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.

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If you’re moving into a space that requires renovations in order to fit your business needs, you’ll also want the landlord to take on responsibility for that work. We’re not talking aesthetics here, we mean necessary renovations such as improved data connectivity. If you have to do the work yourself, it’s advisable to ask the landlord for a rent-free or reduced-rent period. You should also make sure that any additional alterations you have in mind are acceptable and would not be in breach of the lease. Last but not least, always make sure the do’s and don’t of what can and cannot be done is put in writing, it will save you a lot of headaches later.
You’ll also want to evaluate your obligation to your employees’ health care provisions following the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates the responsibility for the cost of insuring full-time employees to businesses with 50 or more full-time, or full-time equivalent employees. It also provides generous tax credits to smaller businesses with 25 or less full-time equivalent employees. Need a little more help understanding how U.S. health insurance reform affects your business? Register for one of the SBA’s upcoming Affordable Care Act webinars. They also offer recordings of previous webinars in both English and Spanish for those who can’t make it to one of their live sessions.

Once you know your top priorities, you can start thinking about the space each element can take up and where it should go. It is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together when you're working with a small space, so don't get frustrated if it doesn't work out right away. And know that you'll likely have to make some sacrifices. Play with a few options, and choose the one that works best for your situation.


You can typically find paneling in pine and cedar. Pine is cheapest, looks fine, and will do the job. Cedar is more expensive, but it looks and smells awesome - and it’s resistant to mold and mildew. Paneling comes in different thicknesses, but we recommend using ¼” (5/16”). Thinner paneling weighs less, costs less, takes away less interior space, and will bend with your van’s contours.
Tim Inman: You don’t say where you will be located, but if you are anywhere that gets cold I definitely have a suggestion. I’ve built three shop buildings over my years. In each one, I’ve put down 2-inch closed cell foam board underneath six inches of concrete for the floor. I would never build a shop — or anything else, for that matter — without this. The foam lets the concrete become a huge heat sink and warming stone. My feet are never ever cold when I work on this combination. The shop stays reasonably warm without spikes in the heat and cooling. The tools are more rust-free, and I like it.
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.
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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.
One of the things that draws me to the online woodworking community is amount of passion people show are willing to share. Your shop build is a fine example of your willingness to let us in on your passion. You could have said “I’ll be back in a few months when its done” and most of us would have waited but instead you turned it in to a summer of updates and dream shop discussion. Thanks!
Plan to invest in a set of bench chisels, both standard and low-angle block planes, a No. 4 or 4-1⁄2 smoothing plane, and a No. 6 jack or No. 7 jointer. Between them, these planes will true edges, flatten glue-ups that are wider than your thickness planer, and tame tricky grain that would tear out with a mechanized planer. They also do fine trimming better than any other tools.

The thing I wanted to mention was that I moved from Seattle to Loveland, Colorado north of Denver in July ’05. I brought my ’01 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 8.5′ Northland Grizzly slide-in camper. It was myself and my 9 year old Black Lab mix Lucy. One thing I had not anticipated was the temperatures here in Colorado. It was 105-106 degrees for the first week I was here. My job was in Boulder, which is known for its “bunny-higher” types. I couldn’t leave Lucy in the camper at the RV park because I didn’t have air conditioning in the camper. I took her to work with me and tied her long rope to the trailer hitch on the truck so she could crawl under it and get into the shade. I also put out plenty of cold water for her that I replenished often. By the afternoon of my first day at my new job I heard rumors that people were going to call Animal Control on me for having my dog outside in temperatures that hot, even though she had both shade and water. I ended up having to leave early my first day so I could go purchase a $600 air conditioner and install it in the camper so I could leave Lucy there during the day and I didn’t have to worry about her comfort.
There are certain sayings that hold true and when buying clamps and measuring equipment parting with cash for quality make sense. But which clamps? G, F, sash, spring or strap? There are so many clamps and measuring tools available. Let the project decide which ones you need. As a reassurance, our Axminster Trade Clamps come with a lifetime guarantee, so this is one investment that literally lasts that long.
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. 
Dressing rooms are a must in most apparel stores, but they do take up valuable floor space. Make the most of dressing room areas by using adjoining walls for promotional items and accessories like belts and scarves. If you provide dressing areas, be sure at least one door and changing space meets the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility guidelines, too.
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.)

Another example of data-driven decision making is scouting the local competition and taking notes on how much traffic they are getting regularly, the kind of products that they’re selling, their pricing, and even how they market their business. This kind of information will help you determine the pros and cons of choosing a location in that area as well as potential strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that can improve your business plan. Trust us, doing all of this before starting your small business will save you major headaches in the long run.


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. 
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.  

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.


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.

We've written about routers on the site before and my favorite is the Bosch 1617​.  It is light enough that you can control it when using it handheld, yet powerful enough that it won't have any problems when you mount it under a table.  On top of that, it comes with a plunge base which makes it significantly easier to use handheld.  The package clocks in at ~$190.
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This style of saw will provide more power than a contractor-type saw and have the high-quality rip fence you need to do good work. However, because they are favored by professionals and serious amateurs, cabinet saws are harder to find on the used market. Scour the classifieds and online sales (be sure to check industrial auction sites as well), and do some networking. Check the bulletin board at your hardwood supplier and ask the proprietors if they know of anyone selling a saw. Also call local cabinet shops. They sometimes have a surplus tool sitting idle that they’d be willing to sell. Take your time in this step. A careful investment will pay dividends in the long run, but a well-intentioned compromise can cause long-term frustration.
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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