In my opinion, the best shop space is a flexible one. I know many folks expected that after setting up my shop so many times, I would be able to design the PERFECT shop space including a finishing room, a dust collection closet, and even some internal walls. But the truth is, the most important lesson I learned over the years was to expect change. My shop is not a static entity. It is more like a living breathing creature that adapts, evolves, grows, shrinks, and changes configuration. Committing to an internal spacial arrangement too early could yield disappointing results. This is why you won’t see me placing dust collection ductwork in the floor. I need to work in a space for at least a few months before I can be confident in my initial setup. Even then, I fully expect things to change at some point. If I made too many restrictive and/or permanent decisions ahead of time, these changes could be difficult or impossible to implement. So my best piece of advice is to forget about the concept of perfection. Instead, focus on flexibility. The ideal shop, in my mind, is little more than 4 walls, a roof, and a butt-load of outlets and lights. So here are some of my basic general goals for my new shop space.
Living on the road puts you in a wider variety of situations and environments than being stationary. If something goes wrong in the wilderness or if a disaster strikes, you’ll want to know what you should do. The SAS Survival Handbook is one of the best survival books out there. It covers primitive camping, edible plants, encountering wild animals - even disaster situations like nuclear war. It’s packed full of good-to-know actionable information. And it’s a blast to read.
As part of my antique restoration work I do a lot of faux finishing – hence the supply of stains and paints. Since I didn’t want to dust the house, the new shop is not connected to the house heat and air system. But, having just finished our first winter I now know the shop didn’t get below 45 degrees – and, the oven in the corner can make the shop toasty in no time at all.
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.
Hospitality expert, Chip Conley founded and grew the Joie De Vivre hotels from a single San Francisco location to become California’s largest boutique hotel management company. How? He understood the value of a unique vision when it’s consistently applied. He created each hotel to reflect the spirit of a niche-oriented magazine that he felt represented his target market. Examples include the Phoenix (Rolling Stone), the Rex (The New Yorker), Hotel Avante (Wired), Wild Palms Hotel (Fast Company), Hotel Los Gatos (Town and Country), and the Water's Edge (Yachting). Obviously your inspiration doesn’t need to be a magazine, it can just as easily be a song, a group of words, or just a particular image. Find something that resonates with the customers you have in mind and design your store to reflect that vision.
Remember the social media networks we asked you to secure in section five, Choosing a Business Name? Well, now is the perfect time to activate those channels. Use social media to build excitement about your grand opening and keep potential customers informed about special promotions and sales. People want to know what makes you special, so tell them why your store or restaurant will be different to what is currently available. From sharing pictures of that new fancy espresso machine or sneak peeks of your store’s interior, you can gain buy-in to your central message and build some anticipation before you even open your doors. Knowing how to to leverage key social channels is imperative to starting a success small business that will stand the test of time.
In many ways, skoolies are the ultimate in mobile living. The big advantage here is space - there’s tons of room for couches, beds - even a full bathroom - and you can easily accommodate families and other larger groups. There are also some really impressive skoolie builds out there that are nicer than actual houses, and it’s a whole lot cheaper to convert a bus than to buy a similar-sized RV. Skoolies come in multiple sizes, from “shorties” to full-sized buses.

Great website! I spent a summer living out of a ford focus hatchback while road tripping around the United States. The rear seats were replaced with a small platform to store gear and the rear windows were tinted. I enjoyed the freedom that anywhere I parked no one would see me hop from the drivers seat to my platform for some zzz’s. Also no one would guess that someone is sleeping in a 3dr ford focus.
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.
When I built my shop I opted to buy a much higher quality miter saw and table saw than I truly needed at the time.  It ate up a ton of my budget and forced me to put off adding the tools that would allow me to buy cheaper stock for 2-3 years.  During that time my savings buying rough cut lumber would have probably paid for the upgraded equipment I started out with.  
Spacious pathways are a key aspect of good store planning. In fact, it tops the list of retail experts’ store design tips. Heshy Lovi, Sales and Marketing Director for M Fried Fixtures, recommends aisle widths of four feet or more. This, he says, ensures your aisles and pathways will be comfortable for all customers, including those using strollers or wheelchairs.
Hey! Thanks for stopping by and checking this out, I appreciate your comments as well. It is something I really should do… I’ve done a bit more research on this since I initially posted it, and it is less intimidating the more I read. It just comes down to actually doing it and spending some more money, I guess. I’ve got the 22RE in my truck… I still need to look more into the alternator aspect though.
“Beware suppliers bearing gifts. That ‘free’ refrigerator from the drinks supplier is never really free. You can quickly find yourself tied into sub-optimal deals because of a reliance on this hardware. If you have access to the capital, do yourself a favor: Buy your own fridge and negotiate from a position of strength.” — ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
The key to success here is having clear processes written down, promoting from within whenever possible, and remaining open to change. You’ll want to balance your desire to educate your manager on how to manage your business with an openness to feedback and new ways of doing things. You’ll also want to take advantage of the technology available to keep you abreast of things like real-time sales data for all your locations, no matter where you are.
The first thing to understand about a business plan and financial projections is that the process of compiling them is often more important than the final product. Sure, the actual sheets of paper, filled with spreadsheets and graphs with pretty arrows pointing up and to the right are great — and can be very important in helping you to secure funding — however, when it comes down to the brass tacks of starting a successful business, it’s the process, not the paper, that counts.
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.
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

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.
I wouldn’t give up on Craigslist or garage sales.. For around $1K or less, you can pretty easily find the four big ticket items (TS, BS, Jointer and Planer) and have the extra $2K to spend on accessories, material, DC, other goodies, etc. The key is patience and persistence, and if applied correctly, you can have a fantastic setup for very little compared to purchasing new. If you are setting up a business, you don’t usually have the time to scour for good deals, but for a personal shop, there is no pressing need other than that itch to get something done.
You’ll also sometimes want to walk a property with a licensed contractor. This is because some commercial spaces require lease build outs, which are necessary additions or improvements to the space. Build outs can be fully or partially covered by the landlord. It’s important in this scenario that you get an accurate renovation estimate and negotiate a build out into your lease.

In today’s competitive business landscape, the key card that small business owners hold up their sleeve is their ability to offer something distinctive, original, and personal. As small businesses grow, however, it can become increasingly difficult for the time-pressed, financially strapped entrepreneur to maintain direct oversight over every aspect of their store.
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.
You may want a garage door if you will need to access your shop with large workpieces or tools, or if you or future owners will ever want to use the space to park a vehicle. Garage doors are notoriously drafty, however, so if you think you can live without one you will probably be warmer. Instead, you could opt for out-swinging double doors. In a small shop you can, at a pinch, rip longer lengths of lumber by feeding the material out of either a strategically placed door or window.
Depending on your situation, you may need to upgrade to 200 amp electrical service in order to meet the needs of your house and your shop. It may also be in your interests to add in a separate electrical service meter on your shop so that you can clearly write off electrical use for your business, or in future rent the space out and clearly separate out the utilities for bill­ing your tenant. Generally, you don’t want to skimp on the power to your shop or on the lighting you include.
Marc, I enjoyed the video. Thank you for sharing your dream shop with us. I would be interested in seeing a demo video on your Clear Vue cyclone dust collection system. Which one did you obtain & what type of duct work did you use (seamless?) Do you plan on enclosing the unit in a closet to reduce noise and keep dust confined? Do you have to purchase special expensive plastic dust bags for the drum? Is it hard to pull the bag out of the drum for trash collection? If you could address these questions in a demo video I would appreciate it. Oh, perhaps you already have one …. I will check out your video archives. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

Fantastic build and opportunity for you. I really appreciate your humbleness given the great asset you have in the new shop. You flaunt/market what you do and where you do it because that’s the business you’re in, but at the same time you understand what a great tool you have in the shop itself relative to what most folks will ever acquire. Well done.

All this is why I recommend you buy the very best stuff available, even if it means going without certain tools initially. Although it wouldn’t be a disaster to spend $1000 on a whole bunch of inexpensive tools, what are you going to do when you’ve outgrown the capability of these tools and want to upgrade? You’ve now got to somehow get rid of the cheap stuff and replace it with something better. This isn’t easy and it’s always the most expensive way to go.
Ultimate Small Shop offers a comprehensive guide illustrating how to set up a workshop. It may be just a small basement shop or a part of the garage converted into a workshop. The guide lays out all the steps and actually caps the investment at under a thousand dollars. Woodworkers can build their workshop for less than $1,000. This does not entail any compromise of tools or the scope of woodworking projects. The guide provides a shopping list including the best tools and there are exact links to find those tools and buy them at the best prices. There are floor plans to ensure layouts are optimized even in the most cramped spaces.
When registering your business name you should also consider whether or not you have plans to expand your local business nationally or online in the future. Registering your business with the state does not offer brand protection beyond the state it is registered in. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop is registered in New York, no other business will be able to use that name in that state. However, someone in Idaho can still register their business as Bob’s Bike Shop. If you have aspirations that look beyond Main Street, USA and would like the option to expand nationally or on the web, you should consider trademarking your business. When you trademark your business name, it makes it a lot easier to recover property that infringes upon your brand. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop in Ohio purchased the domain www.BobsBikeShop.com but Bob’s Bike Shop in New York trademarked that name, legally Bob’s Bike Shop in New York has the right to file a domain name dispute to get the domain name back from it’s current owner.
Our practical workshop is coming along nicely. We’ve created a big open space and added plenty of electrical power and lots of light. We’ve also added some great storage capacity using recycled kitchen cabinets and some old shelves. Now, with our tool compartment and work surfaces in place we’re getting very, very close, but I wanted to get a little input on the final details from some other folks who spent a lot of time making sawdust, so I asked my co-host Allen Lyle and our website editor Ben Erickson to look around and give us some of their ideas.
You’ll also sometimes want to walk a property with a licensed contractor. This is because some commercial spaces require lease build outs, which are necessary additions or improvements to the space. Build outs can be fully or partially covered by the landlord. It’s important in this scenario that you get an accurate renovation estimate and negotiate a build out into your lease.
Again, it is the inspiration I have (hopefully) given my son. To never be afraid to try, even at the risk of failure. If you don’t have all the answers, go with the knowledge you do have and trust everything else will fall into place. I am no millionaire; I have entered into a lifetime of debt because of what I’ve done with this build. And I’m going to try and keep it on the road as long as I can. I am not getting any help from Hasbro and Paramount Pictures, so I am looking for help with sponsorships.
To simplify this process, hire professionals with experience helping business owners by assessing their needs, developing their budget, and negotiating their commercial lease. Managed by Q is a company that not only assists with pre-lease planning, but also provides help with renovation project management, space planning, and even administrative support. Managed by Q offers an array of services that can help save you time and money. Click here to set up a free account and get started.
If your shop will be attached to your house or another struc­ture, it will likely need to match its foundation, tying the two structures together so that one does not structurally stress the other if they shift differently. That may dictate a poured concrete or concrete block foundation. Regardless of your foundation type, a cold concrete floor will sap energy away from the rest of the structure if you are not careful, so think about how to insulate it well before you build.

Once you’ve considered the questions in the previous paragraph, start thinking about how your products/services stack up against the local competition. Because unless you are offering something ground-breaking and innovative, chances are that your potential customers are currently having their needs met by another business. That means it’s going to be your job to convince them that Blue Sheep Bakery is a better option than Bob’s Bake Shop. If your first thought was to compete on price, sorry to break it to you but, that’s not going to cut it. There is more to starting a successful small business than matching the price to the guy down the street.


A good starting point here is to write down two or three keywords that you think define your brand and then allow all your design choices to be guided by those words. For example, a local cheese shop could be organic, artisanal, and authentic; a wine bar could be sophisticated, 1920s, French; or a local specialty food store could be gourmet, helpful, natural.
The idea of not having your own bathroom nearby can be incredibly intimidating, but we’ve found that this is actually one of the easiest parts of vanlife. Public restrooms are plentiful throughout North America, and we’ve never not had a bathroom when we needed one. Gas stations, truck stops, Walmarts, McDonald’s - you name it, we’ve done some business there.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of choosing the right location when starting your small business. We’re sure you’ve heard the saying 1,000 times before, Location, Location, Location! Some of the world’s most well-financed franchises have this weaved into their business DNA. McDonald’s Ray Kroc is the perfect example. When asked about the business, this well-know American businessman and philanthropist once stated, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.”
Now we’re using a lot of recycled materials in this project including some kitchen cabinets that were removed some a kitchen renovation project a few years ago and you know this is something that a lot of homeowners do if you’re real careful about removing the cabinets from a kitchen renovation or a bathroom renovation you can use them in a lot of ways around the house and certainly works good for a workshop like this.
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.
If customers naturally turn right when they enter, and you guide them to circle all the way around, you'll realize that the front left is probably the ideal location for your checkout counter. However, this decision also depends on the size and layout of the store itself, which means you'll have to use your best judgment on the most natural point to have that check-out counter.

Large or small, most retail stores use one of three basic types of retail store layouts. Which type you use depends on the kind of store you have and the products you sell. For example, grocery stores usually use grid layouts because they are predictable and efficient to navigate. Boutiques typically use more creative layouts that allow businesses to highlight different products.


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…
By completing a form on this website, you will be able to receive email correspondence from Canadian Woodworking.   These emails may include information on upcoming events or special offers for subscribers. If you do not wish to receive email correspondence please email orderdesk@canadianwoodworking.com  and ask to be removed from our email list. Every email that we send to you will include an "opt-out" from receiving future email correspondence. 
Solar Shower. For easy, inexpensive showering in wilderness locations, nothing beats a good solar shower. This is basically a bag of water that you leave out in the sun until it heats up, then hang it from a high place and shower using the attached nozzle. 5-gallon solar showers should get you about 5 minutes of good water flow. There are also pricier but more convenient pump-operated solar showers that you can buy.
On-demand apps incorporate many of the elements seen in apps with logins and social features. Like ecommerce apps, they also include a transactional component, because users need to purchase goods and services. Unlike social and ecommerce apps, however, on-demand apps essentially require two completely unique user experiences. For example, an Uber driver needs advanced mapping and routing functionality while a rider doesn't. Similarly, the driver doesn't need to do a payment while a rider does.
I was really excited after seeing your shop video. It was almost like you read my mind (except my plans does have more windows and a wood burning stove as I live in TN). I realized the importance of more 22o plugins after you explained your reasoning. I was just planning a couple. Love the floor and ceiling plugins. One quick question. Is each plugin area on it own breaker, or do you have more then one on each breaker. I was planing on each one to have its own breaker. Love your approach on your projects and how you introduce new items or products. Thanks and Merry Christmas
While the recession brought with it a well-documented squeeze on small business lending from banks, there are a number of alternative funding sources available to those who are starting or expanding their small business. Loans and/or equity investments can be sourced from multiple sources, including credit unions, savings and loans, and private financial companies. Family members, friends, and colleagues are also potential avenues to explore.
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.
×