Often times those same freedom-seeking, passion-driven individuals that started their journey filled with courage and optimism, become some of the most time-pressed and financially-stressed people out there. The flip side of getting to create your own wealth is that you are solely responsible for creating your own wealth. That’s right, it all comes down to Y-O-U.
Ultimate Small Shop goes beyond the ambit of Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s to help woodworkers start their workshop for less than $1,000. Woodworkers will find answers to questions related to the budget, planning, required tools, critical setup factors and more. The guide has been put together by Ralph Chapman, a coach with more than twenty five years of experience in woodworking. Chapman is the small shop expert and what he recommends is not speculation or best case scenarios. He has done it himself. He is now sharing his experience along with expert recommendations so you can begin your woodworking journey right at your home.

There seems to be two things I like looking at and they are work benches & work shops. I too use my work shop for several other activities. I currently have a basement shop with a walk out entry, which is roughly 340 square feet and shaped like a flat s and has less than 8' ceiling height. In that shop I have an old Unisaw w/50"fence, 8" jointer, 15" planer, 10" sliding compound saw, 14" bandsaw and various & assorted power & hand tools. Also in the same space I have a small closet, dog grooming tub, & a space where a bathroom was roughed out. It is far from finished space and I have plans to put up a ship lapped paneled walls and fix up the closet for tool storage. I also plan on putting a cyclone in the bathroom space along with a tolet. I can work in the space as it is pretty well but the studded walls, insulation, & dust make the space somewhat uninviting.
If you want to hit the road as soon as possible, then a Class B/C RV camper is a great option to consider. These vehicles are typically move-in ready, and barring any mechanical issues shouldn’t need much customizing before hitting the road. Class B campers (aka “campervans”) are built inside a van body, while Class C campers have a custom body built on a van cab/chassis.
If you want that homey cabin feel inside your van, then lining the walls and/or ceiling with tongue-and-groove paneling is a good choice. Paneling looks awesome - the cedar paneling on our ceiling is one of the defining features of our van. And we cut ours to random lengths and stained it several colors to really give it that mismatched, rustic look.

Once you’ve considered the questions in the previous paragraph, start thinking about how your products/services stack up against the local competition. Because unless you are offering something ground-breaking and innovative, chances are that your potential customers are currently having their needs met by another business. That means it’s going to be your job to convince them that Blue Sheep Bakery is a better option than Bob’s Bake Shop. If your first thought was to compete on price, sorry to break it to you but, that’s not going to cut it. There is more to starting a successful small business than matching the price to the guy down the street.

The time of the travel agent might be passing, but people are still looking for those with a knack for more nontraditional travel coordination. If you always plan the perfect vacations complete with beautiful hotels, the ideal location, and a bevy of delicious restaurants lined up for every evening, consider advertising your services as a more modern approach to travel planning.


I spent so much time building organizers and filling in just about every square inch on the inside of my shop that I feel it will be better to show some of those in separate Instructables.  I made a couple of video tours to try to highlight some of the different aspects of my workshop.  I hope you enjoy them and I will work on making my future videos more stable.
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 that you have your goals mapped out and you know the exact tasks that will help you accomplish them, I want you to pick a day of the week (preferably Monday or Friday) and start planning the week ahead - don’t skip this step, never skip this step. Schedule which one these tasks will happen on what day of the week. So you are literally pulling the tasks from that spreadsheet and placing them into this weekly planner. It’s important to keep in mind deadlines (the ones you set for your goals and when they should be accomplished) and the amount of time it takes you to do a task. You may also want to write down which day it’s due, and who is responsible for this task (if you work with a team).
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!
Small business owners can maintain steady, manageable growth by keeping a firm eye on costs and always aggressively looking for ways to increase sales and grow their brand. It can be difficult to empower staff and managers around you, especially if you’ve spent a long time steering the ship alone, but it is an essential part of successful expansion. Stay open to suggestions from your managers while making your current business best practices clear to them.
We first obtained legal permission from Hasbro [which originally developed the Transformer toy line back in the 1980s] to build it late in 2015. I also had to obtain my commercial driver’s license (CDL), so I spent a few months learning how to drive a truck while simultaneously spending the winter of 2015-16 working with Western Star to piece together on paper a vehicle that mirrored the Optimus Prime truck. Once the factory delivered the truck in April 2016, we got to work on the customization and fabrication right away. It was roadworthy again by October 2016. So the entire process from start to finish was about a year.

“Every time I’m choosing a new a location, I head down there with a big flask of coffee and a clicker to count all the people that walk past. Then I walk to the nearest public transportation at rush hour and look at how people are heading home. I turned down one location because while it was right next to the subway, I noticed all the commuters were coming out of the other subway entrance. It turns out all the residences in that area were on the other side of the street.” —ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
A not for compensation nonexclusive arrangement, on the other hand, gives a tenant maximum flexibility. It’s nonbinding and there are no commissions negotiated. Instead, it gives the broker the right to speak on your behalf and schedule listings for you to see. However, while it provides flexibility, this arrangement gives the tenant broker less of a fiduciary duty.
Expert Tip: Banks are often reluctant to provide long-term small business funding. They prefer short-term loans that are associated with physical assets, which can then serve as collateral. So instead of just asking for a generic loan, maybe consider raising capital for specific equipment that will kickstart your new business, like an espresso machine or delivery vehicle.
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.
If you’re looking to setup a shop equipped mainly with stationary power tools, I’d focus the bulk of your budget on the primary big tools. It’s easier to come up with $10 for a couple of clamps as an impulse purchase, than it is $1000 for a good table saw (TS). Most shops feature the TS, and that’s where I’d focus the bulk of my research and budget, unless you’ll primarily be using a band saw (BS). The biggies for me would be a good full size stationary table saw, planer, jointer, router and router table, and maybe a modest DC (like the HF unit for $150). With those main tools, you can build just alot using dimensional lumber or sheetgoods. A BS and DP are nice, but can be added down the road…in the meantime, a modest jigsaw and handheld power drill worked fine for early on. You’ll want a reasonable work surface, whether it’s a nice bench, or an old door. I’d add a good tape measure, squares, a chisel or two, sandpaper, and some basic clamps, then would add more clamps, block plane, and other extras as you go. (Ask family members for gift cards to Rockler, Woodcraft, Amazon, Lowes, HD, etc….). $3k is doable if you’re selective….the used market can be your friend if the right deals come along.

“Beware suppliers bearing gifts. That ‘free’ refrigerator from the drinks supplier is never really free. You can quickly find yourself tied into sub-optimal deals because of a reliance on this hardware. If you have access to the capital, do yourself a favor: Buy your own fridge and negotiate from a position of strength.” — ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner


Hand tools offer the finesse and precision you just can’t get with anything else. There’s a sense of satisfaction you get from working the wood rather than machining it. After all isn’t that why you got into woodworking? Again there are a vast array of tools but narrow it down to a core range and you’ll have the confidence to complete a number of jobs.

Thankfully, the tools we use continue to get better and more app specific. For example, Sketch lets us design more efficiently with its focus on creating user interfaces. Marvel helps us craft better prototypes with it being specifically for apps. Swift has been a revelation for the Apple ecosystem and has expanded developer interest considerably. Android Studio and now Kotlin are doing the same for Android apps. Firebase and yes, even Parse, now as Parse Server, helps developers build app-focused backends to bring apps to the market more quickly.


Food in bear country… When I was in *real* bear country, like in the Sierras, I always kept my food and scented items in the provided bear lockers. Any of the trail heads or camping areas will have bear lockers. Other than that I never really worried about. Just kept it in the cab, yeah. But the Sierras were the only place I went with any considerable bear problems.

You can see in this step how I notched each rafter to fit more securely to the walls.  I also used a metal hurricane strap to secure each rafter to the wall.  Even though this was not required by code, I felt my tools were far to valuable to be left to chance over such an inexpensive solution.  The walls are a simple board and batten system.  The 1x3 trim covers the joints of the 4x8 OSB.  They make much more high quality sheets goods to use as siding.  However, the cheapest I found was $35 a sheet and the OSB was about $5 a sheet.  I sealed the OSB and painted it with exterior paint.  If I run into problems in the future, I can just add a second layer of more durable material or simply have siding installed.  It has held up very well over the past couple years and I see no need to spend more money on it now.

The dream of a dedicated home shop is a common one among woodworkers. Whether you currently borrow shop space, work in your driveway or side yard, or compete for a corner of your basement with Christmas decorations or your fur­nace, you may be ready to build your own space that will allow you the free­dom of more room and time, and will also keep dust, fumes, and noise under control. Every design/build situation will be unique but there are a series of consid­erations that you will face in the design and construction phases of your project. Let’s walk through the process and dis­cuss the questions that you will need to ask yourself and others as you approach this project.
If you have a broker that’s too successful you may be a low priority. If you choose a broker that’s inexperienced but attentive, you may end up paying for their novice mistakes. My advice is to not choose a broker but instead choose a team. Pick a junior/senior combo so that when you’re hunting for space you work more with the junior, and when it comes to negotiating the deal you have the experienced veteran leading the negotiation.”
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.
To experiment with different wood shop layouts, measure your furniture and equipment to sketch onto your plan in different positions. You can also make cutouts of the footprint of your items so you can easily move them around your floor plan to see how best to arrange them. As you do so, don’t forget to leave adequate spacing around tools and tables.
Make sure to utilize the tax-specific resources provided by the SBA and the IRS to fully research your federal and state tax obligations. These include, but are not always limited to: corporate income tax, employer tax and excise taxes. For most small businesses, the right first step is applying for an Employee Identification Number, which you can do using this IRS EIN online application. Depending on your state, you might also need to register for a sales tax license.
When starting a small business, many store owners underestimate the value of a persuasive shop design. What they don’t realize is that people are visual creatures. In fact, 90% of the information transmitted in the human brain is visual. Clear, consistent store design will ensure that you attract your ideal customers into your business by delivering a subconscious uniform message.
Congrats on a very nice shop. Great video to capture the moments. I too have moved around from place to place (in the Army) and I have to make my shop work with what they give me for a house. I’ve done work out of a tool shed and I make it work becuase I just love working with wood. Once I retire and settle in one spot I hope to get something similar to yours. I’ve picked up a lot of ideas watching this build.
Since the summer of 2013, first time visitors to New York City restaurants have been greeted by window signs boasting a large, capitalized A, B or C. These letters reflect the rating given to each restaurant by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). Does the need for government oversight of this industry create an additional administrative and financial burden for the businesses in question? Yes it does. Does the rating system also inform consumers and encourage higher food safety standards across the board? Undoubtedly.
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.

To mark your cut for the bottom angle on the speaker stand legs, lay the board assembly on the plywood template again, and use the plywood edge to scribe the non-angled end of the board assembly. Be sure to consider which wood species (light or dark) you want on the inside and outside of your finished speaker stand legs, and keep that in mind when making your angle cuts.


If you’ve got 220v, and want to get a seriously good TS, the Grizzly G1023RL is about the best bang for the buck in a 3hp industrial style cabinet saw…$1195/$1294 shipped. It’s not a necessity to have that much saw, but it’s close in price to many lesser saws, and is about all you’d ever need. If that’s more than you can stomach, and/or don’t have 220v, you’re limited to a TS that’ll run on a standard residential 110v outlet….again I’d look to a full size stationary saw. The typical contenders are the entry level price ranges are the Ridgid R4512, nearly identical Craftsman 21833, Steel City 35990, Porter Cable PCB270TS….all under $600. The next step up would include the Grizzly G0661, G0715P, Craftsman 22116 (by Steel City/Orion), Jet Proshop, General International, Rikon 10-201, and Powermatic offerings. These saws all have the potential to perform well…the end performance is largely dependent on how well you set them up, and what blade you choose.
We don't have a Dometic CFX-50 in our van, but we wish we had gotten one for our build. This is a great little fridge that many vanlifers happily own. It’s rugged and durable, and it keeps your food cold for less money than many of the other fridges out there. It also has a nifty side-open lid, which makes it a lot easier to open with a lower clearance.
×