platform with hooks and U bolts. One of the best write ups with full details about rigging up an electrical system with second batteries and an isolator, as well as using power inverters. They were then able to incorporate cool things like a mini fridge, lights, and mini PC fans for air circulation.

Nicole and I decided not to go public with the cost of the build. Although we are very open about most things, we are a little uncomfortable about making an expenditure of this magnitude public knowledge. Furthermore, unless you live in the Phoenix area and plan on building the same size shop with the same patio and with all of the same finishing touches and labor requirements, the price isn’t all that helpful to you.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, your size should make you lean. Every single aspect of your store or restaurant can be tweaked and optimized to ensure more and more customers are coming through the door. As you experiment with strategies on Facebook or Twitter, introduce a new email marketing techniques, or simply erect new signage outside of your store, you have the chance to measure your success and react quickly to failure.


One of the best deals on portable power tools, including routers and sometimes planers, comes in the form of factory-reconditioned tools. These are primarily tools that have been repaired at the factory after failing quality inspections or being returned by customers. While they cannot be sold as new, they are identical to new tools in quality and appearance and usually feature the same warranty (be sure to check). Typical savings are anywhere from 15% to 30%, though you sometimes can find even bigger bargains. These tools can be found at Amazon.com and other online tool sellers. It is also possible to buy them through retail stores and, in some cases, directly from the manufacturer’s Web site.
Right before you start your small business, everyone has a dream setup for their small business in their head, along with a laundry list of amazing features. It’s probably large and full of natural light, opposite from a park, and filled with beautiful details like a long solid oak counter and a little bell over the door. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these aspirations. In fact, it’s vital to have a clear vision of what you’re working towards. It can, however become a problem if you let the perfect business location become a barrier to opening your doors in the first place.
I am a firm believer in having your business goals align with your personal goals. In order to do that, you need to know what your personal goals are. This may be different for everyone, but I want you to be 100% honest here. I am writing this as an update in 2018 to this original blog post and I want to be honest and share with you my personal goals for 2018:

The primary investment of any garage workshop are the tools. Protect your investment with a high quality tool chest that is neatly organized and (if needed) lockable. Look for smooth rolling ball-bearing drawers, and if you’re buying used, beware of rust and dirt that could corrode your tools. We recommend installing drawer mats to keep your tools from sliding around. They also give your tools a softer cushion to rest in.
It almost goes without saying that everything about your shop's design should project the right answers to each of these questions. But in today’s market, you have to go one step further. In our digitally connected world consumers have seen it all. The true art of compelling store design is in telling a story about your business, while simultaneously anticipating the needs of your customers. It’s all about the surprise and the delight.
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.
Before you buy a single tool, you need to take a hard look at your workshop space. If your workshop is a freestanding building or empty barn, you can simply measure the perimeter and know that you have the entire square footage at your disposal including the wall space. If your workshop is tucked into the back of a garage or a corner of partially finished basement, you’ll need to plan your furnishings with cars and water heaters in mind.

Garage spaces are usually not insulated, and garage doors on most homes have very poor insulation. That means it’ll inevitably be super hot and stuffy in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. To be comfortable in your workshop you’ll need to take the extra step to insulate your garage and set up some space heaters, and some portable floor or window AC units. Having to wear a heavy coat while you work will impede your DIY efforts and nobody likes working in a sauna.

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.
Hey there Ryan. Cool blog! I love the idea of trucking-it! I’m not able to do something like that, though I wish that I had taken the time when I was younger to do so. Here’s a suggestion that you might consider, if you haven’t already considered it before: Obtaining and using a hammock. I’d suggest bolting in an eye hook on the truck, or using the bumper as a tie point if you don’t have a second tree around. Also, in the high desert, you could use rocks as anchor points for it. Just an idea, from one camper to another.
There seems to be two things I like looking at and they are work benches & work shops. I too use my work shop for several other activities. I currently have a basement shop with a walk out entry, which is roughly 340 square feet and shaped like a flat s and has less than 8' ceiling height. In that shop I have an old Unisaw w/50"fence, 8" jointer, 15" planer, 10" sliding compound saw, 14" bandsaw and various & assorted power & hand tools. Also in the same space I have a small closet, dog grooming tub, & a space where a bathroom was roughed out. It is far from finished space and I have plans to put up a ship lapped paneled walls and fix up the closet for tool storage. I also plan on putting a cyclone in the bathroom space along with a tolet. I can work in the space as it is pretty well but the studded walls, insulation, & dust make the space somewhat uninviting.

However, there are some downsides. If you want to customize the interior you’ll have to completely gut the entire thing, which can be a lot of extra work. The weird shape and fiberglass construction of most high tops also make it more difficult to install solar panels, a ceiling, or anything else on the roof. And we’ve also found that some auto repair shops aren’t tall enough to put our van up on a lift - though that’s only really an issue for major work, not routine maintenance.


There are a variety of structures to choose from when starting a small business. However, the most common business structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation. The structure you choose determines which income tax return form you have to file, which, you guessed it, dictates your legal and financial responsibilities as a small business owner. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you understand the options that are available to you and weigh the pros and cons before incorporating your business.
When Julie Owen bought Cocobolo Interiors in 2008, she set about adding more contemporary items to the Armonk, N.Y., shop. But with only 3,000 square feet, she struggled to figure out where to put her expanding line of furniture, lighting fixtures and accessories. Her solution: create sections within the shop and arrange the furniture the way customers might imagine it at home, using low bookcases and folding screens as dividers.
Shop looks great Marc, I see the Clear Vue in the picture. I love mine, I used 8″ PVC for the main trunk line and came out of that with 6″ drops. It works great. I wound up building a collection bin instead of using a can, only thing I didn’t do was make the bin big enough. It holds more than the typical can but I still should have made it with more capacity. The 1800 with the 5 hp motor is stout.
Just stumbled across your article and it’s right on time as I am about to launch a special events venue (ballrooms, meeting rooms, outside garden area, outsourced caterer, etc). Not sure what type of zoning this business falls under. I read that zones are usually for office, retail, industrial and leisure. Any idea what type of zone I should be looking for? Also first time trying to get a commercial space for this type of business, any specific suggestions?
While a single great product can’t usually support a whole business, it is beneficial to select one or two “headline” products that will form the cornerstone of your offering. This will often be an obvious choice: If you’re a coffee shop, your headline product will be coffee. If you’re a burger joint, you guessed it, it’ll be burgers. This product will often be the centerpiece of your marketing efforts and a way for you to “own” a space in a customer’s mind. For example, Jack’s Burgers makes the best cheeseburger in town and Daisy’s Threads has the most adorable scarves.
Aside from mechanical repairs, a mechanic’s toolset will help you loosen and tighten bolts - which you’ll need to do during the gutting process, installing your electrical system, and at many other points during your van build. This Crescent 170-piece tool set has all the essentials, including 6-point and 12-point sockets in ¼”, ⅜” and ½” - not to mention pliers, crescent wrenches and screwdrivers.

In an indoor or basement shop with industrial carpeting, lay down inexpensive laminate flooring to make your life a bit easier at the end of the day. Be sure to anchor the panels or place a large rubber mat beneath to keep them from sliding over the carpet. (Covering up your carpet is even more critical if you want to go beyond wood and work with a material such as aluminum in your indoor shop; metal shavings dig into any kind of carpeting and are incredibly frustrating to clean up.)

Note: Some of the links to products that we recommend on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through one of our links and buy something, we get a small commission at no cost to you. This helps us keep this blog going so we can continue to provide you with van build tips, tricks, and guides. We believe in honest opinions, and we never recommend anything we don't know about. Every recommended product on this page we've either used personally, have personal experience with, or have researched heavily.


Once you have your space secured, hang some pictures in the windows that illustrate what’s to come. It’s also a good idea to provide leaflets that people can take away with them and hang a clipboard and pen on the front door where people can sign up to hear more about your business. This list is pure gold! So once you have it, why not stage a launch party and invite the local community (and local journalists). The first step for any business is always getting people to try out your products!
While not as large as I would have liked (is a wood shop ever big enough?), it is about twice the size of my previous shop. It measures about 12 by 25. Fortunately I had managed to find quite a bit of shelving before the move, so I was able to install shelving along two walls. And the work benches were made from wood salvaged from packing crates from Europe and left over yellow pine car siding and flooring from remodeling the old house.

However you design it, a loop floor plan surrounds customers with product displays on outer walls, and allows for all types of creative display variations in the center of the store. A loop floor plan works well for most types of small retail stores, such as apparel and accessories, toy, homewares, kitchenwares, personal care, and specialty products.
Ryan, I have the same (almost) 90’s Toyota Pickup and love it! this is so helpful, and I will definitely be using this method. my main concern is that 1/2′ plywood sagging. do you notice it sags quite a bit or does it mostly hold up? my thought was to build the vertical bins a little wider, so that the plywood bed platform wouldn’t be under so much stress. the second issue im running into is wrapping my head around trying to organize and compartmentalize things appropriately. what do you typically put where so it is easy to reach and use?
A loop floor plan, sometimes called a racetrack layout, creates the most guided shopping experience of the three. A loop store layout features a defined pathway throughout the store, which exposes customers to every item on display. Bed, Bath & Beyond stores are good examples of a loop floor plan. Loop floor plans work very well with zone merchandising tactics, too, which we discuss in detail below.
But if you want to do a lot of stealth camping in cities, a cargo van is your best option. There are so many of them on the road that people just don’t notice them, and they have a lot of floor space to play around with your perfect layout. But if you don’t plan on stealth camping and you value storage space and headroom, there may be better choices.
Once I had the walls completely filled in and trimmed out, I built my doors.  I clamped them in place each day until after I painted.  Then I installed the hinges and hardware.  I decided to change my original plan of building a hinged 4 foot door.  I was worried that the weight of it would cause it to sag over time.  I had also decided at this point to install a small unused AC in the back wall.  I thought that by keeping one of the doors closed, I could keep more cold air in during the hot summers.
A large table saw just isn't a feasible fit in most small shops. But you should be able to get away with at least a portable table saw. Never mind veteran woodworkers who might look down on these compact tools–they're well-suited for many of the smaller ripping and crosscutting operations you'll need to perform. Some of the more compact table saws, such as this 10-inch Skilsaw, are small enough to be stored in a closet or under a table.
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.
Due diligence is the process of going through the current owner’s books with a fine-tooth comb to verify inventory information, sales data, average ticket price, and every other aspect of the business. Doing all this yourself is difficult and time-consuming, so you’ll probably want to involve accountants and lawyers to ensure that you cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. A big red flag to watch out for here is how intertwined the current owner’s personal expenses are with the business accounts — this can obscure the genuine flow of cash in and cash out of the business. The purchase price of an existing business is often calculated as three to five times the net annual revenue, so you’ll want to take that figure into account before you make an offer.

So, if you’re looking for a retail or restaurant location, you’ll want to figure out how many customers you expect to have, on average, and multiply that by 15 square feet. If you’re looking for an office space, you’ll want to forecast the desired size of your workforce and multiply it by 100 – 150. This will give you the size of the commercial space you need.
To help, it’s important to determine the average price per square foot for your area. Price per square foot is typically derived from the annual lease amount divided by the total rentable square feet of the space. You can find the average price for your area by typing your zip code into LoopNet’s directory of commercial properties available for lease.
So after 14 years in our previous location, my company moved to a new shop last month. My shop went from 1600sqft split into 2 bays with the kitchen in between to a contiguous 2950 sqft. Still don't know why the the office portion needed to grow by the same percentage when there were already 10 empty cubes at the old office, but thats an argument for another day. The boss got his 500 sqft office so he is happy.
I used to coat my metal table saw and planer bed with auto wax because it makes the wood slide nicely across the metal. But then I saw an expert cabinetmaker use wax paper, and now I do the same. I keep a roll in my shop drawer and rub a sheet of it over the metal beds on my table saw, router, planer and disc sander. The wax coating doesn’t last as long as a good paste wax, but boy, is it a lot easier and quicker. — R.J. Hayes. Plus: 22 clever new uses for your tools.
Wow that’s a lot of assuming and supposing :) no shop right? no tools right? a place to work and tools for under 3K right? . This ones easy buy a pocket knife, set in your living room and whittle . So far you have $20 spent for a pocket knife. You might need another $200 for a decent vacuum to clean up all the shavings you made in your living room.
Low-tech tools are high on value A basic set of handplanes lets you true edges, flatten panels or wide boards, and achieve finish-ready surfaces. Start with a small cluster of handplanes—low-angle and standard block planes, a No. 4 or 4-1/2 bench plane, and a jointer plane. A set of inexpensive chisels is essential for chopping, paring, and trimming.
If you are just getting started in woodworking and want to know what tools you’ll need to set up shop, you’ll want to download this free PDF from Popular Woodworking. We have put together a complete list of basic woodworking tools to kick-start your new hobby. In this free download, you’ll get our recommendations for the best hand and power tools for beginners. Buy these tools and you’ll have everything you need to make great woodworking projects.

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.
If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status -- and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in. Want to do good while still making a profit? Consider social entrepreneurship.
The cheapest and easiest way to supply fresh water to your sink is with refillable plastic water containers. There are many styles available, including jerry-can style containers, the extremely common Aqua-Tainer, or standard 5-gallon water cooler jugs. Which one you go with really depends on personal preference and the dimensions of your kitchen cabinets.

Drill four 5/8-in.-dia. 1/2-in.-deep holes on the large disc?inside the traced circle?then use 5/8-in. dowel centers to transfer the hole locations to the underside of the small disc. Drill four 1/2-in.-deep holes on the underside of the small disc and a 1/2-in.-deep hole in the center of the top for the dowel handle. Glue in the dowels to join the discs, and glue in the handle. We drilled a wood ball for a handle knob, but a screw-on ceramic knob also provides a comfortable, attractive grip.
At some point in the process of starting a small business, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will hear the following statistics (or variations thereof): 25% of new small businesses close their doors within the first year and 60% are gone within three years. The exact numbers here may vary, but the message is all the same: be afraid, be very afraid!
I spent so much time building organizers and filling in just about every square inch on the inside of my shop that I feel it will be better to show some of those in separate Instructables.  I made a couple of video tours to try to highlight some of the different aspects of my workshop.  I hope you enjoy them and I will work on making my future videos more stable.

Whether you build or buy your workbench, it must be designed and constructed to withstand the rigors and pounding you’ll put it through. The base and legs should be sturdy and the table should not easily be knocked over. The top should be durable and not easily dinged or dented. Make sure your workbench is made of a material appropriate for your types of projects, too.

Hey thanks for the great insight on a pickup camping setup! I just purchased a 2002 tundra with a 74″ bed. Picking it up in Denver in a week and driving it to Durango and then around the southwest. I mainly decided on a truck for a mobile place to keep my dog(that doesn’t have an interior he can rip to shreds), but I am thinking of building a setup similar to yours. You haven’t used yours with a canine companion have you? Any suggestions on keeping it dog-friendly, dog-comfortable and dog-proof? I will be keeping him in the back while at work and such and will be camping in the back with him and possibly another person.
The thickness planer—A thickness planer will significantly expand the creativity and craftsmanship of your work by allowing you to buy roughsawn stock and use wood of any thickness in your designs. Nowadays, a new planer often represents a better value than a used model. In recent years, DeWalt and Ridgid have introduced portable planers with chip-ejection fans, which work as a built-in dust collector. Dust collection is important for all tools, but essential for thickness planers. This feature can help delay the expense of a dust collector and thus reduce the overall cost of a planer. Speaking of dust collection, I should mention that I don’t use a dedicated dust collector in my shop. I use a shop vac with a small hose for my sanders and a larger-diameter hose for the tablesaw and router table, and I depend on the built-in chipejection fan for my thickness planer.

It all depends on what you care about most. Putting your kitchen by the side door could simplify refilling your water and propane tanks. Putting it behind the driver’s seat creates a nice, open feel in your van. Right behind the cab makes your van more private, while all the way in the back is a different twist on most van layouts out there. Some vanlifers even have kitchens that pull out of the trunk on drawers for cooking outside.


Up until about ten years ago, if you were in the process of starting a small business and wanted to use all of the technologies listed at the start of this section, you would have needed to take out a second mortgage to cover the bill. Investing in retail technology has historically involved expensive hardware (including an in-house server), large upfront software costs, and hefty ongoing bills for customer support or repairs when things went wrong. Innovators were targeting large-scale enterprises like Coca-Cola, not local mom and pops, so the packages and price points were designed to match.

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.
One of the core skills needed when starting a small business is the ability to build out a diversified product line that is complementary to the headline product(s). It’s hard to imagine a successful business called “Burgers and Scarves,” right? As a good rule of thumb, a well-thought-out product line allows for the customer to upsell themselves. You want them thinking, “I’m having a burger, y’know what I’m going to have some fries too.”
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.
Whether you end up looking at self-checkout counters, fancy lighting systems, special refrigerated cases, or any of a countless number of options, never forget that these are only tools to help accomplish your main goal. Your store needs to create an environment where customers want to be, where they feel comfortable and appreciated, and where that experience will prompt them to purchase (and hopefully encourage their friends to do the same). Equipment and technology decisions should always be made with your customers in mind.
We’ve been focused on the first category so far, but there is also an allure to buying an existing business. These enterprises will often come with brand awareness, a customer base, trained employees, an established supply chain, and most importantly (we hope), demonstrated profitability. As a result, countless startup risks can be diminished by taking this route. That is only true, however, if you make sure to carry out thorough due diligence on the existing business.
“Beware suppliers bearing gifts. That ‘free’ refrigerator from the drinks supplier is never really free. You can quickly find yourself tied into sub-optimal deals because of a reliance on this hardware. If you have access to the capital, do yourself a favor: Buy your own fridge and negotiate from a position of strength.” — ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
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