Seems simple right? Well, yes and no. Inventory management can become very complicated once you factor in issues like product lifecycle (how quickly do the apples go bad?), variable amounts of raw goods in a single item (how many apples went into that apple turnover you sold?), delivery times (how quickly you can get new apples?), and variable wholesale apple costs (how much did you pay for that particular bunch of apples?).
Finally, at the beginning you'll do just fine with a basic set of router bits that run ~$40.  A starter set will typically include straight bits for edge matching material, a selection of edge finishing bits, and some joinery bits.  As you work on a few projects you may find that more specialized bits are needed.   But specialized bits are expensive - so purchasing them as you have a specific need makes more sense than buying in anticipation of a need.

Well, my workshop is finally complete and I’m ready to take on just about project that comes down the line. And I’m pretty well set up here. I’ve got a great workbench, plenty of table space over here that easily rolls around the shop if I need it, lot of storage space down here, I can tuck these tools away or bring out any new ones that I need. And as you can see I’ve got plenty of supplies to tackle just about any project.
If you’re looking to setup a shop equipped mainly with stationary power tools, I’d focus the bulk of your budget on the primary big tools. It’s easier to come up with $10 for a couple of clamps as an impulse purchase, than it is $1000 for a good table saw (TS). Most shops feature the TS, and that’s where I’d focus the bulk of my research and budget, unless you’ll primarily be using a band saw (BS). The biggies for me would be a good full size stationary table saw, planer, jointer, router and router table, and maybe a modest DC (like the HF unit for $150). With those main tools, you can build just alot using dimensional lumber or sheetgoods. A BS and DP are nice, but can be added down the road…in the meantime, a modest jigsaw and handheld power drill worked fine for early on. You’ll want a reasonable work surface, whether it’s a nice bench, or an old door. I’d add a good tape measure, squares, a chisel or two, sandpaper, and some basic clamps, then would add more clamps, block plane, and other extras as you go. (Ask family members for gift cards to Rockler, Woodcraft, Amazon, Lowes, HD, etc….). $3k is doable if you’re selective….the used market can be your friend if the right deals come along.
However, while this product might draw the customer through the door, it will not, on its own, make your business a success. A strong small business has to be resilient to the challenges the world can throw at it, whether that means an economic recession, sudden fluctuations in commodity prices, or problematic suppliers. And a big part of resilience comes in the form of diversification.
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.
For example, on your dual battery, the farm just purchased a brand new 2013 Chevy 3500HD with a dump bed. It has dual batteries. How was it installed? They grounded both batteries to the frame and connected the positives with a very large fuse. ~15k later its still working. While its not recommended to do it this way, I think it would work fine in your case. Add the marine battery somewhere in your shell and run a heavy positive from the original battery. Put a large fuse in it(I’d research to see the number, I can’t remember off the top of my head) and your isolator switch inline (probably 2nd battery side of the fuse).

Now, another thing we’ve recycled that’s kind of unusual, all the wood walls you see here were actually and old backdrop that we used on a show a couple of years ago, perfect for our wood walls we need. Now, to store some of the tools, we have we created this simple little shelf unit out of cedar. And you know it kind of adds some of that warm wood feel to a shop, which I wanted it to look more like this than just plain painted walls.


We did our best to keep costs down, but there was only so much we could do. We needed the shop to go up quickly, which eliminated the prospect of me doing some of the work myself. Additionally, we live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association. This means we have very specific restrictions for what we can and can’t do on our property. So the shop must have all of the same finishing touches as our house.
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.
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.

The final size I decided on was 1800 sq. ft. Yeah, that’s big! I actually balked and second guessed myself after we received the estimate from the contractor. Sure, more space is nice, but at what cost? I then asked for a second estimate, bringing the shop down to 1500 sq feet, which is still huge. As you might expect, the savings just weren’t that substantial. By the time you get over 1000 sq. ft., the price per sq. ft. is really low, making it very difficult to justify down-sizing. So I bit the bullet and stayed with my original choice of 1800 sq. ft.
A loop floor plan, sometimes called a racetrack layout, creates the most guided shopping experience of the three. A loop store layout features a defined pathway throughout the store, which exposes customers to every item on display. Bed, Bath & Beyond stores are good examples of a loop floor plan. Loop floor plans work very well with zone merchandising tactics, too, which we discuss in detail below.
​Buying rough cut lumber saves a ton of money.  Buying lumber that has had all four sides surfaced (s4s) will cost roughly 4 times as much as buying rough cut lumber.  Let's look at an example: I'm going to build a table that will require 50 board feet of oak.  If I buy finished oak it will cost around $5.5 / bf or $275.  Alternatively, I can buy rough cut oak at $1.25/bf or ~$65.  In this one project I've saved $210.  That's enough for a new power tool.
It is also essential to take a lean, data-led approach to choosing a business space. The average length of a commercial lease has dropped over the last few years but is still often well over five years, so the absolute last thing you want to do is rush into a signing and get locked into a bad situation. There are so many ways to test the viability of your business idea before you over-invest and sign a full-blown lease agreement.
Congrats on a very nice shop. Great video to capture the moments. I too have moved around from place to place (in the Army) and I have to make my shop work with what they give me for a house. I’ve done work out of a tool shed and I make it work becuase I just love working with wood. Once I retire and settle in one spot I hope to get something similar to yours. I’ve picked up a lot of ideas watching this build.
The standard option for a shop floor is a concrete slab. You’re probably not going to go to the trouble of creating a basement beneath your shop, although it is possible. The weight of most woodworking machines suggests that a con­crete floor is the most solid and durable substrate available. It has the potential to be used as thermal mass to store heat from your heating system or from the sun, but it can be tiring and hard on your body to be standing on concrete all the time. You can add a vapour barrier, 2x4 sleepers and a wooden floor above the concrete to ease the tendency of the floor to strain your feet and back, or you can add anti-fatigue mats in key areas where you’ll be standing for longer periods.
There’s a reason why some of the biggest players online have names that are essentially gobbledegook: Zappos, Skype, Zynga. While there’s certainly some psychological naming principles that often come into play, at the most basic level, it’s simply easier to find this space online and then strive to own the brand name in the minds of consumers. How important this will be to your small business will depend on a number of variables, including your intended size, location, and your desire to exploit ecommerce as well as a local brick-and-mortar business.

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.
When leasing a retail space, there is always risks involved. Your goal should be to minimize these as much as possible by considering every angle and asking the right questions. For example, does the landlord intend on erecting scaffolding on the building at any point during the lease? If so, can the rent be reduced to reflect this situation? You will also want to ask to have a clause included allowing you to sublet if necessary, which can be important if you ever find yourself struggling to make payments.
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.
So after 14 years in our previous location, my company moved to a new shop last month. My shop went from 1600sqft split into 2 bays with the kitchen in between to a contiguous 2950 sqft. Still don't know why the the office portion needed to grow by the same percentage when there were already 10 empty cubes at the old office, but thats an argument for another day. The boss got his 500 sqft office so he is happy.
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.
We have a 5-gallon clear plastic Hedpak container that our sink drains straight down into. We really like this container because it’s clear, which means we can easily see how full it is. With 5 gallons of gray water capacity, we only need to empty it every 3-4 days. Dumping is easy - just remove the tank from under the sink and pour it out into an RV dump facility or other approved area.

​Buying rough cut lumber saves a ton of money.  Buying lumber that has had all four sides surfaced (s4s) will cost roughly 4 times as much as buying rough cut lumber.  Let's look at an example: I'm going to build a table that will require 50 board feet of oak.  If I buy finished oak it will cost around $5.5 / bf or $275.  Alternatively, I can buy rough cut oak at $1.25/bf or ~$65.  In this one project I've saved $210.  That's enough for a new power tool.
Skoolies do have significant drawbacks, however. Their size makes them a bit unwieldy to drive, and getting to some of the more out-of-the-way camping spots just won’t be an option. If something goes wrong mechanically, it can be much more expensive to fix than a normal vehicle. Also, the sheer size of these vehicles means the gas mileage is much worse than other options.
The other aspect that separates the cost of ecommerce apps is the payment itself. As users add products, they'll need to check out and perform a payment transaction. Some of the tools above bundle in payment solutions. Alternatively, you'll have to integrate with payment gateways like Stripe, Braintree, Authorize.net, etc. Ecommerce apps that fall into this category include Amazon, Stitch Fix, Honest, and many others.
2. Create window-like effects. Windows can open up a small space and make it seem larger. At Poppyseeds, a vintage decor and fashion accessory shop in Stanwood, Wash., the owners cut window spaces into the walls separating two small rooms to create a more airy feel. In another room, co-owner Marybeth Sande put white linen panels across an entire wall, creating the illusion of windows. Hanging drapes around tall, skinny mirrors is another way to create a window effect, Langdon says. "That gives an illusion of more light and movement in a small space."

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.


If you have a broker that’s too successful you may be a low priority. If you choose a broker that’s inexperienced but attentive, you may end up paying for their novice mistakes. My advice is to not choose a broker but instead choose a team. Pick a junior/senior combo so that when you’re hunting for space you work more with the junior, and when it comes to negotiating the deal you have the experienced veteran leading the negotiation.”

I used your set-up as a guide in building mine. It is a little different – it’s shorter a little bit, as I have a shorter canopy cover and I didn’t make the sleeping platform flush with the walls of the truck bed – but it turned out great! I’m really happy with it. Also, one of my favorite parts about it is none of it is actually attached to the truck. So I can take everything out and it makes cleaning a little easier. I’d post photos if I knew how. If you feel like seeing it let me know and tell me how to get them to you!
It’s tempting to place new products, hot items, and sale signage front-and-center so they’re the first things customers see upon entering. But don’t do this! The first few feet inside the door, say five feet for a small store, and 15 feet for a larger store, is known as the decompression zone. Store design experts strongly advise against cluttering up this space.
I am a firm believer in having your business goals align with your personal goals. In order to do that, you need to know what your personal goals are. This may be different for everyone, but I want you to be 100% honest here. I am writing this as an update in 2018 to this original blog post and I want to be honest and share with you my personal goals for 2018:
In our opinion, the best kind of fridge you can get for a DIY campervan is a portable 12V fridge/freezer. These fridges are built for adventuring on 4x4 vehicles and boats. They’re very rugged, and they don’t need to be kept perfectly level like mini-fridges. They can run off 12V power or regular 110V. They keep your food as cold as you want, and they can operate as either a fridge or a freezer.
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.
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.
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.
“Just past the Decompression Zone is where you place fixtures known as Speed Bumps. These merchandise displays work much the same way as speed bumps in parking lots work—they slow customers down. They also grab their attention and introduce them to the cool product for sale in your store. Be sure to rotate the product on your Speed Bumps at least once a week.”
Plywood comes in several different types, the most common being pine and lauan. We used ¼” lauan plywood for the walls in our van. Lauan is cheap, it bends easily, and in our opinion its grain pattern looks nicer than pine. Hardwood plywood like birch costs more than pine or lauan, it weighs more, and it’s more difficult to bend. This type of plywood is a great option for furniture, but we think lauan is a better choice for your walls and ceiling.
I live in Northern Va and have the same concerns. I save those little silica gel packets every time they come in a new product and put them in my tool drawers. I also salvaged a dehumidifier from a neighbor that I need to repair and set up in there. I use the wall mounted AC in the summer to keep it cool enough to work in there. Although I haven't gone back yet to insulate the ceiling, it stays really cool in there if i want it to be.
Congrats on a very nice shop. Great video to capture the moments. I too have moved around from place to place (in the Army) and I have to make my shop work with what they give me for a house. I’ve done work out of a tool shed and I make it work becuase I just love working with wood. Once I retire and settle in one spot I hope to get something similar to yours. I’ve picked up a lot of ideas watching this build.
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.
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.
Ideas on how to Improve your Workspace – We can all do with some ideas on optimizing workspace. The guide has a lot of information about how to improve your workshop to be more efficient and improve workflow. This includes the costs of improving your shop, as well as hacks you can do yourself to improve efficiency and storage space for less. You’d be amazed at what you can do with even a small room. You just need someone to point you in the right direction.

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.  
In my shop I use a large number of Jorgenson F-clamps. I use many of the small clamps, the most useful being the 12" version. Large F-clamps are essential for cinching down parts on bending forms. I also like aluminum bar clamps because they are much lighter than steel clamps, and therefore less likely to damage a carcase should you bang into the wood dur­ing a glue-up.
Woodwork in all its forms is an enormously popular hobby amongst enthusiasts of all ages. Most people, regardless of their abilities, just like to tinker with a bit of wood and make something. Starting out should be easy but the misconception can be that you need a fair amount of space to begin. The fact is that many people create versatile workshops in the smallest of spaces. One in particular we like is Stephen’s 8×6 Workshop as he manages to cram an army of tools into a tiny area in a systematic and neat way.
A table saw is one of the most important tools in the workshop for its ability to make long straight cuts. It will also cross cut with ease and if you don’t want to cut clean through a board you can adjust the height of the blade to make a dado or rabbet. A handy feature with the BTS10ST table saw is the vertical stand which also saves on storage space.
We don't have a Dometic CFX-50 in our van, but we wish we had gotten one for our build. This is a great little fridge that many vanlifers happily own. It’s rugged and durable, and it keeps your food cold for less money than many of the other fridges out there. It also has a nifty side-open lid, which makes it a lot easier to open with a lower clearance.
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