While we think a battery isolator and a 200-watt solar kit provide more than enough power for most vanlifers, some people may want additional ways to generate electricity and charge up their batteries. Especially if you’re planning on running power-hungry electronics like TVs and air conditioners, adding a generator and/or shore power hookups will help you deal with the extra load.
I framed and sheathed each wall individually and then stood them up with the help of long 2x4 braces.  My neighbor let me borrow his framing nailer, which made things go much faster.  I added a second cap of 2x4 on the top to make the walls a little more rigid.  I then laminated 4 2x4's to construct a ridgeboard.  I nailed in some temporary 2x4 supports and had a friend help lift it into final position.  Once all of the rafters are cut and nailed into place, the supports were removed.
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.
“Every time I’m choosing a new a location, I head down there with a big flask of coffee and a clicker to count all the people that walk past. Then I walk to the nearest public transportation at rush hour and look at how people are heading home. I turned down one location because while it was right next to the subway, I noticed all the commuters were coming out of the other subway entrance. It turns out all the residences in that area were on the other side of the street.” —ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner

Planning your store layout is no small task, but many small retail store owners do it all themselves with great success. So why not you? Take it slow, follow our seven steps, and remember to put the customer first. With the ideas in this guide and a little elbow grease, you’ll soon be on your way to mapping out a retail store that’s easy to navigate, welcoming to customers, and best of all—profitable.
We think that insulating your van’s floor is worth the minimal extra cost it adds to your build. The best floor insulation is ½” XPS foam board due to its high r-value per inch and its compressive strength. But a layer of Reflectix will add some insulation while taking away less headspace. We used Reflectix, but if we did it again we’d go with the foam board.
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.
In addition to keeping your workshop comfortable with climate control add-ons, don’t forget to keep your body in optimal condition as you work. A water cooler tucked away in the corner of your workshop will provide a big quality of life boost and allow you to keep at your projects without having to run to the kitchen for a glass of water every time you feel thirsty.
Many DIY campervans have kitchen units that are directly behind the cab, sealing it off from the rest of the van. These layouts offer increased privacy and stealthiness, especially if you completely wall off the cab, and open up some space in the back of the van. This layout can be paired with a lengthwise bed, fixed bed, or convertible dinette bed. You can also place your propane and water connections right by the door, making refill easier.
In general, a table saw requires at least eight feet in front and behind to accommodate standard sheet goods and four feet side to side. A work table should provide four feet clearance on all sides, and pathways between tables, benches and storage units should be three feet wide. Proper clearance will allow you to move about with ease while you work.
You’ll want to consider your insurance needs both in terms of the potential frequency of claims against you and the size of the potential liability. You’re also going to want to think carefully about your assets and what you can and cannot afford to lose. A good rule of thumb is to always buy insurance if you can’t absorb the loss of a particular asset without dramatic effect.

One thing I found while looking on the topper websites is a piece of weather strip designed to go between the tailgate and the truck bed. It has a special wedge shape to it so when you close the tailgate it makes a watertight seal. It is just the thing to keep the dust and dirt from entering the back of your rig when driving down the dirt roads. They’re inexpensive too, for a full size truck like my Dodge it’s only $25. It has adhesive on one side, so installation looks simple.


Hey Ted! If you mean to ask whether you could sit up from one of the vertical sidebins and have enough headroom under the Leer 122, I think that would be a no. You’d have to build the sidebins to be a little shorter. At least with my truck, that would be the case. Perhaps with a full-size pickup you would have enough room thanks to the overall size increase of the canopy as well. 

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.
Since grid layouts are used in most grocery, big box, and convenience stores, they create a familiar feel to customers. However, due to this familiarity, they tend to impart a grab-and-go experience. A grid layout can be a good choice for small retailers who shelf-stock inventory in quantity, like toys, books, magazines, specialty foods, kitchenware, and home goods. However, it’s not ideal for retailers who want to create an upscale, branded environment that invites relaxed browsing.
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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?
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.
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.”
Hey Anthony, I guess the big question is what part of the country you’ll be sleeping in and what sort of weather you can expect… I would imagine when conditions are fine that a warm sleeping bag would be more than enough (I used to do that before I had a canopy). You’ll just have to worry about rain (snow?) and other inclement weather, but otherwise I don’t know why not. A cheap bivy sack from an army surplus store might be a good addition as well.
Hey Melody, thanks for the email. I’ve traveled through some extremely humid areas (Central America)… I’m taking it that your canopy does not have a headliner? That in and of itself helps a great deal. Personally I would be hesitant to put holes or van roof vents in my cap, but that may be what you want to do. I would try sleeping with a portable personal fan first and see how that helps with the condensation issue. For me it worked wonders while sleeping in those hot and humid environments. I ran mine off the inverter connected to my secondary battery.
There are some variances in the features and reliability of different model years, and differences between the Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge Promaster - so make sure to do your research. The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook is an incredible resource on all things Sprinter (and van conversions in general), and it goes over all the options in detail.
It's a well-known fact in the retail community that in North America, 90% of consumers turn right unconsciously upon entering a store. The first wall they see is often referred to as a "power wall," which acts as a high-impact first impression vehicle for your merchandise. So, be sure to give it extra special attention in terms of what you choose to display and how you display it.
To make sure you account for any existing obstructions, it’s a good idea to make a measured drawing of your workshop area on graph paper, noting existing furniture, built-ins and large items on the plan as you go. For example, a common one-car garage workshop layout has built-in tool cabinets and shelves around the perimeter where they won’t impede parking, but you may also have to get clever about folding work tables and saw horses that you can set up as needed in the middle of the garage when you’re working on a project (and cars are parked outside).
Unfortunately, the requirements across the country and across different industries are as varied as the bodies enforcing them. The only way to guarantee that your licenses and permits are all squared away is to seek out regulating authorities on the county, state, and federal level, as well as consult with the relevant industry-specific bodies for your business type.

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.
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. 
Tim Inman: You don’t say where you will be located, but if you are anywhere that gets cold I definitely have a suggestion. I’ve built three shop buildings over my years. In each one, I’ve put down 2-inch closed cell foam board underneath six inches of concrete for the floor. I would never build a shop — or anything else, for that matter — without this. The foam lets the concrete become a huge heat sink and warming stone. My feet are never ever cold when I work on this combination. The shop stays reasonably warm without spikes in the heat and cooling. The tools are more rust-free, and I like it.
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!
​There are some diverging paths that you could take at this point: some may want to get a router with a router table for edge work and improved joinery capabilities, some may want to start looking at some of the interesting 3rd party jigs - two of my favorites are the DowelMax and the Kreg Pocket System, but my recommendation would be to equip yourself to buy cheap stock.
Well this is the same unit I have used for years so the noise level will be what it has been. I never turn it on without ear protection. In the future, I plan on building a little closet around the cyclone to help mitigate the noise to some extent. As for cycling the motor, I read that too. But the way I work, I just can’t do that. I have to turn it on and off as needed but I do try to limit it as much as possible by doing all of my heavy milling at once.

I was really excited after seeing your shop video. It was almost like you read my mind (except my plans does have more windows and a wood burning stove as I live in TN). I realized the importance of more 22o plugins after you explained your reasoning. I was just planning a couple. Love the floor and ceiling plugins. One quick question. Is each plugin area on it own breaker, or do you have more then one on each breaker. I was planing on each one to have its own breaker. Love your approach on your projects and how you introduce new items or products. Thanks and Merry Christmas
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.
Just as a shed or garage can get stifling in the summer heat, winter cold can also make working conditions difficult — if not impossible. To prevent clumsy, stuff fingers from ruining your projects, you need a way to heat your workshop in even the most extremely frigid days of the year. A traditional residential space heater probably won’t cut it, as these are designed to heat single rooms. For a two-car garage or full basement, you’ll need something much bigger.

It’s also a good idea to cover up any exposed insulation or open stud bays so that you have a flat surface to mount stuff on the walls of your workshop. Here we’re attaching plywood panels to the metal framing but in most garages or sheds you can just nail them directly to the studs. We’re also getting a jump on organizing by putting in a hose reel next to the location we’ve chosen for our air compressor.

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.
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