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Thread: How do you leverage CNC to be unique in your local marketplace?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Murdoch View Post
    I'm reading and thinking on this one ...
    "You will be assimilated...."
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  2. #32
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    Its hard to work into your research concerning the cost and features of one machine against another but you need to at least figure in a SWAG number to account for the money you will make just in the first few months. You don't have to consider big dollars from big jobs just what you are pretty sure you can make from people you know who would love to have a sign for their home or small office. These are the people who will not be able to afford your services next year

    You can easily make 2 to 5 thousand dollars while your learning to run the machine. You may as well get paid to learn, the hardest part is forcing yourself to charge appropriately for the work you produce. Its OK to offer bargain prices while your learning and it helps pay for you to use good quality material rather than plywood.

  3. #33
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    Sam,

    If the door opens just a an inch or two and you take a peek you will most likely get hooked real quick. Imagine a machine that is more fun to run than any you have ever owned. AND it makes money even if your primary goal is to just do some hobby jobs for friends and family.

  4. #34
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    Keith's posts reminded me of something else I wanted to say after re-reading the original post. Being an accomplished woodworker puts you waaaay ahead of the game making salable products. I see so many newcomers post pictures of CNC router products that just look awful because the creator didn't know how to machine wood or lay down a nice finish. They need to go back and learn that first.

    A related idea is that you can add tremendous value to products you may already be making. I will give you a simple little example from the stuff I do.

    EWM box 01.jpg

    If I made these boxes and sold them at a craft show, I doubt very much I could make minimum wage at it. However, the same box with a personalized V-carve inlay will sell for 3 or 4 times what a generic one would sell for. The boxes are time consuming built one off but are pretty efficient made in batches. I build them using traditional woodworking methods. After a little learning curve, it is surprising how easy it is to do the inlay on a previously built box. I would never be dishonest and tell people the inlay was hand carved but that doesn't seem to matter.

  5. #35
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    There are many out there that think just because they have a CNC that they are going to make all kinds of money but go bust after just a short time. You should never buy one to do a job unless you know that you can actually do the work and on time.

  6. #36
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    I think this will be a cake walk for you Jim since you are already in business and build quality items. You will find it merely augments your current line, and will allow you to expand your ideas of what is possible along with making some tasks much quicker.

    Here is one example of a slab surfaced on my machine and a toy where I made all the parts on my CNC. Surfacing slabs is great. Making the toys works well if you do it in bulk, but it is not very practical for one offs.

    Table.jpg

    Here is a custom door I made. This was a test door made from a scrap door I had laying around.

    CabDoor.jpg
    I would say the easiest way to make money is signs. There is a camheads member that offers classes (not for much longer) and his signs border on being artwork.

  7. #37
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    Keith, if I could get to a run rate of $2.5-3K a month from all of my part time woodworking endeavors, I'd be a happy man and could reconsider about getting a part time job "out there" to last until SS kicks in in six years.

    Art, I appreciate exactly what you're expressing...enhancing some of the things I'm doing already is already on the list. Example...my current tack trunk commission included two wooden totes for grooming tools. (equestrian) I did the profiles for the ends using pattern routing and that was messy and time consuming. Drawing the vectors and creating the tool paths (one time deal) would likely take me less time than it did to create the pattern and then create the test piece by route the profile, rabbit the edges and drill the recess for the handle. It creates a standard offering and adds the ability to personalize. So yea...that's part of the plan. But I'm already at the top of the pricing pyramid with the tack trunk stuff, so I'm looking for other things to create and generate coin; hence this thread.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #38
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    Brad, I hadn't thought of the slab surfacing thing, but I'm big, big fan of Nakashima style furniture (living so close to Nakashima "ground zero", literally) and yea... surfacing an 8/4 walnut "spoilboard" would be a piece of cake. LOL
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #39
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    I have talked to so many people who were shutting down their CNC business because they couldn't find work. Things were especially bad in 2008 and a few years afterwards when our economy was in the toilet. At that time I was swamped with work and offered people some advice about what I was doing but they had no interest, the response I got more then once was that the sign work I did was beneath them. OK go out of business then.....more work for me. The moral of the story is that you cannot always do the kind of work you want to, its about what is profitable. If your a hobby woodworker its all about doing what you want the way you want. If your interest is in making money your personal interests have to take a seat at the back of a very long bus.

    Mind you I am talking about very small Mom and Pop businesses not mid to large companies. I had my share of failures trying to produce what I thought people wanted. I finally wised up and concentrated on what companies needed.

    Marketing is the answer no matter what business you are in, everything else is trivial.
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 01-12-2018 at 9:05 PM.

  10. #40
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    Keith, I personally do hear you on that which is why I've been asking the fundamental question. I'll have to have a conversation with you when it's mutually convenient about some of these things--I consider your experience invaluable. I'm absolutely willing and ready to do stuff that's different than my normal personal woodworking pursuits, especially things that can pay for the machine. While I'm thankful that "on paper" I made enough in the last week to actually fund the machine, thanks to market performance, I want to be able to pay that back. This is a different situation in a different time than when I bought my SCM/Minimax stuff years ago.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #41
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    Jim,

    We will have to talk on the phone sometime this weekend if possible. It's all good, the business of operating a CNC is more fun than work for me. I enjoy every job and in the past the bigger the job was the more I enjoyed the work. These days I am ramping down my business and I only look for work in the Winter and Summer months. I have been trying to find the time to machine some lithophanes for a couple years but can't work it into my schedule no matter how hard I try. SawMill Creek keeps me pretty busy and Jackie and I are still involved with the Freedom Pens Project plus I have a local private school that I make signs for, they can keep me busier than I want some times. My recreational passion the last couple of years has been ATV riding in the mountains of West Virginia which is my priority in the Spring and Fall seasons. A couple of the local businesses that are customers also throw me some work periodically so I rarely have to look at large construction buildings anymore. I make exceptions for large jobs if the customer will let me do the designs and I can offer them something out of the ordinary. I still bid dye-sublimation jobs on occasion or offer sign project customers special plaques as part of their sign package.

    I know it doesn't sound like it but I really am trying to slow down and concentrate on work around my home and personal shop projects. Right now my friend and I are watching the weather closely looking for a window that we might be able to do a Winter trail ride just for the experience. Neither one of us are comfortable with cold weather riding but there is always a chance of having a warm spell in the South East.

    Before you order a CNC Router make sure you have a business license so you can take advantage of the 179 tax law, its the best thing that has happened to small businesses in a long time IMO. Have an electrical service entrance installed in your shop so your company can pay the electric bill and pay you monthly rent for the building. As soon as you can get a company car or truck and a company credit card to purchase gas and materials. Convert your personal phone to a business account. When your router is installed and running start working on your company resume' right away.

  12. #42
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    Keith, I plan on having a conversation with a tax accountant friend this week over lunch to discuss what the best business arrangement would be in a formal sense for what I believe at this point I want to pursue, especially since there are revisions to tax law recently passed that absolutely affect small business, and not necessarily in a positive way.

    I'm actually "ready to order", once the sales dude gets back to me with the quote revision I requested a couple days ago...I asked him to speak to Thomas about one particular request relative to that.

    BTW, I believe I'm going to attend the shindig at McGrew's in April and look forward to seeing you and others in that setting.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #43
    I've been running CNC routers for about 12 years, only the past 3 years as a main source of income. Find a niche, and run with it... I've never made a sign in my life. I do very very detailed fine inlays with far less effort than you would with veneer and a laser. I do a lot of small artisitic carving. I make prototype moulds for composites out of MDF, and production moulds out of aluminium. Make resin casting moulds from tooling wax as well as lost wax castings from tooling wax. I only have a small 2ft x 2ft or so working area, but I can do 0.00025" stepovers accurately all day for incredible detail. I was making US$5-10k/month pretty easily before moving country - I think once I get up and running again here I'll be able to double that (router is the only tool I bought with me.) I'd love a bigger router, a 4x8 with ATC would easily give me 5-10x more productivity on some of my products, but I don't have US$25k to lay out for one after moving... that being said, for my niche, ultra high resolution is much more valuable than large footprint. When I do get a 4x8 (more likely a 5x10) with ATC, I'll still be running my 2x2 for everything its currently doing. Even with high count encoder servos on the big routers running rack and pinion, they are still a small percentage of my precision and accuracy
    There's good money in steel rule die manufacturing - a friend's friend was running several routers and basically the only guy in a city of 1.2million people making them for all the printing companies. This one is often overlooked and it's not difficult work - basically just cut slots into cheap sheet wood and insert steel rule into it. Braze joints, and you're done, easy $300-500 for under an hours work. Pretty much every printing company uses steel rule dies for cutting paper/paperboard to shape, every display box, folder, etc is made this way unless they are doing stupidly large volumes that are worth a larger investment in tooling.
    There's so many niches for cnc routers - from kitchen cabinets (you can download software that will do all the design and even toolpaths for you, then just cut from a sheet of wood!) to folded metal boxes in ACP for industrial electronics enclosures, to fine art work... you're only limited by your imagination. If you can't pay off a $25k machine in under 6 months, then you lack creativity, not connections or business sense or marketing skills! Don't get stuck in the rut of trying to do the same thing everyone else in your area does, there's no profit in that!

  14. #44
    Mark, what machine do you have that is capable of such precision and accuracy? I'm interested in eventually getting a high precision small machine, maybe 2' x 3'

  15. #45
    What sort of a machine is necessary to do steel rule dies? What sort of endmills does one need?

    Would it be possible to cut out the surround of a die in sections (as through cuts), glue that to a backer board, and add the rules in-between the parts?

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