Ralph has three decades of professional experience in using workshops and setting them up, and it certainly shows in his Ultimate Small Shop guide. You’ll find all the important information you need to put together your own workshop, including how to save money when putting one together; all the tools and equipment necessary to run a workshop; tips for choosing the best equipment; factors that should be considered when buying things for the workshop; and so much more. If you’ve considered setting up a workshop but feel you don’t have the time, space, or money – then you need to check out Ultimate Small Shop – How to Set Up a Complete Small Workshop on a Budget.
Chances are if you’re starting a new small business, you’re not afraid of a little risk. However, it’s also highly likely that you have invested a large amount of money in this new endeavor. It is only prudent to take sensible steps to minimize the impact of unexpected events, like the untimely death of a business partner, a lawsuit from a customer or employee, or a freak accident of nature.
Unfortunately, the requirements across the country and across different industries are as varied as the bodies enforcing them. The only way to guarantee that your licenses and permits are all squared away is to seek out regulating authorities on the county, state, and federal level, as well as consult with the relevant industry-specific bodies for your business type.
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.
Just as a shed or garage can get stifling in the summer heat, winter cold can also make working conditions difficult — if not impossible. To prevent clumsy, stuff fingers from ruining your projects, you need a way to heat your workshop in even the most extremely frigid days of the year. A traditional residential space heater probably won’t cut it, as these are designed to heat single rooms. For a two-car garage or full basement, you’ll need something much bigger.

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.
When registering your business name you should also consider whether or not you have plans to expand your local business nationally or online in the future. Registering your business with the state does not offer brand protection beyond the state it is registered in. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop is registered in New York, no other business will be able to use that name in that state. However, someone in Idaho can still register their business as Bob’s Bike Shop. If you have aspirations that look beyond Main Street, USA and would like the option to expand nationally or on the web, you should consider trademarking your business. When you trademark your business name, it makes it a lot easier to recover property that infringes upon your brand. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop in Ohio purchased the domain www.BobsBikeShop.com but Bob’s Bike Shop in New York trademarked that name, legally Bob’s Bike Shop in New York has the right to file a domain name dispute to get the domain name back from it’s current owner.
2. Create window-like effects. Windows can open up a small space and make it seem larger. At Poppyseeds, a vintage decor and fashion accessory shop in Stanwood, Wash., the owners cut window spaces into the walls separating two small rooms to create a more airy feel. In another room, co-owner Marybeth Sande put white linen panels across an entire wall, creating the illusion of windows. Hanging drapes around tall, skinny mirrors is another way to create a window effect, Langdon says. "That gives an illusion of more light and movement in a small space."
However, instead of sharing a remodel update this week I thought I would do something a little different. This little voice in my head (sometimes called my husband) has been nagging me to add videos to my blog. I did a couple 1 minute hands-only videos a few months back, but I have been seriously afraid to get in front of the camera. The nagging voice finally won out and I bit the bullet and got in front of the camera for you today! I decided to do a video for today’s post instead of just writing out a boring list. And while editing the video I came to the realization that I am very expressive when I talk. Wow! I use my whole face when I talk. I guess that’s what people meant when they said I am dramatic. Oh well, this is me so I hope you enjoy today’s video about how to build a woodshop on a budget.
Before you bid in an online auction, check the site’s rules of operation. At some sites, a winning bid is a binding contract, which can be a problem if you can’t inspect the tool before you purchase it. Don’t forget shipping costs. In some cases they can exceed the cost of the tool. Also, make sure the tool you’re buying will run on the power you have in your shop. Many former industrial tools run on 240v single-phase power. If your shop doesn’t have 240v service, you’ll need to factor in the cost of upgrading before deciding to buy. You don’t want to saddle yourself with a tool you can’t use, no matter how good the price.
​Buying rough cut lumber saves a ton of money.  Buying lumber that has had all four sides surfaced (s4s) will cost roughly 4 times as much as buying rough cut lumber.  Let's look at an example: I'm going to build a table that will require 50 board feet of oak.  If I buy finished oak it will cost around $5.5 / bf or $275.  Alternatively, I can buy rough cut oak at $1.25/bf or ~$65.  In this one project I've saved $210.  That's enough for a new power tool.
Wide aisles also prevent the dreaded butt brush, a term coined by top retail consultant Paco Underhill. His studies show that both women and men avoid tight or crowded aisles where they might brush bottoms with other shoppers. Really, this is a thing! Learn more about Paco’s retail research and insights in his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.

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.
Really enjoyed watching the video of the shop build. You will be turning out great pieces in no time. At the end of the video it looks like you have your dust collection system up and running. Where did you purchase the duct work? I thought I remember you talking about this in the old shop. Did you use regular HVAC 4″ round duct or a heavier piece. Thanks for the insight and good woodworking.
Ideas on how to Improve your Workspace – We can all do with some ideas on optimizing workspace. The guide has a lot of information about how to improve your workshop to be more efficient and improve workflow. This includes the costs of improving your shop, as well as hacks you can do yourself to improve efficiency and storage space for less. You’d be amazed at what you can do with even a small room. You just need someone to point you in the right direction.
I do not rip on the table saw as a rule, to prevent kick back that periodically occurs when natural wood pinches the blade, turning the wood into a missile. I bought a fairly powerful saw, so this is one place where a lighter saw would be adequate. Essentially, I use the table saw for ripping sheet goods, cutting dados, tenons, and cutting small parts to length – all of which can be done with a 1.5 HP saw. I ended up with a King 3 HP, three-belt drive, 10" table saw. The castings are true, and the King Tru-rip fence reminds me of the Biesmeyer fence used on the Canadian General saws. The model is KC-11FX, and it can be purchased for less than half of the price of other, simi­lar saws. On this purchase, I went with the suggestion of Jeff at Brettwood Machinery – he was right; a very good value saw that runs smooth, and has a decent fence.
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.
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.

You might be thinking your business aspirations are too ‘early-stage’ to merit investigating the permits required to run your small business. You’d be wrong. The costs and requirements of staying on the right side of the law should be factored into your initial business plan and ongoing projections. In the long run, this will save you time, money and heartache.


We do not recommend using Reflectix to insulate your walls or ceiling. Without an air gap, the R-value of Reflectix is about R-1. Even if you have the recommended ¾” air gap next to the Reflectix, the R-value per inch is less than R-3. There are much more efficient and cost-effective insulation materials out there for these purposes - you’ll be better off filling the space with rigid foam board.
Most workshop tasks require good ventilation, and that’s something garages are generally poor at. Plus, passive ventilation (like opening a window) usually isn’t enough. A ceiling exhaust fan is a good start but if you are serious about keeping things clean then your ultimate workshop should also include a dust collection system, central vacuum and air ventilation system. All three of these systems will keep the dust, dirt, and other heavy particles off your clothes and out of your lungs which makes for a safer work environment.
The Best Prices for Tools – Ralph shows you where to get the beast deals for the tools and equipment you need. You could buy them yourself from popular outlets like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon, but the Ultimate Small Shop guide shows you where to get these tools and equipment at cheaper prices. Of course, cheaper isn’t always better. These aren’t just cheap tools that are ineffective. Just good value for money on good tools.
It’s no accident that some of the best marketers in the tech startup industry are known as “growth hackers.” Think about your target demographic (e.g. students, local mothers, teenagers) and find any way you can to get the word out to them. Email mommy bloggers, hand out free samples at the local college, or write your website on all the napkins you hand out with your food. There is no substitute for action.
The thing I wanted to mention was that I moved from Seattle to Loveland, Colorado north of Denver in July ’05. I brought my ’01 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 8.5′ Northland Grizzly slide-in camper. It was myself and my 9 year old Black Lab mix Lucy. One thing I had not anticipated was the temperatures here in Colorado. It was 105-106 degrees for the first week I was here. My job was in Boulder, which is known for its “bunny-higher” types. I couldn’t leave Lucy in the camper at the RV park because I didn’t have air conditioning in the camper. I took her to work with me and tied her long rope to the trailer hitch on the truck so she could crawl under it and get into the shade. I also put out plenty of cold water for her that I replenished often. By the afternoon of my first day at my new job I heard rumors that people were going to call Animal Control on me for having my dog outside in temperatures that hot, even though she had both shade and water. I ended up having to leave early my first day so I could go purchase a $600 air conditioner and install it in the camper so I could leave Lucy there during the day and I didn’t have to worry about her comfort.
In our opinion, having one of these is an absolute must for living on the road - especially in humid areas. To fully cover the width of a van’s side doors/back doors, you’ll need a larger screen that’s designed for French doors. If your vehicle has a smaller door opening like an RV, a screen meant for a standard door will work fine. We could only find standard door screens, so we bought two and hot-glued them together to cover up our side door.
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.
Plywood comes in several different types, the most common being pine and lauan. We used ¼” lauan plywood for the walls in our van. Lauan is cheap, it bends easily, and in our opinion its grain pattern looks nicer than pine. Hardwood plywood like birch costs more than pine or lauan, it weighs more, and it’s more difficult to bend. This type of plywood is a great option for furniture, but we think lauan is a better choice for your walls and ceiling.

I’m a 60 year young widow who just bought a bright yellow 2003 S10 step side with the intention of camping in it. But I discovered that finding a used S10 step side topper is harder than finding hen’s teeth!! Buying a new one wasn’t an option. Just found a black step side topper for a Ford Ranger. Isn’t a perfect fit but it works. And the colors compliment each other although color wasn’t my primary concern. I took two days to drive from the St. Louis area of MO to the Kansas City area to pick it up.
Leslie recommends that retailers provide some type of seating for both customers and anyone who is accompanying them. Shoppers do get tired and so do their friends and relatives who are along for the ride. Why not offer them a chair? Seating can be as simple as stools near the checkout or a lounge area near the dressing rooms, like this fun setup below:
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.
I used your set-up as a guide in building mine. It is a little different – it’s shorter a little bit, as I have a shorter canopy cover and I didn’t make the sleeping platform flush with the walls of the truck bed – but it turned out great! I’m really happy with it. Also, one of my favorite parts about it is none of it is actually attached to the truck. So I can take everything out and it makes cleaning a little easier. I’d post photos if I knew how. If you feel like seeing it let me know and tell me how to get them to you!
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 nomadic truck camping lifestyle has been incredibly freeing, not only is cheap and accessible to most anyone, but it can take you beyond places you even imagined. One book that I’d recommend to all newcomers to this lifestyle is Bob Wells’ How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV, which will help you better understand the ins and outs of this lifestyle.
One of the core skills needed when starting a small business is the ability to build out a diversified product line that is complementary to the headline product(s). It’s hard to imagine a successful business called “Burgers and Scarves,” right? As a good rule of thumb, a well-thought-out product line allows for the customer to upsell themselves. You want them thinking, “I’m having a burger, y’know what I’m going to have some fries too.”
Drill four 5/8-in.-dia. 1/2-in.-deep holes on the large disc?inside the traced circle?then use 5/8-in. dowel centers to transfer the hole locations to the underside of the small disc. Drill four 1/2-in.-deep holes on the underside of the small disc and a 1/2-in.-deep hole in the center of the top for the dowel handle. Glue in the dowels to join the discs, and glue in the handle. We drilled a wood ball for a handle knob, but a screw-on ceramic knob also provides a comfortable, attractive grip.
A warning out of concern and love for my fellow 'ablers. A framing nailer is a VERY dangerous tool. Not something to loan out willy-nilly to just anybody. For a small project like this it's just not going to save a lot of time. Most of us are better off burning the extra calories that swinging a hammer uses anyhow. Emergency rooms are seeing a lot of visits because a lot of guys see these on TV and at your big box stores and think they look cool. They are only marginally safer than shooting at the nails with a pistol. (Hmmm...). Be careful, PLEASE.
While not as large as I would have liked (is a wood shop ever big enough?), it is about twice the size of my previous shop. It measures about 12 by 25. Fortunately I had managed to find quite a bit of shelving before the move, so I was able to install shelving along two walls. And the work benches were made from wood salvaged from packing crates from Europe and left over yellow pine car siding and flooring from remodeling the old house.
Do you carry items that bring your customers back time and time again? Consider placing these primary and similar secondary product lines toward the back of your store. Or, if your stock is constantly changing and you don’t carry replenishing goods, place your sale items toward the back. That way, customers must pass your new items and promotional displays on their way to check out the deals in back.
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