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.
I totaly get not wanting to get into the cost part of the shop. We just went through a house renovation, and my stock answer to the ‘how much’ question is either ‘enough’, or ‘enough that was right for us’. There is a quality of life or utility aspect that every person needs to figure out for themselves. And, I would think not having to bounce around from garage to garage anymore has gotta be worth something!
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.
The refrigeration setup in your van is an area where you really do get what you pay for, whether you’re paying in money or in time. The best options are the most expensive. The cheapest options are a pain and/or don’t work very well. And if you try to save money with a DIY refrigerator setup, you could end up spending a lot of time on installation.
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.

For the next step up in convenience, consider adding a dedicated beverage cooler to your workshop as well. Though many people set up an old refrigerator in the garage for extra soda and beer, a dedicated mini-fridge will help you save on electricity, since new models are far more efficient than old ones. You can pack your beverage cooler with your favorite soft drinks for a pick-me-up while you work or use it to store a lunch to enjoy on a break —all without tracking dirt and or grease into your clean kitchen.
You’ll also sometimes want to walk a property with a licensed contractor. This is because some commercial spaces require lease build outs, which are necessary additions or improvements to the space. Build outs can be fully or partially covered by the landlord. It’s important in this scenario that you get an accurate renovation estimate and negotiate a build out into your lease.

When you design your workshop setup, climate control often gets ignored — and that’s a huge mistake! If your workshop or hobby room is in an unconditioned space like a garage or basement, you could find that it’s brutally uncomfortable to work in there during warm weather. You’ll be much happier with a solid fan — or several — to keep air moving for your comfort.
Store design experts agree that this area should be open, inviting, and free of overpowering displays and signage clutter, as shown in the image above. Many customer behavior studies, including those conducted by Envirosell’s Paco Underhill, support this opinion. They show that customers tend to ignore displays, signage, and even manned sales counters placed close to store entrances.

Finding reliable cellular service (and the internet that comes with it) is a constant challenge in vanlife, especially if you do computer-based work on the road. A cell signal booster like the WeBoost Drive 4G-X helps a lot in areas where service is spotty. It can take a weak cellular signal and amplify it into usable internet for web browsing and getting work done.
I hope to build my own stand-alone dream shop sometime in 2015 – in the Texas Hill Country. I’ve not yet found the right lot, so much is yet unknown….but am thinking roughly 30′ x 40′ overall, with 10 or 12 foot ceiling. At one end, there will be a 10′ x 30′ space walled off into three spaces: a small finishing room, an office/design space, and a half bath.

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.


Because two-sided market apps lack the specificity of on-demand apps, usually more features need to be built. More significantly though, it's much harder for a company to build each side of the market. Uber, for example, is focused on driving. Angie's List, on the other hand, has hundreds of different kinds of service providers. If it wasn't clear from the examples, both on-demand and two-sided marketplaces also have a geographic component. This means that they often start in one area or a subset of areas like Uber did in San Francisco.

However, Sprinters are a lot more expensive than other options. It can be tough to find anything reasonably priced with less than 200,000 miles. For the Mercedes Sprinters, parts are more expensive and it may be difficult to find mechanics that have experience working on them (this is less of an issue with Transits and Promasters). And, since these are complex vehicles, they don’t lend quite as well to tinkering as something classic like a VW Vanagon or old Ford Econoline.


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.
I could not consider a 12" jointer, given that the equipment had to be moved down the stairs to my basement, and the cost would blow my budget. What I wanted in an 8" jointer was true tables, a fence that is solid and easy to adjust, a cut depth gauge that is reliable, and long tables that aid in flat­tening longer bowed planks. I have found that the Taiwanese tools have come a long way in the past 20 years. I purchased the King KC-80FX 8-inch jointer, with lever adjust parallelo­gram tables. The system arrived in a good state of tune, and the well-written manual includes a full parts list and exploded parts diagrams. The tables were extremely heavy; more about getting things down the stairs later. The jointer is reasonably priced, it runs smoothly and it is well made.

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.

We're living in an age where we can order groceries, turn on the lights in our house, or get in a workout from the convenience of our phones, tablets, or other devices. Apps are a part of our everyday lives. They are increasingly giving us more free time or vying for more of our attention, depending on how we choose to use them. With that, here are some of the more important changes since we published our app cost article in 2015.
My advice here is to make a detailed list of what the various parts of the build will be (drawings, permits, foun­dation, framing, electrical, etc.) and decide what you would like to do yourself and what you will need to hire others to do. Get quotes on the work that you would like to hire out and estimate the materials you will need to do your por­tion. You may want to factor in your time into the cost as well, especially if you will be passing up other income to work on the project. At some lumberyards, you will be able to give detailed drawings to an estimator on staff who will do a material takeoff list for you of what you’ll need and what it will cost. When all the numbers come in, you can put together a budget and plan for an overrun allowance of around 15 percent. If you keep track of the materials and subcontract costs as you go, you can stay on track and make decisions as you go about the latter stages of the project without regretting it later. If it is challenging to obtain fund­ing for a complete build, you may want to stage the build so that initially the frame goes up and the exterior is finished, and then you finish the interior work as you have time or as funds become available.
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.

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).
Equity financing is money raised in exchange for a share of ownership in your business. The core benefit of this type of funding is the lack of debt. You won’t have to worry about those pesky monthly repayments. The downside? You are giving up total ownership of your business, you are giving up the rights to a portion of the ongoing profits of the business, and you are potentially giving up some control of how your business is run (Though this is not always the case).
If you’re a high volume QSR for example, you’re going to want clear signage that helps customers identify where they should be lining up and perhaps a product display next to the line. If you have high risk merchandise in your store, you’ll want to design your shop so that customers must pass the point of sale on their way out and use mirrors to eliminate blind spots in your business.
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.
Amenities and Services – You’ll want to understand the full range of amenities offered by a commercial space. These amenities and services may include such things as communal rooms, free Wi-Fi, loading bays and docks, dining options, outdoor space, sewage and utilities, on-site security, and more. The zoning of your business will often dictate the type of amenities and services you require.
For this reason, on-demand applications can get very time intensive. Consider building on an on-demand platform on both iOS and Android. A typical app on a single platform would require one experience to be designed. In the case of an on-demand app on two platforms, four would be required. That's one experience for each user in the system (i.e., two per platform) plus each platform (i.e., four in total). On-demand apps also often require a number of administrative interfaces. The only way to reduce the cost of an on-demand platform is to streamline the typical feature set included. For example, you could remove in-app payments or administrative interfaces while doing market validation.
My enthusiasm was kindled and I made friends with Surrey Timbers for more 'exotic' wood. My next purchases were a Drill Press and a Scroll Saw from Axminster Tools and I set to work. An excellent piece of Yew followed by some Thermal Ash has so far produced 4 cribbage boards. I then obtained a Palm Router which, after some practice, I find better for the more intricate work.

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.
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.
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Many DIY campervans have kitchen units that are directly behind the cab, sealing it off from the rest of the van. These layouts offer increased privacy and stealthiness, especially if you completely wall off the cab, and open up some space in the back of the van. This layout can be paired with a lengthwise bed, fixed bed, or convertible dinette bed. You can also place your propane and water connections right by the door, making refill easier.
However, my guess is around $250,00 t0 $300,000. So as you say you will have a good mortgage to pay for. So excuse me for being nosy. I am retired and I have started setting up my shop in my two car garage. It is not insulated just bare walls and open ceiling. I am going to start doing some projects and will keep watching your shows. I was a Computer Engineer and although I liked my job i always had that desire to get back in wood working and now I am doing just that.
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.

Cutting thick, rough, warped hardwood can be cumbersome and dangerous. To provide some control over this process, I built a chop-saw station with wings that extend to support long boards. Again, anytime you make something that consumes shop space, make a shelf underneath to gain storage. The chop saw sits in a recess so that the deck of the saw is at the same height as the workstation deck.
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.

Tight control of inventory, while not a particularly glamorous part of owning a small business, is therefore one of the most important ways you can impact profitability. The good news now is that there is an array of technology available that can make this whole process much smoother, including sophisticated forecasting tools that will help you predict your required inventory levels for each day based on past sales, weather records, and many other factors.
Smaller speed bump displays (above) and larger merchandise outposts (below) placed along your store’s main traffic flow let you draw customer interest to certain products. Speed bumps let you feature new finds and hot sellers in eye-catching ways. Larger outposts are great for special price stock or product groupings such as seasonal features and branded collections.
After years of digging through piles of stuff on my workbench for the air compressor accessory I needed, I had this idea. I simply drilled 7/16- in. holes on the underside of my workbench top and threaded in a few 1/4-in. NPT male couplings with quick-connect couplers. A wrench and some upward pressure are all it took to screw the couplings into the wood. Now I just snap my accessories onto the couplers when I’m not using them. — Donnie Dressler. These are the best tools for automotive work.
I framed and sheathed each wall individually and then stood them up with the help of long 2x4 braces.  My neighbor let me borrow his framing nailer, which made things go much faster.  I added a second cap of 2x4 on the top to make the walls a little more rigid.  I then laminated 4 2x4's to construct a ridgeboard.  I nailed in some temporary 2x4 supports and had a friend help lift it into final position.  Once all of the rafters are cut and nailed into place, the supports were removed.
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!
Most people know they should document their homes contents for insurance reasons but they often ask why or how to do it the right way. If you have a loss due to fire, theft or a natural disaster your insurance company will need certain details to complete the claims process, including a description of the item, the model number, the serial number the date purchased the color and the purchase price.
Love the design. I’ve got a 15 tacoma, which has rails that run the length of the bed and are what my shell is “clamped” into via a bed rail nut. Hence my problem with following your outline verbatim. Any suggestions for incorporating the rail as a substitute for the 2×4 you clamped into your truck? Essentially connecting the 3, 2×4 braces directly to the rail… I’m a construction novice, any suggestions greatly appreciated!
Pegboard panels like this are extremely popular way to display and store hand tools. But they have one annoying problem is that when you lift off a tool, often the hook itself will pop out of the board. And that happens with over a number of times, every time you reach for a tool it can get pretty annoying. So you can buy at the hardware store, they make straps and special devices to hold the hook in place, but I’ve found this works just as well and it’s a lot cheaper.
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.
I got extra batteries for my cordless tools, but I could never remember which battery was newly charged and which was run down. Now I can easily tell them apart because I painted a number on each battery with my kid’s white nail polish. It dries fast and is— you got it—“tough as nails.” — Tom Baker. Plus: Learn how to double the life of your car battery.
In general, a table saw requires at least eight feet in front and behind to accommodate standard sheet goods and four feet side to side. A work table should provide four feet clearance on all sides, and pathways between tables, benches and storage units should be three feet wide. Proper clearance will allow you to move about with ease while you work.
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