Store design experts advise small retailers to keep versatility in mind when choosing product displays. Your stock will likely change over the years. If you install permanent, unmovable displays, you will likely regret it later. Adjustable display options such as slatwall, gridwall, apparel racks, and shelving tend to be good choices for small retailers.
If you want the ultimate vehicle to customize for your DIY van conversion, the Sprinter is the van for you. They have enough headroom even for tall people to stand up, and enough interior space to design any kind of layout. They also typically have diesel engines, which means greater fuel efficiency and engine life (many diesel Sprinters have been known to make it past 400,000 miles). If you think you’ll be doing a lot of off-roading, the Mercedes Sprinter also comes in a 4x4 version.
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!
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.
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.
Plus, taking the time to put pen to paper should benefit you as the small business owner as much as any potential new employee. Creating this kind of central resource about best operating practices will force yourself to formulate your thoughts and be clear about exactly what you want. Whether that means codifying sales procedures or deciding who can take cash from the cash drawer, you’ll have a clear and consistent company policy, something to which most employees will respond favorably.

Just as a shed or garage can get stifling in the summer heat, winter cold can also make working conditions difficult — if not impossible. To prevent clumsy, stuff fingers from ruining your projects, you need a way to heat your workshop in even the most extremely frigid days of the year. A traditional residential space heater probably won’t cut it, as these are designed to heat single rooms. For a two-car garage or full basement, you’ll need something much bigger.
It’s also a good idea to cover up any exposed insulation or open stud bays so that you have a flat surface to mount stuff on the walls of your workshop. Here we’re attaching plywood panels to the metal framing but in most garages or sheds you can just nail them directly to the studs. We’re also getting a jump on organizing by putting in a hose reel next to the location we’ve chosen for our air compressor.
In our opinion, having one of these is an absolute must for living on the road - especially in humid areas. To fully cover the width of a van’s side doors/back doors, you’ll need a larger screen that’s designed for French doors. If your vehicle has a smaller door opening like an RV, a screen meant for a standard door will work fine. We could only find standard door screens, so we bought two and hot-glued them together to cover up our side door.
Our Advice: Plan for aisle and display pathways of at least three feet, six inches wide, without obstructions. Then, once your fixtures and displays are in place, further test your store’s pathways by rolling a large baby stroller throughout your store. If you can easily navigate all traffic pathways, your customers should enjoy a comfortable browsing experience.
I know in Missoula the garbage men do not like unbagged dust chips. They sent my friend a warning notice in the mail. Do you pull your drum out to the garbage and let the dust fly or dump it into a bag? My friend has garbage cans with 33 gallon liner which he pulls out of a sealed dust collection box beneath the cyclone… then he uses a hand truck to haul it out to the alley and then puts a fresh can in the box. It seems like a simple dust management method by not handling the dust by either scooping or dumping it out into a bag. I am always trying to think of ways to have less contact with harmful dust particles and I am curious as to how others handle the situation. Have a great weekend!
Let's talk about a few strategies for building out your shop below retail price.  There are the obvious ones like yard sales, craigslist, estate sales, and thrift stores, however, these can be hit or miss.  First of all, not everyone lives in an area where these avenues exist.  Second, when your brand new to woodworking, it can be hard to evaluate a tool that your buying second hand.  Because of this, I'm not going to focus on these channels in this post, but I will say, if your willing to do some hunting for second hand tools, you can easily save 50% to 75% on some perfectly fine equipment.
Hey Melody, thanks for the email. I’ve traveled through some extremely humid areas (Central America)… I’m taking it that your canopy does not have a headliner? That in and of itself helps a great deal. Personally I would be hesitant to put holes or van roof vents in my cap, but that may be what you want to do. I would try sleeping with a portable personal fan first and see how that helps with the condensation issue. For me it worked wonders while sleeping in those hot and humid environments. I ran mine off the inverter connected to my secondary battery.
There you have it! Now you have no excuses, you must start planning right away. Please remember this can take a lot of time and a lot of work, so be sure not to stare at your task list in its entirety too often. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed knowing all the things you must get accomplished. Just focus on the goal that is the most important and attack it, task by task. Need help organizing these goals? Check out my Goal Planning Worksheets here:
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!
You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.

Before starting your small business and opening its doors, it is important to take some time to define your end goal. While it almost goes without saying that this goal will be subject to change, it is only by recognizing and clearly articulating your long-term ambitions that you can provide yourself with a compass that will guide every business decision.
Another great source of store design inspiration is your product vendors and their line reps. After all, your success is their success, so they’re usually happy to share store design and merchandising ideas. Many provide retailers with free or low-cost branded display units, too. Some line reps will even assist you in product mapping your store, display setup, and replenishment. It never hurts to ask!

Shops can range from functional spaces adorned with unpainted wallboard to beautifully finished, painted, and trimmed-out spaces. Ultimately, I think it depends on your budget and how important your surroundings are to your mindset as you’re working, or to your clients’ if they will be viewing your shop. If finishing your shop will improve the quality of the work that you will produce, thereby relaxing or inspiring you, or showcase for your clients the quality of the work of which you are capable, it may be a worthwhile invest­ment. A more finished space may also allow for activities like parties or even a weekly poker game (as long as drinks stay off the tools).


Shop looks great Marc, I see the Clear Vue in the picture. I love mine, I used 8″ PVC for the main trunk line and came out of that with 6″ drops. It works great. I wound up building a collection bin instead of using a can, only thing I didn’t do was make the bin big enough. It holds more than the typical can but I still should have made it with more capacity. The 1800 with the 5 hp motor is stout.
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.
Ultimate Small Shop goes beyond the ambit of Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s to help woodworkers start their workshop for less than $1,000. Woodworkers will find answers to questions related to the budget, planning, required tools, critical setup factors and more. The guide has been put together by Ralph Chapman, a coach with more than twenty five years of experience in woodworking. Chapman is the small shop expert and what he recommends is not speculation or best case scenarios. He has done it himself. He is now sharing his experience along with expert recommendations so you can begin your woodworking journey right at your home.
Many small business owners start on a shoestring budget, intertwining their personal and business finances, supporting the business with their personal credit cards, accepting payments into their personal checking account, and even submitting tax returns that mix up personal and business finances. While this is common, it can create tax headaches, make bookkeeping more time consuming, and, most importantly, can also interfere with the proper evaluation of your business.

1) I haven’t lived with another person sleeping in the back (where you at ladies?!). I have spent a few weeks here and there on the road with others, I slept in the back, they had their own tent at camp. It does get crowded having two people with full alpine kits sharing the same storage space. You have to juggle space and work together to get to things. As for two people sleeping in the back, I think that would be pretty tight (doable, but challenging). In my research (links in this post at the bottom) I know there were a few couples living in a shared truck bed…
Planning your store layout is no small task, but many small retail store owners do it all themselves with great success. So why not you? Take it slow, follow our seven steps, and remember to put the customer first. With the ideas in this guide and a little elbow grease, you’ll soon be on your way to mapping out a retail store that’s easy to navigate, welcoming to customers, and best of all—profitable.
I have a plastic bed lining on my truck, which also covered the back of the tailgate… I just popped the screws off, took off the plastic liner and drilled holes in the sheet of plywood to match those used by the plastic tailgate cover. Sorry if that doesn’t help you with your setup. But I’m sure you could just drill your own holes in the metal tailgate. Use the plywood cover as a guide for your screw holes…
Keep your air hose and fittings in one place and out of the way. Screw a coffee can onto a scrap piece of plywood. Attach a 2-1/2 in. riser block to the edge of the plywood and hang the entire contraption from a wall or work-bench. Drape your air hose over the coffee can, and store your fittings inside. It also works great for hanging extension cords. — Walter Barndt. Build an air compressor cart.
The idea behind this segment is to find products that solve common problems we face as homeowners. And the cool thing for me is that I get to learn a lot about the professional side of home improvement. Well, I’m looking for do it yourself items. For example, do you know why carpenters pencils are shaped differently than ordinary round pencils? So they won’t roll off of an inclined surface like a roof. And the larger size allows you to draw fat lines as well as fine ones while you’re marking lumber.
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.
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.

Hi, I have looked through pictures of the shop books. What I am interested in finding is a book with layout design options. I am ready to build a new shop for myself and want to put dust and electrical under the slab. Best layout designs would help me to figure out how to layout a shop that is aprox. 28'x 36'. Is there a book that has this type of information.


“Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change—frequently—in order to flourish. It’s the retailer’s job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest products, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained—even when they don’t buy anything, that experience is what brings them back.”

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!) 


The good news? There are a ton of free tools out there help you simplify and minimize the research required to secure your online identity. Among them is Namechk, a free username and domain search tool that helps you discover the availability of your business name across hundreds of social networks and domain extensions, all at once. Once you run a name search and confirm that it’s available for use both off and online, take the time secure your unique name both legally and on the web.


In all you can spend under $1,000 and be setup in a great workshop. But I know how it feels when you’re shopping for new tools… and you think… “why not buy the top of the line so it lasts longer”… or “may as well get the best while I’m spending money”… those kinds of thoughts won’t only get you into big trouble with your other half… it’s also COMPLETELY wrong.


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.

Perhaps the most satisfying move I made was to automate the dust collection system. I used the iVACPro system to link all machines to the dust collector. When I turn on any machine in the shop, the dust collector fires up and whisks the dust into the bin. The system also has a programmable delay to allow the dust to make it to the bin before the dust collector shuts down. I set my system for a five-second delay. The system works flawlessly for my band saw, planer, and router table at 115 volts, and also my table saw and jointer at 240 volts. 
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.
Inventory management — especially when first starting a small business — at its most basic level consists of counting how many of a given product (let’s say apples) you have for sale in the morning, keeping track of that number, then reducing it by one each time an apple is sold. At the end of the sales day, you count the leftover apples and make sure the number of apples in your inventory system matches whatever you actually have in store. When you have an accurate apple count, you call your supplier and order as many as you need to make sure you have enough on hand for the next day.
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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