It all depends on what you care about most. Putting your kitchen by the side door could simplify refilling your water and propane tanks. Putting it behind the driver’s seat creates a nice, open feel in your van. Right behind the cab makes your van more private, while all the way in the back is a different twist on most van layouts out there. Some vanlifers even have kitchens that pull out of the trunk on drawers for cooking outside.
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.

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.
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.
Enter the garage heater. These space heaters are specifically designed to warm up wide open areas and to function under much tougher circumstances than you’re likely to find in the average house. A well designed garage heater will offer at least 5,000 watts of heating power — enough to warm 750 square feet of space. A smaller heater might take off a bit of the chill, but to really warm your workshop — and keep it that way — you’ll need a heater of this size.
Use this model whether you’re looking to turn your team of one into a two-person shop or you’re hoping to build out your marketing department to a team of 10 or more.  By focusing on the skill sets your business needs to be successful — rather than on the resume of an individual candidate — you’ll ensure vital functions are covered while expanding in a sustainable way.
So, if you’re looking for a retail or restaurant location, you’ll want to figure out how many customers you expect to have, on average, and multiply that by 15 square feet. If you’re looking for an office space, you’ll want to forecast the desired size of your workforce and multiply it by 100 – 150. This will give you the size of the commercial space you need.
In my opinion, the best shop space is a flexible one. I know many folks expected that after setting up my shop so many times, I would be able to design the PERFECT shop space including a finishing room, a dust collection closet, and even some internal walls. But the truth is, the most important lesson I learned over the years was to expect change. My shop is not a static entity. It is more like a living breathing creature that adapts, evolves, grows, shrinks, and changes configuration. Committing to an internal spacial arrangement too early could yield disappointing results. This is why you won’t see me placing dust collection ductwork in the floor. I need to work in a space for at least a few months before I can be confident in my initial setup. Even then, I fully expect things to change at some point. If I made too many restrictive and/or permanent decisions ahead of time, these changes could be difficult or impossible to implement. So my best piece of advice is to forget about the concept of perfection. Instead, focus on flexibility. The ideal shop, in my mind, is little more than 4 walls, a roof, and a butt-load of outlets and lights. So here are some of my basic general goals for my new shop space.

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.
It can become very difficult and time-consuming to constantly track the amount and purchase price of all your inventory, but it is hugely important to your bottom line. Every time you catch yourself saying, “Sorry, we don’t have that in right now,” you are leading your business in a very unhealthy direction. Not only does being out of something represent a lost sale opportunity, but in a world where consumers place a huge premium on their time, it could mean that you lose that customer forever while hurting your brand reputation in the process.
We love natural light as much as anyone, and the big windows in our van were something we were super excited about. But when you're living in a van, you'll want some privacy. Trust me. You'll also need curtains to keep out the lights when you're trying to sleep. Making your own curtains can seem like a daunting task, but it's not all that hard. (I speak as someone who had to look up a tutorial to operate a sewing machine!)
The router—The router is the master when it comes to flexibility. Its potential far exceeds trimming and decorative edge treatments. A router will cut mortises, rabbets, and dadoes, and adding a router table builds in even more versatility, including biscuit joinery and raised-panel doors. But where the router distinguishes itself from all other tools is in its ability to produce identical parts using a pattern. 

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.
Well I was just thinking about all of the supplies I’ll be able to keep in this large shelf unit we just installed in our workshop. Hey, that’s we’re doing this week is creating a very practical realistic workshop where we’ll be doing a lot of projects for the TV show, but it’s also going to be used by my construction company so it really has to be set up properly.
For many new small business owners, the additional expense and bureaucratic hoopla involved in obtaining the correct paperwork often leaves them dragging their heels. This attitude, however, can result in stiff financial penalties, or worse, having your permission to do business revoked. Before we jump into the why and how of obtaining your business permit or license, it’s important for you to understand the difference.
2) I haven’t spent very many nights in full on winter conditions (that 12 degree night in Boise comes to mind!), so I can’t comment too much. It was fine for that… Mostly it was hard transitioning from the warmth of the cab to the frigid air while you are shifting things around and getting ready for bed, but then once you were inside the canopy it was fine. Lots of frosty ice on the inside windows, but in my sleeping bag all was well. It stays a little warmer in the canopy. Maybe I’m a wuss, but I didn’t want to spend an extended period of time dirtbagging it in my truck while I was ice climbing (I spent the first two months in Ouray, CO, sharing a rental), I just thought it would be too challenging/miserable to dry and manage gear in a confined space with the shorter daylight hours. I’d be perfectly content doing future weekend trips with this setup though!

State Parks/Developed Campgrounds. Every once in awhile, it’s kind of nice to stay at a state park or other developed campground - and a big reason why is that they have showers (and sometimes laundry, too). This is what we’ve done most often when we need a shower on the road. Many state parks also have small day use fees if you don’t want to actually camp there.


So, if you’re looking for a retail or restaurant location, you’ll want to figure out how many customers you expect to have, on average, and multiply that by 15 square feet. If you’re looking for an office space, you’ll want to forecast the desired size of your workforce and multiply it by 100 – 150. This will give you the size of the commercial space you need.
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.
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.
Ventilation is extremely important in the rain. These window deflectors allow us to leave our front windows cracked while it’s raining, so we can pull in fresh air and create airflow with our vent fan. As a bonus, it also reduces annoying wind noise while driving on the highway. The Auto Ventshade is fairly inexpensive, easy to install, and makes a great addition to any van (make sure you get the correct one for your specific vehicle).
Aside from mechanical repairs, a mechanic’s toolset will help you loosen and tighten bolts - which you’ll need to do during the gutting process, installing your electrical system, and at many other points during your van build. This Crescent 170-piece tool set has all the essentials, including 6-point and 12-point sockets in ¼”, ⅜” and ½” - not to mention pliers, crescent wrenches and screwdrivers.
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.
Radiation is heat transferred through air or a vacuum- think the heat radiating off of a fire. In a van, the biggest source of radiant heat is your windows. Sunlight (radiant heat) shines in through the windows and heats up the inside of your van. Using a reflective window covering will help deflect radiant heat and keep your van cool. Reflective surfaces also help keep radiant heat inside the van during the winter.
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.
I think it would work pretty well for a music festival, I don’t see why not. I wouldn’t say it is robbery proof, but generally robbers are looking for quick and easy targets, like a purse sitting on the front seat, just smash and grab. If someone really wanted to rob what was under they platform, they surely could, but they’d need more tools and more time to do so. And they don’t even know if there is anything good under there… I’d like to think of it as a really good robbery deterrent.
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.
A software engineer needs to know how to code.  An administrative assistant must answer phones and organize paperwork.  But a marketer typically needs to wear many hats, from writer to advertiser to strategist.  And unlike other job roles, marketing employees can affect the core of a business by changing the way it’s positioned — and they can be held accountable to the company’s bottom line.
I totaly get not wanting to get into the cost part of the shop. We just went through a house renovation, and my stock answer to the ‘how much’ question is either ‘enough’, or ‘enough that was right for us’. There is a quality of life or utility aspect that every person needs to figure out for themselves. And, I would think not having to bounce around from garage to garage anymore has gotta be worth something!

Due diligence is the process of going through the current owner’s books with a fine-tooth comb to verify inventory information, sales data, average ticket price, and every other aspect of the business. Doing all this yourself is difficult and time-consuming, so you’ll probably want to involve accountants and lawyers to ensure that you cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. A big red flag to watch out for here is how intertwined the current owner’s personal expenses are with the business accounts — this can obscure the genuine flow of cash in and cash out of the business. The purchase price of an existing business is often calculated as three to five times the net annual revenue, so you’ll want to take that figure into account before you make an offer.


Great website! I spent a summer living out of a ford focus hatchback while road tripping around the United States. The rear seats were replaced with a small platform to store gear and the rear windows were tinted. I enjoyed the freedom that anywhere I parked no one would see me hop from the drivers seat to my platform for some zzz’s. Also no one would guess that someone is sleeping in a 3dr ford focus.
Thanks to you I built my own truck camper. I bought a LEER top and put a memory foam mattress in the back. I built a basic wood frame, and tried to maximize living space and comfort. It feels more like a Truck Bedroom then Truck Camping. I use bed sheets and blankets instead of sleeping bags. I haven’t seen this as very common. Do you foresee any issues with doing it this way?
Solar Shower. For easy, inexpensive showering in wilderness locations, nothing beats a good solar shower. This is basically a bag of water that you leave out in the sun until it heats up, then hang it from a high place and shower using the attached nozzle. 5-gallon solar showers should get you about 5 minutes of good water flow. There are also pricier but more convenient pump-operated solar showers that you can buy.

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.
The router—The router is the master when it comes to flexibility. Its potential far exceeds trimming and decorative edge treatments. A router will cut mortises, rabbets, and dadoes, and adding a router table builds in even more versatility, including biscuit joinery and raised-panel doors. But where the router distinguishes itself from all other tools is in its ability to produce identical parts using a pattern.
Sometimes you just know it when you see it. So always be prepared to capture pictures and take notes when you see store features that you’d like to try out yourself. And don’t forget the many online resources out there. Settle down with a cup of coffee and scroll through Pinterest for a treasure trove of store design ideas. Here’s a great board to get you started. Or get inspired by the many hip retail store designs on the Retail Design Blog.
State Parks/Developed Campgrounds. Every once in awhile, it’s kind of nice to stay at a state park or other developed campground - and a big reason why is that they have showers (and sometimes laundry, too). This is what we’ve done most often when we need a shower on the road. Many state parks also have small day use fees if you don’t want to actually camp there.
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.
Do you create, collect, or curate anything special? Consider starting an ecommerce store and turning your hobby into a full-time job. Whether you need somewhere to sell all that pottery you’ve been making, or an excuse to search for the sports memorabilia you love tracking down -- an ecommerce store can make it financially viable for you to pursue your passion.
Every shop should have good lighting, whether natural or artificial. My video work dictates limited natural light, so I was sure to have plenty of overhead T8 fixtures (6500k). You’ll hear me mention in the video that I was disappointed to see that the ends of the shop were just a little dark. Thankfully, I was able to get the contractor to come back in and drop in 4 more fixtures for me, two at either end. Now the light is bright, crisp, and evenly distributed from one side of the shop to the other.
All this is why I recommend you buy the very best stuff available, even if it means going without certain tools initially. Although it wouldn’t be a disaster to spend $1000 on a whole bunch of inexpensive tools, what are you going to do when you’ve outgrown the capability of these tools and want to upgrade? You’ve now got to somehow get rid of the cheap stuff and replace it with something better. This isn’t easy and it’s always the most expensive way to go.
If you’re starting a small business for the first time, your new best friends in life should be your bookkeeper and your accountant. The former should be engaged for a few hours every week (especially at the start of your business) to compile your books and ensure your records are maintained to the required standard, while the latter will help review your tax situation and prepare financial statements. Both can also be used as invaluable sources of actionable intelligence about ways to reduce costs, increase margins, and generally streamline your finances.You’ll be able to spend all that time you save doing what you love and thinking strategically about your business.
If you want to run a business operated by yourself and more than one employee, you may run into zoning issues if your location is zoned for residential use only. It’s common for municipalities to allow and encourage home-based busi­nesses but there will likely be a maximum area that you will be permitted to add for business purposes. If you try to build a shop that will contribute noise and traffic (from employees or deliveries) to an urban neighbourhood, you run the risk of run­ning into opposition from neighbours concerned by the impact your shop will have. Your municipality will have planners with whom you should consult as you begin to define the possibili­ties that your property will allow.
“If it’s a retail space then location is critical. Proximity to other retailers, access to transportation, and visibility/signage opportunity can be critical. In this case, there may only be 4 or 5 spaces available that meet the business’s criteria and objectives. A good broker will sometimes develop creative alternatives that might be outside the locational parameters but offer other advantages – such as co-tenancy or lease term flexibility.
Tired of having your caulk tubes lying all over the workbench or your shelves? Make this organizer from a scrap of 2×8 and a piece of 1/4-in. plywood. Just lay out a pattern for your 2-in. hole saw to follow and drill holes through the 2×8. Then glue the plywood to the bottom. Now you can set it on a shelf and easily identify the tube you’re looking for. — Burnie Lorenz
Of all the LED lighting options, puck lights are the most difficult to install. You’ll have to run wiring behind the ceiling/walls for each light. And you’ll need to cut a hole with a hole saw to recess the lights into the ceiling. But with some preparation and care it's not too difficult. We have full instructions for installing LED puck lights in our epic electrical post.
1. Paint an accent wall. Painting one wall a bold color is an affordable and effective way to not only spice up the space, but also to make it look larger. A bold colored wall creates the illusion of receding in space, says Libby Langdon, HGTV design expert and author of Libby Langdon's Small Space Solutions (Knack, 2009). Putting colorfully printed fabric or wallpaper on one of your walls is another way to achieve the same effect, while adding eye-catching textures and patterns to your store.
The first is that they will need to be powered by a product catalog. Many times that already exists and an app will just leverage APIs or web services to pull back products. If it doesn't, however, it will require either a custom buildout (beware!) or leveraging platforms like Shopify, Magento, or comparable solutions. The strength of these tools include providing the administration interface to add new inventory, APIs or SDKs, ways to store items in a cart, and similar features. The downsides are that you'll be limited by their workflow and customizations.
Hey Marc. Just wanted to send a huge congrats your way for this milestone. It’s been pretty awesome to follow you on this journey since I discovered you on iTunes some 5 or 6 years ago. Mad props for what you’ve done to grow and enhance the online woodworking community as well as woodworking as a whole. I think with todays generation (as well as future generations) growing up behind a computer, the work that you and the rest of the podcasting world do will go a long way towards bringing new people into the craft. I hope that in the future you are able to start a series of videos showing how you introduce Mateao to the craft. Keep up the awesome work!

You’ve probably considered what goods and services you’ll be offering, but have you researched the cost of sourcing your raw materials? How about the cost of turning those raw materials into your finished product? Do you understand how much you’ll need to charge for your products/services in order to cover the expenses of renting a space, paying employees, leasing equipment, and paying for permits and regulations? Moreover, have you considered if the answers to these questions will provide the kind of operating margin you’ll need to pay yourself a salary?

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.
First, let's dump that hand powered saw/miter box.  It gets the job done, but it takes forever.  We're still on a lean budget, but shelling out ~$110 for a 10 inch electric miter saw makes a lot of sense.  This won't be your forever saw, but it should do fine for most projects.  It can handle up to a 4x6 stock which will cover 99% of what a beginning wood worker will throw at it.  

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The beauty of a portable A/C unit is that you don’t have to heft it into a window and block off a valuable source of fresh air for keeping paint fumes at bay. Instead, choose a model with a low profile that you can tuck under a table or against a wall when not in use — a model with casters for maximum maneuverability is ideal. Choose a high-powered unit that will condition at least 400 square feet of space and move it where you need it for maximum comfort as you work.
Hey Marc. Just wanted to send a huge congrats your way for this milestone. It’s been pretty awesome to follow you on this journey since I discovered you on iTunes some 5 or 6 years ago. Mad props for what you’ve done to grow and enhance the online woodworking community as well as woodworking as a whole. I think with todays generation (as well as future generations) growing up behind a computer, the work that you and the rest of the podcasting world do will go a long way towards bringing new people into the craft. I hope that in the future you are able to start a series of videos showing how you introduce Mateao to the craft. Keep up the awesome work!

First, let's dump that hand powered saw/miter box.  It gets the job done, but it takes forever.  We're still on a lean budget, but shelling out ~$110 for a 10 inch electric miter saw makes a lot of sense.  This won't be your forever saw, but it should do fine for most projects.  It can handle up to a 4x6 stock which will cover 99% of what a beginning wood worker will throw at it.  
I will also typically secure those sorts of items under my locked platform if I am gone for a few days in the backcountry, because in reality I could probably care less if someone broke in and stole my box of food, versus someone who stole my clothes or expensive down jackets, which would be much more problematic (and costly) to replace on the road.

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.


Sprinter vans have been around for awhile, but they’re still the new kid on the block. These vans are especially known for their interior height, long wheelbase, and boxier shape - making them ideal for building out a spacious, functional living space. This category includes the original Mercedes/Dodge Sprinters, as well as Ford Transits and Dodge Promasters (check out this article and this helpful graphic for more information on the differences between these).

When we started putting together our water system we decided to look for a stainless steel tank. Even though plastic tank options are FDA-approved for potable water use, we still don’t like the idea of our drinking water being in contact with plastic for extended periods. Sure, they say it’s “safe,” but not long ago water bottles containing BPA were considered to be safe.


Ventilation is extremely important in the rain. These window deflectors allow us to leave our front windows cracked while it’s raining, so we can pull in fresh air and create airflow with our vent fan. As a bonus, it also reduces annoying wind noise while driving on the highway. The Auto Ventshade is fairly inexpensive, easy to install, and makes a great addition to any van (make sure you get the correct one for your specific vehicle).
First, let's dump that hand powered saw/miter box.  It gets the job done, but it takes forever.  We're still on a lean budget, but shelling out ~$110 for a 10 inch electric miter saw makes a lot of sense.  This won't be your forever saw, but it should do fine for most projects.  It can handle up to a 4x6 stock which will cover 99% of what a beginning wood worker will throw at it.  
If you want to spend as little as possible on a vent fan, the Fan-Tastic Vent 1200 (about $130) is your best bet. This fan has three speeds and manual controls, and it has the same quiet operation and energy efficiency of Fan-Tastic’s other fans. If you find that you need to use it while it’s raining, it’s easy to add on an Ultra-Beeze Vent Cover later on.
Chances are if you’re starting a new small business, you’re not afraid of a little risk. However, it’s also highly likely that you have invested a large amount of money in this new endeavor. It is only prudent to take sensible steps to minimize the impact of unexpected events, like the untimely death of a business partner, a lawsuit from a customer or employee, or a freak accident of nature. 
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