We first obtained legal permission from Hasbro [which originally developed the Transformer toy line back in the 1980s] to build it late in 2015. I also had to obtain my commercial driver’s license (CDL), so I spent a few months learning how to drive a truck while simultaneously spending the winter of 2015-16 working with Western Star to piece together on paper a vehicle that mirrored the Optimus Prime truck. Once the factory delivered the truck in April 2016, we got to work on the customization and fabrication right away. It was roadworthy again by October 2016. So the entire process from start to finish was about a year.
​There are some diverging paths that you could take at this point: some may want to get a router with a router table for edge work and improved joinery capabilities, some may want to start looking at some of the interesting 3rd party jigs - two of my favorites are the DowelMax and the Kreg Pocket System, but my recommendation would be to equip yourself to buy cheap stock.
This is about how I built my wood shop. We decided to move from our previous home for a variety of reasons. I saw the move as an opportunity to gain a bigger shop for my wood working hobby. The house we found had everything we wanted, except for a shop or even a garage. It did have a non functioning indoor pool. We thought this space would make a nice wood shop. I could just build a floor over the pool and have a shop. As we got further into the inspection process, it was looking as though fixing the structure over the pool was going to be expensive. It looked like we would have to put a bunch of money into a structure that was not really a wood shop and not a functioning pool either. It made more sense to take out the pool and structure, and then build a wood shop from the ground up. We started this project by regrading our side yard to gain access to the pool in the backyard. Once we had access, we took out the pool. We half filled the hole where the pool was with compacted gravel. I realized that if we sank the shop into the ground I could have the ceiling height I had always wanted in the shop and preserve the view from the house. The design of the shop is a box with a shed roof. The roof wraps down the east side of the structure. I like to think of it as a slightly open toolbox. The entire shop is laid out on a 24 inch grid. The windows and doors fall within this grid. I had a general contractor built the shell and then I built the windows and interior. The interior walls are comprised of a 34 inch concrete stem wall at the base. Above that is a 9 foot, plywood wall. In the space above the plywood wall and below the shed roof is poly carbonate panel to form a clerestory. The tool layout in the shop is divided into 4 areas: an area near the door for material storage and prep, a central area for general wood working, and two areas near the back of the shop, one for turning and one for metal working.
As the old saying goes, the only two inevitable things in life are death and taxes. Almost all small businesses in the United States are subject to some form of corporate income or gross receipts tax on a state level — that is, unless you happen to be a lucky inhabitant of the great states of Wyoming, Nevada or South Dakota. Actually, even these states will require you to pay state workers' compensation insurance and unemployment insurance taxes. Oh, and of course every small business in the country is subject to some form of federal taxation. 

As a retailer, it's possible to use furniture, displays, racks, and other tools to create a clear path for your customers through your store. This will vary greatly depending on the size and your general store layout. However, you know that most North American customers will naturally turn right — so, your next job is to make sure that as they do, they also continue walking throughout your store to gain the maximum exposure to your products. This not only increases the chances of them making a purchase, but a well-thought-out path can be a great way to strategically control the ebb and flow of foot traffic in your store. 
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.
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Congratulations on building such an awesome shop. Ultimate man cave! Glad you have a cooperating HOA. I’m currently inviolation of my CC&Rs since I occupy 1/2 of a two car garage and the rules say you can’t use the garage for anything other than your car. So far no violation letters. One thing your missing…a fridge. Looking forward to many more guild builds.
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.
Budget Toilet: Luggable Loo. With the Luggable Loo from Reliance Products, you can turn any 5-gallon bucket into a portable toilet for your van. Make sure to line your bucket with a trash bag or toilet waste bag - then once you’ve done your “doodie” just tie up the bag and dump it in the trash. Reliance also sells deodorant chemicals that will make it easier to live with your new roommate
Now also we have some shelves that we built here above this, little cubicles like this work great to organize your workshop so you can have different tools or different supplies in the different little areas. And we’re about to install a very simple countertop. Now this is nothing more than just three-quarter-inch plywood and we decided to stain it instead of painting it, because you know it’s going to take a lot of abuse with all the pounding and the dings, and dents you’ll get in a workbench so staining it and then sealing it with a coat of sealer will probably hold up better than anything else. Now we’ll put another coat of sealer on it after we finish the front edge band and the backsplash and once all of that is complete, boy this thing is going to work nice.
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.
An exclusive arrangement is one where the tenant works exclusively with one broker for a 3 – 12 month period. During this time, the tenant can’t work with another broker. A commission between the tenant and broker is negotiated, equal to a small portion of the expected tenant broker fee. However, this commission is paid only if there are no tenant broker fees.
This is a great project if you carefully consider your needs first. I left out the vise and tracks, but had no problem hand picking good 2x4 stock at the big box stores. I did use maple on the top sides in case I ever decided to add tracks, but it was not a budget buster by any means. The cabinet and drawers were a first for me and a great learning experience. I also added retractable casters so I can easily move the workbench around my shop. Love the workbench!
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.
Aside from mechanical repairs, a mechanic’s toolset will help you loosen and tighten bolts - which you’ll need to do during the gutting process, installing your electrical system, and at many other points during your van build. This Crescent 170-piece tool set has all the essentials, including 6-point and 12-point sockets in ¼”, ⅜” and ½” - not to mention pliers, crescent wrenches and screwdrivers.

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.


Whether it’s underwear in an apparel store or milk in a grocery store, the items customers need most usually are found near the back. Think about this next time you’re in a grocery store. As you walk to the back of the store to get milk, you funnel past coffee, cereal, and toilet paper. And the milk is right by the eggs and cheese. This is primary and secondary zone merchandising in action, and the reason people shopping for one item often leave with three or more.
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.
We’ve been focused on the first category so far, but there is also an allure to buying an existing business. These enterprises will often come with brand awareness, a customer base, trained employees, an established supply chain, and most importantly (we hope), demonstrated profitability. As a result, countless startup risks can be diminished by taking this route. That is only true, however, if you make sure to carry out thorough due diligence on the existing business.
Thanks for leaving a comment, Rob! I didn’t find that it limited where I felt comfortable camping, but I always tried to be discreet… Waiting until few if any people were around before I hopped in and usually peeking through the windows so I’m not hopping out right next to someone loading their groceries or whatever. I slept in all sorts of random places in that time on the road, more often than not it was in permissible camping areas, but there were other times it was more frowned upon–from grocery store parking lots, to auto repair places, etc. Certainly is more likely to guess that someone is camping in it, but I only got hassled once (by a rent a cop telling me to move on).
Sounds fun right? Well the truth is — yes! It’s more than fun, it’s liberating. Sure, there is some risk involved (and a bit of a learning curve). But for those who do it right, who take advantage of the technology available, who build the right support network around them, who get funding from the right sources, and who choose the right people to work with, working for yourself is the new job security.
Just stumbled across your article and it’s right on time as I am about to launch a special events venue (ballrooms, meeting rooms, outside garden area, outsourced caterer, etc). Not sure what type of zoning this business falls under. I read that zones are usually for office, retail, industrial and leisure. Any idea what type of zone I should be looking for? Also first time trying to get a commercial space for this type of business, any specific suggestions?
There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.
In all you can spend under $1,000 and be setup in a great workshop. But I know how it feels when you’re shopping for new tools… and you think… “why not buy the top of the line so it lasts longer”… or “may as well get the best while I’m spending money”… those kinds of thoughts won’t only get you into big trouble with your other half… it’s also COMPLETELY wrong.
There’s a reason why some of the biggest players online have names that are essentially gobbledegook: Zappos, Skype, Zynga. While there’s certainly some psychological naming principles that often come into play, at the most basic level, it’s simply easier to find this space online and then strive to own the brand name in the minds of consumers. How important this will be to your small business will depend on a number of variables, including your intended size, location, and your desire to exploit ecommerce as well as a local brick-and-mortar business.

Hi thanks for the info. I’ve got a 2009 tacoma and went with a simple, no screws elevated system. I’ve also got a mx series ARE shell with rack rails so I’ll probably take too much stuff now. Oh well. My question is: how did you attach the plywood to the life gate? My carpentry/construction skills are best illustrated by the “Homer Simpson spice rack”. You used the existing holes in the tail gate, but did you put the tail gate cover back on the tail gate and put the plywood over it and screw thru both or ditch the cover? Thanks

One site that I found a year or more ago was Life Remotely. They converted their truck to accomodate 3 people traveling from Seatle to the end of South America. They camped in tents most nights and some hotels/hostels but did a lot of conversions to their truck. Plus they blogged the whole time which is pretty cool if you want to take the road trip international.
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.
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.
According to a recent digital marketing survey conducted by Clutch, 74%of small businesses surveyed had a company website. Of the businesses that said they do not have a website, 9% said they planned to build a website in the future, while 10% said that that they are unlikely to build one. One thing is clear, small business owners are starting to join the digital revolution and are reaping the rewards in terms of increased customer loyalty, growing word-of-mouth, and most importantly, increased sales.

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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