The idea of not having your own bathroom nearby can be incredibly intimidating, but we’ve found that this is actually one of the easiest parts of vanlife. Public restrooms are plentiful throughout North America, and we’ve never not had a bathroom when we needed one. Gas stations, truck stops, Walmarts, McDonald’s - you name it, we’ve done some business there.
I’ll throw this suggestion out to you too – while a warm sleeping bag would be a good start, maybe a couple sheets of plywood to put over the truck bed with a tarp over that would provide you some extra protection from rain/snow and also trap in some body heat. You wouldn’t have to make them permanent and could just slide the wood into the bed when not sleeping under it. A cheap bivy as Ryan suggested would also be a good consideration and a quality sleeping pad to provide some warm rating and comfort from the truck bed.
Sadly, that’s most of my power tools and shop accessories, but it’s a growing collection. Compared to all the money I’ve wasted on small electronics and computer junk in the past, I’d say this has been, and will continue to be, a much better investment. I just wish I had come to that realization back in college, when I was probably spending $500-$1000+ a year upgrading my computer.
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.
One of the best deals on portable power tools, including routers and sometimes planers, comes in the form of factory-reconditioned tools. These are primarily tools that have been repaired at the factory after failing quality inspections or being returned by customers. While they cannot be sold as new, they are identical to new tools in quality and appearance and usually feature the same warranty (be sure to check). Typical savings are anywhere from 15% to 30%, though you sometimes can find even bigger bargains. These tools can be found at Amazon.com and other online tool sellers. It is also possible to buy them through retail stores and, in some cases, directly from the manufacturer’s Web site.
To get the most out of your router, you are going to want a router table.  You may find yourself asking if you really need one - if you do, check this post out.​  It's one of those purchases that you won't truly understand how valuable it is until you have one.  Given the budget of $2,500, I'd suggest looking at the Bosch RA1171 ($150).  If you want to see our favorite tables along with write-ups, check them out here.
Power walls are your go-to spot for hot finds, new items, and seasonal features that attract instant attention and pull customers through the entry area and into your store. These areas are likely going to change frequently and you need to plan for it. Outfit these spaces with versatile displays that can be easily changed to showcase various product groupings.

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.
I am working hard (or hardly working) on our master bathroom vanity! I spent the whole day in the garage on Monday, but it was such a mess from all the other projects I have been working on, so I spent the day cleaning and organizing instead of building. Now I have a place to build the vanity and this coming week there is nothing going on so I will also have time. I can almost smell the progress! 

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.
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.

Ultimate Small Shop is a turnkey solution for woodworkers to get started with their dream workshop. Every woodworker, hobbyist or professional, wants a nice workshop in their home. It may be the garage or a shed, the barn or a detached man cave, the basement or a room up somewhere with enough space. Woodworkers often fail to create their dream workshops due to dearth of space and funds. Ultimate Small Shop solves both these issues and empowers woodworkers to live their dreams.
If you want to hit the road as soon as possible, then a Class B/C RV camper is a great option to consider. These vehicles are typically move-in ready, and barring any mechanical issues shouldn’t need much customizing before hitting the road. Class B campers (aka “campervans”) are built inside a van body, while Class C campers have a custom body built on a van cab/chassis.
Do you have a business license? Do you have a permit to open a food service establishment issued by the local health department? Are you applying for a permit to modify the building you wish to occupy? Do you have a health permit from the county health department? Do you have a signage permit? How about an alarm permit from your city or county fire or police departments? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself.
One site that I found a year or more ago was Life Remotely. They converted their truck to accomodate 3 people traveling from Seatle to the end of South America. They camped in tents most nights and some hotels/hostels but did a lot of conversions to their truck. Plus they blogged the whole time which is pretty cool if you want to take the road trip international.
The small apparel boutique pictured above really nails these traffic flow details! A roomy entrance offers clear sight and travel lines to eye-catching power walls on the right, and an inviting seating area towards the back. These lure customers into the store with the promise of treasures and comfort within. The shop even has a left-side checkout midway back. Someone really did their customer behavior homework on this retail store layout.
You may want a garage door if you will need to access your shop with large workpieces or tools, or if you or future owners will ever want to use the space to park a vehicle. Garage doors are notoriously drafty, however, so if you think you can live without one you will probably be warmer. Instead, you could opt for out-swinging double doors. In a small shop you can, at a pinch, rip longer lengths of lumber by feeding the material out of either a strategically placed door or window.
With the third category, franchise businesses , the risk of getting started is potentially the lowest of all when it comes to starting a small business, as you are often buying into a clearly established business model. You will also often benefit from the initial support of the franchisor, including advice around site selection, training and orientation, employee hiring, and product mix coordination. This support and assurance, however, comes at a premium. On top of the normal startup costs (space, equipment, etc...), you’ll have to pay a franchise fee to the owner, which is often tens of thousands of dollars, as well as a percentage of your revenues on an ongoing basis.
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.
One of the challenges we all face is how to move machines into a home without damaging the home, the machinery, or yourself. I actually had to bring things through the front door, and across hardwood floors, and turn 90° to descend the stairs into the shop. To protect the floors, I laid down sheets of 1/2" MDF that I could use later. On the wooden stairs, I used three strips of softwood strap­ping, held with wood screws to the stairs. I mounted a 2x4 baton to the wall studs at the top of the stairs, with a 5/16-inch eye-bolt through it.
You can see I broke the ultimate goal down into smaller tasks. Now you just need to do this for all the big goals that you have mapped out for the year. You may have more ideas or goals throughout the year and that’s okay. With this type of document, you are able to add another category and tasks anytime you want. This is just the best way to keep track of all the little things you need to do to accomplish your goals so you never are stuck wondering what you have to do next.
Also, heard of anyone camping in an Accord sedan? I’m wondering if it’d be worth it to buy a new Tacoma to convert into a dirtbaggin’ vehicle or if I should try to make it in a sedan. Lots of variables… I’ve got the cash but it’d eat into the “cushion” I have for living on the road (about 50% of it). OTOH I could buy a used Tacoma, but they hold value so well it’d seem like long term it’d be best to get it new. I’ve seen some with 250 miles sell for $8,000+. Thoughts on getting a new truck using my beat-up sedan?
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.
Once again I would like to Thank You for letting so many of us see what is going on in your world. It is very educational and entertaining to see what has happened in the past few months of your dream shop build. As I was watching the video I periodically looked out my window to see the snow falling steadily and building up along the windowsill. Every now and then I imagined I was in your sunny backyard admiring your Shop. I am looking forward to seeing what you will create in your New Space. Keep up the Good work and Congratulations on your Dream Shop.
Many retail fixture and display companies provide store planning and design services to their customers. Though typically not free, these in-house design services can be far less expensive than hiring an independent designer. Plus, they can help streamline the process of store layout and planning, along with the purchasing and installation of displays and fixtures.
Love the local history of your city or state? Consider becoming a tour guide. Sure, you’ll need to conduct tons of research to be able to do the job well, but that’s half the fun. Set yourself apart by offering tours that speak to a specific niche of your community’s history. Some tour guides offer historical walking tours of their town’s most haunted spots while others curate guided foodie tours for guests to get a true taste of the city.
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.
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.  
Before you bid in an online auction, check the site’s rules of operation. At some sites, a winning bid is a binding contract, which can be a problem if you can’t inspect the tool before you purchase it. Don’t forget shipping costs. In some cases they can exceed the cost of the tool. Also, make sure the tool you’re buying will run on the power you have in your shop. Many former industrial tools run on 240v single-phase power. If your shop doesn’t have 240v service, you’ll need to factor in the cost of upgrading before deciding to buy. You don’t want to saddle yourself with a tool you can’t use, no matter how good the price.
Now nobody reasonably expects you to actually hit that exact number in five years time, but the point here is accountability. A really great small business plan forces you to think through your goals, associate a dollar value with each, and articulate clearly how you will make them a reality. By declaring your projected revenue in month seven or your expenses in year five, you are giving yourself a benchmark for success.
The small apparel boutique pictured above really nails these traffic flow details! A roomy entrance offers clear sight and travel lines to eye-catching power walls on the right, and an inviting seating area towards the back. These lure customers into the store with the promise of treasures and comfort within. The shop even has a left-side checkout midway back. Someone really did their customer behavior homework on this retail store layout.
One site that I found a year or more ago was Life Remotely. They converted their truck to accomodate 3 people traveling from Seatle to the end of South America. They camped in tents most nights and some hotels/hostels but did a lot of conversions to their truck. Plus they blogged the whole time which is pretty cool if you want to take the road trip international.

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.
Different approach in that they hung one end of the sleeping platform with hooks and U bolts. One of the best write ups with full details about rigging up an electrical system with second batteries and an isolator, as well as using power inverters. They were then able to incorporate cool things like a mini fridge, lights, and mini PC fans for air circulation.
I’ve been living out of my Mazda 3—not the hatchback version!— for over two years now. I love the gas savings (standard transmission; I can get up to 40mpg) and the ease of getting around places. I don’t love that I can’t lay flat (hurts the back) and that organization is tricky. However, there are certainly ways to make it work. Ryan linked to one article and there are two others that shed light on some important aspects when going on a long road trip like this.
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.

This will be a personal matter, depend­ing on whether it will be helpful for finishing or sharpening. However, it is a good idea to look beyond your current use of this space to the next owner. Would it be beneficial to add plumbing hookups so that the shop could someday be an apart­ment, or an art studio, or an extension to your house? It could add to the resale value of your house to be able to create as flexible an area as possible by roughing in a bathroom and even a kitchenette area if you can. If this is done when wall cavities are open or before the slab is poured, your forethought could pay dividends but not cost much up front. 

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.

In an indoor or basement shop with industrial carpeting, lay down inexpensive laminate flooring to make your life a bit easier at the end of the day. Be sure to anchor the panels or place a large rubber mat beneath to keep them from sliding over the carpet. (Covering up your carpet is even more critical if you want to go beyond wood and work with a material such as aluminum in your indoor shop; metal shavings dig into any kind of carpeting and are incredibly frustrating to clean up.)


Commercial law exists for one simple reason: money and trust have a long and storied history of mixing like oil and water. Throughout the millennia-long history of commerce, aspiring businessmen and women have been lied to, cheated, scammed, cajoled, bullied, and otherwise disconnected from every single dime they had by unscrupulous suppliers, greedy investors, and dishonest business partners.  
While the recession brought with it a well-documented squeeze on small business lending from banks, there are a number of alternative funding sources available to those who are starting or expanding their small business. Loans and/or equity investments can be sourced from multiple sources, including credit unions, savings and loans, and private financial companies. Family members, friends, and colleagues are also potential avenues to explore.
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.
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