Perhaps the most satisfying move I made was to automate the dust collection system. I used the iVACPro system to link all machines to the dust collector. When I turn on any machine in the shop, the dust collector fires up and whisks the dust into the bin. The system also has a programmable delay to allow the dust to make it to the bin before the dust collector shuts down. I set my system for a five-second delay. The system works flawlessly for my band saw, planer, and router table at 115 volts, and also my table saw and jointer at 240 volts. 


Starting to see a trend here? Notice how each of these questions begins with the customer in mind. As with all things related to your store, it’s critical to put your customer at the core of your decision making. At first glance, little things like cold drinks that aren’t quite cold enough, can seem insignificant, but it’s often the little things that hurt the customer experience and can turn a customer off to your business forever.

Hey Ted! If you mean to ask whether you could sit up from one of the vertical sidebins and have enough headroom under the Leer 122, I think that would be a no. You’d have to build the sidebins to be a little shorter. At least with my truck, that would be the case. Perhaps with a full-size pickup you would have enough room thanks to the overall size increase of the canopy as well.
​One tool that has been notably missing from the earlier builds is a router.  There are so many reasons to own a router that I am not going to even try to list them.  But if you want to get the creative juices flowing, take a look at this Pinterest page.   The important thing to know is that this versatile tool can help you accomplish a number of tasks, everything from finishing edges to cutting dove tails.  
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?
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.
Find out what tools you need and how to budget for shop setup. Whether you are going to be doing furniture, cabinetry or woodturning, this workshop tools list and budgeting guide can help. Learn how to prioritize purchases of shop tools based on space, interests and cost. Check out a comparison of the workshop tools you can get for $4000 vs. $10,000 and determine how much you need to spend for the shop you want.
It is particularly important that you think about your customer’s experience holistically. Big-box retailers have long understood that people have five senses and that those senses affect decision making in a profound way. Whether it’s through intelligent lighting, the right music selection, or the careful piping in of a beautiful scent, smart retailers have learned the art of manipulating customer mood — whether they need you excited about a sale or relaxed and in the mood to hang around.
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?
Volkswagen campers are by far the most iconic vehicles in the vanlife community. They’re classics, and they always will be. This category includes the old Kombi bus (VW Bus), the 1980-91 Vanagon, and the newer Eurovans. Also known as Westfalias or Westies, many VW vans were converted into campers by the Westfalia Company in Germany (except for Eurovans, which were converted by Winnebago in the US).
Hospitality expert, Chip Conley founded and grew the Joie De Vivre hotels from a single San Francisco location to become California’s largest boutique hotel management company. How? He understood the value of a unique vision when it’s consistently applied. He created each hotel to reflect the spirit of a niche-oriented magazine that he felt represented his target market. Examples include the Phoenix (Rolling Stone), the Rex (The New Yorker), Hotel Avante (Wired), Wild Palms Hotel (Fast Company), Hotel Los Gatos (Town and Country), and the Water's Edge (Yachting). Obviously your inspiration doesn’t need to be a magazine, it can just as easily be a song, a group of words, or just a particular image. Find something that resonates with the customers you have in mind and design your store to reflect that vision.
What we're trying to do in providing these ongoing app cost resources is to frame the conversation for you. As noted earlier in this article, we're not suggesting that any of these different app types can't be lower than the lowest range shown or higher than the highest one. We are, however, trying to give you a sense for what a quality app built by seasoned professionals would look like.
However, since you may not have "aisles" per say in your store, it's still important to think about grouping products in a way that makes sense from a shopper's perspective. Also, remember to keep "higher-demand" products displayed at eye-level while placing lower-grossing products at the bottom or above eye level. Lastly, It's recommended that you change up these speed bumps weekly or regularly enough to create a continued sense of novelty for repeat visitors. 
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.
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.
I grew up in New Jersey and now live in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Good thing, too, because we certainly need that extra property space to store the leader of the Auto­bots.Back in 2013, I founded an Internet company called AmericasFootprints.com, which gives people an opportunity to preserve their most precious memories (in private) for the current and future generations of their family. That’s because I believe everyone has a story and I also believe everyone deserves a chance for their story to live on.
Our practical workshop is coming along nicely. We’ve created a big open space and added plenty of electrical power and lots of light. We’ve also added some great storage capacity using recycled kitchen cabinets and some old shelves. Now, with our tool compartment and work surfaces in place we’re getting very, very close, but I wanted to get a little input on the final details from some other folks who spent a lot of time making sawdust, so I asked my co-host Allen Lyle and our website editor Ben Erickson to look around and give us some of their ideas.
There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.

Leslie recommends that retailers provide some type of seating for both customers and anyone who is accompanying them. Shoppers do get tired and so do their friends and relatives who are along for the ride. Why not offer them a chair? Seating can be as simple as stools near the checkout or a lounge area near the dressing rooms, like this fun setup below:
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!

The right first step online for most stores and restaurants is creating a Google Local Business Listing. Google accounts for 90% of all global organic search traffic and more and more of that traffic is coming from mobile devices. Chances are, your customers are using Google to find you, so you’ll want to make sure your hours, description, contact details, address, and images are all accurate.
One example is testing your products and services for their desirability through ecommerce. It might turn out that your core product line will actually be much smaller than you originally envisioned. Equally, there are now a number of services (such as storefront.com) that will allow you to secure a pop-up lease in some incredible spaces, often for only days at a time. It might just turn out that your dream location isn’t as great as you originally thought.
After years of digging through piles of stuff on my workbench for the air compressor accessory I needed, I had this idea. I simply drilled 7/16- in. holes on the underside of my workbench top and threaded in a few 1/4-in. NPT male couplings with quick-connect couplers. A wrench and some upward pressure are all it took to screw the couplings into the wood. Now I just snap my accessories onto the couplers when I’m not using them. — Donnie Dressler. These are the best tools for automotive work.
Some people lean towards starting a small business because they seek freedom, others to fulfill their passions. Some entrepreneurs, however, are driven by a desire to build a legacy, one that that they can hand down to generations to come. Whatever your reasons are for reaching for the stars and aiming for the moon, before you start, remember, there is a dark side.
We use this fan for extra circulation when it’s hot, and to get the air moving when it’s cold at night and we have all the windows closed. We also keep it on for our dogs while we’re driving. There are cheaper 12V fans out there, but generally the cheaper the fan the more power it draws. The Endless Breeze is a great little fan, and it’s definitely worth getting for the added ventilation.
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.
Spacious pathways are a key aspect of good store planning. In fact, it tops the list of retail experts’ store design tips. Heshy Lovi, Sales and Marketing Director for M Fried Fixtures, recommends aisle widths of four feet or more. This, he says, ensures your aisles and pathways will be comfortable for all customers, including those using strollers or wheelchairs.
From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. With such a technical skillset, make sure you can describe what you do and how you will do it in easy-to-understand language. Test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do.

Now we’re using a lot of recycled materials in this project including some kitchen cabinets that were removed some a kitchen renovation project a few years ago and you know this is something that a lot of homeowners do if you’re real careful about removing the cabinets from a kitchen renovation or a bathroom renovation you can use them in a lot of ways around the house and certainly works good for a workshop like this.
We have LED puck lights in our van. Puck lights are typically recessed into the ceiling, so they have a very clean look that’s really integrated with your van. It’s also easy to create different lighting zones by running your lights off different switches. We have six puck lights in the main living area that are controlled by one switch, and two more over the bed that run off a separate switch.
Without organization, living in a van can feel cluttered and chaotic, so you'll want to make the most of your storage space. This is a good time to make sure you've paired down your belongings to a reasonable amount and to make sure everything has a place. (As a former engineer who loves making things as efficient and optimized as possible, this was Ben's favorite step!) 
The standard option for a shop floor is a concrete slab. You’re probably not going to go to the trouble of creating a basement beneath your shop, although it is possible. The weight of most woodworking machines suggests that a con­crete floor is the most solid and durable substrate available. It has the potential to be used as thermal mass to store heat from your heating system or from the sun, but it can be tiring and hard on your body to be standing on concrete all the time. You can add a vapour barrier, 2x4 sleepers and a wooden floor above the concrete to ease the tendency of the floor to strain your feet and back, or you can add anti-fatigue mats in key areas where you’ll be standing for longer periods.
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.
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.

Perhaps the most satisfying move I made was to automate the dust collection system. I used the iVACPro system to link all machines to the dust collector. When I turn on any machine in the shop, the dust collector fires up and whisks the dust into the bin. The system also has a programmable delay to allow the dust to make it to the bin before the dust collector shuts down. I set my system for a five-second delay. The system works flawlessly for my band saw, planer, and router table at 115 volts, and also my table saw and jointer at 240 volts. 
Most of today’s POS systems have integrated inventory management software that allows you to put hours back in your week, whatever the volume of your stock. A quality point of sale system will allow you to manage pricing changes, track product availability, cross-check inventory, and automate reorders with ease. All of which are crucial in helping you develop a deeper understanding of your business, enabling smoother day-to-day operations and smart purchasing decisions.
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.
I added an accessory mitre gauge to the saw for accurate cut-off work. The Incra Miter1000 showed up under the Christmas tree after the Lee Valley flyer photo with part number mysteri­ously ended up on the fridge door with a circle around it last December. A great addition, the Incra is light, accurate, and provides adjustable stops for cutting multiple parts to precise length. I will also make a plywood cut-off sled for the saw for squaring larger panels.
I have a plastic bed lining on my truck, which also covered the back of the tailgate… I just popped the screws off, took off the plastic liner and drilled holes in the sheet of plywood to match those used by the plastic tailgate cover. Sorry if that doesn’t help you with your setup. But I’m sure you could just drill your own holes in the metal tailgate. Use the plywood cover as a guide for your screw holes…
In each case, we shuffled the bench, jointer, table saw, and band saw across to the top of the stairs, and then tied a rope around each to act as a safety while sliding the machines down the strapping on the stairs. Yeah, the table saw hit the wall, and the promise of a good mud and paint job saved my bacon. The rope worked well, and we were able to get everything down the stairs nice and slowly with­out any major issues.
It's true for large and small shops alike: Sawdust and chips get everywhere when you use power tools. Small home-woodworking shops are often in shared rooms and may be poorly ventilated. And airborne sawdust and particulates linger for a while before settling. It's a bad combination for human lungs, which are not fond of sawdust, let alone the types of chemicals found in plywood and other engineered materials.
It can become very difficult and time-consuming to constantly track the amount and purchase price of all your inventory, but it is hugely important to your bottom line. Every time you catch yourself saying, “Sorry, we don’t have that in right now,” you are leading your business in a very unhealthy direction. Not only does being out of something represent a lost sale opportunity, but in a world where consumers place a huge premium on their time, it could mean that you lose that customer forever while hurting your brand reputation in the process.
You’ll also sometimes want to walk a property with a licensed contractor. This is because some commercial spaces require lease build outs, which are necessary additions or improvements to the space. Build outs can be fully or partially covered by the landlord. It’s important in this scenario that you get an accurate renovation estimate and negotiate a build out into your lease.
Remember the social media networks we asked you to secure in section five, Choosing a Business Name? Well, now is the perfect time to activate those channels. Use social media to build excitement about your grand opening and keep potential customers informed about special promotions and sales. People want to know what makes you special, so tell them why your store or restaurant will be different to what is currently available. From sharing pictures of that new fancy espresso machine or sneak peeks of your store’s interior, you can gain buy-in to your central message and build some anticipation before you even open your doors. Knowing how to to leverage key social channels is imperative to starting a success small business that will stand the test of time.

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:

Without organization, living in a van can feel cluttered and chaotic, so you'll want to make the most of your storage space. This is a good time to make sure you've paired down your belongings to a reasonable amount and to make sure everything has a place. (As a former engineer who loves making things as efficient and optimized as possible, this was Ben's favorite step!) 

These new companies no longer charge crazy upfront fees, moving instead to what’s known as a “SaaS” monthly subscription model, often with a free trial period. Therefore, the risk of trying a new product is greatly reduced, as you are required to pay little or nothing upfront. Even Microsoft announced in 2015 that they would be moving their flagship product, Microsoft Office, to this pricing model.


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.
This legal name is your first step in separating you and your business as two distinct entities. You will use your DBA name on all legal paperwork and government forms, such as applications for employer tax IDs, licenses, and permits. It is significantly harder to go back and have this applied retroactively, so it’s worth getting it right from the start.
There’s a reason why some of the biggest players online have names that are essentially gobbledegook: Zappos, Skype, Zynga. While there’s certainly some psychological naming principles that often come into play, at the most basic level, it’s simply easier to find this space online and then strive to own the brand name in the minds of consumers. How important this will be to your small business will depend on a number of variables, including your intended size, location, and your desire to exploit ecommerce as well as a local brick-and-mortar business.
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.
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 decided to do Optimus for many reasons. One big one was that no one else in the world had done it. There are tons of Bumblebee Camaros and other replica cars, but no other fan of Transformers has replicated the T4 (fourth Transformers movie) and T5 (fifth Transformers movie) Optimus trucks. So if I am to show my son through action what it means not to be afraid to take a chance, I figured Optimus was the best way to try.
In addition to keeping your workshop comfortable with climate control add-ons, don’t forget to keep your body in optimal condition as you work. A water cooler tucked away in the corner of your workshop will provide a big quality of life boost and allow you to keep at your projects without having to run to the kitchen for a glass of water every time you feel thirsty.
Other than that, you can’t have too much light — especially north light! — and you want accommodations for all the electricity you can imagine. Ceiling fans are a must. A good dust collection system is good, too. Don’t forget to plumb in for compressed air. Do NOT use hard PVC water pipe for compressed air — ever. If/when it breaks or ruptures, it explodes into tiny sharp glass-like shards. I know firsthand. I’ll tell you about it some other time. Think balloon popping!
There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.
The refrigeration setup in your van is an area where you really do get what you pay for, whether you’re paying in money or in time. The best options are the most expensive. The cheapest options are a pain and/or don’t work very well. And if you try to save money with a DIY refrigerator setup, you could end up spending a lot of time on installation.

Ultimate Small Shop

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