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.
Through my cabinet-shop connections, I managed a snappy deal ($200) on a used cabinet saw with a 54-in. commercial rip fence. That price would be hard to match, but it is possible to find a hybrid or used cabinet saw with a high-quality fence for $600 to $1,200. Some of them will run on 120v household current, meaning you won’t have to rewire your shop for 240v service, but be sure to check for compatibility before you buy.
The thickness planer can joint a board's face. On this simple jig, the stock is supported by twin rows of wood screws driven into a platform and adjusted to meet the varying clearances on the underside of the board. The stock rides the sled cup side up. Slide the board slightly sideways to adjust the screws, then seat it firmly on the screw heads for planing.
Chris Marshall: You’re asking a question that would take many magazine articles or a whole chapter of a good shop-design book to answer adequately. If you haven’t already done so, you might also want to ask this question to the good folks that frequent our forum on woodworking.com. Every woodworker with a shop will have a slightly different answer, so here’s mine. I’ve never had a brick shop, but my last one was a metal pole barn (30 ft. x 40 ft.). I outfitted the interior with 2×6-framed walls and plenty of insulation. It stayed reasonably cool in the summer and warm in the winter, using a wall air conditioner and a 60,000 BTU furnace. Currently, I have a 24 ft. x 42 ft. garage space for my shop. It is framed conventionally with 2×6 walls and stick-built 2×10 rafters. I’ve only been in my new shop for about a year, but it is working just as well or better than my pole barn did, because the new shop has many large windows that let in lots more natural light. I’ve used 8-ft. fluorescent T8 light fixtures in both buildings with good success, and I ran both 110- and 220-volt outlets all around the room. The last shop had a plywood floor; the current one, a concrete slab. I thought I would notice a bigger difference between the two flooring types, in terms of how tired it makes my legs by the end of the day. But in all honesty, a good pair of supportive shoes seems to make the difference moot for me. Both types of buildings benefit from a dehumidifier during humid months (when I’m not running the A/C, that is) to keep the relative humidity low and my tools rust-free. If all things were equal, and money were no object, I would probably go with a conventionally framed wood building over the pole barn. It was easier to build that from scratch as opposed to retrofitting the pole barn framing with walls afterward. But, as I say, the next woodworker will probably offer you a completely different answer from mine. Good luck in your decision!
The first step in choosing a business location has little to do with site evaluation. It’s about understanding who your customers are. What kind of people are they? When and where do they work? How do they spend their free time and extra capital? Get to know your potential customers and you’ll have a far better chance of finding both a site and a property that they’ll want to frequent. Once you know who they are, you need to ask yourself if there are enough members of this target demographic near your intended storefront location. If so, what time of day they are most likely to be near your storefront? And, will it be quick and convenient for them to stop in?
Hi Ryan: Nice job on the truck. I also have ’94 Toya 4×4 coffin sleep setup. Looking to change (access cab wanted) and may use some of your ideas. One thing I didn’t see you mention is ventilation. I am from the Mid-Atlantic region(DC/Maryland, you’re old stomping grounds) and ventilation at the New is important. My side windows have screens and I use an old mesh fly with a flexible pole for the rear tailgate area. It works really well. Kinda jerry rigged but is easy to put up and take down as well as pass through for nighttime truck exits. Not needed out west as much since bugs and humidity are lower but can’t live w/out it in these parts.
A very simple countertop but one that should work great for our workshop, now we’ve already applied one coat of polyurethane to kind of seal up the plywood. Now we’ll be applying another coat once that dries to give it a little bit of durability because this thing will get a lot of abuse. Now Tim’s applying the same kind of clear sealer to our little rolling workbenches here, and I think this is a great idea, we’ll be able to roll these out, lock down the casters on the bottom then you can have a drill press or any other bench top tool that you can work on, then when you’re finished with them you can roll it right back, tuck them up against this wall and it serves as a good storage unit and gives you the chance to keep the workshop wide open for some of the larger projects we might be working on.
At $300, the saw is expensive, but it is one of the more affordable saws that offer a 12 inch blade and a double bevel.  The double bevel allows you to adjust both the angle at which the blade cuts into the wood and the tilt of the blade relative to the workpiece.  Having control over both angles allows much easier cuts of trims and moldings.  It's one of those features that you won't use with every project - but when you do need it, you'll be glad you have it
That headline struck me as discouraging. As an entry fee, $5,000 seems high enough to exclude a number of potential woodworkers, myself included. Christiana softened the blow by saying that used tools could cut the cost roughly in half. That figure seemed much closer to my experience, which involved buying a mix of new and used tools. Having said that, buying the right used tools is much more difficult than buying from a catalog or dealer who stocks everything needed to build a great shop. It requires a bit of guile and a good plan, but the payoff is worth it. Through careful choices and good fortune, I was able to outfit my shop with a blend of new and used tools for around $2,000.
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.
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.

Many retailers are also opting for digital signage. While digital signage and display solutions are more of an investment upfront, they allow you to quickly and easily show customers sales, new products, upcoming events, customer reviews, and more. Mira Digital Signage is a popular digital signage option for small businesses that is easy to use and offers affordable monthly payments. Click here for a free demo.
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.
I will also typically secure those sorts of items under my locked platform if I am gone for a few days in the backcountry, because in reality I could probably care less if someone broke in and stole my box of food, versus someone who stole my clothes or expensive down jackets, which would be much more problematic (and costly) to replace on the road.
To help, it’s important to determine the average price per square foot for your area. Price per square foot is typically derived from the annual lease amount divided by the total rentable square feet of the space. You can find the average price for your area by typing your zip code into LoopNet’s directory of commercial properties available for lease.
Although the market has even more options to build apps now than in 2015, there's also clearly more of a distinction in quality. The best app firms and app developers have further honed and distinguished themselves. They have more awards, stronger portfolios, better team members, and more specialized skills. The tools available have made it easier to build apps though, so there's also many more mediocre or low-quality options to build your app.
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.
2) I haven’t spent very many nights in full on winter conditions (that 12 degree night in Boise comes to mind!), so I can’t comment too much. It was fine for that… Mostly it was hard transitioning from the warmth of the cab to the frigid air while you are shifting things around and getting ready for bed, but then once you were inside the canopy it was fine. Lots of frosty ice on the inside windows, but in my sleeping bag all was well. It stays a little warmer in the canopy. Maybe I’m a wuss, but I didn’t want to spend an extended period of time dirtbagging it in my truck while I was ice climbing (I spent the first two months in Ouray, CO, sharing a rental), I just thought it would be too challenging/miserable to dry and manage gear in a confined space with the shorter daylight hours. I’d be perfectly content doing future weekend trips with this setup though!
The big advantage to buying a pre-built camper is that it’s already built out, so you won’t have to wait to hit the road. Many feature innovative ways to convert the living space into a sleeping area, and may even include a bathroom/shower. These vehicles should also have electrical, plumbing, propane, and water systems already installed (although if you want solar power, you’ll likely need to add this yourself).
While strolling through the recent entries to our online shop gallery, I spotted some pretty novel designs as well as a couple of fun videos worth taking a look at. From brilliant solutions for tight spaces, to novel repurposing of department store display racks, there were plenty of interesting elements to the eight shops listed in my February round-up. By the way, if you’ve already seen our art director’s video tour of his redesigned garage shop (Mike’s Garage Shop), you can go ahead and skip it. If not however, it’s really worth a look!

Power walls are your go-to spot for hot finds, new items, and seasonal features that attract instant attention and pull customers through the entry area and into your store. These areas are likely going to change frequently and you need to plan for it. Outfit these spaces with versatile displays that can be easily changed to showcase various product groupings.


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.
Ultimate Small Shop goes beyond the ambit of Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s to help woodworkers start their workshop for less than $1,000. Woodworkers will find answers to questions related to the budget, planning, required tools, critical setup factors and more. The guide has been put together by Ralph Chapman, a coach with more than twenty five years of experience in woodworking. Chapman is the small shop expert and what he recommends is not speculation or best case scenarios. He has done it himself. He is now sharing his experience along with expert recommendations so you can begin your woodworking journey right at your home.

I think it would work pretty well for a music festival, I don’t see why not. I wouldn’t say it is robbery proof, but generally robbers are looking for quick and easy targets, like a purse sitting on the front seat, just smash and grab. If someone really wanted to rob what was under they platform, they surely could, but they’d need more tools and more time to do so. And they don’t even know if there is anything good under there… I’d like to think of it as a really good robbery deterrent.
What I have done in my man cave of a shop is to install above my finishing table a strip of track lighting where I have fixtures ranging from the typical bright white incandescent (typically around 4700k) all the way to the average halogen spot that I figure someone would use with an art piece (normally around 3700K). this allows me to point each light and view my piece and finish under varying light conditions to judge whether or not I prefer a particular finish or not. It also helps in photographing items (though filming is a whole nother story, I still have my 5400k T8 overheads for working).
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!
These new companies no longer charge crazy upfront fees, moving instead to what’s known as a “SaaS” monthly subscription model, often with a free trial period. Therefore, the risk of trying a new product is greatly reduced, as you are required to pay little or nothing upfront. Even Microsoft announced in 2015 that they would be moving their flagship product, Microsoft Office, to this pricing model.
Simply get a one-inch drywall screw and drive it into the hole right beside the hook. You want to use a one inch screw because you don’t want to hit the wall behind it and you just drive the screw in until the head of it is tight against the hook, it’ll just act as a shim, and you’ll see once I get this all the way in, it lock the hook in place, and now when you take the tool on and off it won’t come off. The hook won’t pop out.

From a legal perspective, this lack of uniqueness doesn’t need to be a major concern. According to the rules governing business incorporation in most states, if you find yourself opening with the exact same name as another business, you can keep it as long as “your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.”


If you’ve spent time at your local flea or farmers’ market over the last few years, you may have noticed the explosion that has taken place in the number of innovative small business concepts. From cool new clothing lines to ingenious fusion foods, the sheer diversity of the ideas on display really hammers home one of the key lessons when starting a small business: You need to find your key differentiator. For some this is their brand story, for others it’s the value of their service, but for many quick service restaurants and small retailers, it’s a distinctive core product line that demands the attention and interest of your customers.
As always, great article! While my dirtbag adventure will likely only be about 6-7 months, I am starting to wonder about logistics. You mention that most people use the automobile they have. I drive a Prius. Not ideal for sleeping in, but I’m a pretty content ground dweller. I know that long-term I may start to question this. Here’s the proposition I’m considering: by saving on gas (45-50 mpg), I can occasionally cough up the money for lodging when I feel the need for added comfort. I can definitely do the number crunching, but I’m wondering if you’ve encountered people doing this or did similar analyses of your own at any point. I’d love to hear any insights you may have on this.
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.
I like how you thought out the lighting for you shop. I have 6ea.6 tube T-8s but find 6500K bulbs but find lighting for filming is not that good, seems dark to me I use a Canon T3i its a decent camera I do have a row of windows in a 16′ garage door and aman door with a window on one end and a small window at the other end of my shop. Any idea what the issue may be?Could I still be getting too much light?
Every woodworker (I think!) dreams of someday being able to construct their own dedicated woodworking space. To date, I have bounced around from garage to garage (about 4 times), making the best of a crappy real estate situation. And while I have been lucky to have fairly large spaces to work in, I still daydreamed about the possibility of designing a shop from the ground up, with both woodworking and video production in mind.
Having a deliberate store layout is important for maximizing revenue for brick-and-mortar retailers. By setting a plan, retailers can strategically direct shoppers to high-priority products and drive impulse sales. An effective store layout also makes the space organized and easy to navigate, which is important for providing a good customer experience.
Simply get a one-inch drywall screw and drive it into the hole right beside the hook. You want to use a one inch screw because you don’t want to hit the wall behind it and you just drive the screw in until the head of it is tight against the hook, it’ll just act as a shim, and you’ll see once I get this all the way in, it lock the hook in place, and now when you take the tool on and off it won’t come off. The hook won’t pop out.
The big advantage to buying a pre-built camper is that it’s already built out, so you won’t have to wait to hit the road. Many feature innovative ways to convert the living space into a sleeping area, and may even include a bathroom/shower. These vehicles should also have electrical, plumbing, propane, and water systems already installed (although if you want solar power, you’ll likely need to add this yourself).

Hi, I have looked through pictures of the shop books. What I am interested in finding is a book with layout design options. I am ready to build a new shop for myself and want to put dust and electrical under the slab. Best layout designs would help me to figure out how to layout a shop that is aprox. 28'x 36'. Is there a book that has this type of information.

Great article, Ryan! I love the detailed explanations of the various options for sleeping. I consider myself a veteran “light-duty traveler” who stumbled across some of these things by accident over the years. My needs are different than yours (I’m usually traveling long distances for days and weeks at a time for work or vacation, so I usually don’t hunker down in a base camp very often), but I have a few questions and points to share:


You’ve probably considered what goods and services you’ll be offering, but have you researched the cost of sourcing your raw materials? How about the cost of turning those raw materials into your finished product? Do you understand how much you’ll need to charge for your products/services in order to cover the expenses of renting a space, paying employees, leasing equipment, and paying for permits and regulations? Moreover, have you considered if the answers to these questions will provide the kind of operating margin you’ll need to pay yourself a salary?
The router—The router is the master when it comes to flexibility. Its potential far exceeds trimming and decorative edge treatments. A router will cut mortises, rabbets, and dadoes, and adding a router table builds in even more versatility, including biscuit joinery and raised-panel doors. But where the router distinguishes itself from all other tools is in its ability to produce identical parts using a pattern.
Use the scrap piece of plywood to map out the angle for the speaker stand legs. Decide the height you want for the base of the speakers, and make a mark on the plywood (32 in. for us). Mark the depth of the speaker (13 in.). Lay the 1x4 board assembly on the plywood, lining it up with both the corner of the plywood and the 13 in. mark from the edge. Scribe along the 1x4 board assembly, take the assembly away, and find your angle with a protractor or speed square (17 degrees for us). Cut that angle onto one end of the 1x4 board assembly.
There are a number of woodworking fixtures you can get by without for a long while, but a sturdy workbench isn't one of them. The trouble is, those solid-hardwood benches we all lust after can completely blow a modest woodworking budget. Here's a bench that splits the difference. You'll get a top that can stand up to significant abuse, a sturdy, heavy base that keeps the bench planted where you put it, and an end vise and T-track system for holding workpieces as well as a variety of unique jigs. It may not look quite like a European bench, but it works just as hard as one for a lot less money.
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.
When we started putting together our water system we decided to look for a stainless steel tank. Even though plastic tank options are FDA-approved for potable water use, we still don’t like the idea of our drinking water being in contact with plastic for extended periods. Sure, they say it’s “safe,” but not long ago water bottles containing BPA were considered to be safe.

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.
A table saw is one of the most important tools in the workshop for its ability to make long straight cuts. It will also cross cut with ease and if you don’t want to cut clean through a board you can adjust the height of the blade to make a dado or rabbet. A handy feature with the BTS10ST table saw is the vertical stand which also saves on storage space.
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