Ultimate Small Shop is a complete guide to setting up your own workshop, from the planning phase to optimizing it for business. You’ll learn how to put together a complete and functional workshop for less than you expect. Ralph aims to get your shop set up for less than $1,000. Ultimate small Shop includes suggestions on where you can get the tools and equipment needed at the most affordable prices and how to optimize space to get the most out of the little room you have.
Hey, I hope we’ve been able to share with you some ideas that you can use if you’re thinking about building a workshop or any type of hobby room or just about any room in your house that you can get this kind of enjoyment out of. We have a lot more details on this shop as well as other things you need to consider if you’re building a shop on our website at todayshomeowner.com. hey thanks for being with us.
1) I haven’t lived with another person sleeping in the back (where you at ladies?!). I have spent a few weeks here and there on the road with others, I slept in the back, they had their own tent at camp. It does get crowded having two people with full alpine kits sharing the same storage space. You have to juggle space and work together to get to things. As for two people sleeping in the back, I think that would be pretty tight (doable, but challenging). In my research (links in this post at the bottom) I know there were a few couples living in a shared truck bed…
If you have the available time, taking your DIY campervan for a test run (or two) is a great way to identify any problems while you still have access to tools, package deliveries, and a place to work. There’s just a lot that you can’t foresee until you live in your van. Taking it out for some short trips throughout your build will help you understand how you’ll actually use your new living space, what’s necessary, and what’s not.
Apps begin to get more complex—and costly—once user authentication is involved. The main reasons for that are all the other expectations that come with user authentication. Typically, they include interacting with data (e.g., favoriting an article), syncing data across devices, push notifications, and perhaps collaborative features (e.g., inviting a family member).
We exhausted our entire life savings on this project and entered into a lot of debt at the same time. And now it’s the ongoing maintenance, repairs, insurance, and upkeep on this rig that make it almost impossible for us to keep it on the road. This is where I’m hoping to get that “let’s sponsor you to travel across America and meet the fans” call from Hasbro or Paramount one day soon.
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.
For small business owners starting or wanting to grow a small business, attracting and retaining customers is a huge priority. Let’s face it, without customers you don’t have a business to run. Over the last decade there has been an explosion in the number of high-quality, affordable technologies that are specifically geared towards helping small, local business owners improve the day-to-day operations that impact this aspect of their business. This includes point of sale systems, tax software, bookkeeping software, employee scheduling and payroll programs, inventory tracking tools, customer loyalty programs, gift card technology, ecommerce opportunities, website builders, email marketing software, and social media management tools. The list goes on and on.
If you want the ultimate vehicle to customize for your DIY van conversion, the Sprinter is the van for you. They have enough headroom even for tall people to stand up, and enough interior space to design any kind of layout. They also typically have diesel engines, which means greater fuel efficiency and engine life (many diesel Sprinters have been known to make it past 400,000 miles). If you think you’ll be doing a lot of off-roading, the Mercedes Sprinter also comes in a 4x4 version.
I'm in the same boat. In Florida, we don't have basements, so my dedicated portion of the garage is 10' x 12'. In that space I have very neatly packed: 8' bench, Cabinet saw with 50" fence, 18" bandsaw, Dust collector, Joint, Planer, Drill press, Compound miter saw and a medium-sized hanging tool cabinet that holds all my nielsen stuff. I find myself moving my stool several times an hour just to work... Can't wait to move into a new house some day!
Many small businesses in New York and New Jersey were forced to close following Superstorm Sandy because they lacked the insurance that would have gotten them back on their feet. That part is well known. What’s less well known is that this lack of proper insurance, coupled with the lack proper legal incorporation, resulted in many entrepreneurs seeing their personal assets come under threat.
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.

When we published our massive review on how much an app costs back in 2015, we had no idea it would become the top resource on the web. Two years later, that piece is still considered the definitive resource for app development costs in our industry. It’s because of its popularity that I feel compelled to revisit this subject. Additionally, doing so will allow for some fresh perspectives based on what's changed in the app industry as well as another way to look at the topic.


At least once a year I want you to set aside some time (I’m talking about a large chunk of time - like a day) and I want you to write down everything you want to accomplish this year or next year (or whenever you are planning for). I tend to plan for a whole year, but you can try 3-6 months to help you get started. Take away any and all distractions because it’s important that you are super focused on what you want to accomplish for the year. This is the time to let your ideas flow, don’t hold back. Things on this list can include: Launch your own website, release a new invitation line, and work on my Instagram account. Don’t overthink, just write down what comes to your mind and whatever your heart desires. There will be time later to refine what you have written down. When you are starting to brainstorm your goals, I would suggest that you first start off writing them on a notepad like this. And then once you are done, you can move them over to a task organizer like this.
My enthusiasm was kindled and I made friends with Surrey Timbers for more 'exotic' wood. My next purchases were a Drill Press and a Scroll Saw from Axminster Tools and I set to work. An excellent piece of Yew followed by some Thermal Ash has so far produced 4 cribbage boards. I then obtained a Palm Router which, after some practice, I find better for the more intricate work.
All this is why I recommend you buy the very best stuff available, even if it means going without certain tools initially. Although it wouldn’t be a disaster to spend $1000 on a whole bunch of inexpensive tools, what are you going to do when you’ve outgrown the capability of these tools and want to upgrade? You’ve now got to somehow get rid of the cheap stuff and replace it with something better. This isn’t easy and it’s always the most expensive way to go.
A great supplier will provide the raw ingredients of your success — often literally. What’s more, they’ll deliver them on time, every time. And they’ll always deliver exactly what you ordered, no more, and no less. A large part of the process of inventory control is ensuring that you are paying for exactly the inventory that comes through your door, and not a penny more. Even great suppliers, however, are looking for the highest price possible for their goods, so once you find them, make sure you’re ready to negotiate!
Again, it is the inspiration I have (hopefully) given my son. To never be afraid to try, even at the risk of failure. If you don’t have all the answers, go with the knowledge you do have and trust everything else will fall into place. I am no millionaire; I have entered into a lifetime of debt because of what I’ve done with this build. And I’m going to try and keep it on the road as long as I can. I am not getting any help from Hasbro and Paramount Pictures, so I am looking for help with sponsorships.
The solution to potentially wedged boards on a jointer is to add a planer to the mix.  A planer has a flat surface with a cutting edge that is exactly 180 degrees to the surface.  This allows you to position the jointed edge flat on the planers surface and make a cut to the opposite side of the board that is perfectly square.  As an added bonus, the planer allows you incredible control over the thickness of the boards you're planing.  ​
One of the challenges we all face is how to move machines into a home without damaging the home, the machinery, or yourself. I actually had to bring things through the front door, and across hardwood floors, and turn 90° to descend the stairs into the shop. To protect the floors, I laid down sheets of 1/2" MDF that I could use later. On the wooden stairs, I used three strips of softwood strap­ping, held with wood screws to the stairs. I mounted a 2x4 baton to the wall studs at the top of the stairs, with a 5/16-inch eye-bolt through it.
My enthusiasm was kindled and I made friends with Surrey Timbers for more 'exotic' wood. My next purchases were a Drill Press and a Scroll Saw from Axminster Tools and I set to work. An excellent piece of Yew followed by some Thermal Ash has so far produced 4 cribbage boards. I then obtained a Palm Router which, after some practice, I find better for the more intricate work.
We've also chronicled how Android and iOS have become more and more similar in their approaches. The "Android tax," as we've referred to it in the past, no longer exists. Generally, Android and iOS apps can now be built with the same quality, with comparable timelines, and budgets. While that doesn't necessarily mean we suggest building platforms in parallel, it's a huge relief for people creating apps.
We love natural light as much as anyone, and the big windows in our van were something we were super excited about. But when you're living in a van, you'll want some privacy. Trust me. You'll also need curtains to keep out the lights when you're trying to sleep. Making your own curtains can seem like a daunting task, but it's not all that hard. (I speak as someone who had to look up a tutorial to operate a sewing machine!)
Do you have a business license? Do you have a permit to open a food service establishment issued by the local health department? Are you applying for a permit to modify the building you wish to occupy? Do you have a health permit from the county health department? Do you have a signage permit? How about an alarm permit from your city or county fire or police departments? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself.
Pegboard panels like this are extremely popular way to display and store hand tools. But they have one annoying problem is that when you lift off a tool, often the hook itself will pop out of the board. And that happens with over a number of times, every time you reach for a tool it can get pretty annoying. So you can buy at the hardware store, they make straps and special devices to hold the hook in place, but I’ve found this works just as well and it’s a lot cheaper.
We love natural light as much as anyone, and the big windows in our van were something we were super excited about. But when you're living in a van, you'll want some privacy. Trust me. You'll also need curtains to keep out the lights when you're trying to sleep. Making your own curtains can seem like a daunting task, but it's not all that hard. (I speak as someone who had to look up a tutorial to operate a sewing machine!)

In my opinion, the best shop space is a flexible one. I know many folks expected that after setting up my shop so many times, I would be able to design the PERFECT shop space including a finishing room, a dust collection closet, and even some internal walls. But the truth is, the most important lesson I learned over the years was to expect change. My shop is not a static entity. It is more like a living breathing creature that adapts, evolves, grows, shrinks, and changes configuration. Committing to an internal spacial arrangement too early could yield disappointing results. This is why you won’t see me placing dust collection ductwork in the floor. I need to work in a space for at least a few months before I can be confident in my initial setup. Even then, I fully expect things to change at some point. If I made too many restrictive and/or permanent decisions ahead of time, these changes could be difficult or impossible to implement. So my best piece of advice is to forget about the concept of perfection. Instead, focus on flexibility. The ideal shop, in my mind, is little more than 4 walls, a roof, and a butt-load of outlets and lights. So here are some of my basic general goals for my new shop space.
Congratulations on your new shop and all your success. I’ve watched all of your videos and someday if I have the money I would love to join your guild. I started a small workshop in my grandparents basement and someday I hope to start a small bussiness. Your website and videos have been the most informative and the most inspirational to me as a beginning woodworker. Thank you for sharing all your tips and hard work with people like me. I look forward to watching your videos for years to come.
First things first, the machinery is going to do the bulk of your work. Hand tool purists may argue differently but how many machines do you have in your home to make things easier? The same should be true for your workshop. Yes, there may be moments when you take a deep breath at the initial investment but if you’re looking at woodworking as a prolonged pastime then the tools will last you for years to come. Plus you’re not buying everything at once. Start small and build up your collection.
Since the summer of 2013, first time visitors to New York City restaurants have been greeted by window signs boasting a large, capitalized A, B or C. These letters reflect the rating given to each restaurant by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). Does the need for government oversight of this industry create an additional administrative and financial burden for the businesses in question? Yes it does. Does the rating system also inform consumers and encourage higher food safety standards across the board? Undoubtedly.
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.
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.
If you’re a high volume QSR for example, you’re going to want clear signage that helps customers identify where they should be lining up and perhaps a product display next to the line. If you have high risk merchandise in your store, you’ll want to design your shop so that customers must pass the point of sale on their way out and use mirrors to eliminate blind spots in your business.
I place the band saw first in my order of purchases, because I consider it the heart of the shop. Band saws are very safe tools for ripping, re-sawing, cutting curves and more because all of the force is downward, virtually eliminating any chance of unexpected kickbacks. I wanted a saw that had a strong back, dynamically balanced cast iron wheels for smooth operation and flywheel effect, 12" depth of cut, good dust extraction design, a large table and a solid fence. After shopping around, I settled on the General International Model 90-170 14" saw. It is very smooth, comes with an Excalibur fence, and it is light enough (133kg) to move into your basement without crushing someone.
The kind of apps that fall into this app type are extensive. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and YouTube are all examples. Remember that some of these apps have been worked on for many, many years. Thus, a v1.0 social app or social networking app will likely not offer all of the same features. For instance, Snapchat did not start with videos, filters, or their "Stories" functionality. A social app would, however, include user authentication, friending, favoriting (or other data interaction), some sort of messaging, and comparable "baseline" functionality.
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.
Shops can range from functional spaces adorned with unpainted wallboard to beautifully finished, painted, and trimmed-out spaces. Ultimately, I think it depends on your budget and how important your surroundings are to your mindset as you’re working, or to your clients’ if they will be viewing your shop. If finishing your shop will improve the quality of the work that you will produce, thereby relaxing or inspiring you, or showcase for your clients the quality of the work of which you are capable, it may be a worthwhile invest­ment. A more finished space may also allow for activities like parties or even a weekly poker game (as long as drinks stay off the tools).

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.


A great supplier will provide the raw ingredients of your success — often literally. What’s more, they’ll deliver them on time, every time. And they’ll always deliver exactly what you ordered, no more, and no less. A large part of the process of inventory control is ensuring that you are paying for exactly the inventory that comes through your door, and not a penny more. Even great suppliers, however, are looking for the highest price possible for their goods, so once you find them, make sure you’re ready to negotiate!

Let's talk about a few strategies for building out your shop below retail price.  There are the obvious ones like yard sales, craigslist, estate sales, and thrift stores, however, these can be hit or miss.  First of all, not everyone lives in an area where these avenues exist.  Second, when your brand new to woodworking, it can be hard to evaluate a tool that your buying second hand.  Because of this, I'm not going to focus on these channels in this post, but I will say, if your willing to do some hunting for second hand tools, you can easily save 50% to 75% on some perfectly fine equipment.


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.
Store design experts agree that this area should be open, inviting, and free of overpowering displays and signage clutter, as shown in the image above. Many customer behavior studies, including those conducted by Envirosell’s Paco Underhill, support this opinion. They show that customers tend to ignore displays, signage, and even manned sales counters placed close to store entrances.
The first thing to understand about a business plan and financial projections is that the process of compiling them is often more important than the final product. Sure, the actual sheets of paper, filled with spreadsheets and graphs with pretty arrows pointing up and to the right are great — and can be very important in helping you to secure funding — however, when it comes down to the brass tacks of starting a successful business, it’s the process, not the paper, that counts.

In today’s competitive business landscape, the key card that small business owners hold up their sleeve is their ability to offer something distinctive, original, and personal. As small businesses grow, however, it can become increasingly difficult for the time-pressed, financially strapped entrepreneur to maintain direct oversight over every aspect of their store.


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.
What about when you’re camping? Well, most campgrounds (including many free National Forest and BLM campgrounds) have some sort of bathroom situation. If there’s not an actual running water bathroom, you’ll typically find pit toilets (aka vault toilets), which are basically much nicer/cleaner permanent porta-potties. We also recommend picking up a good poop shovel for those times you’re camping in a wilderness area without bathrooms.
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.
Most workshop tasks require good ventilation, and that’s something garages are generally poor at. Plus, passive ventilation (like opening a window) usually isn’t enough. A ceiling exhaust fan is a good start but if you are serious about keeping things clean then your ultimate workshop should also include a dust collection system, central vacuum and air ventilation system. All three of these systems will keep the dust, dirt, and other heavy particles off your clothes and out of your lungs which makes for a safer work environment.
You need an out-feed table to support work exiting the table saw and band saw. By placing the tools close together, I was able to make one out-feed table that works for both tools. I put four pivoting wheels on the table, allowing me to shift the table in any direction. By placing a shelf below the table, I gained some much needed storage space for portable power tools. Finally, since this is a large work surface, the table also serves as a true, flat assembly table.

After years of digging down under router tables, lifting the entire unit up to change bits, and then fighting to get the plate flush again in the table, I chose to spend the money to pur­chase a router table, fence, and lift system. I did a thorough review of these systems, and chose the Canadian made Jessem Rout-R-Lift II kit. The system comes with a solid steel stand, a phenolic table, an adjustable extruded aluminum fence, and their base model lift system. For budget reasons, I did not choose the hefty Mast-R-Lift, but I am quite happy with the lighter Rout-R-Lift II. It will last me a couple of lifetimes, so it is the right system at the right price for me in my one-man shop. Hats off to Jessem for making a great lift at a very rea­sonable price in the middle of a tough economy. The table is durable, and flat. The direct drive lift is smooth and precise. I mated the lift system to a mid-sized model 690 Porter Cable router, which has a fixed speed, and enough power to do any­thing I need. The Jessem system uses a bayonet type mount for the table inserts, a nice touch that makes swapping the table insert quick and simple. As with all my machines, the router table is connected with the supplied dust port to my shop dust collection system with automated switching. 
Thanks! Yep, the canopy clamps and the grooves in the bed liner are the only things holding the side shelves and sleeping platform in place. You just pop off the clamps with a ratchet and the whole things lifts out / slides out easily. That’s what I did to treat the wood after construction, takes maybe 15 minutes to pop out. Very modular. It’s been in there for more than two years now, same wood, and everything is still looking good and working fine. I like it!
Before you bid in an online auction, check the site’s rules of operation. At some sites, a winning bid is a binding contract, which can be a problem if you can’t inspect the tool before you purchase it. Don’t forget shipping costs. In some cases they can exceed the cost of the tool. Also, make sure the tool you’re buying will run on the power you have in your shop. Many former industrial tools run on 240v single-phase power. If your shop doesn’t have 240v service, you’ll need to factor in the cost of upgrading before deciding to buy. You don’t want to saddle yourself with a tool you can’t use, no matter how good the price.

Though store planning software isn’t a necessary tool for the average small retailer, it can certainly come in handy if you are looking to develop specific planograms, such as for the holiday season or a special event. Store design software is more common for multi-location retailers that want to deploy the same planogram in multiple places. Either way, if you are looking to build planograms, DotActiv offers a handy free tool.
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