We have Eclipse Sunshades installed on our van. While they’re pricier than the cheap sunshades you’ll find at Walmart, they’re every effective. And since they permanently install on your windshield they’re much more compact - a big plus for living in a van. All we have to do is pull the shades across and velcro them together in the middle and we’re protected from both the sun’s rays and prying eyes.


Have a walk-through yourself and see where the visual cues guide you or get your staff, friends, or family to do the same and give you honest feedback. Don't forget to observe your customers and see what they're drawn to, what they avoid, and how they move, then match that with your intended design. If you keep resilient and keep your eyes and ears open, you'll be sure to create a retail design that's a win-win for both you and your customers. 

There are a number of woodworking fixtures you can get by without for a long while, but a sturdy workbench isn't one of them. The trouble is, those solid-hardwood benches we all lust after can completely blow a modest woodworking budget. Here's a bench that splits the difference. You'll get a top that can stand up to significant abuse, a sturdy, heavy base that keeps the bench planted where you put it, and an end vise and T-track system for holding workpieces as well as a variety of unique jigs. It may not look quite like a European bench, but it works just as hard as one for a lot less money.
So far it has worked out. It's probably not ideal. I imagine a system would work much better, but it gets the job done until then. I ended up setting up in my small 1 car garage as well now. I used two shopvacs to build a system in there. I have a few new Instructables to put together and a new shop tour to do as well. Thanks for the comment! FYI: The wood storage has passed the time test. I have not had to change a thing about it. I plan on adding a shelf above the sheet goods to store thin moldings and cut-offs. I still find it incredibly easy to access my wood quickly with that setup. I have to move stuff around in the garage to get to my wall mounted wood storage, so it's more of a pain.
At the very least get the basics of shop design right with great lighting, clean displays, and a well thought out layout. Once you have all of this pulled together you can add a dose of your own personality to the store's design to break through the noise and establish a connection with your target customers. The goal is to be memorable and maximize sales per square foot at the same time!

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.
Disclaimer: We spend hours researching and writing our articles and strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content. However, our research is meant to aid your own, and we are not acting as licensed professionals. We recommend that you consult with your own lawyer, accountant, or other licensed professional for relevant business decisions. Click here to see our full disclaimer.
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.
Before you buy a single tool, you need to take a hard look at your workshop space. If your workshop is a freestanding building or empty barn, you can simply measure the perimeter and know that you have the entire square footage at your disposal including the wall space. If your workshop is tucked into the back of a garage or a corner of partially finished basement, you’ll need to plan your furnishings with cars and water heaters in mind.

Shop looks great Marc, I see the Clear Vue in the picture. I love mine, I used 8″ PVC for the main trunk line and came out of that with 6″ drops. It works great. I wound up building a collection bin instead of using a can, only thing I didn’t do was make the bin big enough. It holds more than the typical can but I still should have made it with more capacity. The 1800 with the 5 hp motor is stout.


From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. With such a technical skillset, make sure you can describe what you do and how you will do it in easy-to-understand language. Test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do.
Once you have your space secured, hang some pictures in the windows that illustrate what’s to come. It’s also a good idea to provide leaflets that people can take away with them and hang a clipboard and pen on the front door where people can sign up to hear more about your business. This list is pure gold! So once you have it, why not stage a launch party and invite the local community (and local journalists). The first step for any business is always getting people to try out your products!

Really enjoyed watching the video of the shop build. You will be turning out great pieces in no time. At the end of the video it looks like you have your dust collection system up and running. Where did you purchase the duct work? I thought I remember you talking about this in the old shop. Did you use regular HVAC 4″ round duct or a heavier piece. Thanks for the insight and good woodworking.

Right before you start your small business, everyone has a dream setup for their small business in their head, along with a laundry list of amazing features. It’s probably large and full of natural light, opposite from a park, and filled with beautiful details like a long solid oak counter and a little bell over the door. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these aspirations. In fact, it’s vital to have a clear vision of what you’re working towards. It can, however become a problem if you let the perfect business location become a barrier to opening your doors in the first place.
As Kizer & Bender always tell retailers: Put it on paper. If you haven’t settled on your store layout—or even if you have—the first thing you need to do is work your plan out on paper before you start moving things around in your store. Putting it on paper helps give you a clearer picture of the desired result and any potential issues before getting started. Remember, many small retailers find that a mix of floor plan and layout styles works best.
Table mounted routers, planers and shapers are another machine that usually has material fed through, and although they are fairly narrow machines, they require room on their front for material to be fed from, and at the rear for the material to be removed after the work is complete, so again, a space of about ten feet is needed for any significant work.

Ultimately, your workshop should be a place that inspires you to be creative and to do your best work. When you take the time to plan the space for maximum efficiency and comfort, you’ll love spending time there — and that means you’ll get more done, whether it’s fixing up a car or building a new piece of furniture. No matter how you use your workshop, you should enjoy the time you get to work with your hands and make something brand new. So what are you waiting for? Get started designing your perfect workshop today.

Disclaimer: We spend hours researching and writing our articles and strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content. However, our research is meant to aid your own, and we are not acting as licensed professionals. We recommend that you consult with your own lawyer, accountant, or other licensed professional for relevant business decisions. Click here to see our full disclaimer.

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.


If you have some experience under your belt, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers -- and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough. Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, sometimes everyone just needs some uplifting advice.
“Walk past your Decompression Zone and look to your right. The first wall you see is called a Power Wall, and it’s another key merchandising area. And because it’s one of the first things shoppers see after looking or turning right, it’s a perception builder. Use your Power Wall(s) to display important departments as well as new and seasonal items to create vignettes, tell product stories, and to feature high-demand and high-profit items. (Note: Your store has more than one Power Wall. Stand in various places throughout your store and look around—the walls that stand out are your Power Walls.)”
As your business grows, your ability to deal directly with every customer diminishes, and your reliance on your staff increases. Indeed, for many businesses, such as full-service restaurants, hiring staff is an absolutely essential part of their operations. It is therefore important that you choose the right kind of employees and then take the time to fully introduce them to your mission statement. A really great employee should learn about your values and seek to embody them when interacting with your customers.
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.
Cutting thick, rough, warped hardwood can be cumbersome and dangerous. To provide some control over this process, I built a chop-saw station with wings that extend to support long boards. Again, anytime you make something that consumes shop space, make a shelf underneath to gain storage. The chop saw sits in a recess so that the deck of the saw is at the same height as the workstation deck.
Note: Some of the links to products that we recommend on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through one of our links and buy something, we get a small commission at no cost to you. This helps us keep this blog going so we can continue to provide you with van build tips, tricks, and guides. We believe in honest opinions, and we never recommend anything we don't know about. Every recommended product on this page we've either used personally, have personal experience with, or have researched heavily.

Whether you end up looking at self-checkout counters, fancy lighting systems, special refrigerated cases, or any of a countless number of options, never forget that these are only tools to help accomplish your main goal. Your store needs to create an environment where customers want to be, where they feel comfortable and appreciated, and where that experience will prompt them to purchase (and hopefully encourage their friends to do the same). Equipment and technology decisions should always be made with your customers in mind.
What about when you’re camping? Well, most campgrounds (including many free National Forest and BLM campgrounds) have some sort of bathroom situation. If there’s not an actual running water bathroom, you’ll typically find pit toilets (aka vault toilets), which are basically much nicer/cleaner permanent porta-potties. We also recommend picking up a good poop shovel for those times you’re camping in a wilderness area without bathrooms.
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.
4. Avoid a cluttered look. Owen managed to add more merchandise but avoid a cluttered look by using neutral colors, such as ivory and gray for furniture and larger items. She then accented the space with smaller brightly colored items like vases and pillows. She also makes sure not to crowd her merchandise too closely together. "We try to make it look elegant and give it some space," she says.

I used your set-up as a guide in building mine. It is a little different – it’s shorter a little bit, as I have a shorter canopy cover and I didn’t make the sleeping platform flush with the walls of the truck bed – but it turned out great! I’m really happy with it. Also, one of my favorite parts about it is none of it is actually attached to the truck. So I can take everything out and it makes cleaning a little easier. I’d post photos if I knew how. If you feel like seeing it let me know and tell me how to get them to you!


You can also make your store comfortable by incorporating a waiting area with comfy seats and benches to encourage customers to spend more time in your store. This is especially helpful for shoppers accompanied by someone who isn't interested in making a purchase. But keep the seats or benches facing the merchandise so that they're still top of mind for those lounging around in your store.  
I get all the zen I need from Dunkin Donuts. :) Actually, I am reserving judgement concerning sound at this point and here’s why. I worked in a 1000 sq ft shop for the first 5 years of this show and never had any echo complaints. That was with 16 ft ceilings. The new shop was pretty unbearable to talk in when it was empty and became quite tolerable when filled with the initial equipment. With the addition of the floor pads and cabinetry, I am pretty confident the echo will be reduced fairly close to the previous shop’s level. If not, I’ll have to consider my options, because there’s no way I’m hanging drapes in my shop, lol.
I will challenge myself to use this space creatively to tell the story of each year. Ultimate Small Shop Guide When I started thinking of all the possibilities, it really inspired me to start getting organized and collecting some great memories. And don’t limit yourself to just photographs, your scrapbook pages can really be accentuated by other types of memories. Here are some ideas to get you started. Looking for some great Halloween crafts for your Halloween party, haunted house, or just for trick-or-treaters? A fun craft is something that can keep you occupied for hours on end especially if you enjoy it. Here are some ideas that will hopefully set you on your way in preparation for your next Halloween…If you live in a house that has a wood-burning fireplace, then chances are that you have access to tree stumps or large blocks of wood. These are great for making stands for your Jack O’Lanterns. You could use a chisel to slightly hollow out the middle of the stump so that the lantern can sit stably or simply use some Blu-Tack or Velcro. Get some small or mini pumpkins and hollow them out to use as candle holders. If open flames are out of the question, you can put glow sticks instead of candles for a different effect. You can carve, draw or paint faces on the pumpkins too. Instead of pumpkins, you could use apples as well. Ensure that you choose apples that sit well and flat or cut off the bottom to make a flat surface. Remove the stem and cut around it deep enough for the candle. It is best to use taper candles for a better fit. Get a large pumpkin and hollow it out to use as a salad bowl or to serve fresh vegetables. Cut off the top, hollow and clean it out and let it dry in the sun. You could carve a jagged edge design on the top. Do the same with some smaller or mini pumpkins to use for dips or salad dressings. Make a scarecrow in your front yard. You need two pieces of wood, one put into the ground and the other nailed across for the arms. Use old jeans and a shirt and stuff them with newspaper. Add some straw for effect. You can use a plastic pumpkin for the head and draw a face on it. This makes a great Halloween craft for the whole family. Tie glow sticks to helium balloons and let them float around the house. Ensure that some string extends below so that people can easily reach them if they get stuck somewhere or simply to play with them. Use publicly available Halloween fonts on your computer to make banners or invitations for your party. It’s a fast, easy Halloween craft you can use instantly to enhance your party theme. Ultimate Small Shop Book Print them onto inkjet iron-on transfer paper and put them onto your favorite t-shirt or Halloween outfit. A visit to your local hardware store for some basic items and you could make your own tombstones transforming your garden into an instant graveyard. Paint them grey to resemble stone. Do not worry about the details as it will be dark, but do put on some exciting or scary wordings. By the way, your local hardware store is loaded with Halloween craft ideas.
There are certain areas that are the responsibility of the federal government, such as firearms, fish, and wildlife. For more on these federal requirements, enforced by bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can explore the information here on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
Alternately, a detached shop can often be located closer to your property line and offers you a bit more freedom in terms of the type of foundation you can use. It may give you a sense of welcome separation from your home and open up yard space or allow a deck on the back of your house that would otherwise be lost behind your shop. In an urban setting, if you would like to have a wood stove in your shop you may find it more challenging to find an insurance carrier that allows one in an outbuilding. Also, outbuildings can be subject to more stringent height regulations than additions.
Tip: Save money on specialty displays! Many manufacturers offer retailers low-cost or free specialty display fixtures designed to highlight their branded lines, like the one pictured below. These make great speed bump or outpost display units on a tight budget. Your product line reps can tell you if they’re available, plus provide merchandising and display advice.

We've also chronicled how Android and iOS have become more and more similar in their approaches. The "Android tax," as we've referred to it in the past, no longer exists. Generally, Android and iOS apps can now be built with the same quality, with comparable timelines, and budgets. While that doesn't necessarily mean we suggest building platforms in parallel, it's a huge relief for people creating apps.
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.
What about when you’re camping? Well, most campgrounds (including many free National Forest and BLM campgrounds) have some sort of bathroom situation. If there’s not an actual running water bathroom, you’ll typically find pit toilets (aka vault toilets), which are basically much nicer/cleaner permanent porta-potties. We also recommend picking up a good poop shovel for those times you’re camping in a wilderness area without bathrooms.
If you are going to apply for a trademark, make sure to conduct a comprehensive search, like the one mentioned in ‘Securing Your Business Name’ to ensure no one is already using your proposed name in a similar capacity. The United States Patent and Trademark Office also provide a simple search tool that will quickly let you know if you’re potentially infringing on someone else’s turf from a legal point of view.

While you have a decent starter shop, it's important to keep in mind the projects that your tools can handle.  You are going to want to focus on projects that don't require your stock to be ripped to a different dimensions than what you purchased it at.  You are currently only set up to do crosscuts with your miter saw.  So while you can turn an 8' 2x4 into two 4' 2x4s, your not going to be able to turn that same board into two 2x2s.    
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.
This legal name is your first step in separating you and your business as two distinct entities. You will use your DBA name on all legal paperwork and government forms, such as applications for employer tax IDs, licenses, and permits. It is significantly harder to go back and have this applied retroactively, so it’s worth getting it right from the start.
Conduction is heat transferred across solid surfaces- think touching a hot stove. It’s also how heat gets out of your van in the winter. The heat inside your van is conducted through the solid surface of your walls and ceiling. Insulating the inside of your van will help prevent heat loss through conduction during the winter, and will also stop your van from conducting the sun’s heat inside during the summer.
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.
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 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.
Slice, dice and serve in style on this easy, attractive board. We’ll show you a simple way to dry-fit the parts, scribe the arc and then glue the whole thing together. We used a 4-ft. steel ruler to scribe the arcs, but a yardstick or any thin board would also work. Find complete how-to instructions on this woodworking crafts project here. Also, be sure to use water-resistant wood glue and keep your board out of the dishwasher or it might fall apart. And one more thing: Keep the boards as even as possible during glue-up to minimize sanding later. For great tips on gluing wood, check out this collection.
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.
In our opinion, having one of these is an absolute must for living on the road - especially in humid areas. To fully cover the width of a van’s side doors/back doors, you’ll need a larger screen that’s designed for French doors. If your vehicle has a smaller door opening like an RV, a screen meant for a standard door will work fine. We could only find standard door screens, so we bought two and hot-glued them together to cover up our side door.

Our practical workshop is coming along nicely. We’ve created a big open space and added plenty of electrical power and lots of light. We’ve also added some great storage capacity using recycled kitchen cabinets and some old shelves. Now, with our tool compartment and work surfaces in place we’re getting very, very close, but I wanted to get a little input on the final details from some other folks who spent a lot of time making sawdust, so I asked my co-host Allen Lyle and our website editor Ben Erickson to look around and give us some of their ideas.
Ordinary clip-in-place shelf brackets with slotted metal supports can hold a lot of weight. But some-times they’re unstable and can be easily knocked loose. The play in the slots allows the bracket and shelf to shift from side to side. To prevent this, use your circular saw to cut 1/8-in. deep slots into the undersides of the shelves, aligned with each bracket. When the shelf is assembled, the brackets fit into the slots, eliminating the sway. Also check out: How To Build Floating Shelves.
A good portable air conditioner will also remove excess water from the air, which is critical for keeping your stockpile of wood in good shape. Lumber should be stored in dry conditions so it doesn’t warp, so look for efficiency features that allow you to run the unit overnight in the summer as needed —without worrying about blowing up your electricity bills. Other good features to consider include a thermostat and variable settings that allow you to set your workshop temperature to the perfect level for your comfort.
Let’s say you’re a Brooklyn-based hipster and you want to follow your lifelong dream of opening your very own artisanal, organic lemonade stand. You’re planning on stationing your retro lemonade stand along a busy road in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And maybe you want to hire a couple of college kids to collect the money and serve your customers, (probably while wearing some painfully cool 1970s punk band t-shirts). You’re only thinking about it semi-seriously. It might be something you’re going to do when you’re not focusing on your real career as an aspiring DJ.
Well, we’ve managed to put together the workshop I’ve always wanted. One that’s practical, functional and neat, well at least for the moment. We have plenty of light, plenty of power, lots of work surfaces and enough cabinets, shelves and hangers to organize all of the tools we’ll be using here. I’ve even managed to do a little creative workshop decorating along the way to remind me of how I got started in this business in the first place.

I save all my back issues of The Family Handyman magazine and love the projects and repair tips. The trouble is, I’m not always ready to do the project when the issue arrives. To make my favorite articles easy to find at a later date, I put a stick-on label on the cover and then add notes for easy reference when the time comes to do the job. — Willie Schreiber. Plus: Check out this small workshop storage solution.
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.
You might be thinking your business aspirations are too ‘early-stage’ to merit investigating the permits required to run your small business. You’d be wrong. The costs and requirements of staying on the right side of the law should be factored into your initial business plan and ongoing projections. In the long run, this will save you time, money and heartache.
Most workshop tasks require good ventilation, and that’s something garages are generally poor at. Plus, passive ventilation (like opening a window) usually isn’t enough. A ceiling exhaust fan is a good start but if you are serious about keeping things clean then your ultimate workshop should also include a dust collection system, central vacuum and air ventilation system. All three of these systems will keep the dust, dirt, and other heavy particles off your clothes and out of your lungs which makes for a safer work environment.
I like how you thought out the lighting for you shop. I have 6ea.6 tube T-8s but find 6500K bulbs but find lighting for filming is not that good, seems dark to me I use a Canon T3i its a decent camera I do have a row of windows in a 16′ garage door and aman door with a window on one end and a small window at the other end of my shop. Any idea what the issue may be?Could I still be getting too much light?

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.


Boy you guys are spoiled, lol. There will always be at least some echo in the shop. I wouldn’t judge the acoustics based on this video though since the shop was still being put together at the time. No cabinets and no floor tiles, so the echo is to be expected. Have you seen the latest video? http://www.thewoodwhisperer.co.....rock-star/ The sound is dramatically improved over the Dream Shop video and all I did so far was add a few floor mats here and there. By the time the cabinets are in and I get some nice rubber floor tiles in place, the sound should be at least to the level of the old shop if not better. Right now though, my priority is on building a bed and I do consider the current sound to be “acceptable” for web videos. I’ll focus on tweaking things when I finally get some spare time. Considering adding some acoustic tiles to the ceiling.
×