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!
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.
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.
The first thing to understand about a business plan and financial projections is that the process of compiling them is often more important than the final product. Sure, the actual sheets of paper, filled with spreadsheets and graphs with pretty arrows pointing up and to the right are great — and can be very important in helping you to secure funding — however, when it comes down to the brass tacks of starting a successful business, it’s the process, not the paper, that counts.
Trying to compete on price is rarely an effective long-term strategy, so it’s important to consider how you will differentiate your offering. Will this be with amazing customer service? Or maybe with superior product quality? Regardless of what you choose, how will you allocate your budget to make it possible? How will you market your small business? How will you get customers through the door?
The number of windows, as well as their sizing and placement, depends on your orientation, view, desire for ventilation, and needs for daylight and solar gain. Orienting more of your windows towards the south side of your shop and placing them high enough that they are shaded by the eaves in summer, but allow lower-angle winter light to come in, will increase your ability to get free light and heat from the sun. If your goal is to take advantage of passive solar opportunities, make sure that you carefully research the type of glass that is in your windows and look for something with a high solar heat gain coefficient. Higher windows generally allow for benches and tools beneath them, and relatively win­dowless north walls may be a place to arrange wood storage or mechanicals.
Apps begin to get more complex—and costly—once user authentication is involved. The main reasons for that are all the other expectations that come with user authentication. Typically, they include interacting with data (e.g., favoriting an article), syncing data across devices, push notifications, and perhaps collaborative features (e.g., inviting a family member).
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.

This is where I started thinking about how I was going to store all of my lumber.  I had planned on building a wall rack, similar to what I had used in my single car garage.  But I hated using up an entire wall for lumber storage.  I also knew from experience that I would easily lay stuff against it and soon be digging lumber and junk out of my way.  I decided to use the space under my workbench to store the long boards and I realized that by pulling my bench out from the wall I could slide sheet goods behind it.  This created a problem:  How do I get it out.  The Shop isn't long enough to pull out 8 foot boards from inside and I would probably have to move things around to get to it anyway.  So my plan for this came at kind of a sudden epiphany moment, when I decided to cut access doors in the front and build my storage into my workbench area.  This has been the single best idea that has come out of my shop.  I can't express enough how easy it is for me to get straight to a board i need with no hassles.  I just remove the doors and pull out what I need.  I can store a surprising amount of lumber in this area.  I do have a secondary area for some cutoff sheet goods and a scrap bin next to my table saw in the garage.  But this area stores most of my lumber.

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.


If customers naturally turn right when they enter, and you guide them to circle all the way around, you'll realize that the front left is probably the ideal location for your checkout counter. However, this decision also depends on the size and layout of the store itself, which means you'll have to use your best judgment on the most natural point to have that check-out counter.
My advice here is to make a detailed list of what the various parts of the build will be (drawings, permits, foun­dation, framing, electrical, etc.) and decide what you would like to do yourself and what you will need to hire others to do. Get quotes on the work that you would like to hire out and estimate the materials you will need to do your por­tion. You may want to factor in your time into the cost as well, especially if you will be passing up other income to work on the project. At some lumberyards, you will be able to give detailed drawings to an estimator on staff who will do a material takeoff list for you of what you’ll need and what it will cost. When all the numbers come in, you can put together a budget and plan for an overrun allowance of around 15 percent. If you keep track of the materials and subcontract costs as you go, you can stay on track and make decisions as you go about the latter stages of the project without regretting it later. If it is challenging to obtain fund­ing for a complete build, you may want to stage the build so that initially the frame goes up and the exterior is finished, and then you finish the interior work as you have time or as funds become available.

So keep this in mind when choosing fixtures and display units: The ultimate purpose of fixtures and display units is to put your products front-and-center. But at the same time, the overall look, styling, and finish is your biggest branding opportunity. Choose cohesive fixtures and display pieces that coordinate with your product collections but don’t overpower them, like the successful looks below:
When we started putting together our water system we decided to look for a stainless steel tank. Even though plastic tank options are FDA-approved for potable water use, we still don’t like the idea of our drinking water being in contact with plastic for extended periods. Sure, they say it’s “safe,” but not long ago water bottles containing BPA were considered to be safe.

Do you want to create the next great retail dynasty? Do you want to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago? Or are you just looking for a simple local lifestyle business? Are you hoping to create a franchise model? Or do you see your local business as a testing ground for an ecommerce business? Your end goal will clearly inform your decisions, so it’s worth considering what it is early on.
The primary investment of any garage workshop are the tools. Protect your investment with a high quality tool chest that is neatly organized and (if needed) lockable. Look for smooth rolling ball-bearing drawers, and if you’re buying used, beware of rust and dirt that could corrode your tools. We recommend installing drawer mats to keep your tools from sliding around. They also give your tools a softer cushion to rest in.
It’s tempting to place new products, hot items, and sale signage front-and-center so they’re the first things customers see upon entering. But don’t do this! The first few feet inside the door, say five feet for a small store, and 15 feet for a larger store, is known as the decompression zone. Store design experts strongly advise against cluttering up this space.

Once I had the walls completely filled in and trimmed out, I built my doors.  I clamped them in place each day until after I painted.  Then I installed the hinges and hardware.  I decided to change my original plan of building a hinged 4 foot door.  I was worried that the weight of it would cause it to sag over time.  I had also decided at this point to install a small unused AC in the back wall.  I thought that by keeping one of the doors closed, I could keep more cold air in during the hot summers.
Great instructional! I built the bed of my 92′ Toyota pickup ext. cab the same way you did. I did some hard searching and found this camp pad, which literally fits the 40″ wide sleeping space perfectly. A few different mats from Exped will fit, but here’s the one I bought. Just thought you might like to know there’s an inflatable duo sleeping pad out there that works for your setup!
Other important power tools—A good jigsaw will help get you through many tasks, particularly cutting curves, that would otherwise require a bandsaw. Look for one with blade guides that keep blade deflection to a minimum. A handheld drill is also essential. A quality corded drill is much less expensive than a cordless one, and will never leave you without a charge. Also look for a quality random-orbit sander with a provision for dust collection.
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. 
At some point in the process of starting a small business, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will hear the following statistics (or variations thereof): 25% of new small businesses close their doors within the first year and 60% are gone within three years. The exact numbers here may vary, but the message is all the same: be afraid, be very afraid!
DeAnna says that in general, the front left of a retail store is a good location for the checkout counter, like the one above. Shoppers naturally drift to the right when they enter a store and tend to loop around the store, leaving on the left side. So, a checkout at the front left of your store puts it your customers’ natural exit path. Plus, it doesn’t distract them from shopping as they make their way around the store.
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. 
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.
I framed and sheathed each wall individually and then stood them up with the help of long 2x4 braces.  My neighbor let me borrow his framing nailer, which made things go much faster.  I added a second cap of 2x4 on the top to make the walls a little more rigid.  I then laminated 4 2x4's to construct a ridgeboard.  I nailed in some temporary 2x4 supports and had a friend help lift it into final position.  Once all of the rafters are cut and nailed into place, the supports were removed.
The threshold area, also known as the "decompression zone," is the very first space that prospective customers step into when they enter your store. It typically consists of the first five to fifteen feet worth of space, depending on the overall size of your store. It's also the space where your customers make the transition from the outside world and first experience what you have to offer.
GoWesty, a well-known Vanagon restorer and parts maker, recommends not buying a Westy unless you have at least $25,000 to spend overhauling it and replacing aging components. Even if you find a cheap Westy hiding out in a garage somewhere, be prepared for frequent breakdowns and expensive mechanical headaches unless you spend the cash to fully rebuild it.
I am a firm believer in having your business goals align with your personal goals. In order to do that, you need to know what your personal goals are. This may be different for everyone, but I want you to be 100% honest here. I am writing this as an update in 2018 to this original blog post and I want to be honest and share with you my personal goals for 2018:
Different approach in that they hung one end of the sleeping platform with hooks and U bolts. One of the best write ups with full details about rigging up an electrical system with second batteries and an isolator, as well as using power inverters. They were then able to incorporate cool things like a mini fridge, lights, and mini PC fans for air circulation.
Hi Ryan: Nice job on the truck. I also have ’94 Toya 4×4 coffin sleep setup. Looking to change (access cab wanted) and may use some of your ideas. One thing I didn’t see you mention is ventilation. I am from the Mid-Atlantic region(DC/Maryland, you’re old stomping grounds) and ventilation at the New is important. My side windows have screens and I use an old mesh fly with a flexible pole for the rear tailgate area. It works really well. Kinda jerry rigged but is easy to put up and take down as well as pass through for nighttime truck exits. Not needed out west as much since bugs and humidity are lower but can’t live w/out it in these parts.

The router—The router is the master when it comes to flexibility. Its potential far exceeds trimming and decorative edge treatments. A router will cut mortises, rabbets, and dadoes, and adding a router table builds in even more versatility, including biscuit joinery and raised-panel doors. But where the router distinguishes itself from all other tools is in its ability to produce identical parts using a pattern.
We did a lot of research and landed on the Bestek 300W Power Inverter. We usually had our devices plugged in while we were driving so they'd be charged by the time we parked for the night. And if we were ever really in a pinch, we would plug it in for 10 minutes with the car off, then another 10 minutes with the car running until it was sufficiently charged.
When registering your business name you should also consider whether or not you have plans to expand your local business nationally or online in the future. Registering your business with the state does not offer brand protection beyond the state it is registered in. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop is registered in New York, no other business will be able to use that name in that state. However, someone in Idaho can still register their business as Bob’s Bike Shop. If you have aspirations that look beyond Main Street, USA and would like the option to expand nationally or on the web, you should consider trademarking your business. When you trademark your business name, it makes it a lot easier to recover property that infringes upon your brand. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop in Ohio purchased the domain www.BobsBikeShop.com but Bob’s Bike Shop in New York trademarked that name, legally Bob’s Bike Shop in New York has the right to file a domain name dispute to get the domain name back from it’s current owner.
Shops can range from functional spaces adorned with unpainted wallboard to beautifully finished, painted, and trimmed-out spaces. Ultimately, I think it depends on your budget and how important your surroundings are to your mindset as you’re working, or to your clients’ if they will be viewing your shop. If finishing your shop will improve the quality of the work that you will produce, thereby relaxing or inspiring you, or showcase for your clients the quality of the work of which you are capable, it may be a worthwhile invest­ment. A more finished space may also allow for activities like parties or even a weekly poker game (as long as drinks stay off the tools).
Other important power tools—A good jigsaw will help get you through many tasks, particularly cutting curves, that would otherwise require a bandsaw. Look for one with blade guides that keep blade deflection to a minimum. A handheld drill is also essential. A quality corded drill is much less expensive than a cordless one, and will never leave you without a charge. Also look for a quality random-orbit sander with a provision for dust collection.
Marc, I enjoyed the video. Thank you for sharing your dream shop with us. I would be interested in seeing a demo video on your Clear Vue cyclone dust collection system. Which one did you obtain & what type of duct work did you use (seamless?) Do you plan on enclosing the unit in a closet to reduce noise and keep dust confined? Do you have to purchase special expensive plastic dust bags for the drum? Is it hard to pull the bag out of the drum for trash collection? If you could address these questions in a demo video I would appreciate it. Oh, perhaps you already have one …. I will check out your video archives. Thanks again and keep up the great work!
When Julie Owen bought Cocobolo Interiors in 2008, she set about adding more contemporary items to the Armonk, N.Y., shop. But with only 3,000 square feet, she struggled to figure out where to put her expanding line of furniture, lighting fixtures and accessories. Her solution: create sections within the shop and arrange the furniture the way customers might imagine it at home, using low bookcases and folding screens as dividers.

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.
Do you create, collect, or curate anything special? Consider starting an ecommerce store and turning your hobby into a full-time job. Whether you need somewhere to sell all that pottery you’ve been making, or an excuse to search for the sports memorabilia you love tracking down -- an ecommerce store can make it financially viable for you to pursue your passion.

Many retail fixture and display companies provide store planning and design services to their customers. Though typically not free, these in-house design services can be far less expensive than hiring an independent designer. Plus, they can help streamline the process of store layout and planning, along with the purchasing and installation of displays and fixtures.
My advice here is to make a detailed list of what the various parts of the build will be (drawings, permits, foun­dation, framing, electrical, etc.) and decide what you would like to do yourself and what you will need to hire others to do. Get quotes on the work that you would like to hire out and estimate the materials you will need to do your por­tion. You may want to factor in your time into the cost as well, especially if you will be passing up other income to work on the project. At some lumberyards, you will be able to give detailed drawings to an estimator on staff who will do a material takeoff list for you of what you’ll need and what it will cost. When all the numbers come in, you can put together a budget and plan for an overrun allowance of around 15 percent. If you keep track of the materials and subcontract costs as you go, you can stay on track and make decisions as you go about the latter stages of the project without regretting it later. If it is challenging to obtain fund­ing for a complete build, you may want to stage the build so that initially the frame goes up and the exterior is finished, and then you finish the interior work as you have time or as funds become available.
The tablesaw—This tool is the backbone of nearly every shop, and for good reason. It allows unmatched precision in ripping parallel edges and crosscutting at a variety of angles. Most woodworkers find it crucial for the basic milling of stock. It is also suited to many joinery tasks, easily producing tenons, box joints, and—with a reground blade—the tails for dovetail joints.
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.
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