For small business owners, these tools present an incredible opportunity to set smarter business goals and easily identify some of the key factors of success and growth in their business. However, when you couple the breadth of technology options with decisions about basic store and restaurant equipment, such as espresso machines or air conditioning units, it can become a little overwhelming to figure out what is actually worth the investment.
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.

My husband is always hounding me about wearing eye protection whenever I use power tools. (Admittedly, I could be more diligent about it.) So, he recently glued some small magnets to several pairs of safety glasses and stuck them on all the power tools in our garage that have metal housings. Now it’s fast and easy for me to grab the glasses when I need them, and I’m reminded that my husband loves me. — Lisa Yanda. Here’s the other must have safety gear every DIYer should own.
The frost generated by Canadian winters wreak havoc on structures through their foundations. According to code con­ventional foundations and footings must rest below the reach of frost on undisturbed soil (in most provinces, this is safely considered to be 4 ft. below ground level or grade), bear directly on bedrock, or be frost-protected. A shallow founda­tion may be possible in your area in an outbuilding if you can get an engineer to design and stamp plans for insulating the area directly beside your shallow foundation wall so that frost will not form beneath the footing area and cause damage. A slab-on-grade foundation for an outbuilding is another option that will need to be designed by an engineer so that the con­crete slab will structurally bear the weight of the shop structure you build above it.
I don’t own a dog, but I have taken my buddy’s two dogs out with us to the trailhead at least. Not sure that I have great recommendations for how you would go about living in the truck with your dog. All we really did was lower the large wooden deck to the bottom position, throw down some soft doggy beds and pillows, then cover it all with a giant blanket which also covered like the side bins to keep dog hair from getting all over. It was nice and cozy for the dogs while driving down the road. Then we just put packs and other gear on/in the side bins. We used some big metal clamps to secure the blanket to the side bins and keep it from falling down or sliding around. I would think avoiding any carpeting would be a good bet, just go with blankets and things than can be taken out, cleaned, and you can sweep out the back.
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.
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.

I used to coat my metal table saw and planer bed with auto wax because it makes the wood slide nicely across the metal. But then I saw an expert cabinetmaker use wax paper, and now I do the same. I keep a roll in my shop drawer and rub a sheet of it over the metal beds on my table saw, router, planer and disc sander. The wax coating doesn’t last as long as a good paste wax, but boy, is it a lot easier and quicker. — R.J. Hayes. Plus: 22 clever new uses for your tools.
These basics are going to set you back about $180, leaving you with $320 left to work with.  We are going to be leaving behind two hand powered tools from the $250 shop and upgrading to powered alternatives.  This should lead to more consistent results, more enjoyable builds, and increased efficiency.  These are all goods things that only the biggest fans of The Woodwright's Shop would argue with.

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.
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.

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.
I do not rip on the table saw as a rule, to prevent kick back that periodically occurs when natural wood pinches the blade, turning the wood into a missile. I bought a fairly powerful saw, so this is one place where a lighter saw would be adequate. Essentially, I use the table saw for ripping sheet goods, cutting dados, tenons, and cutting small parts to length – all of which can be done with a 1.5 HP saw. I ended up with a King 3 HP, three-belt drive, 10" table saw. The castings are true, and the King Tru-rip fence reminds me of the Biesmeyer fence used on the Canadian General saws. The model is KC-11FX, and it can be purchased for less than half of the price of other, simi­lar saws. On this purchase, I went with the suggestion of Jeff at Brettwood Machinery – he was right; a very good value saw that runs smooth, and has a decent fence.
Remember, your retail store layout guides product placement, directs customer flow, and defines the overall look and feel of your store, so it deserves plenty of thought. Many factors will affect your floor plan choice, including the size and shape of your sales floor, the types of products you sell, and even the customers you hope to attract. Keep these factors in mind as we explore each floor plan option in detail.
Once you’ve considered your commercial property options and their associated leases, it’s time to choose one or more commercial spaces and negotiate the leases. When formally entering into a commercial lease negotiation process, you’ll want to start by requesting the terms in writing. This request can come from you or your broker and is supplied by the landlord’s broker.
Aside from mechanical repairs, a mechanic’s toolset will help you loosen and tighten bolts - which you’ll need to do during the gutting process, installing your electrical system, and at many other points during your van build. This Crescent 170-piece tool set has all the essentials, including 6-point and 12-point sockets in ¼”, ⅜” and ½” - not to mention pliers, crescent wrenches and screwdrivers.
Now, photographs or video tape will also be very useful especially to pass along to your insurance adjustor. Now the problem is this documentation won’t help you at all if it’s lost or destroyed so consider saving your information electronically. Take your photos with a digital camera and create a list of all your valuables, and save both in a computer file. This file can be saved to a disk you can keep at work or upload it to a website that you can access it from anywhere including your home.
From a legal perspective, this lack of uniqueness doesn’t need to be a major concern. According to the rules governing business incorporation in most states, if you find yourself opening with the exact same name as another business, you can keep it as long as “your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.”

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.
The big advantage to buying a pre-built camper is that it’s already built out, so you won’t have to wait to hit the road. Many feature innovative ways to convert the living space into a sleeping area, and may even include a bathroom/shower. These vehicles should also have electrical, plumbing, propane, and water systems already installed (although if you want solar power, you’ll likely need to add this yourself).

If you want the ultimate vehicle to customize for your DIY van conversion, the Sprinter is the van for you. They have enough headroom even for tall people to stand up, and enough interior space to design any kind of layout. They also typically have diesel engines, which means greater fuel efficiency and engine life (many diesel Sprinters have been known to make it past 400,000 miles). If you think you’ll be doing a lot of off-roading, the Mercedes Sprinter also comes in a 4x4 version.


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:
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.
My wife and I have just bought a block and will be building a new house – as part of this will be the building of the “shed” – which is really a workshop as I am a very keen Woodworker (I have most of the toys!!). My question is – Leaving money aside “Is a brick or metal shed better – especially in regards to moisture, inside temperature (heating and cooling), noise etc”? Any other suggestions would also be appreciated – eg lining the structure, power needs, lighting, etc. I appreciate your expert opinion. – Ivan Banks
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, your size should make you lean. Every single aspect of your store or restaurant can be tweaked and optimized to ensure more and more customers are coming through the door. As you experiment with strategies on Facebook or Twitter, introduce a new email marketing techniques, or simply erect new signage outside of your store, you have the chance to measure your success and react quickly to failure. 

A large table saw just isn't a feasible fit in most small shops. But you should be able to get away with at least a portable table saw. Never mind veteran woodworkers who might look down on these compact tools–they're well-suited for many of the smaller ripping and crosscutting operations you'll need to perform. Some of the more compact table saws, such as this 10-inch Skilsaw, are small enough to be stored in a closet or under a table.
Finally, at the beginning you'll do just fine with a basic set of router bits that run ~$40.  A starter set will typically include straight bits for edge matching material, a selection of edge finishing bits, and some joinery bits.  As you work on a few projects you may find that more specialized bits are needed.   But specialized bits are expensive - so purchasing them as you have a specific need makes more sense than buying in anticipation of a need.
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.
Best-selling products should be placed in Primary Zones located toward the rear of the store, ensuring that shoppers will pass by Secondary Zones featuring other merchandise, increasing their exposure and sales potential (it’s why milk is always in the back of the grocery store!). You can also feature several ‘best sellers’ in window displays for exposure.”
Debt financing involves borrowing capital that must then be paid back over a set period of time, most commonly with interest. Typically the core benefit of this arrangement is that you, the business owner, maintains complete control over your business. Your only ongoing obligation is to repay the loan with interest. The downside? Fail to keep up those repayments and the loan — often secured against your assets, savings or property — can put you in very dangerous financial waters.
Amenities and Services – You’ll want to understand the full range of amenities offered by a commercial space. These amenities and services may include such things as communal rooms, free Wi-Fi, loading bays and docks, dining options, outdoor space, sewage and utilities, on-site security, and more. The zoning of your business will often dictate the type of amenities and services you require.
I looked around at many versions of Taiwanese drill presses. I ended up purchasing the Ridgid DP15501 15" drill press because I liked the way the quill stop was made, the work light, key stor­age, and the easy access to the belt change system. This machine was also on sale when I needed it, so that made it a slam dunk. Choose the one that suits you, as they’re all very similar. The table is large enough, and the distance to the column is large enough to allow you to do most anything a small shop needs. 
Chances are if you’re starting a new small business, you’re not afraid of a little risk. However, it’s also highly likely that you have invested a large amount of money in this new endeavor. It is only prudent to take sensible steps to minimize the impact of unexpected events, like the untimely death of a business partner, a lawsuit from a customer or employee, or a freak accident of nature.
I live in Northern Va and have the same concerns. I save those little silica gel packets every time they come in a new product and put them in my tool drawers. I also salvaged a dehumidifier from a neighbor that I need to repair and set up in there. I use the wall mounted AC in the summer to keep it cool enough to work in there. Although I haven't gone back yet to insulate the ceiling, it stays really cool in there if i want it to be.

Large or small, most retail stores use one of three basic types of retail store layouts. Which type you use depends on the kind of store you have and the products you sell. For example, grocery stores usually use grid layouts because they are predictable and efficient to navigate. Boutiques typically use more creative layouts that allow businesses to highlight different products.
A track saw, such as those by Festool and DeWalt, makes things even easier and offers greater accuracy, but these saws are also quite a bit costlier. With a circular saw, you have to keep the shoe pressed against a guide while pushing the saw forward. Track saws, on the other hand, pop onto their tracks and need only to be pushed forward. Track saws often feature splinter guards to help reduce tearout as well for smoother and straighter edges.

Evan Tarver is a staff writer at Fit Small Business, specializing in Small Business Finance. He is also a fiction author and screenwriter. His past experience includes investment banking, managerial finance, and technology. When he isn't busy scheming his next business idea, you'll find Evan holed up in a coffee shop in his hometown of San Francisco working on the next great American fiction story.
Of all the LED lighting options, puck lights are the most difficult to install. You’ll have to run wiring behind the ceiling/walls for each light. And you’ll need to cut a hole with a hole saw to recess the lights into the ceiling. But with some preparation and care it's not too difficult. We have full instructions for installing LED puck lights in our epic electrical post.
You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.

With all the time and effort you've put into properly merchandising your products, the last thing you want is for incoming customers to hurry past them — this ultimately limits the number of products they'll purchase. One way retailers combat this is through creating breaks that force them to pause. These are sometimes referred to as "speed bumps." Essentially, this can be anything that gives customers a visual break and can be achieved through signage or special/seasonal displays.
If you’ve spent time at your local flea or farmers’ market over the last few years, you may have noticed the explosion that has taken place in the number of innovative small business concepts. From cool new clothing lines to ingenious fusion foods, the sheer diversity of the ideas on display really hammers home one of the key lessons when starting a small business: You need to find your key differentiator. For some this is their brand story, for others it’s the value of their service, but for many quick service restaurants and small retailers, it’s a distinctive core product line that demands the attention and interest of your customers.
Reactions are typically over-the-top excitement. Everywhere I go, there are people snapping pictures, taking videos, and giving me a “thumbs up.” Sometimes while on the highway, cars will go ahead of me about a mile or so and then pull over to get out and video me driving by them. Truck drivers are always getting on the CB radio asking about the truck.
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.
Ideally, the stands should lift the speakers to roughly ear level of a sitting person. This is important because it aligns the ​subwoofers and tweeters relative to the ear and achieves the best balance of sound. The high frequencies are often missed when speakers are placed too high or too low. Speakers placed on a shelf or table often cause the surface to vibrate, thus distorting bass. These speaker stands isolate the speaker's vibrations from the floor, allowing you to hear the bass from the speaker and not the vibrations from a shelf, table or floor. Speakers come in various sizes and shapes, so the height of your speaker stands is dependent on your unique speakers. For this project, we give you the dimensions suited for the speakers shown in the photo, but you can alter the design to fit your individual needs.
We’ve been focused on the first category so far, but there is also an allure to buying an existing business. These enterprises will often come with brand awareness, a customer base, trained employees, an established supply chain, and most importantly (we hope), demonstrated profitability. As a result, countless startup risks can be diminished by taking this route. That is only true, however, if you make sure to carry out thorough due diligence on the existing business.
as the name implies--I have no qualms about using castoffs, trash or clearanced items in my shop--I have a 3and one half car garage that I can't get a vehicle in(even tho I like to change my own oil, etc.) because I have so many interests like woodworking, metalworking, plastics, machining, machine building, carpentry, etc. we have to store our kids furniture somewhere, as well as some of our own... You involve a welder, 2 tablesaws, bandsaw, planer, lathe, drillpress, benches and benchtop tools--not to mention storage of materials and I've got a collosal mess that I may never get straightened out!!!--Did I mention room for the woodburning stove I heat it with??? I am always appreciative of these "dream shops" I see in FineWoodworking"
Nicole and I decided not to go public with the cost of the build. Although we are very open about most things, we are a little uncomfortable about making an expenditure of this magnitude public knowledge. Furthermore, unless you live in the Phoenix area and plan on building the same size shop with the same patio and with all of the same finishing touches and labor requirements, the price isn’t all that helpful to you.

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Everything from the way the customer is greeted as they walk through the door to the way your products are presented following a sale matters. The smallest details can make the biggest difference. Early on when just starting your small business, you as an owner, will be able to exert a lot of direct control over these details. But as you grow, you will come to recognize the value of a well-trained and motivated staff.
In addition, if your aisles aren’t wide enough, you could be subject to complaints or lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires you to have aisles that are at minimum three feet wide. If you’re reported to be non-compliant, you could be fined if you don’t widen your aisles and remove obstructions. Learn more about the ADA’s retail store requirements here.

I live in Northern Va and have the same concerns. I save those little silica gel packets every time they come in a new product and put them in my tool drawers. I also salvaged a dehumidifier from a neighbor that I need to repair and set up in there. I use the wall mounted AC in the summer to keep it cool enough to work in there. Although I haven't gone back yet to insulate the ceiling, it stays really cool in there if i want it to be.


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.


Whether it’s underwear in an apparel store or milk in a grocery store, the items customers need most usually are found near the back. Think about this next time you’re in a grocery store. As you walk to the back of the store to get milk, you funnel past coffee, cereal, and toilet paper. And the milk is right by the eggs and cheese. This is primary and secondary zone merchandising in action, and the reason people shopping for one item often leave with three or more.
Debt financing involves borrowing capital that must then be paid back over a set period of time, most commonly with interest. Typically the core benefit of this arrangement is that you, the business owner, maintains complete control over your business. Your only ongoing obligation is to repay the loan with interest. The downside? Fail to keep up those repayments and the loan — often secured against your assets, savings or property — can put you in very dangerous financial waters.
Above all, remember that all of these elements can form part of your negotiation. Unless you are pursuing a highly desired space in a hot rental market, there is usually a point of leverage available to you in every lease negotiation. When it comes to getting the best possible deal in these situations, you’ll want to seek quality professional advice, this will normally include a broker and real estate lawyer.
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.
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:
Well I’ve been kind of fighting that, because I wanted to keep it open to where you could have the flexibility of moving things in and out. It probably makes sense. Actually have another old set of cabinets I thought about putting here, maybe put some really good casters on it to where you could keep it here. I’m also, wanted to be able to store like drum sander, other things that can go under it and then you can take those out and put them on this.

Calculating the size of your desired parking lot is easy. The rule of thumb is to have a parking spot for every three customers. Determining traffic is trickier and potentially more lucrative. To help, we wrote an article on how to calculate your desired foot traffic. If you want to calculate your desired vehicle traffic, you can refer to our article on how to choose a location for your restaurant.
You are also obliged to file a quarterly tax return which must detail, amongst other things, your employee pay and withholdings. Once again, failure to do this can result in, you guessed it, a fine! As you can see, it’s important to be up to speed on the rules and regulations around taking on employees, including, of course, provisions around hiring foreign workers. The good news is that there are a number of affordable payroll software providers that automate this process very effectively.
Excessive growth is of course, a good problem to have. However, after stabilizing from the startup process, small businesses more commonly grow steadily before approaching a plateau. This is completely normal and it is often at this point that you’ll need to go back to your business plan and carry out what is known as a SWOT analysis. This includes an analysis of a company’s current finances, the competition, and SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Renovation of your product line, rebranding, and seeking investment for expansion are all potential results of this SWOT analysis. Once again, the key here is being data-driven and always staying hungry. The successful small business owner is always looking for the incremental improvements in their business that when added up, make all the difference.
If you choose to hire a draftsperson or architect, they may charge you based on the square footage of the area you are proposing, by an hourly rate for their time or as a percent­age of the cost of the structure. Costs of building permits will be a percentage of the estimated cost of the structure you are proposing (e.g., $15 permit fee per $1000 or 1.5 percent), or a cost-per-square foot depending on your municipality (e.g., $1.20 per square foot). Design work and permits will both dif­fer depending on the part of the country in which you will be building, so ask the questions as you move ahead. One of the costs that is often overlooked in planning is the increase in annual property tax you will pay once your improved property has been reassessed.
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.
Nicole and I decided not to go public with the cost of the build. Although we are very open about most things, we are a little uncomfortable about making an expenditure of this magnitude public knowledge. Furthermore, unless you live in the Phoenix area and plan on building the same size shop with the same patio and with all of the same finishing touches and labor requirements, the price isn’t all that helpful to you. 

For the large square windows near the tailgate I just used those big “magic auto shades” like these, which fit perfectly to cover up those side windows and the back window by the tailgate (I had four in the canopy) and another set up in the cab for my actual window. As for the longer side windows I just used a USPS box, haphazardly stuck up against the window. Nothing fancy.
When starting your small business, the easiest way to go about choosing a business name is to approach the task the same way you approach building new relationships. Did we lose you for a second? Here’s what we mean. It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone based on a first impression. There are endless relationships that instantly blossom or never get off the ground based off of this one simple fact. Most of us, even if it is on a subconscious level, understand this. Which is why when we meet someone that we are trying to impress, we make an attempt to adjust our appearance, body language, even the way we talk, to ensure we are putting our best foot forward.
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