Woodworking isn’t just an overnight hobby, for most it’s a fun pursuit that lasts a lifetime. As your skills develop, the workshop becomes a place not just to build but to repair along the way. In a world where people are strongly influenced by consumerism, there’s a tendency to revert to a throwaway culture. But if you can fix before throwing away, then your tools start to make a return on their investment and have a bigger impact.

Shop layout is all about making the best use of space. Place your machines so that you have adequate “safe space” that you need to work around them. The “buffer area” beyond that is the amount of room you need to run large stock though a given machine, keeping in mind that buffer areas can overlap between machines. If you want to get more organized, buy some 1/4-inch squared paper, make scale models of each machine including the safe space around each, and place them on your model shop layout. Remember that buffer areas need to be long enough to put an 8' sheet through a table saw, or a 6' plank through your planer, for instance. I raised my planer, so that I can use the area above my router table to pass long planks through the planer – all it takes is some modelling, and a little shuffling, and you will find the layout that works for you. Each space will have chal­lenges; I had the area under the stairs that was wasted space, so I installed the dust collector there.


When starting your small business, the type of business structure you choose will depend on three primary factors: liability, taxation, and record-keeping. Most small business owners begin their commercial life as a sole proprietor because it’s the easiest way to get started. In fact, if you’re in business and you haven’t taken any action to incorporate, you are most likely deemed a sole proprietor by default. You are entitled to all the profits of your business but also responsible for all its debts, losses, and liabilities.
The solution to potentially wedged boards on a jointer is to add a planer to the mix.  A planer has a flat surface with a cutting edge that is exactly 180 degrees to the surface.  This allows you to position the jointed edge flat on the planers surface and make a cut to the opposite side of the board that is perfectly square.  As an added bonus, the planer allows you incredible control over the thickness of the boards you're planing.  ​
Trying to compete on price is rarely an effective long-term strategy, so it’s important to consider how you will differentiate your offering. Will this be with amazing customer service? Or maybe with superior product quality? Regardless of what you choose, how will you allocate your budget to make it possible? How will you market your small business? How will you get customers through the door?

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.
Once you’ve planned the basic layout of your workshop and have added all the tools and speciality appliances you need, take a last look at the overall design to make it aesthetically pleasing. Add overhead lighting for general illumination and task lighting over your work stations so you can see your project clearly. For maximum flexibility, you can mount clip-on work lights to nearby shelves and point them where you need them, knowing you’ll be able to move them about as required for different projects.
Store design experts agree that this area should be open, inviting, and free of overpowering displays and signage clutter, as shown in the image above. Many customer behavior studies, including those conducted by Envirosell’s Paco Underhill, support this opinion. They show that customers tend to ignore displays, signage, and even manned sales counters placed close to store entrances.
That headline struck me as discouraging. As an entry fee, $5,000 seems high enough to exclude a number of potential woodworkers, myself included. Christiana softened the blow by saying that used tools could cut the cost roughly in half. That figure seemed much closer to my experience, which involved buying a mix of new and used tools. Having said that, buying the right used tools is much more difficult than buying from a catalog or dealer who stocks everything needed to build a great shop. It requires a bit of guile and a good plan, but the payoff is worth it. Through careful choices and good fortune, I was able to outfit my shop with a blend of new and used tools for around $2,000.

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.


Now I want you to create a spreadsheet or use my worksheets and write one major goal on the top. This can be the first goal you want to accomplish. Then I want you to list all the tasks you need to do (or someone on your team has to do) in order to accomplish this task. For example; let’s go going back to the goal of "Launching a New Website". The tasks you will need to do to get this goal accomplished are the following;
Slice, dice and serve in style on this easy, attractive board. We’ll show you a simple way to dry-fit the parts, scribe the arc and then glue the whole thing together. We used a 4-ft. steel ruler to scribe the arcs, but a yardstick or any thin board would also work. Find complete how-to instructions on this woodworking crafts project here. Also, be sure to use water-resistant wood glue and keep your board out of the dishwasher or it might fall apart. And one more thing: Keep the boards as even as possible during glue-up to minimize sanding later. For great tips on gluing wood, check out this collection.
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.
When you are looking for small business funding options, be it from the local bank, an angel investor, or even a family member, the first thing you will be asked to present after your business plan will be any existing financial records. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward by keeping meticulous records, with your business finances completely separate from your personal finances.
Often times those same freedom-seeking, passion-driven individuals that started their journey filled with courage and optimism, become some of the most time-pressed and financially-stressed people out there. The flip side of getting to create your own wealth is that you are solely responsible for creating your own wealth. That’s right, it all comes down to Y-O-U.

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.
Hand tools offer your best chance of finding a real bargain. Until the early 20th century, nearly all woodworking was done with hand tools, and their designs and uses have changed little. Most of the high-end planes on today’s market, for example, are just reproductions of the original designs. And because the originals were mass-produced, they are fairly easy to find at rummage sales and antiques stores. (For more information, refer to Matthew Teague’s article, “Buying Old Tools,” in FWW #180).
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).

I used to keep screws in a cof- fee can, but when I reached in with my hand, the screw points pricked my fingers. The can was also a dust and dirt depot. I bought a clear water bottle with a pop-up lid and poured screws into the bottle with a funnel. The screws stay clean, and I can shake them out of the bottle one at a time. — Bruce Burley. Hardware Storage: DIY Tips and Hints


Now also we have some shelves that we built here above this, little cubicles like this work great to organize your workshop so you can have different tools or different supplies in the different little areas. And we’re about to install a very simple countertop. Now this is nothing more than just three-quarter-inch plywood and we decided to stain it instead of painting it, because you know it’s going to take a lot of abuse with all the pounding and the dings, and dents you’ll get in a workbench so staining it and then sealing it with a coat of sealer will probably hold up better than anything else. Now we’ll put another coat of sealer on it after we finish the front edge band and the backsplash and once all of that is complete, boy this thing is going to work nice.
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.

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.


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!) 

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.
​There are some diverging paths that you could take at this point: some may want to get a router with a router table for edge work and improved joinery capabilities, some may want to start looking at some of the interesting 3rd party jigs - two of my favorites are the DowelMax and the Kreg Pocket System, but my recommendation would be to equip yourself to buy cheap stock.
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!

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.

We use this fan for extra circulation when it’s hot, and to get the air moving when it’s cold at night and we have all the windows closed. We also keep it on for our dogs while we’re driving. There are cheaper 12V fans out there, but generally the cheaper the fan the more power it draws. The Endless Breeze is a great little fan, and it’s definitely worth getting for the added ventilation.
As always, great article! While my dirtbag adventure will likely only be about 6-7 months, I am starting to wonder about logistics. You mention that most people use the automobile they have. I drive a Prius. Not ideal for sleeping in, but I’m a pretty content ground dweller. I know that long-term I may start to question this. Here’s the proposition I’m considering: by saving on gas (45-50 mpg), I can occasionally cough up the money for lodging when I feel the need for added comfort. I can definitely do the number crunching, but I’m wondering if you’ve encountered people doing this or did similar analyses of your own at any point. I’d love to hear any insights you may have on this.
If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status -- and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in. Want to do good while still making a profit? Consider social entrepreneurship.
You need an out-feed table to support work exiting the table saw and band saw. By placing the tools close together, I was able to make one out-feed table that works for both tools. I put four pivoting wheels on the table, allowing me to shift the table in any direction. By placing a shelf below the table, I gained some much needed storage space for portable power tools. Finally, since this is a large work surface, the table also serves as a true, flat assembly table.
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