I spent a full week grading, compacting the soil and leveling each block before laying the floor joist.  The last thing you want is to finish your new workshop and have a corner start sinking into the ground.  My floor inside my shop is perfectly level still with a 6 foot level.  You can see that I had a drop of about 12 inches on the low side.  During heavy rainstorms, water can flow like a stream next to the fence.  I wanted to make sure my workshop was high enough off the ground to avoid any flooding issues.


Back in the 1970s and treeplanting in Oregon, I and Tony Lessa lived for two weeks at a time in the back of my 1954 Chevy PU. The canopy was just a simple shell with the board across next to the cab. After the fourth or fifth trip out in the season the accumulated funk was too much. You can imagine two hard-working guys in very muddy and cold conditions coming in after work with dirty wet gear. Pretty desperate circumstances but before Reagan trashed the treeplanting industry our coop ( Hoedads & then Second Growth) was making good money so we endured the hardships. It works for the young. Now, at 76, I find sleeping two of us between the wheel wells in a Dodge G. Caravan (seats removed) much too crowded. I think I will tent and the wife can have the van.
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?
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Keep your air hose and fittings in one place and out of the way. Screw a coffee can onto a scrap piece of plywood. Attach a 2-1/2 in. riser block to the edge of the plywood and hang the entire contraption from a wall or work-bench. Drape your air hose over the coffee can, and store your fittings inside. It also works great for hanging extension cords. — Walter Barndt. Build an air compressor cart.
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.
There are a number of woodworking fixtures you can get by without for a long while, but a sturdy workbench isn't one of them. The trouble is, those solid-hardwood benches we all lust after can completely blow a modest woodworking budget. Here's a bench that splits the difference. You'll get a top that can stand up to significant abuse, a sturdy, heavy base that keeps the bench planted where you put it, and an end vise and T-track system for holding workpieces as well as a variety of unique jigs. It may not look quite like a European bench, but it works just as hard as one for a lot less money.
Great article, Ryan! I love the detailed explanations of the various options for sleeping. I consider myself a veteran “light-duty traveler” who stumbled across some of these things by accident over the years. My needs are different than yours (I’m usually traveling long distances for days and weeks at a time for work or vacation, so I usually don’t hunker down in a base camp very often), but I have a few questions and points to share:
Even if a website and social media aren’t part of your immediate plans for launching a business, as a savvy 21st century entrepreneur, you want to make sure that you have complete ownership of your brand identity before paying any fees required to register your business. Using the example of The Sunny Rabbit, at the very least, you would want to run an online search to ensure that TheSunnyRabbit.com is available. Assuming you want to join the other 50 million small businesses marketing to customers on Facebook, you’ll also want to make sure that Facebook.com/TheSunnyRabbit is also available.
If I had it to do over again, I would stick to an entry level miter saw and table saw until I had both the funds and need to upgrade to more capable saws.  Because of this, I'd stick to the two saws we looked at in the $500 build: ​The Craftsman Table Saw for ~$150 and Hitachi 10 inch Miter Saw for ~110.  These two additions bring our running total to just over $500.  

You’ve probably considered what goods and services you’ll be offering, but have you researched the cost of sourcing your raw materials? How about the cost of turning those raw materials into your finished product? Do you understand how much you’ll need to charge for your products/services in order to cover the expenses of renting a space, paying employees, leasing equipment, and paying for permits and regulations? Moreover, have you considered if the answers to these questions will provide the kind of operating margin you’ll need to pay yourself a salary?
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.
You’ve probably considered what goods and services you’ll be offering, but have you researched the cost of sourcing your raw materials? How about the cost of turning those raw materials into your finished product? Do you understand how much you’ll need to charge for your products/services in order to cover the expenses of renting a space, paying employees, leasing equipment, and paying for permits and regulations? Moreover, have you considered if the answers to these questions will provide the kind of operating margin you’ll need to pay yourself a salary?
These basics are going to set you back about $180, leaving you with $320 left to work with.  We are going to be leaving behind two hand powered tools from the $250 shop and upgrading to powered alternatives.  This should lead to more consistent results, more enjoyable builds, and increased efficiency.  These are all goods things that only the biggest fans of The Woodwright's Shop would argue with.
SBA provides support and tools to aspiring small business owners and in particular to minority-owned, women-owned, disadvantaged, and veteran-owned businesses, including a government-backed financing scheme to qualified participants. Local and state authorities also have a range of programs designed to encourage the growth of your small business. Make sure to research your local authority’s website.
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.

If you live where summers get hot and humid, you may need more than a fan to keep cool in your workshop. Fortunately, air conditioners will both dehumidify and cool your space — and you don’t need a traditional window to get the job done. Instead of a residential window unit, consider a freestanding portable air conditioner that you can use as needed on hot days.
I wouldn’t give up on Craigslist or garage sales.. For around $1K or less, you can pretty easily find the four big ticket items (TS, BS, Jointer and Planer) and have the extra $2K to spend on accessories, material, DC, other goodies, etc. The key is patience and persistence, and if applied correctly, you can have a fantastic setup for very little compared to purchasing new. If you are setting up a business, you don’t usually have the time to scour for good deals, but for a personal shop, there is no pressing need other than that itch to get something done.
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.
Fantastic build and opportunity for you. I really appreciate your humbleness given the great asset you have in the new shop. You flaunt/market what you do and where you do it because that’s the business you’re in, but at the same time you understand what a great tool you have in the shop itself relative to what most folks will ever acquire. Well done.
A very simple countertop but one that should work great for our workshop, now we’ve already applied one coat of polyurethane to kind of seal up the plywood. Now we’ll be applying another coat once that dries to give it a little bit of durability because this thing will get a lot of abuse. Now Tim’s applying the same kind of clear sealer to our little rolling workbenches here, and I think this is a great idea, we’ll be able to roll these out, lock down the casters on the bottom then you can have a drill press or any other bench top tool that you can work on, then when you’re finished with them you can roll it right back, tuck them up against this wall and it serves as a good storage unit and gives you the chance to keep the workshop wide open for some of the larger projects we might be working on.
Debt financing involves borrowing capital that must then be paid back over a set period of time, most commonly with interest. Typically the core benefit of this arrangement is that you, the business owner, maintains complete control over your business. Your only ongoing obligation is to repay the loan with interest. The downside? Fail to keep up those repayments and the loan — often secured against your assets, savings or property — can put you in very dangerous financial waters.
Every aspect of your store should flow from a clear statement of who you are and what you stand for as a business. From the sign hanging proudly outside your store window, to the color of the wallpaper in the in-store restroom, every detail should contribute to conveying your unique purpose and brand to the world. This consistency should also be applied to all your online assets, for example, your website design.
The first step in choosing a business location has little to do with site evaluation. It’s about understanding who your customers are. What kind of people are they? When and where do they work? How do they spend their free time and extra capital? Get to know your potential customers and you’ll have a far better chance of finding both a site and a property that they’ll want to frequent. Once you know who they are, you need to ask yourself if there are enough members of this target demographic near your intended storefront location. If so, what time of day they are most likely to be near your storefront? And, will it be quick and convenient for them to stop in?
Luckily, recent times have seen a revolution in small business technology. The advent of cloud-based technology has made it possible for a small startup company to build a product and have it used (and paid for) by retailers and restaurateurs all over the world. As a result, the number of companies targeting their innovations directly at you and your small business has exploded, leaving you with more choice and at a better prices, than ever before. For those just starting a small business, this is great! Here’s what else you should know.
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!
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.
SBA provides support and tools to aspiring small business owners and in particular to minority-owned, women-owned, disadvantaged, and veteran-owned businesses, including a government-backed financing scheme to qualified participants. Local and state authorities also have a range of programs designed to encourage the growth of your small business. Make sure to research your local authority’s website.
One of the most important and often overlooked first steps when starting a small business is preparing a business plan. Many entrepreneurs who hear this might panic. And while the value of writing a business plan is often debated, those who complete them are nearly twice as likely to successfully grow their businesses or obtain capital compared to those who don’t. More on this in part three of How to Start a Small Business 101, Components of a Business Plan.
The key to success here is having clear processes written down, promoting from within whenever possible, and remaining open to change. You’ll want to balance your desire to educate your manager on how to manage your business with an openness to feedback and new ways of doing things. You’ll also want to take advantage of the technology available to keep you abreast of things like real-time sales data for all your locations, no matter where you are.
My shop ended up being 23 x 19 feet, for a total of 437 square feet. I put my wood rack in the basement, but out­side the walled in shop area. To keep the dust in the shop, a three part strategy was employed. I have a dust collection system, an air filtration system and a shop vacuum for cleaning dust out of machinery. I put up new walls, installed new electrical service, lighting, and two access doors for ease of materials move­ment. The shop includes two windows so that I can enjoy natural light, and not feel like I am squirreled away in the basement.
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