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.
Garage spaces are usually not insulated, and garage doors on most homes have very poor insulation. That means it’ll inevitably be super hot and stuffy in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. To be comfortable in your workshop you’ll need to take the extra step to insulate your garage and set up some space heaters, and some portable floor or window AC units. Having to wear a heavy coat while you work will impede your DIY efforts and nobody likes working in a sauna.

When I change blades on my band saw, I usually need to adjust the thrust bearings and guides with an Allen wrench. I was tired of hunting around for the wrench, so I decided to stick it to the steel housing with a rare earth magnet (neodymium) about the size of a jacket button. Now it’s always handy! — Bill Wells. You can also use a magnet on your ladder.
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.
How to Optimize a Small Layout – Not everyone has the room to have a huge shop selling everything. Ralph guides you through making the most out of a small shop layout. This includes optimal machine placement, where to set up shop, the tools needed, and lots of other consideration. The guide walks you through every aspect of setting up your shop – going into details without having it be overwhelming. It’s ideal for beginners that are looking to set up shop.

We've written about routers on the site before and my favorite is the Bosch 1617​.  It is light enough that you can control it when using it handheld, yet powerful enough that it won't have any problems when you mount it under a table.  On top of that, it comes with a plunge base which makes it significantly easier to use handheld.  The package clocks in at ~$190.
So what’s the downside? Well, for starters, RV conversions aren’t exactly known for quality. Most manufacturers use cheap (i.e. shitty) materials, and just don’t build their vehicles to withstand the stresses of full time living. You’re also locked into a pre-designed layout, so it will be a lot more difficult to customize how everything functions.
Most workshop tasks require good ventilation, and that’s something garages are generally poor at. Plus, passive ventilation (like opening a window) usually isn’t enough. A ceiling exhaust fan is a good start but if you are serious about keeping things clean then your ultimate workshop should also include a dust collection system, central vacuum and air ventilation system. All three of these systems will keep the dust, dirt, and other heavy particles off your clothes and out of your lungs which makes for a safer work environment.
Best-selling products should be placed in Primary Zones located toward the rear of the store, ensuring that shoppers will pass by Secondary Zones featuring other merchandise, increasing their exposure and sales potential (it’s why milk is always in the back of the grocery store!). You can also feature several ‘best sellers’ in window displays for exposure.”
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!) 
Well, I hate pegboard, pegboard’s in every shop, people use the heck out of it. And what I wanted to do was start moving the tools in, get a few of them in and then maybe just build some little racks for the screwdrivers and a few of the things like that. But things that are like categories – like a drill, drill bits – just let the drill bits be right here. Certain things maybe that you don’t use all the time, hole saws or maybe brass for something like that, can go down in other drawers.
Gone are the days when you could apply for a building permit based on a sketch on the back of a cigarette pack­age. In provinces like Ontario, design work must be undertaken by an insured designer registered under the provin­cial building code or by the owner of the property. You can do the drawings as the owner if you can demonstrate effec­tively through your drawings that your structure will comply with the techni­cal requirements of the building code in a clear and concise way. You will be required to submit detailed drawings, including the following:

We have a 5-gallon clear plastic Hedpak container that our sink drains straight down into. We really like this container because it’s clear, which means we can easily see how full it is. With 5 gallons of gray water capacity, we only need to empty it every 3-4 days. Dumping is easy - just remove the tank from under the sink and pour it out into an RV dump facility or other approved area.
You can see I broke the ultimate goal down into smaller tasks. Now you just need to do this for all the big goals that you have mapped out for the year. You may have more ideas or goals throughout the year and that’s okay. With this type of document, you are able to add another category and tasks anytime you want. This is just the best way to keep track of all the little things you need to do to accomplish your goals so you never are stuck wondering what you have to do next.
Having a plan of action is key to learning how to start and run a successful small business. Whether you are looking for funding from a bank or angel investor, or are lucky enough to completely fund your venture on your own, an articulate and well-thought-out business plan will help you define what your business stands for and what it intends to become over time. As the age-old saying goes: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Don’t put your business idea in the hands of fate. Plan thoroughly, give yourself some benchmarks for success and be prepared to innovate as you go.
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.
Thankfully, the tools we use continue to get better and more app specific. For example, Sketch lets us design more efficiently with its focus on creating user interfaces. Marvel helps us craft better prototypes with it being specifically for apps. Swift has been a revelation for the Apple ecosystem and has expanded developer interest considerably. Android Studio and now Kotlin are doing the same for Android apps. Firebase and yes, even Parse, now as Parse Server, helps developers build app-focused backends to bring apps to the market more quickly.
There is a profound difference between a good idea and a thriving business, but as the saying goes: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” At a certain point, turning your dreams into reality is as basic as putting a plan in place and, step by step, making it happen. The good news is that there has never been a better time for starting and learning how to run a small business.

You can see in this step how I notched each rafter to fit more securely to the walls.  I also used a metal hurricane strap to secure each rafter to the wall.  Even though this was not required by code, I felt my tools were far to valuable to be left to chance over such an inexpensive solution.  The walls are a simple board and batten system.  The 1x3 trim covers the joints of the 4x8 OSB.  They make much more high quality sheets goods to use as siding.  However, the cheapest I found was $35 a sheet and the OSB was about $5 a sheet.  I sealed the OSB and painted it with exterior paint.  If I run into problems in the future, I can just add a second layer of more durable material or simply have siding installed.  It has held up very well over the past couple years and I see no need to spend more money on it now.
Cut the 6-1/2-in. x 3-in. lid from the leftover board, and slice the remaining piece into 1/4-in.-thick pieces for the sides and end of the box. Glue them around the plywood floor. Cut a rabbet on three sides of the lid so it fits snugly on the box and drill a 5/8-in. hole for a finger pull. Then just add a finish and you’ve got a beautiful, useful gift. If you don’t have time to make a gift this year, consider offering to do something for the person. You could offer to sharpen their knives! Here’s how.
Concrete garage floors can work as a workshop surface, but over time they stain and you’ll end up tracking a lot of dust and dirt into your home. An epoxy floor finish is easier to clean and can also provide extra grip. For a softer surface that will help your joints when standing a long time, check out those restaurant grade rubber floor mats or some durable options that include garage floor tile.

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.


However, while this product might draw the customer through the door, it will not, on its own, make your business a success. A strong small business has to be resilient to the challenges the world can throw at it, whether that means an economic recession, sudden fluctuations in commodity prices, or problematic suppliers. And a big part of resilience comes in the form of diversification.


Plywood comes in several different types, the most common being pine and lauan. We used ¼” lauan plywood for the walls in our van. Lauan is cheap, it bends easily, and in our opinion its grain pattern looks nicer than pine. Hardwood plywood like birch costs more than pine or lauan, it weighs more, and it’s more difficult to bend. This type of plywood is a great option for furniture, but we think lauan is a better choice for your walls and ceiling.
Seems simple right? Well, yes and no. Inventory management can become very complicated once you factor in issues like product lifecycle (how quickly do the apples go bad?), variable amounts of raw goods in a single item (how many apples went into that apple turnover you sold?), delivery times (how quickly you can get new apples?), and variable wholesale apple costs (how much did you pay for that particular bunch of apples?).

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.


The good news is that when you’re starting your small business, you now have the tools to take a data-led approach to choosing the right store design. For example: Not sure what type of music gets your customers in the mood to spend? Simply choose a few different styles and display a different one each week. After the test is complete, analyze sales data to help you identify what could be impacting sales. The key to getting accurate results from this kind of test is to avoid switching up the other variables in your store that can impact sales, such as signage, or testing one type of music during a regular business week and another type during a holiday week. For more details on how to create controlled in-store experiments, you can check out Lean Retail 101
Great video Marc. I know I’m not the first to bring up the reverb in the shop. However I don’t think addition of rubber floor and cabinets will change this much. Furthermore, sound panels look very clunky in my opinion too, but may be necessary above some machines? Materials like drapes and carpet strategically placed can also do wonders, but I don’t know how practical that would be in a wood shop.
Finding reliable cellular service (and the internet that comes with it) is a constant challenge in vanlife, especially if you do computer-based work on the road. A cell signal booster like the WeBoost Drive 4G-X helps a lot in areas where service is spotty. It can take a weak cellular signal and amplify it into usable internet for web browsing and getting work done.
A great product line will also reflect a range of price points. For a business that is working hard to convey a sophisticated and elite vibe, it might be a useful strategy to set a high minimum price, but for the vast majority of small businesses, your pricing should be guided by one key thought: I want every single person who comes through my door to be able to find something that fits their budget.
I spent so much time building organizers and filling in just about every square inch on the inside of my shop that I feel it will be better to show some of those in separate Instructables.  I made a couple of video tours to try to highlight some of the different aspects of my workshop.  I hope you enjoy them and I will work on making my future videos more stable.
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 could not consider a 12" jointer, given that the equipment had to be moved down the stairs to my basement, and the cost would blow my budget. What I wanted in an 8" jointer was true tables, a fence that is solid and easy to adjust, a cut depth gauge that is reliable, and long tables that aid in flat­tening longer bowed planks. I have found that the Taiwanese tools have come a long way in the past 20 years. I purchased the King KC-80FX 8-inch jointer, with lever adjust parallelo­gram tables. The system arrived in a good state of tune, and the well-written manual includes a full parts list and exploded parts diagrams. The tables were extremely heavy; more about getting things down the stairs later. The jointer is reasonably priced, it runs smoothly and it is well made.
Once I had the walls completely filled in and trimmed out, I built my doors.  I clamped them in place each day until after I painted.  Then I installed the hinges and hardware.  I decided to change my original plan of building a hinged 4 foot door.  I was worried that the weight of it would cause it to sag over time.  I had also decided at this point to install a small unused AC in the back wall.  I thought that by keeping one of the doors closed, I could keep more cold air in during the hot summers.
As Kizer & Bender always tell retailers: Put it on paper. If you haven’t settled on your store layout—or even if you have—the first thing you need to do is work your plan out on paper before you start moving things around in your store. Putting it on paper helps give you a clearer picture of the desired result and any potential issues before getting started. Remember, many small retailers find that a mix of floor plan and layout styles works best.
With such an unstable job market and it being harder to get employed, more people are moving into entrepreneurship and being self-employed than ever before. Woodworking is a fantastic business opportunity, but you might feel that you don’t have the space or money to set up your own workshop and sell your goods. If that sounds like you, then you should check out Ultimate Small Shop by Ralph Chapman.
So after 14 years in our previous location, my company moved to a new shop last month. My shop went from 1600sqft split into 2 bays with the kitchen in between to a contiguous 2950 sqft. Still don't know why the the office portion needed to grow by the same percentage when there were already 10 empty cubes at the old office, but thats an argument for another day. The boss got his 500 sqft office so he is happy.
BEST ANSWER: Hi, I probably can't help, depending on where you are in the process. If the bench in the photo looks like it's just what you need, you should download the plan. I think Rockler has several ready to assemble benches that look quite good. Example: Large Workbench (N2000) Item #: 31719... I. too, am retired and trying to decide whether to buy or build. I have a bench that looks good and works good, but just is too light for hand work. It all depends on what you expect to be using the bench for. There are some good books out there to help us decide. "The Workbench" by Lon Schleining" is excellent. Also, Christopher Schwarz has written several good books on the subject. Vince, good luck and have fun working wood.
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.
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.
If you want the ability to cook inside your van but don’t have a whole lot to spend, your best option is the Coleman Classic propane camping stove. For about $60 you get a sturdy and reliable 2-burner stove that runs off of replaceable 1-lb propane canisters. We’ve seen many people using these out on the road, and they do the job very well. Coleman has hardly changed the design of these stoves for decades, so you know they’re doing something right.
Now, this is kind of an odd situation here, a few years ago when we bought this building there was a concrete block wall around here and a large drain right in the middle of the floor. Well the drain will certainly come in handy for any cleanup in the shop but the walls kind of left us when we removed those kind of left us a little divot and a little bit of damage here, so to make this nice and smooth so that our rolling workbenches will roll around real nicely we’re having to do a good bit of floor patch.
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Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.
I’m for using what you have got as well but if what you’ve got just really isn’t up to the job it doesn’t hurt to consider switching to something else. Not sure what year your Prius is but if it is fairly new I imagine you could sell it for much more than what an older reliable 4 cylinder Tacoma would cost you. My 2wd Tacoma manual trans gets 30mpg pretty easily and I’m never tempted to get a hotel. The price difference in the two vehicles alone may well make up for the extra cost in fuel and potentially tempting lodging plus even in a 2wd pickup you will have a much easier time going off the beaten path then you will in a low hanging passenger car.
When you’re first starting out, it can be hard to imagine that there are entrepreneurs out there complaining of having grown too fast. But for some, it’s not a problem that’s welcome. For every Ben and Jerry’s, (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield turned a rundown Burlington, VT gas station into an ice cream empire), there’s a Zynga or a Living Social that has enjoyed incredibly fast-paced growth, let their operating costs get out of hand, and then had to engage in mass layoffs when reality hit. If you’re enjoying fast-paced growth, make sure that this is reflected in your operating margins, not just the metric of revenue. You don’t want to be the butt of the old retail joke: “We’re losing a buck on every sale, but we sure are making it up on volume!”
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.
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!
I'm in the same boat. In Florida, we don't have basements, so my dedicated portion of the garage is 10' x 12'. In that space I have very neatly packed: 8' bench, Cabinet saw with 50" fence, 18" bandsaw, Dust collector, Joint, Planer, Drill press, Compound miter saw and a medium-sized hanging tool cabinet that holds all my nielsen stuff. I find myself moving my stool several times an hour just to work... Can't wait to move into a new house some day!
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.
If you’ve got 220v, and want to get a seriously good TS, the Grizzly G1023RL is about the best bang for the buck in a 3hp industrial style cabinet saw…$1195/$1294 shipped. It’s not a necessity to have that much saw, but it’s close in price to many lesser saws, and is about all you’d ever need. If that’s more than you can stomach, and/or don’t have 220v, you’re limited to a TS that’ll run on a standard residential 110v outlet….again I’d look to a full size stationary saw. The typical contenders are the entry level price ranges are the Ridgid R4512, nearly identical Craftsman 21833, Steel City 35990, Porter Cable PCB270TS….all under $600. The next step up would include the Grizzly G0661, G0715P, Craftsman 22116 (by Steel City/Orion), Jet Proshop, General International, Rikon 10-201, and Powermatic offerings. These saws all have the potential to perform well…the end performance is largely dependent on how well you set them up, and what blade you choose.
We have Eclipse Sunshades installed on our van. While they’re pricier than the cheap sunshades you’ll find at Walmart, they’re every effective. And since they permanently install on your windshield they’re much more compact - a big plus for living in a van. All we have to do is pull the shades across and velcro them together in the middle and we’re protected from both the sun’s rays and prying eyes.
Most of today’s POS systems have integrated inventory management software that allows you to put hours back in your week, whatever the volume of your stock. A quality point of sale system will allow you to manage pricing changes, track product availability, cross-check inventory, and automate reorders with ease. All of which are crucial in helping you develop a deeper understanding of your business, enabling smoother day-to-day operations and smart purchasing decisions.
Of course, if you’re going to build a sweet shop, you’re going to have to outfit it with an equally sweet bench. This afternoon I stumbled upon a UK bench-maker by the name of Richard Maguire. Built of kild-dried ash, Maguire’s benches are then finished with an oil and wax combination and feature twin screw vises which, while really interesting, might not be a perfect fit for everyone. While you can use these vises to apply more accurately distribute clamping pressure on different-sized stock, I could certainly see it becoming a wee bit of a pain when clamping stock that comes in contact with the entire length of the vise’s face. Having to equally screw in each side might frustrate some woodworkers. Still, these benches are a blast to look at.
The good news is that when you’re starting your small business, you now have the tools to take a data-led approach to choosing the right store design. For example: Not sure what type of music gets your customers in the mood to spend? Simply choose a few different styles and display a different one each week. After the test is complete, analyze sales data to help you identify what could be impacting sales. The key to getting accurate results from this kind of test is to avoid switching up the other variables in your store that can impact sales, such as signage, or testing one type of music during a regular business week and another type during a holiday week. For more details on how to create controlled in-store experiments, you can check out Lean Retail 101
Tired of holding a flashlight between your teeth while working in the dark? Make a light stand by bending a 2-ft. section of 12- or 14-gauge electrical cable into a U shape. Duct-tape the light to the ends of the cable. The wire can be shaped into a hands-free supporting base for the flashlight or bent into a hook for hanging. — Paul and Haylee Lytle. Check out another hands-free light hack.
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.
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