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.
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.

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.


The space behind a door is a storage spot that’s often overlooked. Build a set of shallow shelves and mount it to the wall behind your laundry room door. The materials are inexpensive. Measure the distance between the door hinge and the wall and subtract an inch. This is the maximum depth of the shelves. We used 1x4s for the sides, top and shelves. Screw the sides to the top. Then screw three 1×2 hanging strips to the sides: one top and bottom and one centered. Nail metal shelf standards to the sides. Complete the shelves by nailing a 1×2 trim piece to the sides and top. The 1×2 dresses up the shelf unit and keeps the shelves from falling off the shelf clips.
The final size I decided on was 1800 sq. ft. Yeah, that’s big! I actually balked and second guessed myself after we received the estimate from the contractor. Sure, more space is nice, but at what cost? I then asked for a second estimate, bringing the shop down to 1500 sq feet, which is still huge. As you might expect, the savings just weren’t that substantial. By the time you get over 1000 sq. ft., the price per sq. ft. is really low, making it very difficult to justify down-sizing. So I bit the bullet and stayed with my original choice of 1800 sq. ft.
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.
At times, while you are starting a small business, it will seem like there is a brick wall in front of you, made up of all the different problems that will occupy your time and mind: a lack of funds, permits, regulations, tax worries, inventory issues, or a lack of customers. Concepts like “free time” and “the weekend” will take on a very different meaning. While the emotional ups and downs of cash flow management and customer service, may drain your will to live.
Compensation is a critical key to retaining and motivating the right employees. However, since small businesses often start out with tight budgets, compensation is an area they often struggle with, commonly leading to bad hiring decisions that affect overall business performance. The good news is that employers willing to step outside the hourly-wage box have a variety of options.
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.
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.
Cut the 6-1/2-in. x 3-in. lid from the leftover board, and slice the remaining piece into 1/4-in.-thick pieces for the sides and end of the box. Glue them around the plywood floor. Cut a rabbet on three sides of the lid so it fits snugly on the box and drill a 5/8-in. hole for a finger pull. Then just add a finish and you’ve got a beautiful, useful gift. If you don’t have time to make a gift this year, consider offering to do something for the person. You could offer to sharpen their knives! Here’s how.

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.
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If you want to spend as little as possible on a vent fan, the Fan-Tastic Vent 1200 (about $130) is your best bet. This fan has three speeds and manual controls, and it has the same quiet operation and energy efficiency of Fan-Tastic’s other fans. If you find that you need to use it while it’s raining, it’s easy to add on an Ultra-Beeze Vent Cover later on.
He’s also providing power to a cool light grid we’re building from several old fluorescent fixtures that we salvaged from past remodeling jobs. With six four-tube fixtures, we should get plenty of light. In a work space you want to install these lights high enough so they don’t get in your way when you’re moving materials but low enough to provide good even light.
My shop ended up being 23 x 19 feet, for a total of 437 square feet. I put my wood rack in the basement, but out­side the walled in shop area. To keep the dust in the shop, a three part strategy was employed. I have a dust collection system, an air filtration system and a shop vacuum for cleaning dust out of machinery. I put up new walls, installed new electrical service, lighting, and two access doors for ease of materials move­ment. The shop includes two windows so that I can enjoy natural light, and not feel like I am squirreled away in the basement.

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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!
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