They say nobody ever started a small business out of a love for numbers, but if you really want to stay the course, you’re going to want to fall in love fast. It’s only by keeping detailed accounts and tracking your business’ numbers over time, (net sales, cost of goods sold, and average transaction size) that you’ll start to gather the actionable insights you need to make intelligent business decisions.
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.
Through my cabinet-shop connections, I managed a snappy deal ($200) on a used cabinet saw with a 54-in. commercial rip fence. That price would be hard to match, but it is possible to find a hybrid or used cabinet saw with a high-quality fence for $600 to $1,200. Some of them will run on 120v household current, meaning you won’t have to rewire your shop for 240v service, but be sure to check for compatibility before you buy.
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.
Working on one side at a time, glue and nail the side to the back. Apply glue and drive three 1-5/8-in. nails into each shelf, attach the other side and nail those shelves into place to secure them. Clamps are helpful to hold the unit together while you’re driving nails. Center the top piece, leaving a 2-in. overhang on both sides, and glue and nail it into place. Paint or stain the unit and then drill pilot holes into the top face of each side of the unit and screw in the hooks to hold your ironing board. Mount the shelf on drywall using screw-in wall anchors. 

“Every time I’m choosing a new a location, I head down there with a big flask of coffee and a clicker to count all the people that walk past. Then I walk to the nearest public transportation at rush hour and look at how people are heading home. I turned down one location because while it was right next to the subway, I noticed all the commuters were coming out of the other subway entrance. It turns out all the residences in that area were on the other side of the street.” —ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
In addition to sheer power, look for a model with a built-in thermostat so you can set it and forget it. This convenience feature is well worth it so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing mid-project to manually turn your heater on and off to maintain your desired temp. A good garage heater will mount to the wall or ceiling to save space and will come with a durable housing and full safety screen to keep dust and wood chips from reaching the heating elements and starting a fire.

The subfloor provides a stable layer - basically a sheet of plywood - for your floor to sit on. You’ll see a lot of van build videos on Youtube showing a ¾” subfloor, but that thickness just isn’t necessary in a van. The thicker the subfloor, the higher the cost and weight, and the more valuable interior space it takes away. We recommend using ¼” plywood for your subfloor, which is plenty thick enough for a van.

Pegboard panels like this are extremely popular way to display and store hand tools. But they have one annoying problem is that when you lift off a tool, often the hook itself will pop out of the board. And that happens with over a number of times, every time you reach for a tool it can get pretty annoying. So you can buy at the hardware store, they make straps and special devices to hold the hook in place, but I’ve found this works just as well and it’s a lot cheaper.

This holds a lot of stuff but mainly our handheld power tools, so it needs to support a lot of weight. Any shelf in a workshop will probably wind up supporting more than you initially planned so build it as strong as you can and don’t scrimp on the materials or the fasteners you use to hang it. Now the next step is to install our recycled cabinets that will line the wall under the shelf. Now these cabinets are a little plain but that should work great for a shop like this. Even if you don’t own a remodeling company you can usually find these things pretty inexpensively from salvaged warehouses which recover them from renovation projects then resell them to the public.
Hi Ryan: Nice job on the truck. I also have ’94 Toya 4×4 coffin sleep setup. Looking to change (access cab wanted) and may use some of your ideas. One thing I didn’t see you mention is ventilation. I am from the Mid-Atlantic region(DC/Maryland, you’re old stomping grounds) and ventilation at the New is important. My side windows have screens and I use an old mesh fly with a flexible pole for the rear tailgate area. It works really well. Kinda jerry rigged but is easy to put up and take down as well as pass through for nighttime truck exits. Not needed out west as much since bugs and humidity are lower but can’t live w/out it in these parts.

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.
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!
In general, a table saw requires at least eight feet in front and behind to accommodate standard sheet goods and four feet side to side. A work table should provide four feet clearance on all sides, and pathways between tables, benches and storage units should be three feet wide. Proper clearance will allow you to move about with ease while you work.

Ultimate Small Shop is a complete guide to setting up your own workshop, from the planning phase to optimizing it for business. You’ll learn how to put together a complete and functional workshop for less than you expect. Ralph aims to get your shop set up for less than $1,000. Ultimate small Shop includes suggestions on where you can get the tools and equipment needed at the most affordable prices and how to optimize space to get the most out of the little room you have.


One of the things that draws me to the online woodworking community is amount of passion people show are willing to share. Your shop build is a fine example of your willingness to let us in on your passion. You could have said “I’ll be back in a few months when its done” and most of us would have waited but instead you turned it in to a summer of updates and dream shop discussion. Thanks!
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.
Becoming a small business owner is one of the most rewarding and inspiring journeys a human being can take. It provides you with a chance to be your own boss, take control of your financial destiny, and become a meaningful contributor to your local economy and community. There will always be a reason not to take the plunge. But if there is one rule of small business — and life — is that nothing will happen if you don’t make it happen.
This OXO palm brush really helps us conserve water while washing our dishes. We fill the reservoir with water and a few drops of Campsuds, and we only squeeze out what we need - so it takes care of both the initial rinse and getting our dishes soapy with minimal water usage. It’s also very compact, and the comfortable shape makes it easy to scrub dishes.
Hi Ryan: Nice job on the truck. I also have ’94 Toya 4×4 coffin sleep setup. Looking to change (access cab wanted) and may use some of your ideas. One thing I didn’t see you mention is ventilation. I am from the Mid-Atlantic region(DC/Maryland, you’re old stomping grounds) and ventilation at the New is important. My side windows have screens and I use an old mesh fly with a flexible pole for the rear tailgate area. It works really well. Kinda jerry rigged but is easy to put up and take down as well as pass through for nighttime truck exits. Not needed out west as much since bugs and humidity are lower but can’t live w/out it in these parts.
I didn’t want to get a truck with a million miles on it. I am not a trucker by trade; I got my CDL specifically for this project. I didn’t want to get into a truck and then have to worry about its structure, engine, and transmission—and then start building Optimus on top of it. That’s why I got a brand-new truck custom-built from Western Star to become Optimus Prime.
We do not recommend using Reflectix to insulate your walls or ceiling. Without an air gap, the R-value of Reflectix is about R-1. Even if you have the recommended ¾” air gap next to the Reflectix, the R-value per inch is less than R-3. There are much more efficient and cost-effective insulation materials out there for these purposes - you’ll be better off filling the space with rigid foam board.

I got extra batteries for my cordless tools, but I could never remember which battery was newly charged and which was run down. Now I can easily tell them apart because I painted a number on each battery with my kid’s white nail polish. It dries fast and is— you got it—“tough as nails.” — Tom Baker. Plus: Learn how to double the life of your car battery.

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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 Ted! If you mean to ask whether you could sit up from one of the vertical sidebins and have enough headroom under the Leer 122, I think that would be a no. You’d have to build the sidebins to be a little shorter. At least with my truck, that would be the case. Perhaps with a full-size pickup you would have enough room thanks to the overall size increase of the canopy as well.
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!
I added an accessory mitre gauge to the saw for accurate cut-off work. The Incra Miter1000 showed up under the Christmas tree after the Lee Valley flyer photo with part number mysteri­ously ended up on the fridge door with a circle around it last December. A great addition, the Incra is light, accurate, and provides adjustable stops for cutting multiple parts to precise length. I will also make a plywood cut-off sled for the saw for squaring larger panels.

Whether you end up looking at self-checkout counters, fancy lighting systems, special refrigerated cases, or any of a countless number of options, never forget that these are only tools to help accomplish your main goal. Your store needs to create an environment where customers want to be, where they feel comfortable and appreciated, and where that experience will prompt them to purchase (and hopefully encourage their friends to do the same). Equipment and technology decisions should always be made with your customers in mind.

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.

Note: Some of the links to products that we recommend on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through one of our links and buy something, we get a small commission at no cost to you. This helps us keep this blog going so we can continue to provide you with van build tips, tricks, and guides. We believe in honest opinions, and we never recommend anything we don't know about. Every recommended product on this page we've either used personally, have personal experience with, or have researched heavily.
When you set out to start your small business, investing in the right technology and equipment should be considered in conjunction with your store design. They should seamlessly integrate with and improve the customer experience in your store. Everyone remembers their first trip to the Apple Store and the “wow” moment of having their sale rung up by the assistant in the middle of the store, rather than having to wait in a line. But fewer people probably notice the carefully positioned heater that creates a warm environment for them as they walk through the door. It’s all part of the same idea.
Ultimate Small Shop is a turnkey solution for woodworkers to get started with their dream workshop. Every woodworker, hobbyist or professional, wants a nice workshop in their home. It may be the garage or a shed, the barn or a detached man cave, the basement or a room up somewhere with enough space. Woodworkers often fail to create their dream workshops due to dearth of space and funds. Ultimate Small Shop solves both these issues and empowers woodworkers to live their dreams.

First, decide what your budget is and start searching right away! Even if you're not able to purchase a van right now, knowing the market and how quickly things sell is helpful. Get an idea of makes and models you like, and you'll also start to understand what is a good price for a van in your area. Each country, region and city is a bit different.
Many small businesses in New York and New Jersey were forced to close following Superstorm Sandy because they lacked the insurance that would have gotten them back on their feet. That part is well known. What’s less well known is that this lack of proper insurance, coupled with the lack proper legal incorporation, resulted in many entrepreneurs seeing their personal assets come under threat.
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