Thanks! Yep, the canopy clamps and the grooves in the bed liner are the only things holding the side shelves and sleeping platform in place. You just pop off the clamps with a ratchet and the whole things lifts out / slides out easily. That’s what I did to treat the wood after construction, takes maybe 15 minutes to pop out. Very modular. It’s been in there for more than two years now, same wood, and everything is still looking good and working fine. I like it!

Assembling parts is easiest when you can work at a comfortable height. But the height of that working surface depends on the size of the project. These ABC boxes, so called because they’re made with sides of three different dimensions, make a variable-height assembly table base. By rotating the boxes or standing them on end, you’ll get three different working heights.
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
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.
You are also obliged to file a quarterly tax return which must detail, amongst other things, your employee pay and withholdings. Once again, failure to do this can result in, you guessed it, a fine! As you can see, it’s important to be up to speed on the rules and regulations around taking on employees, including, of course, provisions around hiring foreign workers. The good news is that there are a number of affordable payroll software providers that automate this process very effectively.
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.

Cutting thick, rough, warped hardwood can be cumbersome and dangerous. To provide some control over this process, I built a chop-saw station with wings that extend to support long boards. Again, anytime you make something that consumes shop space, make a shelf underneath to gain storage. The chop saw sits in a recess so that the deck of the saw is at the same height as the workstation deck.
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Ryan, I have the same (almost) 90’s Toyota Pickup and love it! this is so helpful, and I will definitely be using this method. my main concern is that 1/2′ plywood sagging. do you notice it sags quite a bit or does it mostly hold up? my thought was to build the vertical bins a little wider, so that the plywood bed platform wouldn’t be under so much stress. the second issue im running into is wrapping my head around trying to organize and compartmentalize things appropriately. what do you typically put where so it is easy to reach and use?
You’ll also want to evaluate your obligation to your employees’ health care provisions following the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates the responsibility for the cost of insuring full-time employees to businesses with 50 or more full-time, or full-time equivalent employees. It also provides generous tax credits to smaller businesses with 25 or less full-time equivalent employees. Need a little more help understanding how U.S. health insurance reform affects your business? Register for one of the SBA’s upcoming Affordable Care Act webinars. They also offer recordings of previous webinars in both English and Spanish for those who can’t make it to one of their live sessions.

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.
Enter the garage heater. These space heaters are specifically designed to warm up wide open areas and to function under much tougher circumstances than you’re likely to find in the average house. A well designed garage heater will offer at least 5,000 watts of heating power — enough to warm 750 square feet of space. A smaller heater might take off a bit of the chill, but to really warm your workshop — and keep it that way — you’ll need a heater of this size.
A large table saw just isn't a feasible fit in most small shops. But you should be able to get away with at least a portable table saw. Never mind veteran woodworkers who might look down on these compact tools–they're well-suited for many of the smaller ripping and crosscutting operations you'll need to perform. Some of the more compact table saws, such as this 10-inch Skilsaw, are small enough to be stored in a closet or under a table.
On a more mundane, but equally important note, the costs of retroactively fixing errors in a name choice or a business structure can be enormous, both in your time and in real-terms. It is therefore important that you do your research and establish the correct legal structure for your business early on. Still not sure what steps you need to take to incorporate your business? Visit BizFilings.com to learn more about the first five steps you need to take when incorporating your business.
Now, another thing we’ve recycled that’s kind of unusual, all the wood walls you see here were actually and old backdrop that we used on a show a couple of years ago, perfect for our wood walls we need. Now, to store some of the tools, we have we created this simple little shelf unit out of cedar. And you know it kind of adds some of that warm wood feel to a shop, which I wanted it to look more like this than just plain painted walls.
Ralph has three decades of professional experience in using workshops and setting them up, and it certainly shows in his Ultimate Small Shop guide. You’ll find all the important information you need to put together your own workshop, including how to save money when putting one together; all the tools and equipment necessary to run a workshop; tips for choosing the best equipment; factors that should be considered when buying things for the workshop; and so much more. If you’ve considered setting up a workshop but feel you don’t have the time, space, or money – then you need to check out Ultimate Small Shop – How to Set Up a Complete Small Workshop on a Budget.
Gutting: We actually took on a pretty big project when we bought our van because it came with a preinstalled wheelchair lift that we had to remove. Unbolting all the parts took both of us working on it for a full day, and it wasn't the most glamorous job. The good part was that we were able to sell the lift and the reclining bench seat for a combined total of $260. If there's anything to remove from your van, do this first.
Love the design. I’ve got a 15 tacoma, which has rails that run the length of the bed and are what my shell is “clamped” into via a bed rail nut. Hence my problem with following your outline verbatim. Any suggestions for incorporating the rail as a substitute for the 2×4 you clamped into your truck? Essentially connecting the 3, 2×4 braces directly to the rail… I’m a construction novice, any suggestions greatly appreciated!
By contrast, when it comes to marketing, small business owners have historically been asked to take a leap of faith, spending money without any clear sense of how much positive impact it will have on their business. Put bluntly, learning how to market a small business can be perplexing. In essence, traditional small business marketing techniques have escaped any clearly definable return on investment (ROI) analysis. It’s for this reason that so many small business owners write off marketing as if it were a get-rich-quick gimmick. When, in reality, it’s at the heart of any successful business.

If you have the available time, taking your DIY campervan for a test run (or two) is a great way to identify any problems while you still have access to tools, package deliveries, and a place to work. There’s just a lot that you can’t foresee until you live in your van. Taking it out for some short trips throughout your build will help you understand how you’ll actually use your new living space, what’s necessary, and what’s not.
“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.”
The on the go mode is ideal for when I’m just driving all day and need to pull over and get some rest, be it in a parking lot, a residential cul-de-suc, or wherever. I usually toss a couple of items in the cab of my truck and crawl into the “coffin” sleeping arrangement for a quick night’s rest, but I can also crawl in without placing anything in the cab.

Once you have an idea of your store layout and a product mapping plan, it’s time to consider your store fixtures and displays. Fixtures are permanent—fixed—parts of your store such as lighting, counters, fixed shelving units, and dressing rooms. Displays hold product and tend to be movable, versatile, and customizable, like modular units, gondolas, tables, slatwall, and clothing racks.

Well this is the same unit I have used for years so the noise level will be what it has been. I never turn it on without ear protection. In the future, I plan on building a little closet around the cyclone to help mitigate the noise to some extent. As for cycling the motor, I read that too. But the way I work, I just can’t do that. I have to turn it on and off as needed but I do try to limit it as much as possible by doing all of my heavy milling at once.

Tip: Save money on specialty displays! Many manufacturers offer retailers low-cost or free specialty display fixtures designed to highlight their branded lines, like the one pictured below. These make great speed bump or outpost display units on a tight budget. Your product line reps can tell you if they’re available, plus provide merchandising and display advice.


It’s no accident that some of the best marketers in the tech startup industry are known as “growth hackers.” Think about your target demographic (e.g. students, local mothers, teenagers) and find any way you can to get the word out to them. Email mommy bloggers, hand out free samples at the local college, or write your website on all the napkins you hand out with your food. There is no substitute for action.
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.
The good news is this: You are not a statistic. Think about this — if it was reported that small business owners over the age of 50 were more likely to succeed, would you wait until you were 50 to start a small business? Not likely. You would start when you felt ready. And that’s the point — only YOU can know when it’s time to take the plunge. Likewise, only you can make the intelligent decisions that ultimately mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to launching your business.

The issue with the old shop was manufacturing capacity and layout. We get runs of 4 to 6 of the frames on the left in the last pic and sometimes frames twice that size. We were masters of having everything on wheels, which works for a while but it takes twice as long to build anything that way. Then the office ladies walk through the shop to the kitchen while you are grinding and complain about all the dust etc.
Overall I am very happy with the final results and I can’t wait to get back to making sawdust. The first project to be completed in the new shop is going to be a Queen Size Platform Bed for one of my favorite clients. I mentioned in a previous post that one of my goals this year was to get back into doing client work and this is me making good on that promise. I can’t wait to get started!
Do you want to create the next great retail dynasty? Do you want to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago? Or are you just looking for a simple local lifestyle business? Are you hoping to create a franchise model? Or do you see your local business as a testing ground for an ecommerce business? Your end goal will clearly inform your decisions, so it’s worth considering what it is early on.
Once you’ve planned the basic layout of your workshop and have added all the tools and speciality appliances you need, take a last look at the overall design to make it aesthetically pleasing. Add overhead lighting for general illumination and task lighting over your work stations so you can see your project clearly. For maximum flexibility, you can mount clip-on work lights to nearby shelves and point them where you need them, knowing you’ll be able to move them about as required for different projects.
One practical note: Lots of retailers and restaurateurs are now engaging in event marketing in their business locations. Lululemon does in-store yoga on Sunday mornings, Barnes and Noble hosts author readings, and your local Italian restaurant may offer cooking classes. Think about all the potential use cases for your store and ensure that it is fit for purpose.
Amenities and Services – You’ll want to understand the full range of amenities offered by a commercial space. These amenities and services may include such things as communal rooms, free Wi-Fi, loading bays and docks, dining options, outdoor space, sewage and utilities, on-site security, and more. The zoning of your business will often dictate the type of amenities and services you require.
For example: Imagine walking into a slightly weathered coffee shop on Main Street, middle America. It’s charming in its own unique way. You sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee as you skim through the tabletop jukebox. Then the bill comes. “$10 for a cup of coffee? In this rundown joint!” This might be what comes to mind if the price of the service doesn’t meet the expectations you had when you first walked into the business.
So keep this in mind when choosing fixtures and display units: The ultimate purpose of fixtures and display units is to put your products front-and-center. But at the same time, the overall look, styling, and finish is your biggest branding opportunity. Choose cohesive fixtures and display pieces that coordinate with your product collections but don’t overpower them, like the successful looks below:
Setting up and running a small business is awesome, especially if it’s your first business. Is it tough at times? Yes. But if you don’t build your dreams, who will? In 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 27.9 million small businesses nationwide. This number has trended upwards over the last decade, accounting for 64% of net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011. In a world that appears to be dominated by today’s retail giants, it’s easy to overlook the huge impact that starting a small businesses can have on our U.S. economy. However, these numbers illustrate something that we strongly believe at ShopKeep – that the brave folks who open new businesses are the backbone of the nation’s economy and the lifeblood of our local communities.
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’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.
If you’re moving into a space that requires renovations in order to fit your business needs, you’ll also want the landlord to take on responsibility for that work. We’re not talking aesthetics here, we mean necessary renovations such as improved data connectivity. If you have to do the work yourself, it’s advisable to ask the landlord for a rent-free or reduced-rent period. You should also make sure that any additional alterations you have in mind are acceptable and would not be in breach of the lease. Last but not least, always make sure the do’s and don’t of what can and cannot be done is put in writing, it will save you a lot of headaches later.
At some point in the process of starting a small business, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will hear the following statistics (or variations thereof): 25% of new small businesses close their doors within the first year and 60% are gone within three years. The exact numbers here may vary, but the message is all the same: be afraid, be very afraid!
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.
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.
What about when you’re camping? Well, most campgrounds (including many free National Forest and BLM campgrounds) have some sort of bathroom situation. If there’s not an actual running water bathroom, you’ll typically find pit toilets (aka vault toilets), which are basically much nicer/cleaner permanent porta-potties. We also recommend picking up a good poop shovel for those times you’re camping in a wilderness area without bathrooms.

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.
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