So what does all this boil down to? I favour starting with a good workbench and top quality hand tools – chisels, a couple of planes, a hammer, a few Japanese handsaws – stuff like that. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when properly equipped. Build simple items at first, and then add the very best power tools you can – as you can afford to – in the order that makes the most sense for the work you’re interested in. Yes, this gets you off to a slower start, but what’s the rush? You’ll soon surpass the ‘buy-it-all-at-once’ folks who end up struggling with beginner tools that hold them back from getting better.

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.


Woodworking isn’t just an overnight hobby, for most it’s a fun pursuit that lasts a lifetime. As your skills develop, the workshop becomes a place not just to build but to repair along the way. In a world where people are strongly influenced by consumerism, there’s a tendency to revert to a throwaway culture. But if you can fix before throwing away, then your tools start to make a return on their investment and have a bigger impact.

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.

There are benefits to either approach. Sharing a common wall with your house can require some careful soundproofing but can reduce heat loss and exterior fin­ishing costs like siding. A shop located in an addition is more likely to be allowed to have living space or storage space above it, and it may be easier to make use of the existing plumbing and electri­cal and heating systems of your home to service your shop space. Another advantage of an addition is not having to run to an outbuilding in minus-30-degree weather or a summer downpour.
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.
Once you’ve considered the questions in the previous paragraph, start thinking about how your products/services stack up against the local competition. Because unless you are offering something ground-breaking and innovative, chances are that your potential customers are currently having their needs met by another business. That means it’s going to be your job to convince them that Blue Sheep Bakery is a better option than Bob’s Bake Shop. If your first thought was to compete on price, sorry to break it to you but, that’s not going to cut it. There is more to starting a successful small business than matching the price to the guy down the street.
Hey Brett! Awesome to hear that your own plans are coming together. I can’t really recall seeing any dirtbags rolling around in a Pruis… I wouldn’t imagine it to be the ideal vehicle for transporting gear and living out of, but the gas savings would really add up over 6-7 months on the road. In general, I’m in favor of going with what you’ve got and finding creative ways to make it work. Maybe you can add a rooftop box? On some vehicles, people even remove the passenger seat(s) for extra storage space. The biggest problem with the Prius that I see would be finding a place to sleep while you are on the road… But I guess that’s where your gas savings and cheap hotel would come in. I know Gina Begin has been living in her little car for a long while now, check out her stuff, and maybe reach out to her. She’s a veteran at dirtbaggin’ it in a car: http://www.ginabegin.com/2013/05/the-ultimate-guide-to-living-on-road-15.html
So what does all this boil down to? I favour starting with a good workbench and top quality hand tools – chisels, a couple of planes, a hammer, a few Japanese handsaws – stuff like that. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when properly equipped. Build simple items at first, and then add the very best power tools you can – as you can afford to – in the order that makes the most sense for the work you’re interested in. Yes, this gets you off to a slower start, but what’s the rush? You’ll soon surpass the ‘buy-it-all-at-once’ folks who end up struggling with beginner tools that hold them back from getting better.
The thing I wanted to mention was that I moved from Seattle to Loveland, Colorado north of Denver in July ’05. I brought my ’01 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 8.5′ Northland Grizzly slide-in camper. It was myself and my 9 year old Black Lab mix Lucy. One thing I had not anticipated was the temperatures here in Colorado. It was 105-106 degrees for the first week I was here. My job was in Boulder, which is known for its “bunny-higher” types. I couldn’t leave Lucy in the camper at the RV park because I didn’t have air conditioning in the camper. I took her to work with me and tied her long rope to the trailer hitch on the truck so she could crawl under it and get into the shade. I also put out plenty of cold water for her that I replenished often. By the afternoon of my first day at my new job I heard rumors that people were going to call Animal Control on me for having my dog outside in temperatures that hot, even though she had both shade and water. I ended up having to leave early my first day so I could go purchase a $600 air conditioner and install it in the camper so I could leave Lucy there during the day and I didn’t have to worry about her comfort.
Another great source of store design inspiration is your product vendors and their line reps. After all, your success is their success, so they’re usually happy to share store design and merchandising ideas. Many provide retailers with free or low-cost branded display units, too. Some line reps will even assist you in product mapping your store, display setup, and replenishment. It never hurts to ask!
Conversion vans have some pretty sweet built-in amenities, including high-tops for extra headroom. Many have comfy captain chairs, leather seats, mood lighting, TV/VCR, and a rear bench seat that folds down into a bed. If you’re not picky about your living situation, this could be all you need to get started. And if you gut it and customize it yourself, the high top offers tons of great storage options that other vans just don’t have.

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.
Hey Melody, thanks for the email. I’ve traveled through some extremely humid areas (Central America)… I’m taking it that your canopy does not have a headliner? That in and of itself helps a great deal. Personally I would be hesitant to put holes or van roof vents in my cap, but that may be what you want to do. I would try sleeping with a portable personal fan first and see how that helps with the condensation issue. For me it worked wonders while sleeping in those hot and humid environments. I ran mine off the inverter connected to my secondary battery.
We first obtained legal permission from Hasbro [which originally developed the Transformer toy line back in the 1980s] to build it late in 2015. I also had to obtain my commercial driver’s license (CDL), so I spent a few months learning how to drive a truck while simultaneously spending the winter of 2015-16 working with Western Star to piece together on paper a vehicle that mirrored the Optimus Prime truck. Once the factory delivered the truck in April 2016, we got to work on the customization and fabrication right away. It was roadworthy again by October 2016. So the entire process from start to finish was about a year.

Becoming a small business owner is one of the most rewarding and inspiring journeys a human being can take. It provides you with a chance to be your own boss, take control of your financial destiny, and become a meaningful contributor to your local economy and community. There will always be a reason not to take the plunge. But if there is one rule of small business — and life — is that nothing will happen if you don’t make it happen.


7. Illuminate your space in different ways. Lighting is important in any retail shop, but it's particularly critical in tight quarters. If a corner of your store is not well lit, that square footage is as good as lost, Langdon says. She recommends using a combination of track lights, lamps, sconces and picture lights. This mixture will not only ensure that your entire space is well lit, but it also will add flair and variety. "Picture lights are amazing. They give a wonderful glow," she says. "Think in terms of layers of light."
Really enjoyed watching the video of the shop build. You will be turning out great pieces in no time. At the end of the video it looks like you have your dust collection system up and running. Where did you purchase the duct work? I thought I remember you talking about this in the old shop. Did you use regular HVAC 4″ round duct or a heavier piece. Thanks for the insight and good woodworking. 

“Walk past your Decompression Zone and look to your right. The first wall you see is called a Power Wall, and it’s another key merchandising area. And because it’s one of the first things shoppers see after looking or turning right, it’s a perception builder. Use your Power Wall(s) to display important departments as well as new and seasonal items to create vignettes, tell product stories, and to feature high-demand and high-profit items. (Note: Your store has more than one Power Wall. Stand in various places throughout your store and look around—the walls that stand out are your Power Walls.)”
Well, we’ve managed to put together the workshop I’ve always wanted. One that’s practical, functional and neat, well at least for the moment. We have plenty of light, plenty of power, lots of work surfaces and enough cabinets, shelves and hangers to organize all of the tools we’ll be using here. I’ve even managed to do a little creative workshop decorating along the way to remind me of how I got started in this business in the first place.

You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.
In order to ensure that the staff you’re bringing on board is the right fit for your small business, there’s a few questions that you should ask yourself during the interview process. Are they competent? Capable? Compatible and committed to your core business values? Do they fit in with the culture you are trying to build? And can you offer them fair compensation? Business expert and entrepreneur Alan E. Hall, calls this the 7 C’s to hiring. At the end of the day you want to look beyond the skills and experience they have on paper and make sure that they are willing and able to grow with your business.
Also, heard of anyone camping in an Accord sedan? I’m wondering if it’d be worth it to buy a new Tacoma to convert into a dirtbaggin’ vehicle or if I should try to make it in a sedan. Lots of variables… I’ve got the cash but it’d eat into the “cushion” I have for living on the road (about 50% of it). OTOH I could buy a used Tacoma, but they hold value so well it’d seem like long term it’d be best to get it new. I’ve seen some with 250 miles sell for $8,000+. Thoughts on getting a new truck using my beat-up sedan?

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.
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.
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