When starting a small business, many store owners underestimate the value of a persuasive shop design. What they don’t realize is that people are visual creatures. In fact, 90% of the information transmitted in the human brain is visual. Clear, consistent store design will ensure that you attract your ideal customers into your business by delivering a subconscious uniform message.
I set an initial budget of $10,000 to build the shop – everything from studs and drywall to hand tools and machinery. The final number was over by $1,000, but I’m still very happy with the result. The shop is now my haven, with a good sound sys­tem and good lighting. Every time I go back into the shop, it is exactly the way I left it, because it is my shop!
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.
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.
Without organization, living in a van can feel cluttered and chaotic, so you'll want to make the most of your storage space. This is a good time to make sure you've paired down your belongings to a reasonable amount and to make sure everything has a place. (As a former engineer who loves making things as efficient and optimized as possible, this was Ben's favorite step!) 

“Zone design successfully helps shoppers locate what they want while exposing them to products that enhance the ones they are buying. Increased transaction totals are a natural byproduct. Products are categorized by use into Zones, such as ‘kitchen/cooking,’ ‘entertaining/dining,’ and ‘home decor,’ with inventory range and stock levels determining the size of each Zone.
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.

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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?
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.
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.
I want the shop to be big! Not only do I have a lot of tools, but I tend to frequently bring tools in for testing. As you probably know by now, I also do a lot of filming. So I need a space big enough to allow for full movement around most of the tools. My tripod has a pretty good-sized footprint and having more room allows me to get the best vantage point possible. More space will also allow me to stage larger pieces of furniture, whether for the show or for jobs I take on locally.
Hey thanks for the great insight on a pickup camping setup! I just purchased a 2002 tundra with a 74″ bed. Picking it up in Denver in a week and driving it to Durango and then around the southwest. I mainly decided on a truck for a mobile place to keep my dog(that doesn’t have an interior he can rip to shreds), but I am thinking of building a setup similar to yours. You haven’t used yours with a canine companion have you? Any suggestions on keeping it dog-friendly, dog-comfortable and dog-proof? I will be keeping him in the back while at work and such and will be camping in the back with him and possibly another person.
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A great product line will also reflect a range of price points. For a business that is working hard to convey a sophisticated and elite vibe, it might be a useful strategy to set a high minimum price, but for the vast majority of small businesses, your pricing should be guided by one key thought: I want every single person who comes through my door to be able to find something that fits their budget.
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.
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.
Next up are the chisels, you can start with a couple of sizes and build from there. When looking at saws, for joinery a dovetail saw is a good place to start, with a choice between western style or Japanese. For precise cuts across the grain, cutting tenon shoulders, and defining the edges of a dado a carcass saw also makes a good complement to the dovetail saw.
Make sure to run ground wires wrapped around all lengths of flexible exhaust hose to prevent static build up, which can spark and potentially ignite. I chose the King 1.5 HP dust collector, with a 115 volt motor, so I did not need special wir­ing for it. A shop vac is a must, as well, used to vacuum out machinery, and to remove dust from furniture prior to fin­ishing. Finally, an air filtration system was installed to clear the air of tiny airborne particles. The King KAC 650 unit I installed does a nice job, has a remote control, and a program­mable delay – I usually have the air cleaner run for a timed two hours when I leave the shop.
This sturdy 30-in. x 6-ft.-long DIY workbench is the ultimate in simplicity. It’s made from only fifteen 8-ft.-long 2x4s and one sheet of 1/2-in. plywood. Learn how to build a workbench by following the cutting diagrams to cut the parts: Figure B to cut the plywood tops, then Figure C to cut all the framing. Use the lengths provided in the Cutting List (see Additional Information below). You can either screw the framing together with 3-in. screws or hand- or power-nail it together with 3-in. nails. Screw the plywood down with 1-5/8-in. screws.
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 wouldn’t give up on Craigslist or garage sales.. For around $1K or less, you can pretty easily find the four big ticket items (TS, BS, Jointer and Planer) and have the extra $2K to spend on accessories, material, DC, other goodies, etc. The key is patience and persistence, and if applied correctly, you can have a fantastic setup for very little compared to purchasing new. If you are setting up a business, you don’t usually have the time to scour for good deals, but for a personal shop, there is no pressing need other than that itch to get something done.
If this all sounds too complex for you, there are alternatives. Thanks to advances in technology, there are tools available that help simplify bookkeeping and accounting so that you don’t have to hire a full-time accountant to take care of the basics. We’re big believers that a technology-led approach to running a small business will leave you with more actionable insights, more time to focus on your day-to-day operations, and ultimately, more money. For details on the cloud-based technologies that more and more businesses are relying on, make sure to check out our cloud-based business guide.
One of the challenges in building a cabinet for hand tools, is that as soon as you define a place for each tool in your custom cabinet, you find that you need more room to store the must have tools you just bought. I decided to make a couple of open cabinets, and employ the use of inserts that can be replaced or modified as my tool collection grows. Part of the goal was to make a clean, efficient shop, while keeping to a budget. I bought paint grade maple plywood and made the cabinets. Applying a solid maple face frame to the cabinet makes a clean looking cabinet from sheet goods purchased at $50/sheet.
In our Complete Coffee Shop Startups Kit, we spend a good amount of time discussing your health department requisites, your coffee equipment, and even the design of your coffee shop. Since this makes up a significant bulk of your startup costs (equipment, space requirements, etc.), we recommend that you spend an extra couple of hours strengthening your knowledge base with listening to our audio interviews.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an open-celled foam board (think styrofoam) that is the cheapest of all the foam boards. It does work, but we generally don’t recommend using EPS in your van. It insulates less than XPS (R-4 per inch), and the gaps between the foam cells allow moisture to penetrate, which degrades the insulation over time. Polyiso and XPS are much better choices for a slightly higher cost.
Using six pipe cleaners, you can make your own skeleton. Bend one pipe cleaner into two for the backbone. Twist another around the bottom of the backbone to make into the legs. Do the same for the arms. Join two pipe cleaners and twist them around the backbone leaving some space forming a ribcage. Ultimate Small Shop Woodworking Twist the last pipe cleaner for a head and glue on some eyes. Hang with a rubber band for a bouncing effect. Your kids will love making Halloween crafts with pipe cleaners. But be careful when cutting and keep them out of their mouth. Going trick or treating? Why not make a special jug to collect candies? Cut off the top two inches of a gallon milk jug. Soak to remove any labels. Paint orange. Once dry, paint or stick on eyes nose and mouth resembling a Jack O’Lantern. Use fluorescent paint for a nice effect. The jug can be kept for future reuse. Using glue and food coloring, you can make a see-through painting. Paint a Halloween image onto a piece of plastic wrap. Before the mixture dries, put another piece of plastic wrap on. Cut it out and hang it in front of a light source for a see-through effect. You could also frame the plastic pictures using wood or cardboard if you want them to be longer lasting. Make some hand printed spiders. Ralph Chapman Ultimate Small Shop Apply black paint to your palm and 4 fingers leaving out the thumb. Place palm onto a piece of paper. Turn the paper 180 degrees and print again making sure the palm overlaps. Add some wiggly eyes using either paint or sticks. This is suitable for even 2 or 3-year-olds. Make your own blood. It is less expensive than buying ready-made blood from the Halloween shops. It’s not difficult; all you need is Karo syrup and food coloring. While you’re at it, why not make some slime using glue, water, and borax powder. This is an advanced Halloween craft, so take your time and be careful. Using apples, you can make dried, shrunken heads. Peel the apples and coat with a mixture of lemon juice and salt to prevent browning. Carve out a face of eyes, nose, and mouth. Do not worry about the finer details as they will probably be lost when the apple dries. You can use whole cloves for the eyes and rice grains for the teeth. Let the apples sit out in a warm place for about 2 weeks. If you don’t have 2 weeks, you can speed up the drying by putting them into an oven on the lowest temperature for about 45 minutes and then dry out naturally for the next 2 days or so. Ultimate Small Garage Clock Shop Once dried, they shrink and deform into weird and scary looking faces. Says Angie Maroevich, “You don’t have to spend a fortune on commercial Halloween supplies to have a great party.

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.


Just stumbled across your article and it’s right on time as I am about to launch a special events venue (ballrooms, meeting rooms, outside garden area, outsourced caterer, etc). Not sure what type of zoning this business falls under. I read that zones are usually for office, retail, industrial and leisure. Any idea what type of zone I should be looking for? Also first time trying to get a commercial space for this type of business, any specific suggestions?
The tablesaw—This tool is the backbone of nearly every shop, and for good reason. It allows unmatched precision in ripping parallel edges and crosscutting at a variety of angles. Most woodworkers find it crucial for the basic milling of stock. It is also suited to many joinery tasks, easily producing tenons, box joints, and—with a reground blade—the tails for dovetail joints.
This style of saw will provide more power than a contractor-type saw and have the high-quality rip fence you need to do good work. However, because they are favored by professionals and serious amateurs, cabinet saws are harder to find on the used market. Scour the classifieds and online sales (be sure to check industrial auction sites as well), and do some networking. Check the bulletin board at your hardwood supplier and ask the proprietors if they know of anyone selling a saw. Also call local cabinet shops. They sometimes have a surplus tool sitting idle that they’d be willing to sell. Take your time in this step. A careful investment will pay dividends in the long run, but a well-intentioned compromise can cause long-term frustration.
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However, another critical component to small business success is being self aware. With a variety of tools at your fingertips, tracking basic accounting can be fairly simple. Still, in order to be strategic about how you spend your money, properly leveraging these tools will still require a little bit of legwork. What used to take you eight hours might now only take one hour. But if you’re not willing or able to run through your financial tasks on a regular basis, bringing in a bookkeeper or accountant might be your best option.
While not as large as I would have liked (is a wood shop ever big enough?), it is about twice the size of my previous shop. It measures about 12 by 25. Fortunately I had managed to find quite a bit of shelving before the move, so I was able to install shelving along two walls. And the work benches were made from wood salvaged from packing crates from Europe and left over yellow pine car siding and flooring from remodeling the old house.
“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.)”
People tend to buy cargo vans for work and hold on to them for years, so many vans on the market can be pretty beat up. Although you can find inexpensive cargo vans in good condition, it can be tough to find anything with lower mileage - so be prepared for all that comes with owning a higher mileage vehicle. Cargo vans also don’t offer much headroom. There’s no way even shorter people will be able to stand in one, and the lack of headroom also cuts down on storage space.

Other than that, you can’t have too much light — especially north light! — and you want accommodations for all the electricity you can imagine. Ceiling fans are a must. A good dust collection system is good, too. Don’t forget to plumb in for compressed air. Do NOT use hard PVC water pipe for compressed air — ever. If/when it breaks or ruptures, it explodes into tiny sharp glass-like shards. I know firsthand. I’ll tell you about it some other time. Think balloon popping!


Nicole and I decided not to go public with the cost of the build. Although we are very open about most things, we are a little uncomfortable about making an expenditure of this magnitude public knowledge. Furthermore, unless you live in the Phoenix area and plan on building the same size shop with the same patio and with all of the same finishing touches and labor requirements, the price isn’t all that helpful to you.

For small business owners, these tools present an incredible opportunity to set smarter business goals and easily identify some of the key factors of success and growth in their business. However, when you couple the breadth of technology options with decisions about basic store and restaurant equipment, such as espresso machines or air conditioning units, it can become a little overwhelming to figure out what is actually worth the investment.
In addition to sheer power, look for a model with a built-in thermostat so you can set it and forget it. This convenience feature is well worth it so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing mid-project to manually turn your heater on and off to maintain your desired temp. A good garage heater will mount to the wall or ceiling to save space and will come with a durable housing and full safety screen to keep dust and wood chips from reaching the heating elements and starting a fire.

Many small businesses in New York and New Jersey were forced to close following Superstorm Sandy because they lacked the insurance that would have gotten them back on their feet. That part is well known. What’s less well known is that this lack of proper insurance, coupled with the lack proper legal incorporation, resulted in many entrepreneurs seeing their personal assets come under threat.
If you’re a high volume QSR for example, you’re going to want clear signage that helps customers identify where they should be lining up and perhaps a product display next to the line. If you have high risk merchandise in your store, you’ll want to design your shop so that customers must pass the point of sale on their way out and use mirrors to eliminate blind spots in your business.
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