Looking to start a sign making business - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 01:03 AM Thread Starter
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Looking to start a sign making business

Hello, I am looking to start up a sign making business where I make custom routed wooden signs and also custom engraved table tops. I can get a new 4'x8' CNC router for around $9000 locally and they'll train me to use it. I have a shop at my house that I can use to keep overhead low. I also have a full-time job so this will strictly be for extra money on the side. I have basic woodworking and fabricating experience and moderate milling and machining experience. No CNC though.

I have a few questions, what other tools would I need to get going? Is there any money in it? Any other tips, recommendations or advice you can offer me would be greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 02:14 AM
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I'd recommend against jumping in feet first. Jumping straight to CNC is a big jump unless you already have a few commissions set up. Personally if look into getting a router and pantograph setup at first. Not quite as click and go as CNC, but the setup wool only run you about $200 and get your toes wet to see if the buisness has momentum

I need cheaper hobby
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post #3 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 06:45 AM
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With a little practice you could learn to freehand route signs. The few I did people really liked the idea they were done by hand. Also I never had any luck selling anything from my house. I had to get a space in a flea market so I had that much overhead. It wasn't a huge expense but a lot of times the rent was more than I was making. Anyway the 9 grand for the CNC router if it's in good condition is a good price. If you are sure you need it you might get it. I'm sure you could get your money back if things didn't go well with your sign business.
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post #4 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 11:21 AM
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Too many times people spend most of their efforts looking at the cost side of the equation and assume that everything they produce is sold. Producing is only 1/2 the battle at best.

Spend some thought and research on how you are going to market/sell your product. If you don't have any storefront this will have to be advertising, flea market or craft show attendance or???

You will be competing with the full service sign shops that probably include engraving, vinyl signs, wood signs and all the other stuff they do. They probably have CNC everything and a storefront.

Also check you local restrictions on manufacturing/selling out of your house. I know a lot of places allow home based businesses but sometimes frown on selling out of the house.

I bought a sander from a guy last month that had a CNC router setup in a little warehouse that was about the size of a bedroom. He paid about $350.00/ month rent and that includes his electric. He was having a hard time selling his product and was trying to make molded ceramic mugs.
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post #5 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 12:02 PM
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Do you want to do something like this company? http://www.artsignworks.com/index.html
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post #6 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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I was leaning more towards cnc because it will allow me to make things i could never make with a handheld router. Also if i can get one for a good price worst case scenario i could resell it for a good portion of what i paid for it.

Yea i guess i never really realized how much work it'll take to sell the product so ill have to work on that if i decide to go ahead with this idea. My plan was to put out a CL ad and also email local businesses. I did this before with a milling machine i purchased and made some decent side money just from the CL ad. As i grow i could look into websites and advertising ect.

Yes i was hoping to make signs like that and also tabletops like this... http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=d13SGoGt0tU

I figured since i won't be paying additional rent, hydro or heat and my shop is in my backyard (no transportation cost or time) that my overhead will be so low and im not relying on any income from it i can sell a product at a price shops could never compete with.
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post #7 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 03:39 PM
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btdt got the t shirt

I worked briefly (three months) at a local sign company. They did mostly business signs. They did many diferent kinds of signs but by far the most were computer controlled cut vinyl applied to plywood of metal panel. The designer could load the client's art work in and then add copy. They had a lot of nice big sign making equiptment including a big CNC router setup (5 x 10) and also some large vinyl cutting machines. They also have an artist that did beautiful hand painted signs free hand.

We built a few "carved" wood signs which I helped with, and they were some of the most expensive signs they made at about $125 per square foot. I put "carved" in in quotes because they were really sandblasted. We used clear kiln dried 2 x cedar glued up to the size required. A vinyl cutter made a stencil of rubberish material and was applied to the wood and the vinyl was removed from the areas that you want sandblasted. The raised leters were usually painted and the carved out background was typically stained dark. They were beautiful signs and there was a lot of work that went into them.

Whenever I make a sign for myself, I prefer to hand carve it. I really like the look and enjoy the carving.

The sign company where I worked had two full time sales people plus the front office for walk-ins. They stayed pretty busy with an occasional slow day or two.

The biggest job I worked on while there was a big server farm building where we supplied all the signs interior and exterior and the total bid was about $125,000.00 I think.

Bret
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post #8 of 19 Old 12-17-2014, 05:05 PM
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I wouldnt think youll be getting big jobs with no experience and the only advertising being CL. No trying to be harsh but its just the way I see it.

$9k is a lot to me to spend on something youll probably take a while to recoup on. In the title you stated you wanted to start a business but then in your post you state you have a full time job and this would just be side work. If the latter is true and you have the money than I say go it.
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post #9 of 19 Old 10-27-2016, 06:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammer1 View Post
Do you want to do something like this company? http://www.artsignworks.com/index.html
Good post. The selling part is almost always the most difficult.

George
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post #10 of 19 Old 10-27-2016, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
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Do you want to do something like this company? http://www.artsignworks.com/index.html
That's some fine work right there.
Kudos to whoever photographed those pics for the website.

A large planer and a wide belt sander would eat up the cost of your wife's car, and maybe then some!
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post #11 of 19 Old 10-27-2016, 02:25 PM
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That's all well and fine but....

This is a 4 year old post brought back to life by post number 9, Paul Williamson, the owner of this company:
http://www.artsignworks.com/index.html

I don't think the OP has posed since and may have been dissuaded in the endeavor.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #12 of 19 Old 10-27-2016, 03:20 PM
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Dang it. Got suckered again. :frown2:
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post #13 of 19 Old 10-27-2016, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by MT Stringer View Post
Dang it. Got suckered again. :frown2:
Hardly suckered, I would say enlightened.

The poster that revived this thread owns a company that was mentioned in the original conversation, basically set up as standard of comparison by one of the contributors.

Does it really matter to any of us that are reading these posts for information when the reply came, good information, directly from the source is aways a good thing.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #14 of 19 Old 10-28-2016, 08:59 AM
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As suggested, check local regulations for home businesses and zoning laws for your area. You will need to collect sales tax for the state and local governments. You will need a Federal ID number for any federal taxes that you will be liable for in your business. Lots of things to consider for a business, even of a one man operation.
I build custom fishing rods and had to go through all this myself.

A diamond is how coal reacts under pressure.
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post #15 of 19 Old 05-05-2017, 12:28 PM
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Yes, your overhead may be lower but (1) you will pay twice as much for materials as a professional manufacturer does, because we buy large quantities wholesale from the manufacturers (2) our professional sign makers have 10 years of experience, are very accurate and fast, and make very few mistakes. You will be competing against them, and they get paid between $16 and $19/hr. You will only be 50%, or even 20% efficient as they are (they have lots of efficiency tricks and they have made the same sign perhaps 100 times, whereas this will be your first time). Thus your effective payrate will be between $4/hr and $10/hr, at best.

To make 3-D signs cost-effectively, you will need to be able to (1) do 3-D geometric modelling using a program such as Aspire(yakes about 3 years to learn this; there are only about a dozed agraphic artists in the USA that can do accurate renderings quickly and efficiently) (2) make proofs and drawings for the customer to approve using a 2-D program such as Adobe Illustrator; (3) make 3-D toolpaths for a CNC router; (4) sandblast background areas using a large enclosed sandblast booth (5) do edge glue-ups of wood strips like Cedar, Redwood or Mahogany (6) plane large sign surfaces (as large as 5 ft x 10 ft) flat and smooth; (7) do fine hand-sanding and trimming (8) use a paint spray booth for prime coating or staining, painting and clear-coating; (9) do perfect painting with an artist-brush, airbrush, or mini-roller; (10) pack, crate and ship so your sign does not break during rough handling by shippers with forklifts, etc. We have 16 designers and specialist craftsmen and artisans, which is about the minimum for a successful business, a 7000 ft2 factory, over $300,000 in equipment, and it has taken over 10 years to establish a profitable production business, which requires perfect products and low prices. We have 3 full-time sales/marketing people and 4 designers.We have over 1500 orders/customers a year (many requiring dozens or hundreds of signs), and design and build over 10,000 signs and plaques a year - it requires at least this volume to be cost-effective, and we are always trying to figure out how to lower our costs -there is a lot of price competition out there in this niche area of carved and sandblasted wood and High-Density-Urethane signs and plaques.

Last edited by rpaulwmson; 05-05-2017 at 02:14 PM.
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post #16 of 19 Old 05-05-2017, 01:11 PM
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It's the old story.....to make a million, start with two million. Our gardener is an ex sign writer. He said his business collapsed when computers came in.
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post #17 of 19 Old 05-05-2017, 01:13 PM
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Been self employed for 30 years it is not easy nor is it easy to work for someone else. Do your homework look on line for others that are doing the same thing. Most of all don't blow your money on a big oak desk and fancy office equipment along with a new truck! If you scrimp and save you can do this but won't get rich unless you go deep into hock and cross your fingers it all pays. The best way is to not go in over your head and grow as you can afford it and stay away from banks those payments seem like for ever to get rid of!!! Biggest problem is the paper [email protected]! You need someone you can trust, work for free and do it right like my wife does for me and my daughter who also is also self employed and her sales are over $500K a year from home and doing great.
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post #18 of 19 Old 05-06-2017, 10:35 AM
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Guys, this post started and finished in 2014.
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post #19 of 19 Old 05-06-2017, 03:24 PM
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Guys, this post started and finished in 2014.
I think we figured that out back at post #11 :smile3:
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Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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