PDA

View Full Version : Woodworking business



Paul B. Cresti
01-21-2004, 3:13 PM
So how many of you guys/gals have started some type of woodworking business or derivative of? and how are you doing?

Mark Singer
01-21-2004, 3:17 PM
Just a pastime! Having a great time!
Mark

Todd Burch
01-21-2004, 3:22 PM
I have. I started professionaly April 2003. In a nutshell, I'm broke. But, I'm also not looking for anything else, and my outlook is that my situation is going to get much better, and if it doesn't, it's my fault!!

Todd

Kurt Aebi
01-21-2004, 3:27 PM
Like Mark, Just a hobby.

Have fun and keep posting, these guys are a mountain of information!

Don Farr
01-21-2004, 3:32 PM
As slow as I am if I had to do this for a living I would starve to death.
Maybe when I retire for a little extra cash. :D

Dan Bussiere
01-21-2004, 3:47 PM
Wow, I couldn't imagine anyone paying for the stuff I make. Evening and weekends when I can. When I was young, I wanted to be a mechanic. I did and now I hate it because it became work instead of fun. Thank God I retired from that career in the military. No thanks, I leave the hobby alone.
Dan

Steve Roxberg
01-21-2004, 3:48 PM
For fun only, maybe when I retire a few odd jobs at my leisure.

Bob Lasley
01-21-2004, 4:00 PM
Paul,

I did woodworking professionally off and on, mostly part time. Most of the money I made was used to upgrade and purchase additional tools. I found that most people want you to build cabinets, bookcases, etc. and they want it by a certain time. I rapidly tired of building cabinets, bookcases, etc. and working under a deadline. I have sworn off woodworking for hire, although there is still one project hanging out there, and now build what I want to build (or SWMBO wants me to build) when I want to build it.

I have to agree with the others, keeping woodworking a hobby is much more fun!

Bob

Dennis Peacock
01-21-2004, 4:20 PM
Paul,

I am still a hobbiest woodworker. I do take on a couple of commission pieces each year to help fund the shop. With all the furniture that LOML wants done, I don't really have time to venture into a full fledged parttime business. In my area, people want really nice stuff for the cost of what you can buy at the local Wal Mart. For one, those pieces cost less than what I can buy the raw materials for (real wood and not particle board) and when they find out that something I make will cost then at least TWICE what it cost in Wal Mart....they opt for Wal Mart furniture. I have even quoted a EC for $750 to a co-worker and they screamed that the price was way too high!!! Now, 2 years later, they are talking to me again about building an EC for them that will hold up to use and still look good....since the one they bought at the local store is now falling apart, doors warped and trim coming off. I even told them that I was only making after expense of materials that I was only making $150 off the whole project. The still opted for the "other stuff".

I guess we will see what comes out of this newest round of "gee I sure would like to have you build me an EC".!!! ;)

Mike Cutler
01-21-2004, 6:11 PM
Primarily I just do it for my own enjoyment as stress relief from the "Real Job". I took about 4 years of formal instruction in woodworking in school a zillion years ago,which has allowed me to make a few beers, and dinners off of "Tech Assists" to co-workers and friends. But I leave the real work for the pro's. You have a better chance of keeping your friends that way. Maybe someday I'd like to see a return off my "investment" so to speak, but not today.

Tyler Howell
01-21-2004, 6:16 PM
Just for fun, but the barter system lives. I do odds and ends for boaters and I get boat time on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan etc in exchange. "Work For Sail".
Proud member of 'OPBYC' Other Peoples' Boat Yacht Club.:D

Bill Grumbine
01-21-2004, 6:30 PM
Hi Paul

I see I'm the odd man out here. I've been at it as a professional for almost 11 years now. Technically I am part time, but it feels like full time most of the time, and it is my main income producing job. I am almost evenly divided between custom furniture, speculative turning, and teaching of turning. I say that right now because the students are coming in fast and furious (not really - they are coming fast, but so far everyone has been happy!) :D The numbers fluctuate, but they are positive more than negative. Once all the kids graduate, I will be at it full time. At least, that is the plan.

I was concerned that when I took a hobby and turned it into a business, it would become drudgery for me, but quite the opposite happened. I found that I really enjoy it. I get a little frustrated sometimes when I don't have the time to make something I would really like to make, instead of doing something that isn't all that interesting, but with the variety mentioned above, that frustration doesn't come up too often.

Bill

Chris Padilla
01-21-2004, 6:48 PM
Hobbyist for me...I just don't think it would be as much fun if I need to do it to put food on the table and my kid through college.

That said, I am making a few things for some friends for material cost only. That is fun, too, and still not real "work" so I have no problem with that.

To be frank, I love remodeling. I love ripping down drywall in my house to update the insulation, move electrical, etc. I recently gutted the 1/2 bath downstairs and redid everything in it: new plumbing, minor reframing (for a medicine cabinet), updated/rewired my electrical box and added a sub-panel (one wall of 1/2 bath shared with my garage which happend to have the fuse box on it! :D :D ), built a new vanity and medicine cabinet, new stone tile floor. It was fun and I am learning all sorts of things. My drywall skills are pretty good now! :) I can sweat copper and lay tile, too. And, of course, I got to do some woodworking building the vanity/medicine cabinet although they were all painted white in the end.

Next, I tried my hand at masonry with refacing my brick fireplace. See the OT forum for the fun I had and am having with that! Thank, God, it is nearing completion!

It is all still a hobby but I've wondered about buying houses, fixing them up, and selling them as another carrer path. I would tend to think it wouldn't be as fun then....

Dick Parr
01-21-2004, 7:26 PM
Mine is only for hobby now. I made some stuff on consignment over the years, but my intension for the last 10 years was to build the shop up and slowly upgrade the tools so that I would be able to supplement income after retirement came. The shop is built and the tools have all been upgraded but medical retirement came last February, about 9 years to early. So now I can only spend a couple of hours a week out there doing small stuff mostly. Big stuff just takes to long any more. I like making things for others or to help them make things. So now instead of “build it and they will come” it’s, if they come over I will help them build it.

Lynn Sonier
01-21-2004, 7:47 PM
I'm not conducting a business per se but I take jobs from local churches and friends and charge for the work. It gives me a chance to cut wood belonging to other people because it sure is expensive when you're cutting up your own wood. I also make swings to sell. If I'm not busy, I make one and hang it in the oak tree by the street with a "For Sale" sign on it. The one I have out there now has been there for a couple of months but this is a tough time to sell outdoor furniture. It hasn't gotten above 60 degrees here in about 2 weeks.
I usually don't charge as much for custom made stuff as it is worth to make it but I enjoy the "H" out of doing the work. When it comes to the finish, however, I'm not so gung ho.

Kelly C. Hanna
01-21-2004, 8:34 PM
I sure didn't expect to see this many responses and so few actual answers to your question when I clicked on this topic.

I started Hanna Woodworks in 1996, but I've actually been in the business for many years. Most of the work prior to '96 was part time for various restaurants where I worked in management. I left the corporate world forever in mid '96 and have loved life ever since.

I work more hours now than I ever have of course, but it's the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I am a one man company (the wife helps now and then). Gross invoices this year topped $100k and they've been over $70k since 2000 when I started advertising.

The first two years weren't that great, but I had plenty of time to develop my plan of attack and it has worked out very well for me so far. This next year I expect to top $120k.

I only advertise in one small publication that gets delivered to homeowners. That gets me 60% of my work and 25% comes from referrals...the other 15% are repeat clients.

I wouldn't even think of not doing what I am now...even if I hit the lotto.

Kirk (KC) Constable
01-21-2004, 9:18 PM
I've been fulltime since Christmas 1999, mostly doing contract work for somebody else. The past couple years I've started selling more things through my bizness, and just told the above mentioned 'somebody else' that it's time to concentrate more on my own stuff. It scares me to think of how much money it's cost me to let somebody else take the markup for the past four years...

KC

Ian Barley
01-21-2004, 9:26 PM
I am also on the minority team. Woodworking is my only source of income for over two years now and I spent over 4 years before that working at it part time.

It has been said before elsewhere but its worth saying again. The business of woodworking is still a business more than it is woodworking. I wanted to run my own business since I was 14 but never had the nerve. After 20+ years in corporate with several years of running other peoples business for them I took the plunge. There are lots of better woodworkers than me that go belly up because they can't market/sell.manage costs etc.

I do OK and have been busy since I started. My main market is outdoor furniture and its very much the wrong time of year for selling over here in the UK. I have a 4 week order book which suggests that I'm gonna get creamed this summer.

I have probably made over 1000 Adirondack chairs by now. That sounds like it should get boring but I am always fascinated by the drive to improve the process. My products have found their way onto TV, into magazine articles and I even got invited to talk about garden furniture on a radio show. I have had a more interesting time doing this than when I ran million pound plus businesses for others.

Is it still as much fun as day one - usually. Do I earn even half of what I used to - No. Do I work harder than I ever have - probably. Would I go back to get the double money - not this side of purgatory.

Paul Downes
01-21-2004, 10:15 PM
Just started wwing as a serious hobby. (as opposed to a nonserious hobby?) I have always thought about owning my own business and have nearly jumped in 2-3 times. After 25 yrs. in the automobile industry and thinking about "30 and out", I am now studying different options in the wood rackets. Maybe in 5 yrs. or so I'll kick the wife out of the house and back to her neglected nursing career, and actually try to start selling some wares. Meanwhile, it's too d**n cold in my unheated shop to think much about making sawdust, so I sit, and and lurk about, seeing what pearls of wisdom I might gleen from you folks.

Jim Schmoll
01-21-2004, 11:15 PM
Learned the trade many years ago. Then went to work for Uncle Sam and will retire in 19 months. I think I am ready to be full time and having fun again.


Jim from Idyllwild CA

Walt Pater
01-22-2004, 12:03 AM
After 17 years as a Chef (I started at 14) I ditched the restaurant business and began carpentry. I am not a cabinet maker; I do finish trim work and some woodworking where the situation/client needs it, and my current work is all those feel-good terms like "high-end" and "upscale," blah blah blah. The best thing about this line of work, other than the satisfaction of the end result of a job, is the time I have for my family: I have two daughters, 1 5yo and one just 6mos., and as a carpenter, I am home every night, and have (most) weekends free. That sort of free time is unthinkable to a Chef. Sometimes, Even after six years out of kitchens, I feel guilty about waking up on a Sunday with nothing to cook except for some pancakes! The first few years of learning the building/woodworking trades were pretty lean (I worked for a GC for moderately low wages, which paid better than the cabinetmaker I apprenticed with, who paid nothing but whose knowledge and friendship I rely on daily), but I now make a good living doing quality work, and am home every night. Like I said, I am a carpenter, not a cabinet or furniture maker. I couldn't see myself making it as a cabinet maker- how the HELL do you establish a client base? How the HELL do you afford a Felder combo unit? But after 17 years of professional kitchen work (and I'll PM anybody who wants to hear some hellish kitchen stories), I can't believe just what a wonderful career this is. The money you make isn't "break the bank" good, but at least all of your tools are a tax deduction!

Mike Evertsen
01-22-2004, 1:55 AM
I started out 23 years ago selling crafty stuff I did that about 5 years,,I got out that and did the woodworking mostly just did for something to do. I went back into the crafty stuff did it a few more years I just didn't enjoy as much so I started building furniture & cabinets for family and myself. Three years ago decided to hang out my sign but havn't had much success. I have about gave up on this selling thing. I have enought I can build to keep me busy for awhile.

Bill Ryall
01-22-2004, 8:37 AM
I guess I fall sort of in the middle. I have been doing it as a hobby for about 10 years, selling the occasional piece. I started doing craft shows last year, and making enough money doing that to feed the hobby and have some "beer money" left over. I lost my job due to corporate downsizing in December, and have really turned up the woodworking while I look for another job. I have enough work booked to keep me going for the next couple months, with more potential in the works. The money doesn't compare to what I was making as an engineer, but I am sooo happy to be out of corporate hell. I may be broke, but at least I am happy,

Bill R

Brad Schafer
01-22-2004, 10:15 AM
bill, your post particularly hits home with me.

i'm an engineer/tech geek (so to speak). i design and build storage area networks and do C-level IT consulting. i used to write code. the transitional nature of that business is exceptionally unrewarding; i remember spending a year and a half developing a piece of code that got shelved within 6 months of release (not due to quality, either :D).

there is something extremely gratifying about being able to put your hands on a piece of your work 5 years or more after it's completed and still appreciate it. in the tech biz, things change so fast that you rarely get to step back and appreciate anything - for very long anyway.

my only woodworking claim to fame (such as it is) is the house i built in the late 90s. dang near killed me, but wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

apologies for the digression,


b

Alan Turner
01-22-2004, 10:36 AM
I have been woodworking since I was a kid, in the shop with Dad. Have made furniture for about 30 years or so. (I type this sitting at my desk, made in 1979.)
I kept getting asked by others if I sold my work, and I used to say no, but last Fall I took the plunge, and am now taking commissions. I am not as busy as I would like, and I certtainly have not reduced my day job commitment or hours, but everyone needs a way to fill those pesky hours between 3 and 7 am, and builing furniture is mine. Plus nights and weekends, of course.
I have my fingers crossed that a healthy pace will develop, but only time will tell.
I launched a web site, but expect it to be used only by those who know of me otherwise. I don't imagine that Google will actually land me any work.
Alan

Eric Apple - Central IN
01-22-2004, 10:55 AM
I don't do woodworking to make a living. I did it just for fun for about 12 years, for the last 5 yr about 70% of the woodwork I do is on commision. Very small volume, maybe 4 large items a year (cabinets, dresser, dining table) and 3-6 smaller things (outdoor furniture, night stand, game boards, hall table, and surprisingly to me turned items such as bowls are often requested). When there's nothing I "need" to make for more then a month or so, I start looking around to see what the family can use. The downtime is nice, I'll do some turnings, family bike rides, quality time with the kids. Then soon enough it's back to the shop. It's pretty tough working another job and doing commission work. You have to keep moving on projects to deliver soon enough to keep the customer happy. That usually means coming home from work, then putting 3-4 hours in the shop everynight and all day weekends. During the week, the kids are all getting tucked in for bed just when I'm done for the day.

So to keep piece in the house and the family knowing dad, I really like to have that down time. I am inclined though to just go a head and live in the wood chips and have my wife throw food in every 5 or 6 hours. According to my wife, she really doesn't like month after month of just throwing in food.

After long hard pushes to get the part time work done, I look forward to going to your full time job to get some rest! Better then Disneyword, I use up vacation for trips to the sawmill and all day shoots with finish equipment. It's a hassle the most suppliers close up at 5 PM, wish they were open to 9 PM.

Most all work comes in on referral and whatever you call it when someone sees something and ask if I can make a whatever, or my grape vine advertising. When I'm looking for more jobs I just start telling people I need another project and like magic in a few weeks something comes my way.

It's really a blast making stuff.

Oh yeh, pricing stuff is fun to (NOT). I made a choice only to take commissons for items I would myself think of as well constructed and good quality. It might take 8 people asking about making a whatever before you actually get work. When they hear the price, the often go back to walmart to buy it. Much of my work comes from families that want a really nice whatever that their kids could end up with someday. Another good selling point is getting exactly what works for them or really odd ball items (6' giant cloths hamper, stools with boot storage).

Sometimes the stuff I make isn't very glamorous, and I might might not even like it. But, it's all well made and people send their friends for more.

Byron Trantham
01-22-2004, 12:36 PM
30+ years with the Government doing "computer things" (LANs and WANs etc). I retired two years ago last July. I got into woodworking by finishing my basement. LOML liked my work so much she said, "If you can do this with the crummy tools you have, what could do with good ones?" So it began. Eight years later I have a decent shop, albeit small. Several of our friends liked my work but never asked if I would build them something. My wife asked them and Wa-La, jobs! I have been asked to design and build some conventional stuff as well as some really weird stuff. This last Christmas a whole flurry of requests came in. All of it was nickel-dime but it added up to getting a new DeWalt 13" planer and Jet Spindle Sander! Ho! Ho! Ho! :D

I have only one rule with my customers - "you get it when you get it". Sometimes I get stressed because of too much going on. At that point I don't accept anything until I catch up and get a breather [do what I want to in the shop]. All in all, I love woodworking and still can't believe someone will pay me to "pay in the shop"! I know I am a lucky guy not having to relie on woodworking for income AND having a wife that doesn't blink when we spend a several hundred dollars on a tool. [Actually, you should see her craftsroom. Our local Michaels calls her for stuff when they run out! :D ]

Eric Sanford
01-22-2004, 1:24 PM
Interesting topic and responses! I'm a hobbyist, but I have been doing some commission work (basically at cost for friends) but have begun to think about creating a business out of it. I'm thinking more along the line of a small, part-time, build at my pace, type of business. One reason, as someone mentioned, is the deduction of the tools, the lumber, even the shop area/operating expenses. (Might be a good way to justify the BS I want to get) ;) The primary tax requirement of this plan is to achieve a profit something like 3 of 4, or 3 of 5 years, which means earn just enough to cover the expenses I incur. I'm still looking into it. There is a great website out there - www.SCORE.org which is a site dedicated to small businesses. They have a lot of books and informational resources, and also have retired businessmen/women available for questions-mentoring.

Brad McCollum
01-22-2004, 1:47 PM
I am 2 years into a 10 year plan to get me out of my corporate job. Last years sales paid for all of my equipment and tools, so this year I should show a profit, with a little luck.:D OK a lot of luck and a lot of hard but very enjoyable work. I just wish I had started turning 20 years ago.

James Carmichael
01-22-2004, 4:38 PM
Wow, I couldn't imagine anyone paying for the stuff I make. Evening and weekends when I can. When I was young, I wanted to be a mechanic. I did and now I hate it because it became work instead of fun. Thank God I retired from that career in the military. No thanks, I leave the hobby alone.
Dan


A wise mentor of mine once said "Don't ever turn your hobby into your living, cause you will learn to hate it." :D

Ted Harris
01-24-2004, 6:32 AM
So how many of you guys/gals have started some type of woodworking business or derivative of? and how are you doing?
I make pool cues full time woodworking machinery, and metalworking machinery. Business is doing wonderful, and I enjoy it very much!

Robert Lee
01-05-2006, 9:05 PM
I am about in the middle. Ive been woodworking now for about 10 years, first as a hobby. Now it has evolved into a part time job. I started doing woodworking for profit when my wife took off 2 years from her job to be home with my two kids when they were babies. We needed extra money outside of my full time job as an electrcian. The first two things I built for profit was a king size bed for one customer, and a bathroom vanity for another. After those projects were completed things kind of went crazy. I started getting alot of orders just through word of mouth. I had to turn down many jobs because of lack of time to do them. Trying to work full time and woodwork on the side really limited me on what I could accomplish. Now my wife is back to work again, and I am looking at trying to do this on a full time basis. Woodworking never seems like work to me. Wether building something for myself or someone I do not even know, I just love it. I build vertually anything anyone comes to me wanting. From kitchens and baths to fine furniture. I prefer building furniture, but the money is in cabinets. I going to give it my best. Wish me luck!

Keith Foster
01-05-2006, 9:17 PM
Well that's kinda cool. A thread back from the dead. So, how many of the original posters are still in the woodworking business?

Ian Barley
01-05-2006, 9:26 PM
Well that's kinda cool. A thread back from the dead. So, how many of the original posters are still in the woodworking business?
I am - still enjoying it - still can't imagine going back to doing anything else.

p.s. Robert - Welcome to the Creek

Gail O'Rourke
01-05-2006, 9:42 PM
Intertesting, I didn't notice it was an old post until someone mentioned it. I enjoyed reading the responses. I work full time along with my other full time job, taking care of my kids, so my regular work day is 9-3 while they are in school and then piecing the rest of the hours in at night and on weekends, On average I work about 40 ish hours in the shop. I have had my own business for 16 months, in looking at the books for 2005 I had 21 clients with commissions as big as wine cellars (2) and small as entry benches (1) but most somewhere in the middle (built ins and offices), each with a build/delivery time of about 3 weeks or less (one wine cellar was 4-5)...

I made a decent profit for the year, but am fortunate not to have to support the family on it. I do however, pay for all my own tools and keep the shop full of lumber. So that's a good thing. I have a backround in business and marketing and feel that it has lended to my success in getting new business.

Paul B. Cresti
01-05-2006, 9:55 PM
Robert welcome to the Creek! Man how did you find this thread, it was a long time ago..... Well I am still at it many machines/upgrades later. I have been at it full time and now part full time. Currently I have a regular day job working for another firm and by day, night & weekends I do my own Architecture and Woodworking. I am trying to fill a specific nitch and it is starting to come around.... since my wife is home with the kids I need to make quite a bit of $$'s to support us. Yes it is work but it is not what I do but who I am. If things continue as they seem to be I might be on my own again.

joe Badoe
01-05-2006, 10:08 PM
I had a woodworking business for over 15 years.I have been a woodworker for 25+ years.

Sold wholesale only to several upper end stores , some were higher end chains.

The business was profitable until about 2002 and 2003 .

The buyers I dealt with with started leaving because business was dropping off .

Finally accounts were slow in paying , I did get burned by four stores not paying , one was a fairly large account.

So in early 2005 I said the heck with it and pretty much quit the woodworking business.

You wouldn't think the way people do business would change that much in 15 years. But its a jungle out there now.

Frank Pellow
01-05-2006, 10:09 PM
...
I guess we will see what comes out of this newest round of "gee I sure would like to have you build me an EC".!!! ;)
Dennis, what is an EC?

John Bailey
01-05-2006, 10:10 PM
About 20 yrs. ago I was going to make dulcimers for a business. Not much market for those, ya know. I made a couple of dozen, strickly by hand in an old 100 yr. old out-building the size of a single car garage. I sold them at folk festivals and muzzle loading rendevous. Ended up with 10 or 12 left at the end of the year and everyone in my family got a cool Christmas present. Haven't sold anything since.

John

Steve Clardy
01-05-2006, 10:18 PM
Turned my hobby into a business in 1993.
Self-employed.
3500sf shop, here at home on 31 acres.
Custom kitchen and bath cabinetmaker, and I specialize in staircases.
I pay the bills, not getting rich.
It's slow around here this time of year.
I usually head to the lake area for work from january till about april, till it picks up here.

Nate Rogers
01-05-2006, 10:23 PM
I find this to be a very interesting topic. I only do it as a hobby, but the topic intrigues me. I grew up on a dairy farm, the original small business. I remember the hours and grueling work, I also remember the pride you had from getting your hands dirty and the family totally supporting itself. However I also remember the lean years, and boy they were LEAN! I vowed that I would never put myself in that situation, you want to talk about motivation to get a college education, boy that is it. Now I work in corporate <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">America</st1:place></st1:country-region>, I make microchips for IBM, while it is not glamorous it provides a good living and allows for lots of time woodworking. Often I dream about waking up in the morning and heading out to the shop and going to work. Then I have weeks like this one, I woke up Monday morning sick as a dog, just flat out sick. The wife said don't go to work, just call in! So I did, and went back to sleep. I remember being on the other side of that fence, no matter how sick I was, the cows had to be milked...Or in this case the customer has to get the product on time! My post may seem to ramble a bit, but I guess my point is both sides of this discussion have valid points. I guess it is just what you value more, security or freedom?

Frank Pellow
01-05-2006, 10:23 PM
I am about in the middle. Ive been woodworking now for about 10 years, first as a hobby. Now it has evolved into a part time job. I started doing woodworking for profit when my wife took off 2 years from her job to be home with my two kids when they were babies. We needed extra money outside of my full time job as an electrcian. The first two things I built for profit was a king size bed for one customer, and a bathroom vanity for another. After those projects were completed things kind of went crazy. I started getting alot of orders just through word of mouth. I had to turn down many jobs because of lack of time to do them. Trying to work full time and woodwork on the side really limited me on what I could accomplish. Now my wife is back to work again, and I am looking at trying to do this on a full time basis. Woodworking never seems like work to me. Wether building something for myself or someone I do not even know, I just love it. I build vertually anything anyone comes to me wanting. From kitchens and baths to fine furniture. I prefer building furniture, but the money is in cabinets. I going to give it my best. Wish me luck!
Robert, I wish you luck and welcome you to Saw Mill Creek.

Steve Clardy
01-05-2006, 10:28 PM
I find this to be a very interesting topic. I only do it as a hobby, but the topic intrigues me. I grew up on a dairy farm, the original small business. I remember the hours and grueling work, I also remember the pride you had from getting your hands dirty and the family totally supporting itself. However I also remember the lean years, and boy they were LEAN! I vowed that I would never put myself in that situation, you want to talk about motivation to get a college education, boy that is it. Now I work in corporate ffice:smarttags" /><?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com /><st1:country-region w:st=<ST1:place w:st="on">America</ST1:place></st1:country-region>, I make microchips for IBM, while it is not glamorous it provides a good living and allows for lots of time woodworking. Often I dream about waking up in the morning and heading out to the shop and going to work. Then I have weeks like this one, I woke up Monday morning sick as a dog, just flat out sick. The wife said don't go to work, just call in! So I did, and went back to sleep. I remember being on the other side of that fence, no matter how sick I was, the cows had to be milked...Or in this case the customer has to get the product on time! My post may seem to ramble a bit, but I guess my point is both sides of this discussion have valid points. I guess it is just what you value more, security or freedom?

Nice write.:)

I prefer my freedom.:D

Frank Pellow
01-05-2006, 10:31 PM
WOW this is old
...

Its old Paul, but it is very interesting. I hope that more of the people who posted origunally chime in to tell us how things are going two year later.

By the way, I retired about three years ago and, since then, have gotten into construction, renovation, and woodworking in a big way. Right now, I do do some work for others, but I only charge them for the materials used. They usually respond with a gift.

Bill Simmeth
01-05-2006, 10:47 PM
Dennis, what is an EC?Frank, I'm wagering Dennis meant Entertainment Center.

David Fried
01-05-2006, 11:01 PM
Wow, I couldn't imagine anyone paying for the stuff I make.

That's about where I am! Although a friend needed a special birthday present and did buy a pen from me. I have helped out some friends who needed sone woodworking and they insisted on paying something - enough to cover supplies and buy me a new book. I think that's great!

Frank Pellow
01-05-2006, 11:44 PM
Frank, I'm wagering Dennis meant Entertainment Center.
Thanks Bill, I expect that you are right. :)

I really don't like the use of acronyms -even in the few cases where I know what they mean. :(

Keith Christopher
01-06-2006, 12:31 AM
Not a main source of income, but I make some nice money with it. Mostly custom one of a kind stuff. Sad thing is though I never make anything for myself these days. I would like to retire and do it full time but I'm not able to break away just yet.

J.R. Rutter
01-06-2006, 1:36 AM
I quit my corporate job 5 years ago to start my woodworking business. After starting with a bang of backlog orders (which provided the tipping point to take the plunge), I had a couple of lean years where it was living month-to-month. Then I decided to focus on building doors for local cabinet shops - something that was solid wood focused, but production oriented. Fortunately, there is a demand for custom doors locally, and I have been very busy for the past 2 years. It is still fun to do bookmatched panels, custom profiles, fancy bar backs, etc. Figured out the pricing thing - charge enough to make a living. Learn to say No when it won't pay. Know what your costs are. Develop the profitable niche. Do your best. This year, I made as more in pre-tax profit than I made in my last year as a director of operations...

Vaughn McMillan
01-06-2006, 2:23 AM
Got back into woodworking as a serious hobby about 8 months ago, after a long unintentional hiatus from hardwoods. Lack of space and the proper tools was the primary reason for the dry spell. (Did lots of home improvement stuff in the interim, though.) Now that I have the space and some decent "starter" tools, I've been able to pay for all my materials and part of the new tools by selling fancy cutting boards to family, co-workers, friends, and friends of friends. One of my goals for the new year is to expand my skills and repertoire, and make something more challenging than cutting boards and boxes. I have some ideas for a furniture piece I want to make for our house, but I need to handle my current cutting board orders before I can start on it. Eventually, I'd like to do occasional commissions for furniture or other fine work.

I'd love to take the plunge and go into woodworking full-time, but my day job as a tech writer pays me too much money to walk away from right now. Currently, I figure if I can sell enough of my work to pay for the materials and at least part of the tools, the time spent is "hobby time", and an investment in my woodworking education. Somewhere down the road I expect to be relying more on the woodworking than a corporate office for my income, so the more I learn now, the better off I'll be then.

- Vaughn

Bill Ryall
01-06-2006, 8:53 AM
Funny this thread should resurface.

Since I originally posted, my WW business in PA really began to take off. I was not making what I was as an engineer, but I was keeping food on the table, a roof over my head and keeping the bills paid, and had steady work.
However, in the midst of all that, I got an offer to go to work for another company that was just too good to refuse. Much as I was enjoying what I was doing, working at home and being a full time dad as well, i could not pass up the offer.

I have since relocated to Maine with the new company, and the WW business has been somewhat sidelined. I have been doing some work on the side for the company I work for, and have gotten some other work through word of mouth as a result of people seeing my work around some of our offices. I've been lucky in that my company not only has hired me as a vendor (I do the WW nights and weekends), but has given me some good references.

I'm hoping to expand a little more this year, and build a client base up here.

Bill R, now somewhere in Maine.

Byron Trantham
01-06-2006, 9:17 AM
Well, two years later I'm still at it. I haven't had one job since September, 2005. This happened to me about the last time I responded to this thread - no work. I went about three months with nothing to build and then one day out of the blue I got a job. I have been busy ever since. Then, as I said, last September - nothing. I don't advertise but I am thinking about it. I use the income for toys as I am retired and try to stay within it's income limits.:D

Matt Tawes
01-06-2006, 9:36 AM
I've been woodworking for 20yrs., operating as a full-time business for 6yrs. I build home furnishings (variety of style furniture, mostly shaker) and cabinetry. I certainly cannot say that it pays the bills real well (good thing my wife has a good job with the benefits) but not doing too bad. I'm also a Charter Capt. (Light tackle & fly fishing) and charter mostly spring and fall which fills the income gaps in woodworking.
One thing I've learned, working alone you can only produce so much therefore you have to do either of these to really make any money: Charge more, hire helpers and hope there is enough work to keep paying them, work faster (not possible for real quality). or stick to just building kitchen cabinets.

Jim Hager
01-06-2006, 9:37 AM
Well, I'm still working my way up the ladder to go full time in 18 months. I've got to stay where I am that much longer to get full retirement benefits for the rest of my life. In the meantime it seems that I will be working 2 full time jobs as I have been as busy as a one armed paper hanger in my shop. Yesterday afternoon I had 2 customers after I got home from work (day job) One of them was for a full house set of raised panel doors and the other needed some drawer glides and sockets. I've got a maple kitchen going right now too and just last week finished another kitchen in oak. Being busy like that makes me happy as I have faith that I will be able to make a decent living after retirement.

Good to see this thread resurface after such a long hiatus

Byron Trantham
01-06-2006, 9:44 AM
One thing I've learned, working alone you can only produce so much therefore you have to do either of these to really make any money: Charge more, hire helpers and hope there is enough work to keep paying them, work faster (not possible for real quality). or stick to just building kitchen cabinets.

Matt, that's is exactly what I have run into. During my busy spell, I figured out that I can only produce so much. I am glad I don't have to rely on it to keep me afloat. I for one, do not want to get into hiring other people. It just gets too complicated and really makes it a business rather than profitable fun.:p

Dave Tinley
01-06-2006, 10:47 AM
Its always interesting to see the replys in a thread like this.
Some of the other ww sites have run similar threads and responses have been very much the same. It seems that the large majority who have taken the plunge to full time, either make enough money to get by, or do make a decent living (yea, I know there are some that didn't make it)but the major theme is that they still loved what they were doing and would not trade it for more lucrative occupations.
I believe it has to do with quality of life.

As for me, I have been on the part time train for 7 years, and have 12 months left before I jump in full time. I have been in the Autobody buisiness way to long and basically lost all enthusiasm for doing this kind of work.
I have built my shop, accuired tools, lumber, plywood and some experience. I am working on advertising and marketing stratagies and looking for a good niche.

I hope this thread comes back around yearly, just to see how everybody else is doing.

Dave

Kent Cori
01-06-2006, 11:12 AM
Frank,

I think he was referring to an entertainment center.

Martin Lutz
01-06-2006, 11:25 AM
Wow, great thread. I have been working in health care earning a fair living but have been working wood since I could lift a plastic hammer. My dad was contractor/cabinet maker and a great role model/teacher. I just last year started "officially" taking comission work to supplement our income. We have a new baby and made the decision that my wife will stay at home and raise him. I am busier than I can keep up with. Trying to balance the quality family time with the quality shop time is challenging. Oh yeah and that other job keeps me hoppin'. It is really great building furniture for other people. Way to much fun.

I have yet to start a website but it is in the plan. I did a few shows last year to get the word out and it worked. I'm booked till at least mid summer. I like to quote woodworker friend of mine " I'm slow but I'm expensive".:) In reality I dont think I am all that expensive but I am definetely slow. I am learing a lot as I go and a lot from the great info on SMC. Thanks to all, Happy New Year.

Dan Gill
01-06-2006, 11:46 AM
I've made a couple of pieces on commission, and I have some of my stuff up for sale on a friend's website, (Texascrazy.com) but I'm by no means a professional. I'm too slow, and I'm no good at finishing.

Jim Becker
01-06-2006, 12:11 PM
I do not have a business and have not taken payment for any woodworking endeavors. While I did do a commission turning in November (the gavel) my payment was the pleasure of doing it and "something art" in the future from the craftsman, artist and friend who asked me to do the work. It is unlikely that I would turn my woodworking into a business for a variety of reasons, although I might leverage it for additional income if something happened to my current career situation and I was unable to secure something paying as well.

That all said, I greatly admire anyone who is able to make a living as a professional craftsperson and that includes everyone in the SMC community that does, both part time and full time.

Don Baer
01-06-2006, 12:37 PM
Presently I only do it for a hobby. My goal is to spend the next 7-8 years aquiring the tools and skills to be able to do commissioned pieces when I retire.

Michael Gabbay
01-06-2006, 2:31 PM
I'm a hobbiest. My game plan is to win the Mega Millions, quit the corporate life, buy a few acres in the country and build a house with a large shop. I can them make furniture and if someone wants to buy it fine. If they don't that's fine too. :D

Andy Hoyt
01-06-2006, 2:37 PM
When I quit my job three years ago the intent was to move back east, find suitable environs, and start a business that drew on my collective prior woodworking experience in part time architectural model making and full time timberframing.

Moving was easy. Finding the right property, house, shop building, etc was easy. Getting set up was easy. Getting formally launched was easy. Making a living at it is proving to be anything but.

Gaining on it, but it is slow going. When someone finds this thread a year from now, I hope to be able to say that I've not yet had to look for work elsewhere.

Charlie Mastro
01-06-2006, 3:12 PM
I could hardly wait to chime in on this one… And I could use it to introduce my self to the board.
I started woodworking around 1975 after finding myself in Seattle with no job. I had been apprenticed as an electronics tech at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard but found that I wanted to move away from my hometown and head west.

My friend Mark Cunningham and I opened “The Woodjoint” in Pioneer Square in Seattle after doing a little remodeling together. We just decided we wanted to make cabinets and furniture and we opened a shop. Talk about a lot of nerve… We had to teach ourselves as we went and make a living too. As luck would have it was about the same time Fine Woodworking came out and it became our bible.

We actually got better and better and found out just how hard it is to make a living building furniture and started to build more and more kitchen cabinets and build ins. There is simply more money in a $20,000 kitchen than a $6,000 roll top desk that takes about the same time to build.

By the early eighties we were doing a good if not luctrive business with contracts for more kitchens and one job for a repeat costumer where we built 44 solid teak doors for his condo in Denver after doing a kitchen for his summer house in the San Juan Islands. We also built all the cabinets in the condo out of teak with East Indian Rosewood handles we made.

It was sometime around here that I started teaching classes in beginning woodworking with hand tools and a plane making class at several wood stores in town. At the same time I began teaching at the Center for Wooden Boats and did so for the next 20 years.

Around ‘84 as I remember we were still just making a modest living and we both needed to move on so we closed the “Woodjoint” and I went to work for a friend who had inherited a lot of money and bought some great German machinery and I thought it with this type of tools we couldn’t help but do some great work.

Well it’s a little harder to work for someone else after working for yourself than I thought good tools or not. I left after 3 or 4 months and moved into my basement and in less than a year my friend went bankrupt. There is a lesson there in itself. Woodworking is still a business no matter how much money or what kind of tools you have.

After working in the basement for less than a year (it was so small I can’t believe I actually was able to get anything done) I moved up the road to a small old house that was about to fall over and stayed there for the next 10 years. Over this time I hired my first employees and learned how much paper work and taxes are involved in that. What a pain in the a$$. I always had good employees though and got a few people started in their business after their time with me. I had two women that worked for me for 5 years during that time and I have never had better help.

By the late 80’s I was getting tired of all the hassle of running my own business and when my friend and employee Andre said he was ready for a change (he had worked for me twice) I said I was too and closed the business and went to work for another friend who had a much bigger shop than I did and more employees. That was 15 years ago and since then I’ve been a project manager and project engineer for two General Contractors in Seattle and then in charge of all cabinet installations for a kitchen company Bellevue.

Last fall we decided to move to Joseph OR to get away from the traffic and well just the fast pace of a big city. I have never lived in a small town before and I am proud to say there is not even a stop light in all of Wallowa County. There are also only 7,000 people in a county with 25,000 cows. Joseph has a little over a 1,000 people and there are no jobs. If I was to move here I would need to have my own way to make a living.

So here I am in the next stage of my woodworking career and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be back. Seems I needed that layoff to be able to appreciate how much I missed working with my hands. I have no regrets because I made more money the last few years than I ever did woodworking but now things have come full circle and I need to be doing this for myself now.

I’ve built the shop, just needs finish trim and wiring, and I am looking for work. Will have my web site finished soon and will try to market myself to a bigger audience because there is a very limited market here. That being said I did come here because there is a large artist community and there are a lot of galleries within walking distance. I have told by several galley owners they would be glad to show my work and we will see how it goes from there. I also hope to teach again and will do what it takes to get by here because this is where I want to be and this is what I want to be doing.

So I guess you can say there is no easy answer here. We do it because we are drawn to it but it can get old and we may need a break from it. You need to know going in that it is at best a modest way to make a living and it does have its downside sometimes when the cash flow doesn’t match the outflow. It is a business and you need to get paid for what you do. You just can’t give it away if you are going to do it as a job and there is a lot more to it than just the woodworking part.

In the end if you want to try no one can stop you. If you are only into it as a hobby you will never have to make that decision and you’ll probably never find the need to take a break from it.

May your joints be tight and your women loose,:rolleyes:

Charlie

tod evans
01-06-2006, 3:35 PM
i`ve been at this almost as long as charlie has and he`s right when he says it`s in your blood. he`s also right when he says at best you make a modest living. i knew when i chose woodbutcherie as a vocation that i`d never get rich doing it and there are still times i wonder if i`ll get by, but i`ve not got enough sense to quit and to this day i realize i have much more to learn before i`ll ever consider myself good at what i do. the most wonderful thing for me is that every day i look forward to going to the shop and building something, whether or not it`s a project i personally like the thrill of creating is still there after so many years. for me it makes it all worth while.......02 tod

Frank Pellow
01-06-2006, 3:37 PM
I could hardly wait to chime in on this one… And I could use it to introduce my self to the board.
...
Charlie
Charlie, I took your advice and drank a cup of coffee while reading your post. And, I enjoyed reading about your long career as well as the coffee.

Thanks for the introductory post, a big welcome to Saw Mill Creek, and the best of luck in your latest endevour.

Joe Johnson
01-06-2006, 4:21 PM
For me, Woodworking will stay a hobby. Many years ago I was "into" photography very seriously. I considered going pro, but after a few assignments I found it was no longer fun. So I returned to amateur status and had fun. Today I enjoy woodworking and buying more tools than I really need and making things for my kids / family members but would not consider making it a career.
Joe

Travis Porter
01-06-2006, 7:45 PM
I am with you. Used to do some paying jobs, but it wasn't fun anymore. This is my stress relief and how I get away from corporate america and I plan to keep it that way.

Dave Anderson NH
01-07-2006, 10:39 AM
Sometime things take on a life of their own. It all started innocently enough. I had made a couple of marking knives, awls, and got Mack Headley at Colonial Wiliamsburg to show me his 18th century bowsaw in its disassembled form. I found I liked making tools that had exotic wood handles, good functionality, and were styled in the 18th and 19th century forms. I made some for friends after a bit of prodding. Next thing you know folks are asking if I'd make them something and of course they said they'd pay for it. A side business was born. After posting my creations on a couple of the woodworking forums I frequent, I got more inquiries- "Do you sell those?" Some of the inquiries were from other toolmakers and from a couple of the tool dealers. Next thing you know I have a website, 4 dealers, and a nice manageable internet business. I've been able to upgrade some of my equipment, buy some specialized tools like a dedicated buffer, and easily cover my costs. I was careful to lose money in 2005, but it looks like this year I will be unable to avoid a profit.:rolleyes: :D

I enjoy what I've been doing, but will readily admit that at times the need to meet deliveries has meant long evening hours in the shop when I didn't feel motivated. At times I've had to stop work or sideline a personal project I've been working on. I find that the most enjoyable part of the work (and it is work doing production) is the development of prototypes for new products and then developing a way to make them efficiently. I guess it's my engineering background talking.

Summed up, I still enjoy the toolmaking business after almost 2 years. I have been careful however not to advertise or market myself too well. Things are just at the level where they are manageable, I will make a nice side income, and they don't become so burdensome that I begin to feel that it has become drudgery. When the time finally comes that I retire from my full time day job, I will reevaluate the situation and see if I want to change my goals.

Chris Barton
01-07-2006, 10:55 AM
Great thread! I am currently only a hobbiest since I have this habit I have to support (a family). But, I have dreams that over the next few years I will build a new shop and home on some land I have in a rural part of the county. Eventually, I would like to do only comissioned pieces. I have done quite a few over the years and really enjoyed most of them although some I couldn't wait to get out of my shop. My plan is to have everything in place prior to my retirement. That will be easy since I probably won't retire for another 15 years at least. I have accumulated a collection of very high quality equipment and look forward to becoming a woodworking cremudgeon.

Richard Wolf
01-07-2006, 2:56 PM
I make my living working wood, most of you know I build stairs and railings. That's all I do and I realize that some times it is not the most creative form of woodworking. I am greatful everyday that I can make a good living making sawdust. The problem with being self employed is your boss is always a jerk.

Richard

Byron Trantham
01-07-2006, 10:47 PM
The problem with being self employed is your boss is always a jerk.

Richard

Yea maybe, but at least you get to yell at him without recriminations!:D

Vaughn McMillan
01-08-2006, 12:34 AM
Richard, your boss may be a jerk, but he's also an artist. I've seen pics. ;)

Charlie, thanks for the introduction and insight. (Welcome to SMC, by the way.) Coincidentally, around '75 to '76, I was seriously considering getting into the woodworking business with a friend. I sometimes wonder how things would have been different for me had I done that instead of the path I did choose (music, at the time). Your post describes about what I imagine I would have experienced if I'd pursued woodworking. Great post, added to a great thread.

- Vaughn

Keith Outten
01-08-2006, 7:52 AM
I have spent the majority of the last fifteen years self-employed. Many of those years I was working in my shop making cabinets and many other types of shop projects in an effort to pay the bills. From my perspective the largest obstacle to overcome is marketing, trying to keep a steady flow of proffitable work in the shop. While you are involved with a major job dealing with the day to day production issues you must be looking ahead and planning for the next. This includes purchasing materials and often new equipment necessary to accomplish the upcoming work in a timely manner. For a small one man business you must wear a lot of hats and it can be overwhelming at times dealing with the past (billing), the present (the job in the shop now) and the future (marketing) all at the same time.

Those who start new businesses after retirement have less stress when they have a steady income and are not in the child-rearing years with all the pressures that supporting a familly can add to the daily load. I think most woodworkers are aware that they must compete with very large companies like Walmart these days and overseas organizations that have the benefit of very cheap labor and very low overhead. This makes it very difficult to compete, especially in the woodworking field.

Most small woodworking shops concentrate on custom work as opposed to production line manufacturing. This situation makes it more difficult to deal strickly with the public as they expect very low prices. Some kind of plan should be in place to incorporate marketing and sales to commercial clients which adds to the mix and increases the possiblilty of a steady flow of work.
Remember that it is much more difficult to keep a steady flow of work than to only have to deal with one job at a time as a hobby woodworker.

Every new business plan should include some kind of innovative thinking, techniques that are designed to provide an edge over the competition and capability of dealing with a global marketplace. Many very talented woodworkers fail in business every day, one must recognise that your woodworking skills may not be enough to assure success.

Plan on being flexible, if your business is geared toward turning projects and you find yourself without round work in the shop be ready to take on other projects as neccessary to pay the bills. If your wife or husband has a great job and is financially capable of supporting your familly forget everything I have said, hang your shingle and enjoy!

Kurt Strandberg
01-08-2006, 9:03 AM
Not me, just a hobby

Tom Drake
01-08-2006, 9:37 AM
Just a hobby for me. Most of the things I build are for family and friends. I do build a few commissioned projects each year to fund the heating and electric.

Mike Parzych
01-08-2006, 10:48 AM
I do it for a living. From my point of view, to get started in it, you should be:

A - Young with not many obligations (wife, kids, mortgage, etc.)
B - Older with not many obligations (kids grown and gone, house paid off, you can probably keep the wife...)

There are lean times when you start out, but once you get some work and thereupon get referrals coming in, things get better.

Some attractive points for me (aside from the monetary aspects that's the main hurdle)) are that my "commute" to work is about 50 yards to the shop, I can hardly remember the last time I wore a tie, and if I feel like taking a nap in the middle of the day I can.

Fred Voorhees
01-08-2006, 11:43 AM
Well heck, I had to go through the entire thread just to make sure that I hadn't already answered this one. My situation is that basically, it is just a hobby and that definitely makes it more enjoyable. However, I have done a handful of projects on commision and that has always been dedicated to upgrading my shop. I don't think I would ever want to depend on my woodworking to support my lifestyle and pay the bills. I work poorly under the gun and would rather enjoy the work as it goes along without the clock ticking reminding me that the thing needs to "get done". I am seven years away from retirement and at that time, my woodworking will take on a different approach as it will be a part of filling in the time that used to be dedicated to making a living. At that time, I would definitely consider many more projects that would be for someone else for a commision - with the understanding that it would be done at my leisure and on no particular time schedule. Heck, there are other things such as fishing you know.:D :D :D

Chris Gregory
01-08-2006, 12:54 PM
Besides the recession part of my downfall was subcontractring to big contractors, they dangle a nice carrot promising lots of high end projects, problem was you never got that last 5% of the job before you started the next one, money kept on coming in so it wasn't too noticable until times got tough then you go back and add it all up and it certainly means a lot to you and the GC really never had any intention of forking it over. They loved small shops like mine, flexible to work with, not too quick to issue change orders and of course because we were small every project got TLC.

On the other hand when you deal directly with the customer it becomes very personal and the timeline is what really takes it from being a labor of love to being a chore. I must say after reading this thread all the way through it has put a damper on going pro without some serious thought. On the other hand I did work with some shops that had managed to make the leap to the level that they didn't do work for customers who had to ask how much and the freedom and level of craftmanship that this allowed resulted in some extraordinary projects.

Chris Dodge
01-09-2006, 7:16 PM
Good thread! I do woodworking professionally but only part time. I spend about 20 hours per week at it at most. My preference is to build furniture but about half of my work is kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Frankly, they are easier and quicker to make so the money comes faster with cabinets. I don't really enjoy making them but its not like I hate it either.

I am at that stage where I would love to go at it full time but haven't convinced myself that it is worth it. Living in Southern California is a blessing and a curse. There are lots of clients here so I can be kept VERY busy but the cost of living is very high so it would be difficult to stay on top if I went full time. Also, I have to work out of my garage because property is too expensive to afford a separate shop. The garage is big but never big enough for all of the work I am doing. I am currently working on four projects and the garage is filled with wood and tools!

I really only started doing woodworking part time because my main job does not currently pay enough for me to live here and my wife and I would rather she be home with the kids than working. I do still enjoy woodworking very much even as a job. I am also addicted to buying tools, which is a problem, but at least I can justify it by telling my wife it is a tax write off...and there are worse addictions out there.:D