Low-tech tools are high on value A basic set of handplanes lets you true edges, flatten panels or wide boards, and achieve finish-ready surfaces. Start with a small cluster of handplanes—low-angle and standard block planes, a No. 4 or 4-1/2 bench plane, and a jointer plane. A set of inexpensive chisels is essential for chopping, paring, and trimming.
My contention has always been that you can build a serviceable shop in your home, develop your hand skills, and make fine furniture. In the past year, I had an opportunity to build a shop from the ground up after moving to a new home. I found a house with an unfinished basement, and set to work. In this article, I will discuss everything from layout, to electrical, to equipment selection. I intend to name names with respect to equipment, so that readers will know what I chose. Everyone’s budget will be different, but I think almost everyone will be able to treat this as a starting point, and adjust accordingly, depending on their own budget.
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.
I have different toolboxes for different jobs around the house. Occasionally I’d grab a tool out of one box and then put it away in another. Eventually all my flat-head screwdrivers would end up in one toolbox. To solve the problem, I now mark the handles of the tools and the corresponding toolbox with a band of colored electrical tape. Now all the tools are in the box where they belong. — Kim Litkenhaus Marino

Do you carry items that bring your customers back time and time again? Consider placing these primary and similar secondary product lines toward the back of your store. Or, if your stock is constantly changing and you don’t carry replenishing goods, place your sale items toward the back. That way, customers must pass your new items and promotional displays on their way to check out the deals in back.
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.
First, as most eager but hesitant potential hobbyists realize, you have to be much more thoughtful about tool selection. A 14-inch band saw? In your dreams. In a small space, you're going to have to rely on bench-top or handheld tools. (It is possible to forgo power tools entirely in favor of hand tools, but that's a discussion better left for another time.)
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.
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.
Thanks for the quick reply. Sounds like you haven't had any big problems with the moisture. I'm in NoVA too, so that bodes well for me. I was considering finding some tyvek house wrap or something to go around the walls in addition to a plastic vapor barrier under the floor, but it sounds like that is not going to be necessary. I was also thinking I'd try to find a window AC unit to use like you did. I like how you mounted yours up high.
Hey Brett! Awesome to hear that your own plans are coming together. I can’t really recall seeing any dirtbags rolling around in a Pruis… I wouldn’t imagine it to be the ideal vehicle for transporting gear and living out of, but the gas savings would really add up over 6-7 months on the road. In general, I’m in favor of going with what you’ve got and finding creative ways to make it work. Maybe you can add a rooftop box? On some vehicles, people even remove the passenger seat(s) for extra storage space. The biggest problem with the Prius that I see would be finding a place to sleep while you are on the road… But I guess that’s where your gas savings and cheap hotel would come in. I know Gina Begin has been living in her little car for a long while now, check out her stuff, and maybe reach out to her. She’s a veteran at dirtbaggin’ it in a car: http://www.ginabegin.com/2013/05/the-ultimate-guide-to-living-on-road-15.html

The dream of a dedicated home shop is a common one among woodworkers. Whether you currently borrow shop space, work in your driveway or side yard, or compete for a corner of your basement with Christmas decorations or your fur­nace, you may be ready to build your own space that will allow you the free­dom of more room and time, and will also keep dust, fumes, and noise under control. Every design/build situation will be unique but there are a series of consid­erations that you will face in the design and construction phases of your project. Let’s walk through the process and dis­cuss the questions that you will need to ask yourself and others as you approach this project.
Great article, Ryan! I love the detailed explanations of the various options for sleeping. I consider myself a veteran “light-duty traveler” who stumbled across some of these things by accident over the years. My needs are different than yours (I’m usually traveling long distances for days and weeks at a time for work or vacation, so I usually don’t hunker down in a base camp very often), but I have a few questions and points to share:
One example is testing your products and services for their desirability through ecommerce. It might turn out that your core product line will actually be much smaller than you originally envisioned. Equally, there are now a number of services (such as storefront.com) that will allow you to secure a pop-up lease in some incredible spaces, often for only days at a time. It might just turn out that your dream location isn’t as great as you originally thought.
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.

Ok, the leap from $1,000 to $2,500 is a big one.  I certainly didn't make it at one time.  It took me years.  But I know folks that decided they wanted to get into woodworking and dropped at least $2,500 getting themselves outfitted.  When you do make the jump, the thought process becomes much less about making sure you can get the job done and becomes more about having quality tools to get the job done.
Every aspect of your store should flow from a clear statement of who you are and what you stand for as a business. From the sign hanging proudly outside your store window, to the color of the wallpaper in the in-store restroom, every detail should contribute to conveying your unique purpose and brand to the world. This consistency should also be applied to all your online assets, for example, your website design.

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. 


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 hope to build my own stand-alone dream shop sometime in 2015 – in the Texas Hill Country. I’ve not yet found the right lot, so much is yet unknown….but am thinking roughly 30′ x 40′ overall, with 10 or 12 foot ceiling. At one end, there will be a 10′ x 30′ space walled off into three spaces: a small finishing room, an office/design space, and a half bath.
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.
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.
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.
My shop ended up being 23 x 19 feet, for a total of 437 square feet. I put my wood rack in the basement, but out­side the walled in shop area. To keep the dust in the shop, a three part strategy was employed. I have a dust collection system, an air filtration system and a shop vacuum for cleaning dust out of machinery. I put up new walls, installed new electrical service, lighting, and two access doors for ease of materials move­ment. The shop includes two windows so that I can enjoy natural light, and not feel like I am squirreled away in the basement.

It might sound harsh, but when starting a small business your online presence is crucial. If you speak to some experienced local business owners, many will denounce the existence of online review sites like Yelp and Google Local. They’ll tell you about the added time and pressure they now face to maintain social media profiles for their businesses. A lot of local entrepreneurs will share their bad experiences with online daily deal websites like Groupon. But all that complaining doesn’t change one established fact that the internet isn’t going anywhere.
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. 

By setting up a separate legal entity, you limit the financial fallout from a failed business, you shield yourself from legal risks (such as someone injuring themselves in your store), and you potentially put yourself in a more advantageous tax situation. Equally, if you are working with partners, ensuring you are set up with the appropriate partnership will give all parties reassurance about their legal standing, obligations to, and expectations from the business in question.
I’m a 60 year young widow who just bought a bright yellow 2003 S10 step side with the intention of camping in it. But I discovered that finding a used S10 step side topper is harder than finding hen’s teeth!! Buying a new one wasn’t an option. Just found a black step side topper for a Ford Ranger. Isn’t a perfect fit but it works. And the colors compliment each other although color wasn’t my primary concern. I took two days to drive from the St. Louis area of MO to the Kansas City area to pick it up.

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.
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