One of the core skills needed when starting a small business is the ability to build out a diversified product line that is complementary to the headline product(s). It’s hard to imagine a successful business called “Burgers and Scarves,” right? As a good rule of thumb, a well-thought-out product line allows for the customer to upsell themselves. You want them thinking, “I’m having a burger, y’know what I’m going to have some fries too.”
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.
There you have it! Now you have no excuses, you must start planning right away. Please remember this can take a lot of time and a lot of work, so be sure not to stare at your task list in its entirety too often. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed knowing all the things you must get accomplished. Just focus on the goal that is the most important and attack it, task by task. Need help organizing these goals? Check out my Goal Planning Worksheets here:
If you want the ability to cook inside your van but don’t have a whole lot to spend, your best option is the Coleman Classic propane camping stove. For about $60 you get a sturdy and reliable 2-burner stove that runs off of replaceable 1-lb propane canisters. We’ve seen many people using these out on the road, and they do the job very well. Coleman has hardly changed the design of these stoves for decades, so you know they’re doing something right.
This is the one tool in the shop that provides the greatest opportunity to save money, if you are willing to purchase a well made, light duty machine, and take lighter cuts. In the past I have used General 14" planers that can hog off serious cuts all day long. The problem is that these professional units cost over $5000, and they would crush my buddy as we haul them down the stairs (note: don’t be the guy on the bottom). After doing a fair amount of research, I purchased the Dewalt DW735 13" thickness planer. The unit came with a good manual, and was in a good state of tune. It is light enough for me to carry around the shop without excessive grunting, so that made it very simple to install. The planer has a significant internal fan-assisted chip ejection system. The chips are catapulted out of this planer, so have your dust collector running before you run stock through it. I now have to make more cuts at a lighter cut depth, but I saved about $4500, which makes my budget happy. The planer makes clean cuts, and has two speeds. I don’t see a reason for the two speeds for my type of work, but there is a faster feed rate should you choose to use it. Knife changing is simple and quick.
Since your business name is often the first thing potential customers will see or hear, think of it as one of your key tools for leaving a lasting impression. The right name, like a firm handshake, can play a role in your brand’s perception. So make sure it’s strong, catchy, and unique, but most importantly sends the right message about your business.
I have different toolboxes for different jobs around the house. Occasionally I’d grab a tool out of one box and then put it away in another. Eventually all my flat-head screwdrivers would end up in one toolbox. To solve the problem, I now mark the handles of the tools and the corresponding toolbox with a band of colored electrical tape. Now all the tools are in the box where they belong. — Kim Litkenhaus Marino
In general, a table saw requires at least eight feet in front and behind to accommodate standard sheet goods and four feet side to side. A work table should provide four feet clearance on all sides, and pathways between tables, benches and storage units should be three feet wide. Proper clearance will allow you to move about with ease while you work.
Now if don’t have space for a dedicated workbench say in your garage you can build one that folds out of the way when it’s not in use. Simply mount a board to the wall to hinge the table on, then you can use some eye hooks and chain to support it. Now it won’t support a ton of week but it should be just right for a weekend project every now and then.
I didn’t want to get a truck with a million miles on it. I am not a trucker by trade; I got my CDL specifically for this project. I didn’t want to get into a truck and then have to worry about its structure, engine, and transmission—and then start building Optimus on top of it. That’s why I got a brand-new truck custom-built from Western Star to become Optimus Prime.
Now, this is kind of an odd situation here, a few years ago when we bought this building there was a concrete block wall around here and a large drain right in the middle of the floor. Well the drain will certainly come in handy for any cleanup in the shop but the walls kind of left us when we removed those kind of left us a little divot and a little bit of damage here, so to make this nice and smooth so that our rolling workbenches will roll around real nicely we’re having to do a good bit of floor patch.
If you want to operate your business under anything other than your own personal name, you’ll need to register your chosen ‘fictitious’ name with the appropriate county or state authority, otherwise known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. The correct filing authority varies state-to-state. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a helpful tool to help you find the relevant authority for your state.
In the summer months, your windows will be one of the primary ways that heat gets into your van. Because of its reflectivity, Reflectix works great as a window covering to reflect radiant heat away from your windows. And, if you’re concerned about height in your van, layering Reflectix under your subfloor is a good way to add a little insulation (R-1.1) without sacrificing headroom.
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.
Ok, the leap from $1,000 to $2,500 is a big one. I certainly didn't make it at one time. It took me years. But I know folks that decided they wanted to get into woodworking and dropped at least $2,500 getting themselves outfitted. When you do make the jump, the thought process becomes much less about making sure you can get the job done and becomes more about having quality tools to get the job done.
The level of sophistication in a $250 shop is significantly less than a $2,500 shop. But keep in mind even a $2,500 budget is entry level. Acquiring a shop full of the perfect tools for each and every job takes a life time. But that doesn't mean that producing quality work takes a lifetime. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this hobby is the constant need to solve problems in order to produce good work.
The final size I decided on was 1800 sq. ft. Yeah, that’s big! I actually balked and second guessed myself after we received the estimate from the contractor. Sure, more space is nice, but at what cost? I then asked for a second estimate, bringing the shop down to 1500 sq feet, which is still huge. As you might expect, the savings just weren’t that substantial. By the time you get over 1000 sq. ft., the price per sq. ft. is really low, making it very difficult to justify down-sizing. So I bit the bullet and stayed with my original choice of 1800 sq. ft.
First, decide what your budget is and start searching right away! Even if you're not able to purchase a van right now, knowing the market and how quickly things sell is helpful. Get an idea of makes and models you like, and you'll also start to understand what is a good price for a van in your area. Each country, region and city is a bit different.
With a pencil and a protractor, divide the larger disc into 30-degree wedges to create 12 center lines for the bottle indents. Center and trace the smaller disc on top of the larger disc. Next, with a drill press, drill 3/8-in.-deep holes on the 12 center lines with the 1-7/8-in. Forstner bit, spacing them between the disc’s outer edge and the traced circle. Next, divide the smaller disc into 60-degree wedges and drill six more 3/8-in.-deep holes with the Forstner bit.
2. Just the basics—I’ve used a compound miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw, band saw, router, table saw, drill, finishing sander, belt sander, Dremel, oscillating multi-tool, bar clamps, and a Shop-Vac. I haven’t used a planer, jointer, or lathe. I’ve never owned a table saw but have used a circular saw or improvised with a router for a few long cuts.
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.
So what’s the downside? Well, for starters, RV conversions aren’t exactly known for quality. Most manufacturers use cheap (i.e. shitty) materials, and just don’t build their vehicles to withstand the stresses of full time living. You’re also locked into a pre-designed layout, so it will be a lot more difficult to customize how everything functions.
While a single great product can’t usually support a whole business, it is beneficial to select one or two “headline” products that will form the cornerstone of your offering. This will often be an obvious choice: If you’re a coffee shop, your headline product will be coffee. If you’re a burger joint, you guessed it, it’ll be burgers. This product will often be the centerpiece of your marketing efforts and a way for you to “own” a space in a customer’s mind. For example, Jack’s Burgers makes the best cheeseburger in town and Daisy’s Threads has the most adorable scarves.
As a carpenter, I need to bring certain items with me every day. I bought a cheap plastic tote in the tool storage area at a home center and modified it for my needs. I made a small plywood deck, drilled a couple of 3-in. holes for coffee cups or glue bottles and then fastened it to the tote. Another piece of plywood has holes to keep pencils upright and organized. My tote sits nicely on my bench seat, but it could also be attached to the floor with hook-and-loop fasteners. You could easily customize these totes for plumbing, garden or painting tools, electrical supplies—what have you. — Don Simms. Check out this jumbo tote for fasteners.
Meaghan Brophy is a retail writer for Fit Small Business. She has provided content and guidance for indie retailers for years as the editor for Independent Retailer magazine, a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, and speaker at trade shows such as the Independent Retailer Conference and NY NOW. She has been quoted as a retail expert in Forbes, Retail Dive, Retail Minded, ASD Insider, and more. When not talking retail, Meaghan can be found watching dog videos and practicing her tap dancing skills.
Location, location, location is quoted so often for a reason. When starting a small business, the wrong choice could hurt your business before you’ve even had the chance to open the doors. Take the time to really understand your customers and do everything you can to gather real world insights that will help you determine the viability of your potential new space.
Congratulations on building such an awesome shop. Ultimate man cave! Glad you have a cooperating HOA. I’m currently inviolation of my CC&Rs since I occupy 1/2 of a two car garage and the rules say you can’t use the garage for anything other than your car. So far no violation letters. One thing your missing…a fridge. Looking forward to many more guild builds.
In our opinion, the best kind of fridge you can get for a DIY campervan is a portable 12V fridge/freezer. These fridges are built for adventuring on 4x4 vehicles and boats. They’re very rugged, and they don’t need to be kept perfectly level like mini-fridges. They can run off 12V power or regular 110V. They keep your food as cold as you want, and they can operate as either a fridge or a freezer.
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!
Well, I hate pegboard, pegboard’s in every shop, people use the heck out of it. And what I wanted to do was start moving the tools in, get a few of them in and then maybe just build some little racks for the screwdrivers and a few of the things like that. But things that are like categories – like a drill, drill bits – just let the drill bits be right here. Certain things maybe that you don’t use all the time, hole saws or maybe brass for something like that, can go down in other drawers.
Hey, you ever wonder what it look like behind the scenes at a home improvement show? Well here’s a little glimpse of it. This is a storage building I’ve had for awhile and we use this for storage and materials and props we use on the show and it’s also used by my construction company. Well this part of the building has kind of turned into a little bit of a dumping zone, where people just dump things that they’re not sure exactly where they go in the rest of the building.
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.