Some people lean towards starting a small business because they seek freedom, others to fulfill their passions. Some entrepreneurs, however, are driven by a desire to build a legacy, one that that they can hand down to generations to come. Whatever your reasons are for reaching for the stars and aiming for the moon, before you start, remember, there is a dark side.
Ultimate Small Shop is a complete guide to setting up your own workshop, from the planning phase to optimizing it for business. You’ll learn how to put together a complete and functional workshop for less than you expect. Ralph aims to get your shop set up for less than $1,000. Ultimate small Shop includes suggestions on where you can get the tools and equipment needed at the most affordable prices and how to optimize space to get the most out of the little room you have.
A very simple countertop but one that should work great for our workshop, now we’ve already applied one coat of polyurethane to kind of seal up the plywood. Now we’ll be applying another coat once that dries to give it a little bit of durability because this thing will get a lot of abuse. Now Tim’s applying the same kind of clear sealer to our little rolling workbenches here, and I think this is a great idea, we’ll be able to roll these out, lock down the casters on the bottom then you can have a drill press or any other bench top tool that you can work on, then when you’re finished with them you can roll it right back, tuck them up against this wall and it serves as a good storage unit and gives you the chance to keep the workshop wide open for some of the larger projects we might be working on.
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.

A business license gives you permission to run a business within a particular territory. It is important to note that not all local governments require you to obtain business licenses, while others only require them for specific business types such as bars or restaurants. To determine whether or not your state or business type requires you to obtain a license visit SBA.gov for state-specific license and permit information.

This holds a lot of stuff but mainly our handheld power tools, so it needs to support a lot of weight. Any shelf in a workshop will probably wind up supporting more than you initially planned so build it as strong as you can and don’t scrimp on the materials or the fasteners you use to hang it. Now the next step is to install our recycled cabinets that will line the wall under the shelf. Now these cabinets are a little plain but that should work great for a shop like this. Even if you don’t own a remodeling company you can usually find these things pretty inexpensively from salvaged warehouses which recover them from renovation projects then resell them to the public.
Another flexible option is the portable work tables the guys are building back in our shop. This gives us a work surface that we can move wherever we may need it. Now the main workbench we’ve left a little gap between two of the cabinets for a trashcan or a stool to slip in but we did need to support the countertop where it crosses so Tim and Chris are adding some 1x4s to bridge the space. They’re also putting in a 2×4 inside one of the cabinets where the two pieces of plywood will have to be seamed. Then it’s just a matter of laying in the pieces in place and nailing them down to the cabinet. That trim strip around the edge is mostly for looks but the cedar backsplash along the back will keep us from banging up the wall or getting small items stuck between it and the counter. All in all it started to look pretty good.
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.
With a pencil and a protractor, divide the larger disc into 30-degree wedges to create 12 center lines for the bottle indents. Center and trace the smaller disc on top of the larger disc. Next, with a drill press, drill 3/8-in.-deep holes on the 12 center lines with the 1-7/8-in. Forstner bit, spacing them between the disc’s outer edge and the traced circle. Next, divide the smaller disc into 60-degree wedges and drill six more 3/8-in.-deep holes with the Forstner bit.
Of course, if you’re going to build a sweet shop, you’re going to have to outfit it with an equally sweet bench. This afternoon I stumbled upon a UK bench-maker by the name of Richard Maguire. Built of kild-dried ash, Maguire’s benches are then finished with an oil and wax combination and feature twin screw vises which, while really interesting, might not be a perfect fit for everyone. While you can use these vises to apply more accurately distribute clamping pressure on different-sized stock, I could certainly see it becoming a wee bit of a pain when clamping stock that comes in contact with the entire length of the vise’s face. Having to equally screw in each side might frustrate some woodworkers. Still, these benches are a blast to look at.
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.

This is a great project if you carefully consider your needs first. I left out the vise and tracks, but had no problem hand picking good 2x4 stock at the big box stores. I did use maple on the top sides in case I ever decided to add tracks, but it was not a budget buster by any means. The cabinet and drawers were a first for me and a great learning experience. I also added retractable casters so I can easily move the workbench around my shop. Love the workbench!
Fantastic build and opportunity for you. I really appreciate your humbleness given the great asset you have in the new shop. You flaunt/market what you do and where you do it because that’s the business you’re in, but at the same time you understand what a great tool you have in the shop itself relative to what most folks will ever acquire. Well done.
I’m picking up a 4×4 Extra cab pick up tomorrow and selling my current 97 Tacoma. It’s older and it’s got a lot of miles but it still has a lot left to go. Mine is available in the 3 grand range. They’re hard to find and all the rust free trucks are out here in the west but mine is one example of many good Tacos that are available at an affordable price that will fit the bill perfectly.

Having a plan of action is key to learning how to start and run a successful small business. Whether you are looking for funding from a bank or angel investor, or are lucky enough to completely fund your venture on your own, an articulate and well-thought-out business plan will help you define what your business stands for and what it intends to become over time. As the age-old saying goes: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Don’t put your business idea in the hands of fate. Plan thoroughly, give yourself some benchmarks for success and be prepared to innovate as you go.


My contention has always been that you can build a serviceable shop in your home, develop your hand skills, and make fine furniture. In the past year, I had an opportunity to build a shop from the ground up after moving to a new home. I found a house with an unfinished basement, and set to work. In this article, I will discuss everything from layout, to electrical, to equipment selection. I intend to name names with respect to equipment, so that readers will know what I chose. Everyone’s budget will be different, but I think almost everyone will be able to treat this as a starting point, and adjust accordingly, depending on their own budget.

As far as the batten, your actual question..haha. There has not been any moisture or rain make its way through. However, I did caulk all of those joints before I painted. I also made sure I primed all the exposed edges, especially the bottoms of the osb sheeting. You could probably put some pvc j channel along the bottom to prevent rain splash from absorbing up into the end grain. Just make sure you give a way to drain any water that makes it in the j channel. Does that make sense?
It might sound harsh, but when starting a small business your online presence is crucial. If you speak to some experienced local business owners, many will denounce the existence of online review sites like Yelp and Google Local. They’ll tell you about the added time and pressure they now face to maintain social media profiles for their businesses. A lot of local entrepreneurs will share their bad experiences with online daily deal websites like Groupon. But all that complaining doesn’t change one established fact that the internet isn’t going anywhere.
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.
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.
Now, this is kind of an odd situation here, a few years ago when we bought this building there was a concrete block wall around here and a large drain right in the middle of the floor. Well the drain will certainly come in handy for any cleanup in the shop but the walls kind of left us when we removed those kind of left us a little divot and a little bit of damage here, so to make this nice and smooth so that our rolling workbenches will roll around real nicely we’re having to do a good bit of floor patch.
“Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change—frequently—in order to flourish. It’s the retailer’s job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest products, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained—even when they don’t buy anything, that experience is what brings them back.”
I’m currently in the process of building my own small shop and I almost didn’t watch this video because I was afraid I might become too jealous. I wasn’t. It made me realize that a good shop is worth waiting for and that I don’t need to be discouraged when things aren’t moving as quickly as I hoped. Thank you for the inspiration and congratulations on your new shop, you deserve it.
Whether you plan to go it alone or hire a professional, there are many resources available to help you plan and execute your retail store layout. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the project yourself, a professional retail store planner, interior designer, or display designer can turn your dreams into reality. Or if you want to handle it all yourself, store planning software and other online idea resources can make the job easier.
In all you can spend under $1,000 and be setup in a great workshop. But I know how it feels when you’re shopping for new tools… and you think… “why not buy the top of the line so it lasts longer”… or “may as well get the best while I’m spending money”… those kinds of thoughts won’t only get you into big trouble with your other half… it’s also COMPLETELY wrong.

I added an accessory mitre gauge to the saw for accurate cut-off work. The Incra Miter1000 showed up under the Christmas tree after the Lee Valley flyer photo with part number mysteri­ously ended up on the fridge door with a circle around it last December. A great addition, the Incra is light, accurate, and provides adjustable stops for cutting multiple parts to precise length. I will also make a plywood cut-off sled for the saw for squaring larger panels.
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.
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!

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.

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.
Many small business owners start on a shoestring budget, intertwining their personal and business finances, supporting the business with their personal credit cards, accepting payments into their personal checking account, and even submitting tax returns that mix up personal and business finances. While this is common, it can create tax headaches, make bookkeeping more time consuming, and, most importantly, can also interfere with the proper evaluation of your business.
Power outlets are also needed for lighting, heaters, AC units, radios, televisions, CNC machines, 3D printers, and computers—all of which you’ll find in many workshops (although maybe not together, and maybe not all in your garage.) You simply can never have too many outlets and it’s much safer to have too many than not enough. Bring in an electrician to help install your outlets and setup 220v power if needed for larger shop tools.
Ryan, I have the same (almost) 90’s Toyota Pickup and love it! this is so helpful, and I will definitely be using this method. my main concern is that 1/2′ plywood sagging. do you notice it sags quite a bit or does it mostly hold up? my thought was to build the vertical bins a little wider, so that the plywood bed platform wouldn’t be under so much stress. the second issue im running into is wrapping my head around trying to organize and compartmentalize things appropriately. what do you typically put where so it is easy to reach and use?
We cut the supports 16 in. long, but you can place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can’t hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32-in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports. You can apply this same concept to garage storage. See how to build double-decker garage storage shelves here.

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!
The key to success here is having clear processes written down, promoting from within whenever possible, and remaining open to change. You’ll want to balance your desire to educate your manager on how to manage your business with an openness to feedback and new ways of doing things. You’ll also want to take advantage of the technology available to keep you abreast of things like real-time sales data for all your locations, no matter where you are.

Simply get a one-inch drywall screw and drive it into the hole right beside the hook. You want to use a one inch screw because you don’t want to hit the wall behind it and you just drive the screw in until the head of it is tight against the hook, it’ll just act as a shim, and you’ll see once I get this all the way in, it lock the hook in place, and now when you take the tool on and off it won’t come off. The hook won’t pop out.
I have to agree with these folks....I have a two car garage/workshop that needs to double for ski waxing, bicycle storage and house repairs. I have a Hybrid Table saw, 6" jointer, 13" planer, a shopsmith that serves as drill press, lathe and band saw, dust collector, two work benches...and everything has been designed to roll away, under, above something else...I can set up and tear down in about ten minutes, because at the end of the day, I always have to park two cars in the garage. Always great to look at the great dream workshops, but thought that they should do an article on guys like us, that have to fit several hobbies into one spot. I seem to spend a lot of time planning, and re planning the garage space to try and fit the next tool. I dream about the day I will get a place that I can dedicate to my tools, but until then, I just buy things with wheels.
I don’t think you have run into this problem, but I have to deal with condensation in the cap as I live in a moist climate. I was thinking of an old van type roof vent with fan for active ventilation, or drilling holes along the side of the cap, inserting short cuts of pipe with fine screens (mozie land), and capping them. This way I could control for rain, cold, etc., but create some passive cross ventilation at roof level.

Now I want you to create a spreadsheet or use my worksheets and write one major goal on the top. This can be the first goal you want to accomplish. Then I want you to list all the tasks you need to do (or someone on your team has to do) in order to accomplish this task. For example; let’s go going back to the goal of "Launching a New Website". The tasks you will need to do to get this goal accomplished are the following;
Congratulations on your new shop and all your success. I’ve watched all of your videos and someday if I have the money I would love to join your guild. I started a small workshop in my grandparents basement and someday I hope to start a small bussiness. Your website and videos have been the most informative and the most inspirational to me as a beginning woodworker. Thank you for sharing all your tips and hard work with people like me. I look forward to watching your videos for years to come.
First, try to remove all the extraneous household items that don’t facilitate making stuff. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to dig past kids bikes or empty luggage to get to your paint supplies. In the real world though, storage is hard to come by, so you’ll have to give a little to get a little. Consider a line of demarcation in your garage to separate “household” from “workshop.” If you don’t have enough room, consider a smaller-space workbench, or rent off-site storage. You could even build a shed for more covered storage.

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.
They say nobody ever started a small business out of a love for numbers, but if you really want to stay the course, you’re going to want to fall in love fast. It’s only by keeping detailed accounts and tracking your business’ numbers over time, (net sales, cost of goods sold, and average transaction size) that you’ll start to gather the actionable insights you need to make intelligent business decisions.
Thanks for leaving a comment, Rob! I didn’t find that it limited where I felt comfortable camping, but I always tried to be discreet… Waiting until few if any people were around before I hopped in and usually peeking through the windows so I’m not hopping out right next to someone loading their groceries or whatever. I slept in all sorts of random places in that time on the road, more often than not it was in permissible camping areas, but there were other times it was more frowned upon–from grocery store parking lots, to auto repair places, etc. Certainly is more likely to guess that someone is camping in it, but I only got hassled once (by a rent a cop telling me to move on).
If your shop will be attached to your house or another struc­ture, it will likely need to match its foundation, tying the two structures together so that one does not structurally stress the other if they shift differently. That may dictate a poured concrete or concrete block foundation. Regardless of your foundation type, a cold concrete floor will sap energy away from the rest of the structure if you are not careful, so think about how to insulate it well before you build.
Well I think I’ll have plenty of light once we get all of 24 bulbs in place. I’m really glad I saved those old fixtures. Hey another thing we’re reusing, and I’m really glad I saved, is these old cabinets that we took out of a kitchen renovation a couple of years ago. This will be perfect to serve as our base cabinets so that we can build our sturdy countertop on this side of the shop.
We've written about routers on the site before and my favorite is the Bosch 1617​.  It is light enough that you can control it when using it handheld, yet powerful enough that it won't have any problems when you mount it under a table.  On top of that, it comes with a plunge base which makes it significantly easier to use handheld.  The package clocks in at ~$190.
The issue with the old shop was manufacturing capacity and layout. We get runs of 4 to 6 of the frames on the left in the last pic and sometimes frames twice that size. We were masters of having everything on wheels, which works for a while but it takes twice as long to build anything that way. Then the office ladies walk through the shop to the kitchen while you are grinding and complain about all the dust etc.
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.
However, Sprinters are a lot more expensive than other options. It can be tough to find anything reasonably priced with less than 200,000 miles. For the Mercedes Sprinters, parts are more expensive and it may be difficult to find mechanics that have experience working on them (this is less of an issue with Transits and Promasters). And, since these are complex vehicles, they don’t lend quite as well to tinkering as something classic like a VW Vanagon or old Ford Econoline.
The Best Prices for Tools – Ralph shows you where to get the beast deals for the tools and equipment you need. You could buy them yourself from popular outlets like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon, but the Ultimate Small Shop guide shows you where to get these tools and equipment at cheaper prices. Of course, cheaper isn’t always better. These aren’t just cheap tools that are ineffective. Just good value for money on good tools.
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.

After a permit has been issued, the building inspector will want to be notified at various points during your build in order to do a site visit, walk around and inspect the details to make sure that they meet code requirements. These inspections are commonly at the point where excavation work is complete, when the foundation is completed but before back-filling, when framing and all structural work has been done, after the installation of the insulation and vapour barrier, and then a final inspection after everything is complete. You may need to have a separate plumbing inspector if you’re adding or changing plumbing fixtures, and electrical work will need to be inspected by the appro­priate electrical inspector (in Ontario, the Electrical Safety Authority). In my experience, inspectors appreciate good work, a clean, safe site, and are willing to work with hom­eowners and builders to make sure that the work will meet code and will endure.


A dust mask or respirator will protect you while you're working, but won't do anything to protect you or your family from suspended particles still in the air. For this reason, an air filter is an absolute must if you work with woods indoors (I know of guys who sneezed out sawdust after working too long without an air cleaner). It's possible to make your own air cleaner out of box fans and furnace filters, but retail air cleaners will usually be much more compact. If you go that route, we recommend Wen 3410 3-Speed Remote-Controlled Air Filtration System for smaller shops.
When you design your workshop setup, climate control often gets ignored — and that’s a huge mistake! If your workshop or hobby room is in an unconditioned space like a garage or basement, you could find that it’s brutally uncomfortable to work in there during warm weather. You’ll be much happier with a solid fan — or several — to keep air moving for your comfort.
Before joining the top to the base, loosen the bolts and screws on the lower stretchers to create a little play in the leg posts. Align the top notches with the leg posts and tap the top into place with a hammer and piece of scrap wood, working evenly around the table until all leg posts are level with the tabletop. Tighten the lower stretchers and you’re done. A hefty thanks to Doug Merrill for this weighty idea.

Whether you plan to go it alone or hire a professional, there are many resources available to help you plan and execute your retail store layout. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the project yourself, a professional retail store planner, interior designer, or display designer can turn your dreams into reality. Or if you want to handle it all yourself, store planning software and other online idea resources can make the job easier.
“Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change—frequently—in order to flourish. It’s the retailer’s job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest products, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained—even when they don’t buy anything, that experience is what brings them back.”
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