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.
Find out what tools you need and how to budget for shop setup. Whether you are going to be doing furniture, cabinetry or woodturning, this workshop tools list and budgeting guide can help. Learn how to prioritize purchases of shop tools based on space, interests and cost. Check out a comparison of the workshop tools you can get for $4000 vs. $10,000 and determine how much you need to spend for the shop you want.
I framed in a 4x8 Garden Shed on the back.  I didn't want it so deep that stuff would get buried in it.  I need to take an updated picture of the back.  These pics were from early on and I have changed some things in the organization.  I used similar framing techniques and built a lean to roof attached with metal hangers.  I chose to use clear corrugated roofing to allow natural light into this shed.  You can see the 2 shopvacs that were originally part of my simple vacuum system.  I have removed them and found that I get better airflow using an electric leaf blower with the vacuum attachment hooked up to my system.  There is a large metal trashcan with a dust collection separator to collect the larger pieces of saw dust and chips.  My air compressor is on a shelf on the right now and I ran a hose through the wall and to a 25 foot reel attached to the ceiling.  I wired separate switched for both on the inside of my shop.  These systems work extremely well for a small shop.  The wall provides some insulation from the overwhelming noise they would otherwise create inside the shop.

Another option to consider is an expensive but efficient Festool dust extractor. These dust extractors are designed to work with other Festool tools, but they also match up with most other brands' compact power tools as well. A nice thing about Festool's vacs is that the hoses dock neatly inside the units. There's almost nothing I value more for a compact shop than self-contained storage.
For small business owners starting or wanting to grow a small business, attracting and retaining customers is a huge priority. Let’s face it, without customers you don’t have a business to run. Over the last decade there has been an explosion in the number of high-quality, affordable technologies that are specifically geared towards helping small, local business owners improve the day-to-day operations that impact this aspect of their business. This includes point of sale systems, tax software, bookkeeping software, employee scheduling and payroll programs, inventory tracking tools, customer loyalty programs, gift card technology, ecommerce opportunities, website builders, email marketing software, and social media management tools. The list goes on and on.

In each case, we shuffled the bench, jointer, table saw, and band saw across to the top of the stairs, and then tied a rope around each to act as a safety while sliding the machines down the strapping on the stairs. Yeah, the table saw hit the wall, and the promise of a good mud and paint job saved my bacon. The rope worked well, and we were able to get everything down the stairs nice and slowly with­out any major issues.


However, there are some downsides. If you want to customize the interior you’ll have to completely gut the entire thing, which can be a lot of extra work. The weird shape and fiberglass construction of most high tops also make it more difficult to install solar panels, a ceiling, or anything else on the roof. And we’ve also found that some auto repair shops aren’t tall enough to put our van up on a lift - though that’s only really an issue for major work, not routine maintenance.
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.
The kind of apps that fall into this app type are extensive. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and YouTube are all examples. Remember that some of these apps have been worked on for many, many years. Thus, a v1.0 social app or social networking app will likely not offer all of the same features. For instance, Snapchat did not start with videos, filters, or their "Stories" functionality. A social app would, however, include user authentication, friending, favoriting (or other data interaction), some sort of messaging, and comparable "baseline" functionality.

Right before you start your small business, everyone has a dream setup for their small business in their head, along with a laundry list of amazing features. It’s probably large and full of natural light, opposite from a park, and filled with beautiful details like a long solid oak counter and a little bell over the door. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these aspirations. In fact, it’s vital to have a clear vision of what you’re working towards. It can, however become a problem if you let the perfect business location become a barrier to opening your doors in the first place.


Hey there Ryan. Cool blog! I love the idea of trucking-it! I’m not able to do something like that, though I wish that I had taken the time when I was younger to do so. Here’s a suggestion that you might consider, if you haven’t already considered it before: Obtaining and using a hammock. I’d suggest bolting in an eye hook on the truck, or using the bumper as a tie point if you don’t have a second tree around. Also, in the high desert, you could use rocks as anchor points for it. Just an idea, from one camper to another.
For small business owners starting or wanting to grow a small business, attracting and retaining customers is a huge priority. Let’s face it, without customers you don’t have a business to run. Over the last decade there has been an explosion in the number of high-quality, affordable technologies that are specifically geared towards helping small, local business owners improve the day-to-day operations that impact this aspect of their business. This includes point of sale systems, tax software, bookkeeping software, employee scheduling and payroll programs, inventory tracking tools, customer loyalty programs, gift card technology, ecommerce opportunities, website builders, email marketing software, and social media management tools. The list goes on and on.
I wanted to have numerous outlets, and have enough elec­trical service that I did not have to worry about overloading circuits. There was already some lighting, so I simply picked off that line and added additional lights to keep things bright and cozy. I ran a 240V line for the table saw and jointer with a dedicated breaker. For wall outlets, I ran 14-3 wire, and split all the plugs, so that I can run one machine on the upper plug, and another on the lower plug of any outlet.
​In order to excel you are going to need to read up on jig building so that you can produce consistent repeatable cuts.  Ideas for jigs are a dime a dozen online and you could easily lose a couple of hours browsing the hundreds of ideas people think up.  A more economical approach would be to build your jigs as your projects demand them.  After you go through that exercise 4-5 times, you'll find you've accumulated quite the collection of jigs without even trying.
Great shop just what you need. You mentioned your lighting was a little thin on the ends of your shop. The best way to lay out rows of lights in an open space like yours is to figure out how many rows you want. Now in your shop six rows would give you a good coverage, so you would divide the length, 60′, by the number of rows, this gives you the space between rows, then divide this in half, this gives you the space from the wall to the first row. For a 60′ room with six rows this would be 10′ between rows and 5′ off the end wall. This will give you consistent light from wall to wall.
It’s tempting to place new products, hot items, and sale signage front-and-center so they’re the first things customers see upon entering. But don’t do this! The first few feet inside the door, say five feet for a small store, and 15 feet for a larger store, is known as the decompression zone. Store design experts strongly advise against cluttering up this space.
You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.
Though store planning software isn’t a necessary tool for the average small retailer, it can certainly come in handy if you are looking to develop specific planograms, such as for the holiday season or a special event. Store design software is more common for multi-location retailers that want to deploy the same planogram in multiple places. Either way, if you are looking to build planograms, DotActiv offers a handy free tool.
So far it has worked out. It's probably not ideal. I imagine a system would work much better, but it gets the job done until then. I ended up setting up in my small 1 car garage as well now. I used two shopvacs to build a system in there. I have a few new Instructables to put together and a new shop tour to do as well. Thanks for the comment! FYI: The wood storage has passed the time test. I have not had to change a thing about it. I plan on adding a shelf above the sheet goods to store thin moldings and cut-offs. I still find it incredibly easy to access my wood quickly with that setup. I have to move stuff around in the garage to get to my wall mounted wood storage, so it's more of a pain.
A lot has changed in recent years. Sophisticated, yet affordable technology now exists that can help track customer relationships from an ad placed on Google, right through to a successful sale. This offers small business owners a unique chance to be entirely data-driven in their marketing approach. Every single aspect of your small business can be tweaked and optimized to ensure that you are enticing customers, up selling where possible, and encouraging people to spread the word about your business.

Ok, the leap from $1,000 to $2,500 is a big one.  I certainly didn't make it at one time.  It took me years.  But I know folks that decided they wanted to get into woodworking and dropped at least $2,500 getting themselves outfitted.  When you do make the jump, the thought process becomes much less about making sure you can get the job done and becomes more about having quality tools to get the job done.
“Just past the Decompression Zone is where you place fixtures known as Speed Bumps. These merchandise displays work much the same way as speed bumps in parking lots work—they slow customers down. They also grab their attention and introduce them to the cool product for sale in your store. Be sure to rotate the product on your Speed Bumps at least once a week.”
I am working hard (or hardly working) on our master bathroom vanity! I spent the whole day in the garage on Monday, but it was such a mess from all the other projects I have been working on, so I spent the day cleaning and organizing instead of building. Now I have a place to build the vanity and this coming week there is nothing going on so I will also have time. I can almost smell the progress!
You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.
Volkswagen campers are by far the most iconic vehicles in the vanlife community. They’re classics, and they always will be. This category includes the old Kombi bus (VW Bus), the 1980-91 Vanagon, and the newer Eurovans. Also known as Westfalias or Westies, many VW vans were converted into campers by the Westfalia Company in Germany (except for Eurovans, which were converted by Winnebago in the US).
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.
Minor variances are applications to your municipality to suspend a particular by-law to allow your project to proceed, based on common sense or precedents set by other buildings in your area. If your municipal committee of adjustment denies permission because a neighbour voices concern over the development, you would have to appeal the decision to the municipal board of your particular province. In that case, you may be better off looking for another piece of property with an existing structure that you could renovate, more relaxed zoning regula­tions, a larger lot, or more congenial neighbours. 
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.

If you have some experience under your belt, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers -- and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough. Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, sometimes everyone just needs some uplifting advice.

Hand tools offer your best chance of finding a real bargain. Until the early 20th century, nearly all woodworking was done with hand tools, and their designs and uses have changed little. Most of the high-end planes on today’s market, for example, are just reproductions of the original designs. And because the originals were mass-produced, they are fairly easy to find at rummage sales and antiques stores. (For more information, refer to Matthew Teague’s article, “Buying Old Tools,” in FWW #180).
Since there’s less wiring involved, installing LED strip lights is much simpler than puck lights. You also won’t need to cut any holes because strip lighting should come with its own adhesive. We’ve seen most vanlifers stick strip lighting down the side edges of their ceilings. However, it’s not as easy to create separate lighting zones as it is with puck lights.
Your sense of space and how to use it will be slightly different depending on the focus of your craft. If you are building furniture with hand tools, you will be able to make do with less space (under 300 sq ft.) than if you’re using mainly power tools and building sets of cabinets (over 400 sq ft.). Some 3D mod­elling with a program like Sketch-Up or some 2D layouts on graph paper with scaled cutouts can allow you to experi­ment with arranging your space and how much of it you will need. You should include not only the tools, benches and storage that you currently possess but also enough room to tackle new types of projects and new tools that you antici­pate needing down the road. When you think you have a layout that works, test it out by mentally working through a range of different projects you might tackle and the needs you will have for material storage, assembly and finishing. Then revise as necessary; this process will allow you to hone in on a general square footage and layout ideas that will set you up to move forward.
If you want to operate your business under anything other than your own personal name, you’ll need to register your chosen ‘fictitious’ name with the appropriate county or state authority, otherwise known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. The correct filing authority varies state-to-state. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a helpful tool to help you find the relevant authority for your state.

Other than that, you can’t have too much light — especially north light! — and you want accommodations for all the electricity you can imagine. Ceiling fans are a must. A good dust collection system is good, too. Don’t forget to plumb in for compressed air. Do NOT use hard PVC water pipe for compressed air — ever. If/when it breaks or ruptures, it explodes into tiny sharp glass-like shards. I know firsthand. I’ll tell you about it some other time. Think balloon popping!
Whether you build or buy your workbench, it must be designed and constructed to withstand the rigors and pounding you’ll put it through. The base and legs should be sturdy and the table should not easily be knocked over. The top should be durable and not easily dinged or dented. Make sure your workbench is made of a material appropriate for your types of projects, too.
Ultimately, I did this to inspire my son. I want him to look at what I have done as a father and be proud. But I also want him to grow up into a strong man who faces fear in the eyes and doesn’t back down because of a challenge. I want him to say to himself one day, “if my dad built Optimus Prime, then I can do anything I want to do in life.”  I want him to succeed in every possible way imaginable, even when I am no longer around to help him through those challenges.

After a year I am still arranging my MAN CAVE . Mine is 2,400 square feet with a 500 sq ft garage and 500 square for room upstairs that serves as gallery of my photos (yes I have several sins) and a conference room as well as any finished projects from the shop. I teach, probono middle school boys and girls in what the school calls an enrichment program. There I have named this the Water’s Edge Woodworking Academy. Actually it is open to my neighbors to build their projects when I am present. I am about one chapter ahead of them. When I told my wife last week I was thinking of an addition she told me “”over my dead body” Taking up extra room are two cnc routers … a Shopbot Buddy Alpha and a Legacy 5 axis cnc machine.
I think the music comment was about speakers for playing music. I put a few 8″ in ceiling speakers in from MonoPrice.com ($60 / pair I think) and love them. A space that big would probably need at least 3 pairs. You’re not throwing a rock concert with them, but they provide very decent background music for not much cash. The speaker wire from MonoPrice is dirt cheap too. Just add a cheap receiver to drive them. Of course, you probably don’t want to spend that cash at the moment. But it’s a good starting point for the future.
Perhaps the most satisfying move I made was to automate the dust collection system. I used the iVACPro system to link all machines to the dust collector. When I turn on any machine in the shop, the dust collector fires up and whisks the dust into the bin. The system also has a programmable delay to allow the dust to make it to the bin before the dust collector shuts down. I set my system for a five-second delay. The system works flawlessly for my band saw, planer, and router table at 115 volts, and also my table saw and jointer at 240 volts. 

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an open-celled foam board (think styrofoam) that is the cheapest of all the foam boards. It does work, but we generally don’t recommend using EPS in your van. It insulates less than XPS (R-4 per inch), and the gaps between the foam cells allow moisture to penetrate, which degrades the insulation over time. Polyiso and XPS are much better choices for a slightly higher cost.
With the third category, franchise businesses , the risk of getting started is potentially the lowest of all when it comes to starting a small business, as you are often buying into a clearly established business model. You will also often benefit from the initial support of the franchisor, including advice around site selection, training and orientation, employee hiring, and product mix coordination. This support and assurance, however, comes at a premium. On top of the normal startup costs (space, equipment, etc...), you’ll have to pay a franchise fee to the owner, which is often tens of thousands of dollars, as well as a percentage of your revenues on an ongoing basis.
My wife and I have just bought a block and will be building a new house – as part of this will be the building of the “shed” – which is really a workshop as I am a very keen Woodworker (I have most of the toys!!). My question is – Leaving money aside “Is a brick or metal shed better – especially in regards to moisture, inside temperature (heating and cooling), noise etc”? Any other suggestions would also be appreciated – eg lining the structure, power needs, lighting, etc. I appreciate your expert opinion. – Ivan Banks
Many small business owners start on a shoestring budget, intertwining their personal and business finances, supporting the business with their personal credit cards, accepting payments into their personal checking account, and even submitting tax returns that mix up personal and business finances. While this is common, it can create tax headaches, make bookkeeping more time consuming, and, most importantly, can also interfere with the proper evaluation of your business.
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.

State Parks/Developed Campgrounds. Every once in awhile, it’s kind of nice to stay at a state park or other developed campground - and a big reason why is that they have showers (and sometimes laundry, too). This is what we’ve done most often when we need a shower on the road. Many state parks also have small day use fees if you don’t want to actually camp there.
In addition to keeping your workshop comfortable with climate control add-ons, don’t forget to keep your body in optimal condition as you work. A water cooler tucked away in the corner of your workshop will provide a big quality of life boost and allow you to keep at your projects without having to run to the kitchen for a glass of water every time you feel thirsty.
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.
Garages are usually dark, which makes setting up task lighting a priority for a productive workspace. Track lighting is an easy option to install and gives your some directional overhead lighting, but it can cast shadows (especially if the light source is behind you while you work) and you’ll need another lighting source for task and overall room illumination. A simple, adjustable work lamp is helpful for soldering or when you need bright focused lighting.
“I purchased this book because I'm newly retired and attempting to set up my shop in a home we recently moved to. I'm new to setting up shop and can use some professional advice. Money is always an issue, but more important to me is the subject of time. This book solves both aspects for me. It contains sound advice if you do not wish to overspend on your shop.”
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.
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.
×