First, let's dump that hand powered saw/miter box.  It gets the job done, but it takes forever.  We're still on a lean budget, but shelling out ~$110 for a 10 inch electric miter saw makes a lot of sense.  This won't be your forever saw, but it should do fine for most projects.  It can handle up to a 4x6 stock which will cover 99% of what a beginning wood worker will throw at it.  


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.
How to Optimize a Small Layout – Not everyone has the room to have a huge shop selling everything. Ralph guides you through making the most out of a small shop layout. This includes optimal machine placement, where to set up shop, the tools needed, and lots of other consideration. The guide walks you through every aspect of setting up your shop – going into details without having it be overwhelming. It’s ideal for beginners that are looking to set up shop.
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.
When you’re first starting out, it can be hard to imagine that there are entrepreneurs out there complaining of having grown too fast. But for some, it’s not a problem that’s welcome. For every Ben and Jerry’s, (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield turned a rundown Burlington, VT gas station into an ice cream empire), there’s a Zynga or a Living Social that has enjoyed incredibly fast-paced growth, let their operating costs get out of hand, and then had to engage in mass layoffs when reality hit. If you’re enjoying fast-paced growth, make sure that this is reflected in your operating margins, not just the metric of revenue. You don’t want to be the butt of the old retail joke: “We’re losing a buck on every sale, but we sure are making it up on volume!”
The issue with the old shop was manufacturing capacity and layout. We get runs of 4 to 6 of the frames on the left in the last pic and sometimes frames twice that size. We were masters of having everything on wheels, which works for a while but it takes twice as long to build anything that way. Then the office ladies walk through the shop to the kitchen while you are grinding and complain about all the dust etc.
Impulse items like small toys, candy bars, lip gloss, and breath mints are great products to feature near your register. When customers approach the register to pay and leave, you don’t want them to stop shopping. Placing low-cost impulse buy items near registers, as shown in the image below, encourages shoppers to add an item or two as they check out.

I’m currently in the process of building my own small shop and I almost didn’t watch this video because I was afraid I might become too jealous. I wasn’t. It made me realize that a good shop is worth waiting for and that I don’t need to be discouraged when things aren’t moving as quickly as I hoped. Thank you for the inspiration and congratulations on your new shop, you deserve it.

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.


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.
It’s also a good idea to cover up any exposed insulation or open stud bays so that you have a flat surface to mount stuff on the walls of your workshop. Here we’re attaching plywood panels to the metal framing but in most garages or sheds you can just nail them directly to the studs. We’re also getting a jump on organizing by putting in a hose reel next to the location we’ve chosen for our air compressor.

Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide wage replacement and medical and death benefits to employees who are injured or worse on the job. In exchange for these benefits, the employee gives up his or her rights to sue for liability leading to the accident. Your premium will reflect the type of business you operate and the average salary of your employees. Much like auto insurance, business owners who are new to starting a small business or those with less experience tend to pay higher premiums.
I think the music comment was about speakers for playing music. I put a few 8″ in ceiling speakers in from MonoPrice.com ($60 / pair I think) and love them. A space that big would probably need at least 3 pairs. You’re not throwing a rock concert with them, but they provide very decent background music for not much cash. The speaker wire from MonoPrice is dirt cheap too. Just add a cheap receiver to drive them. Of course, you probably don’t want to spend that cash at the moment. But it’s a good starting point for the future.
Table mounted routers, planers and shapers are another machine that usually has material fed through, and although they are fairly narrow machines, they require room on their front for material to be fed from, and at the rear for the material to be removed after the work is complete, so again, a space of about ten feet is needed for any significant work.
Thanks again for the inspiration. I've just finished putting the door on my 12x16 shop. Aside from shingles it is ready for the winter. I've yet to cut out the hatch for the lumber or start on the interior, but at least it's weather tight and I can work on the rest I the coming months. I am planning to use mineral wool bays for insulation to mitigate sound and ease installation. I don't see a way to add pictures to this reply (I'm on my phone), so I'll try to add one or two later.
It’s important that you have a fundamental understanding of what is making your business successful before you decide to expand. Who are your customers and why do they enjoy what you offer? Who are your suppliers and will they be able to deliver to your new location? What are your operating costs and will they be the same in a new location? A lot of small businesses start off in the suburbs of a town before making the move to a city’s business district, only to find that unexpected additional costs are swallowing up their profits.
There are certain areas that are the responsibility of the federal government, such as firearms, fish, and wildlife. For more on these federal requirements, enforced by bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can explore the information here on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
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.
Ultimate Small Shop goes beyond the ambit of Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s to help woodworkers start their workshop for less than $1,000. Woodworkers will find answers to questions related to the budget, planning, required tools, critical setup factors and more. The guide has been put together by Ralph Chapman, a coach with more than twenty five years of experience in woodworking. Chapman is the small shop expert and what he recommends is not speculation or best case scenarios. He has done it himself. He is now sharing his experience along with expert recommendations so you can begin your woodworking journey right at your home.
You might be thinking your business aspirations are too ‘early-stage’ to merit investigating the permits required to run your small business. You’d be wrong. The costs and requirements of staying on the right side of the law should be factored into your initial business plan and ongoing projections. In the long run, this will save you time, money and heartache.
However, instead of sharing a remodel update this week I thought I would do something a little different. This little voice in my head (sometimes called my husband) has been nagging me to add videos to my blog. I did a couple 1 minute hands-only videos a few months back, but I have been seriously afraid to get in front of the camera. The nagging voice finally won out and I bit the bullet and got in front of the camera for you today! I decided to do a video for today’s post instead of just writing out a boring list. And while editing the video I came to the realization that I am very expressive when I talk. Wow! I use my whole face when I talk. I guess that’s what people meant when they said I am dramatic. Oh well, this is me so I hope you enjoy today’s video about how to build a woodshop on a budget.
As Kizer & Bender always tell retailers: Put it on paper. If you haven’t settled on your store layout—or even if you have—the first thing you need to do is work your plan out on paper before you start moving things around in your store. Putting it on paper helps give you a clearer picture of the desired result and any potential issues before getting started. Remember, many small retailers find that a mix of floor plan and layout styles works best.
To make sure you account for any existing obstructions, it’s a good idea to make a measured drawing of your workshop area on graph paper, noting existing furniture, built-ins and large items on the plan as you go. For example, a common one-car garage workshop layout has built-in tool cabinets and shelves around the perimeter where they won’t impede parking, but you may also have to get clever about folding work tables and saw horses that you can set up as needed in the middle of the garage when you’re working on a project (and cars are parked outside).
While strolling through the recent entries to our online shop gallery, I spotted some pretty novel designs as well as a couple of fun videos worth taking a look at. From brilliant solutions for tight spaces, to novel repurposing of department store display racks, there were plenty of interesting elements to the eight shops listed in my February round-up. By the way, if you’ve already seen our art director’s video tour of his redesigned garage shop (Mike’s Garage Shop), you can go ahead and skip it. If not however, it’s really worth a look!
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.

This site uses affiliate links. Given this, please assume that any links leading you to products or services are affiliate links that we will receive compensation from. However, there are millions of products and services on the web, and I only promote those products or services that I would use personally. The Wood Whisperer abides by word of mouth marketing standards and holds integrity in the highest regard. Should I ever be compensated to write, I will make full disclosure. I always give honest opinions, findings, and experiences on products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely our own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. All content on The Wood Whisperer is copyrighted, and may not be reprinted in full form without my written consent.

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.

A business license gives you permission to run a business within a particular territory. It is important to note that not all local governments require you to obtain business licenses, while others only require them for specific business types such as bars or restaurants. To determine whether or not your state or business type requires you to obtain a license visit SBA.gov for state-specific license and permit information.
Hey Marc. Just wanted to send a huge congrats your way for this milestone. It’s been pretty awesome to follow you on this journey since I discovered you on iTunes some 5 or 6 years ago. Mad props for what you’ve done to grow and enhance the online woodworking community as well as woodworking as a whole. I think with todays generation (as well as future generations) growing up behind a computer, the work that you and the rest of the podcasting world do will go a long way towards bringing new people into the craft. I hope that in the future you are able to start a series of videos showing how you introduce Mateao to the craft. Keep up the awesome work!
The first is that they will need to be powered by a product catalog. Many times that already exists and an app will just leverage APIs or web services to pull back products. If it doesn't, however, it will require either a custom buildout (beware!) or leveraging platforms like Shopify, Magento, or comparable solutions. The strength of these tools include providing the administration interface to add new inventory, APIs or SDKs, ways to store items in a cart, and similar features. The downsides are that you'll be limited by their workflow and customizations.
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.
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.
The small apparel boutique pictured above really nails these traffic flow details! A roomy entrance offers clear sight and travel lines to eye-catching power walls on the right, and an inviting seating area towards the back. These lure customers into the store with the promise of treasures and comfort within. The shop even has a left-side checkout midway back. Someone really did their customer behavior homework on this retail store layout.
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.
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.
Conduction is heat transferred across solid surfaces- think touching a hot stove. It’s also how heat gets out of your van in the winter. The heat inside your van is conducted through the solid surface of your walls and ceiling. Insulating the inside of your van will help prevent heat loss through conduction during the winter, and will also stop your van from conducting the sun’s heat inside during the summer.

The space behind a door is a storage spot that’s often overlooked. Build a set of shallow shelves and mount it to the wall behind your laundry room door. The materials are inexpensive. Measure the distance between the door hinge and the wall and subtract an inch. This is the maximum depth of the shelves. We used 1x4s for the sides, top and shelves. Screw the sides to the top. Then screw three 1×2 hanging strips to the sides: one top and bottom and one centered. Nail metal shelf standards to the sides. Complete the shelves by nailing a 1×2 trim piece to the sides and top. The 1×2 dresses up the shelf unit and keeps the shelves from falling off the shelf clips.

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.
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.
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.)
At times, while you are starting a small business, it will seem like there is a brick wall in front of you, made up of all the different problems that will occupy your time and mind: a lack of funds, permits, regulations, tax worries, inventory issues, or a lack of customers. Concepts like “free time” and “the weekend” will take on a very different meaning. While the emotional ups and downs of cash flow management and customer service, may drain your will to live.
Non-Standard Miter Slots - This one is a downer.  One of the primary advantages of having a table saw is access to jigs that expand the saws functionality.  This is a major issue if you plan on buying after market jigs.  Given that we are limiting the cost of this buildout to $500, I am guessing that after market jigs are probably low on the priority list.  Your going to want jigs once you start researching what they enable you to do, my advice is to build your own - there are plenty of plans online.  
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