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It all depends on what you care about most. Putting your kitchen by the side door could simplify refilling your water and propane tanks. Putting it behind the driver’s seat creates a nice, open feel in your van. Right behind the cab makes your van more private, while all the way in the back is a different twist on most van layouts out there. Some vanlifers even have kitchens that pull out of the trunk on drawers for cooking outside.
These basics are going to set you back about $180, leaving you with $320 left to work with. We are going to be leaving behind two hand powered tools from the $250 shop and upgrading to powered alternatives. This should lead to more consistent results, more enjoyable builds, and increased efficiency. These are all goods things that only the biggest fans of The Woodwright's Shop would argue with.
2. Just the basics—I’ve used a compound miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw, band saw, router, table saw, drill, finishing sander, belt sander, Dremel, oscillating multi-tool, bar clamps, and a Shop-Vac. I haven’t used a planer, jointer, or lathe. I’ve never owned a table saw but have used a circular saw or improvised with a router for a few long cuts.
While you have a decent starter shop, it's important to keep in mind the projects that your tools can handle. You are going to want to focus on projects that don't require your stock to be ripped to a different dimensions than what you purchased it at. You are currently only set up to do crosscuts with your miter saw. So while you can turn an 8' 2x4 into two 4' 2x4s, your not going to be able to turn that same board into two 2x2s.
However you design it, a loop floor plan surrounds customers with product displays on outer walls, and allows for all types of creative display variations in the center of the store. A loop floor plan works well for most types of small retail stores, such as apparel and accessories, toy, homewares, kitchenwares, personal care, and specialty products.
So what does all this boil down to? I favour starting with a good workbench and top quality hand tools – chisels, a couple of planes, a hammer, a few Japanese handsaws – stuff like that. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when properly equipped. Build simple items at first, and then add the very best power tools you can – as you can afford to – in the order that makes the most sense for the work you’re interested in. Yes, this gets you off to a slower start, but what’s the rush? You’ll soon surpass the ‘buy-it-all-at-once’ folks who end up struggling with beginner tools that hold them back from getting better.
Finally, at the beginning you'll do just fine with a basic set of router bits that run ~$40. A starter set will typically include straight bits for edge matching material, a selection of edge finishing bits, and some joinery bits. As you work on a few projects you may find that more specialized bits are needed. But specialized bits are expensive - so purchasing them as you have a specific need makes more sense than buying in anticipation of a need.
Another example of data-driven decision making is scouting the local competition and taking notes on how much traffic they are getting regularly, the kind of products that they’re selling, their pricing, and even how they market their business. This kind of information will help you determine the pros and cons of choosing a location in that area as well as potential strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that can improve your business plan. Trust us, doing all of this before starting your small business will save you major headaches in the long run.
This legal name is your first step in separating you and your business as two distinct entities. You will use your DBA name on all legal paperwork and government forms, such as applications for employer tax IDs, licenses, and permits. It is significantly harder to go back and have this applied retroactively, so it’s worth getting it right from the start.
Yeah, ventilation can definitely be a problem… I’ve just got one window with a screen on it if bugs are an issue–though I haven’t camped in too many areas where they are truly horrendous. Normally I just sleep with the windows/door open to let airflow. I’ve seen some more industrious folks even put in the rooftop fans on their truck camping rigs. Pretty elaborate and beyond my pay grade, but worth searching expedition portal. I like the mesh fly idea if I happen to travel to buggy areas again. Cheers!
Perhaps the most satisfying move I made was to automate the dust collection system. I used the iVACPro system to link all machines to the dust collector. When I turn on any machine in the shop, the dust collector fires up and whisks the dust into the bin. The system also has a programmable delay to allow the dust to make it to the bin before the dust collector shuts down. I set my system for a five-second delay. The system works flawlessly for my band saw, planer, and router table at 115 volts, and also my table saw and jointer at 240 volts.
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).
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.
Ok, the leap from $1,000 to $2,500 is a big one. I certainly didn't make it at one time. It took me years. But I know folks that decided they wanted to get into woodworking and dropped at least $2,500 getting themselves outfitted. When you do make the jump, the thought process becomes much less about making sure you can get the job done and becomes more about having quality tools to get the job done.
Since your business name is often the first thing potential customers will see or hear, think of it as one of your key tools for leaving a lasting impression. The right name, like a firm handshake, can play a role in your brand’s perception. So make sure it’s strong, catchy, and unique, but most importantly sends the right message about your business.
We think that insulating your van’s floor is worth the minimal extra cost it adds to your build. The best floor insulation is ½” XPS foam board due to its high r-value per inch and its compressive strength. But a layer of Reflectix will add some insulation while taking away less headspace. We used Reflectix, but if we did it again we’d go with the foam board.
I don’t think you have run into this problem, but I have to deal with condensation in the cap as I live in a moist climate. I was thinking of an old van type roof vent with fan for active ventilation, or drilling holes along the side of the cap, inserting short cuts of pipe with fine screens (mozie land), and capping them. This way I could control for rain, cold, etc., but create some passive cross ventilation at roof level.
Every shop should have good lighting, whether natural or artificial. My video work dictates limited natural light, so I was sure to have plenty of overhead T8 fixtures (6500k). You’ll hear me mention in the video that I was disappointed to see that the ends of the shop were just a little dark. Thankfully, I was able to get the contractor to come back in and drop in 4 more fixtures for me, two at either end. Now the light is bright, crisp, and evenly distributed from one side of the shop to the other.
Your sense of space and how to use it will be slightly different depending on the focus of your craft. If you are building furniture with hand tools, you will be able to make do with less space (under 300 sq ft.) than if you’re using mainly power tools and building sets of cabinets (over 400 sq ft.). Some 3D modelling with a program like Sketch-Up or some 2D layouts on graph paper with scaled cutouts can allow you to experiment with arranging your space and how much of it you will need. You should include not only the tools, benches and storage that you currently possess but also enough room to tackle new types of projects and new tools that you anticipate needing down the road. When you think you have a layout that works, test it out by mentally working through a range of different projects you might tackle and the needs you will have for material storage, assembly and finishing. Then revise as necessary; this process will allow you to hone in on a general square footage and layout ideas that will set you up to move forward.
There are certain areas that are the responsibility of the federal government, such as firearms, fish, and wildlife. For more on these federal requirements, enforced by bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can explore the information here on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
This is about how I built my wood shop. We decided to move from our previous home for a variety of reasons. I saw the move as an opportunity to gain a bigger shop for my wood working hobby. The house we found had everything we wanted, except for a shop or even a garage. It did have a non functioning indoor pool. We thought this space would make a nice wood shop. I could just build a floor over the pool and have a shop. As we got further into the inspection process, it was looking as though fixing the structure over the pool was going to be expensive. It looked like we would have to put a bunch of money into a structure that was not really a wood shop and not a functioning pool either. It made more sense to take out the pool and structure, and then build a wood shop from the ground up. We started this project by regrading our side yard to gain access to the pool in the backyard. Once we had access, we took out the pool. We half filled the hole where the pool was with compacted gravel. I realized that if we sank the shop into the ground I could have the ceiling height I had always wanted in the shop and preserve the view from the house. The design of the shop is a box with a shed roof. The roof wraps down the east side of the structure. I like to think of it as a slightly open toolbox. The entire shop is laid out on a 24 inch grid. The windows and doors fall within this grid. I had a general contractor built the shell and then I built the windows and interior. The interior walls are comprised of a 34 inch concrete stem wall at the base. Above that is a 9 foot, plywood wall. In the space above the plywood wall and below the shed roof is poly carbonate panel to form a clerestory. The tool layout in the shop is divided into 4 areas: an area near the door for material storage and prep, a central area for general wood working, and two areas near the back of the shop, one for turning and one for metal working.
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.
You can typically find paneling in pine and cedar. Pine is cheapest, looks fine, and will do the job. Cedar is more expensive, but it looks and smells awesome - and it’s resistant to mold and mildew. Paneling comes in different thicknesses, but we recommend using ¼” (5/16”). Thinner paneling weighs less, costs less, takes away less interior space, and will bend with your van’s contours.
If I had it to do over again, I would stick to an entry level miter saw and table saw until I had both the funds and need to upgrade to more capable saws. Because of this, I'd stick to the two saws we looked at in the $500 build: The Craftsman Table Saw for ~$150 and Hitachi 10 inch Miter Saw for ~110. These two additions bring our running total to just over $500.