Once you’ve got that, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with your tax obligations as a employer, including providing required employee benefits such as social security and workers’ compensation. As an employer you are also responsible for withholding federal and state taxes from your employees’ paychecks. What’s more, you are obliged to ensure all withheld tax is forwarded to the government within a defined time frame (usually a matter of days after the paycheck was issued). Failure to do so can result in a fine.
​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.
So, if you’re looking for a retail or restaurant location, you’ll want to figure out how many customers you expect to have, on average, and multiply that by 15 square feet. If you’re looking for an office space, you’ll want to forecast the desired size of your workforce and multiply it by 100 – 150. This will give you the size of the commercial space you need.
Other important power tools—A good jigsaw will help get you through many tasks, particularly cutting curves, that would otherwise require a bandsaw. Look for one with blade guides that keep blade deflection to a minimum. A handheld drill is also essential. A quality corded drill is much less expensive than a cordless one, and will never leave you without a charge. Also look for a quality random-orbit sander with a provision for dust collection.
The subfloor provides a stable layer - basically a sheet of plywood - for your floor to sit on. You’ll see a lot of van build videos on Youtube showing a ¾” subfloor, but that thickness just isn’t necessary in a van. The thicker the subfloor, the higher the cost and weight, and the more valuable interior space it takes away. We recommend using ¼” plywood for your subfloor, which is plenty thick enough for a van.
Table mounted routers, planers and shapers are another machine that usually has material fed through, and although they are fairly narrow machines, they require room on their front for material to be fed from, and at the rear for the material to be removed after the work is complete, so again, a space of about ten feet is needed for any significant work.
Now we’re using a lot of recycled materials in this project including some kitchen cabinets that were removed some a kitchen renovation project a few years ago and you know this is something that a lot of homeowners do if you’re real careful about removing the cabinets from a kitchen renovation or a bathroom renovation you can use them in a lot of ways around the house and certainly works good for a workshop like this.
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!
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.
One of the challenges in building a cabinet for hand tools, is that as soon as you define a place for each tool in your custom cabinet, you find that you need more room to store the must have tools you just bought. I decided to make a couple of open cabinets, and employ the use of inserts that can be replaced or modified as my tool collection grows. Part of the goal was to make a clean, efficient shop, while keeping to a budget. I bought paint grade maple plywood and made the cabinets. Applying a solid maple face frame to the cabinet makes a clean looking cabinet from sheet goods purchased at $50/sheet.

I didn’t want to get a truck with a million miles on it. I am not a trucker by trade; I got my CDL specifically for this project. I didn’t want to get into a truck and then have to worry about its structure, engine, and transmission—and then start building Optimus on top of it. That’s why I got a brand-new truck custom-built from Western Star to become Optimus Prime.
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.

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.
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.

But now is the time to take a step back and go on some test runs in your van. Take it out for a weekend here or there (or better yet, a week or more). Try living in it as you expect to on the road. We guarantee there will be things that worked well in your head but not so much in reality. And you’ll come up with random little hacks and innovations that will make your life on the road easier and more enjoyable.
I know in Missoula the garbage men do not like unbagged dust chips. They sent my friend a warning notice in the mail. Do you pull your drum out to the garbage and let the dust fly or dump it into a bag? My friend has garbage cans with 33 gallon liner which he pulls out of a sealed dust collection box beneath the cyclone… then he uses a hand truck to haul it out to the alley and then puts a fresh can in the box. It seems like a simple dust management method by not handling the dust by either scooping or dumping it out into a bag. I am always trying to think of ways to have less contact with harmful dust particles and I am curious as to how others handle the situation. Have a great weekend! 

At a certain point, you may decide that it is time to move on from your business. Whether you’re winding down a business that just didn’t work out, retiring (and maybe opening that beach bar in Belize), or cashing in on the effort you’ve put into creating a lucrative enterprise, you will hopefully have established your end goal well in advance so that the time to strategically exit will be clear.
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.
You’ll want to consider your insurance needs both in terms of the potential frequency of claims against you and the size of the potential liability. You’re also going to want to think carefully about your assets and what you can and cannot afford to lose. A good rule of thumb is to always buy insurance if you can’t absorb the loss of a particular asset without dramatic effect.
By setting up a separate legal entity, you limit the financial fallout from a failed business, you shield yourself from legal risks (such as someone injuring themselves in your store), and you potentially put yourself in a more advantageous tax situation. Equally, if you are working with partners, ensuring you are set up with the appropriate partnership will give all parties reassurance about their legal standing, obligations to, and expectations from the business in question.
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
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.

Radiation is heat transferred through air or a vacuum- think the heat radiating off of a fire. In a van, the biggest source of radiant heat is your windows. Sunlight (radiant heat) shines in through the windows and heats up the inside of your van. Using a reflective window covering will help deflect radiant heat and keep your van cool. Reflective surfaces also help keep radiant heat inside the van during the winter.
To experiment with different wood shop layouts, measure your furniture and equipment to sketch onto your plan in different positions. You can also make cutouts of the footprint of your items so you can easily move them around your floor plan to see how best to arrange them. As you do so, don’t forget to leave adequate spacing around tools and tables.
If this all sounds too complex for you, there are alternatives. Thanks to advances in technology, there are tools available that help simplify bookkeeping and accounting so that you don’t have to hire a full-time accountant to take care of the basics. We’re big believers that a technology-led approach to running a small business will leave you with more actionable insights, more time to focus on your day-to-day operations, and ultimately, more money. For details on the cloud-based technologies that more and more businesses are relying on, make sure to check out our cloud-based business guide.
There are a variety of structures to choose from when starting a small business. However, the most common business structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation. The structure you choose determines which income tax return form you have to file, which, you guessed it, dictates your legal and financial responsibilities as a small business owner. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you understand the options that are available to you and weigh the pros and cons before incorporating your business.
Thanks again for the inspiration. I've just finished putting the door on my 12x16 shop. Aside from shingles it is ready for the winter. I've yet to cut out the hatch for the lumber or start on the interior, but at least it's weather tight and I can work on the rest I the coming months. I am planning to use mineral wool bays for insulation to mitigate sound and ease installation. I don't see a way to add pictures to this reply (I'm on my phone), so I'll try to add one or two later.
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.
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.
Making sure any holes in your insulation are sealed off and filled helps your insulation really do its job. Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks spray foam insulation is the best way to fill in any space around your foam boards, and to insulate any hard-to-reach spots. You can also spray this into the hollow vehicle frame for insulation (you’ll need a whole bunch of cans for this).
Some people lean towards starting a small business because they seek freedom, others to fulfill their passions. Some entrepreneurs, however, are driven by a desire to build a legacy, one that that they can hand down to generations to come. Whatever your reasons are for reaching for the stars and aiming for the moon, before you start, remember, there is a dark side.
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!
It's true for large and small shops alike: Sawdust and chips get everywhere when you use power tools. Small home-woodworking shops are often in shared rooms and may be poorly ventilated. And airborne sawdust and particulates linger for a while before settling. It's a bad combination for human lungs, which are not fond of sawdust, let alone the types of chemicals found in plywood and other engineered materials.
Large or small, most retail stores use one of three basic types of retail store layouts. Which type you use depends on the kind of store you have and the products you sell. For example, grocery stores usually use grid layouts because they are predictable and efficient to navigate. Boutiques typically use more creative layouts that allow businesses to highlight different products.
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.
While we were painting all of the walls in our workshop our plumber dropped by to hook up an old laundry tub sink that we’ve had for several years. Now, he hooked up to the cold water line on an outside water faucet, so we’ll only have cold water but still this will be really convenient to have this right here in this shop. Well we’re about to set our last base cabinet, and once they secure that well to the wall we can start on all of our countertops.
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.
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.

Well I think I’ll have plenty of light once we get all of 24 bulbs in place. I’m really glad I saved those old fixtures. Hey another thing we’re reusing, and I’m really glad I saved, is these old cabinets that we took out of a kitchen renovation a couple of years ago. This will be perfect to serve as our base cabinets so that we can build our sturdy countertop on this side of the shop.
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.
Many small businesses in New York and New Jersey were forced to close following Superstorm Sandy because they lacked the insurance that would have gotten them back on their feet. That part is well known. What’s less well known is that this lack of proper insurance, coupled with the lack proper legal incorporation, resulted in many entrepreneurs seeing their personal assets come under threat.
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.

One of the challenges we all face is how to move machines into a home without damaging the home, the machinery, or yourself. I actually had to bring things through the front door, and across hardwood floors, and turn 90° to descend the stairs into the shop. To protect the floors, I laid down sheets of 1/2" MDF that I could use later. On the wooden stairs, I used three strips of softwood strap­ping, held with wood screws to the stairs. I mounted a 2x4 baton to the wall studs at the top of the stairs, with a 5/16-inch eye-bolt through it.


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.
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