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I am new to the site and noticed that there are a lot of experienced people giving advise. I am really interested in starting my own woodworking business. I worked in a local shop for a few months and now work an office job. I am really interested in having a business where I can make some extra money now and grow into a full time down the road. I have done projects around my house, friends and family and received good feedback on my work. I was wondering if anyone can help with their successes. Thanks in advance. I look forward to the responses.
 

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Years ago I went through the yellow pages and realized there were FAR too many "woodworkers" in Vancouver.
I decided on my guitar "niche" market. Wrong again.:censored:
There's a housing boom here in Van and I shoulda got in with a cabinet company....
 

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Got out of the Army in 1970, and was unemployed and married. Couldn't find a job, but had a degree in business and was in Special Forces. Tried to get a job with different police agencies (before there was SWAT), they all thought I might have latent aggression. Can you believe that? Anyway didn't want to be a mercenary cause I like living, and living in the US. So, that's my history.

Oh yeah, back to the story. LOML and I went to a weekend arts and crafts show and a guy there was selling handmade lamps. I looked at them and thought, "I can do that". The next day I went to the lumber yard and bought what I thought I needed.

We had a two bedroom apartment and the floor was my workspace. The lamps were made from 1" thick cork, cut in strips, glued together like frames. Then I glued on the inside colored plastic K-Lux panels, and mounted hanging hardware at the top. Took them to the flea market and hung them from a 2x4 on top of two loose bi-fold doors. The first weekend none sold. The second weekend, I got better at the design and quality, and didn't sell any then. As I was packing up a woman asked If I would come to her house the next night and show them to her husband, I said "I can do that".

When I got there she had like 8 neighbors over, and they went wild and about half of them ordered lamps. I took deposits and was so excited, that when I left the house, I forgot to put my samples in the trunk, and backed up over them.

Fortunately I scored that night with deposits, because LOML was ragging on me to quit making a mess in the apartment. So, the real story about cabinetwork evolved when I would be in houses installing the lamps, they would ask "Can you build a cabinet for over there?" My answer was "I can do that".

It was a very difficult start and there has been low lows and high highs. If you are honest and are a good craftsman, creativity can make a difference. I didn't get stuck in just making kitchen boxes. Since the rent comes due every month, I take whatever I get. This led to commercial work like jewelry store showcases, restaurant and bar work, law offices, and medical cabinets. Having a good list of references and a source of leads makes a big difference. Sourcing work includes getting to the designers, contractors, and architects. I found that through the commercial work, those owners also wanted custom work done in their homes.

It's a hazardous way to make a living with toxic fumes, tools with spinning steel, caustic chemicals, and noise levels that can be deafening. There's a price to pay for all that. You can't totally protect yourself. Don't take me wrong...I'm not trying to discourage you. I must say considering everything, it's a very rewarding life. You'll just have to get used to the fact that all customers won't be raving over your work. Some will be looking at it with a magnifying glass trying to see if there's anything wrong. In the end it's the check that counts.

My father alway tried to teach me that you'll never get rich from something you do, but rather, what you know. So, I try to figure everything out and then do it. Still not rich. :laughing:
 

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My advice (for what it's worth), don't rush into it. Continue with it on a hobby basis, keeping a full time job as a source of income. A client base of Friends and Family is a good start but, far more will be required to sustain a livable income.

As mentioned above, woodworkers are "10 a penny" in any yellow pages which, pushes the idea of finding a niche to exploit, which isn't a bad thing but broadening your experience and work you'll undertake will allow for taking on a greater variety of projects (stating the obvious I guess)

Whatever you decide to do, all the best with it :icon_smile:

:icon_smile: :smile: :icon_smile:
 

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IMO woodworking is much better as a hobby that you enjoy than it is a business that feeds your family.

Once you get into the business side it becomes a production and manufacturing business and that is rarely an enjoyable thing.
 

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A friend of mine took his amateur hobby shop to a full time business 3 or 4 years ago. He's found that making traditional hardwood furniture is very time consuming and is tough to profit on with all the cheap imports available. Same is true of cabinetry, though it's more profitable than furniture.

He bought a large $20K CNC router about 2 years ago, and now mainly cuts custom parts from all kinds of sheet goods for many non-woodworking applications. It's been profitable enough that he's recently added a second CNC. It's not the traditional woodworking that he had enjoyed as an amateur, but he's still in his shop, occasionally uses his traditional power machinery, and enjoys being his own boss.
 

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Here's my 2 cents, hubaseball, FWIW:

It's a tough business from which to make a good living at the outset. Perhaps, in a few years, it could become a good-paying occupation but the fun factor may no longer be there as you'd be preoccupied with making money first.

You may want to consider woodworking on a limited parttime basis to see if you can actually get adequately compensated for the materials and the time you spend on each project plus a pro-rated portion of your investment in tools and shop space rent. Add to that all of the shopping time, miscuts, scrap, etc. Real profitability from which to derive an adequate income and remain solvent is very often non-existant among the self-employed. Examine how many hours a week you'd have to work, how many jobs you'd need lined up, how much credit your business would require, the cost of new tools you would need and better equipment to meet the demands, more physical space, etc., etc.

It may turn out that you really can't earn a good living given what the market around you will endure. Or, vice versa and you'll be thrilled with the success. Doing your homework is therefore critical.

Good luck with whatever you choose to do! :thumbsup:
 

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Well, we all have success if we have stayed in business more than a few years. The following quote sums up my opinion of what makes one succesful in woodworking:

The artist requires more time, but his work is more valuable. It is not how much we do, but how well we do it that determines worth. The first measurement of any work is quality. Skill is power, a power which belongs to talent, devotion and patience. It adds stature to life. Monuments are erected to artists - not to bunglers.
Why rush to get out a slipshod job just to pursue more shoddiness in shoddy living? For no mans life is above his work. Haste makes waste, not only of the product, but of the life that turns it out.
-LEROY BROWNLOW
 

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I'm working on an 8'x8' wall of base and upper cabinets for a client right now (butlers pantry). The two outside cabinets on the upper section will have glass doors with faux mullions which are taking longer than expected (they were supposed to be time savers), It's been a while since I've done a larger job in an all natural finish, in this case it's walnut and so far the job is going "normal"

By normal I mean my shop is too small and I'm always reminded of this when trying to pre assemble the arrangement for accuracy, I forgot to double check the blade on the table saw for square at some point and had to re assign those pieces for another section down the schedule, the laquer revealed a color change in a batch of already milled stock that was too different from the majority...It took me two hours to re-make a couple of common jigs that were no longer working accurately...it was 27 degrees in the shop this morning and I forgot to bring my glue in the house. I can't get my hands on any 1/4 walnut ply to save my life.

The easiest part of the whole job, a simple wine rack, kicked my ass for a day, Two very important dados went very wrong screwing up an assembly, There were bugs hibernating in my shop apron and last but not least! I ran out of money.

I love the chaos, the highs and lows. The frustration when you're out of your labor window stinks, but I always recoup on the next one.
I've been on my own for six years now and I still say the satisfaction of seeing a very satisfied customer is still as good as the check.

Good luck, and start small. Eat yourself a big slice of humble pie and know your limits. My best advice to you is look at the work of guys who really really truly know there stuff and have been at it a long time. Use their attention to detail and standard of quality as your measuring stick.
 

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I've been kicking the idea around myself, though I'm realistic enough to know that right now my brain is writing checks that my skills can't cash. :laughing:

I'm a complete newb, and so far I've just done a couple pieces for my house... simply because the local furniture stores think that I should pay $500 for my grandma's coffee table. No sir, I don't think so.

But folks who've seen my stuff have been impressed, but I still don't know if they're impressed with the woodwork/design, or because they're impressed because they never knew this paper-pushing yahoo owns a bunch of power tools and has the motivation to use them. :laughing:

But I always ask them.... "what do you like about it?" "What don't you like about it?" "What could be better?"

And the BIG question, "If you like it, what do you think you'd consider paying for something like that if you saw it in a store?"

That's the crux of the biscuit.

That said, I'm considering a couple ideas... I'm thinking if there's a decent buck to be made, it'll be in a niche product that lends itself to repeatability as well as ease of manufacture. (IOW, don't be the guy that hits home runs, be the guy that gets a single each and every time he's at bat.).

Consider that painter dude... whazzizname, Thomas Kincade? The guy managed to paint a batch of pics that really aren't anything more than the stuff you see at the "starving artist" sales... I haven't seen one that was anything more than pure cheese, IMHO.... but he marketed them in a different way, created a major following... the things cost hundreds and thousands of dollars each, and now he's sitting on a billion dollar empire.

IMO. making it is the easy part, getting the masses to want it enough to spend good money on it is the tough part.

So getting back to the main point, keep the day job and do the research before you make the leap. You and I will jump together. :laughing:
 

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Stay out of debt. If you can follow that rule, you'll be lightyears ahead of the average shop.

Don't sell yourself cheap. Lowering the price to bargain basement levels will only cause you grief. It's the customers who aren't willing to pay the higher prices that are the biggest pains in the butt.

Learn how to bid and learn what your fixed costs really are. Just because you already have the garage or whatever for a shop, just because you already have a cellphone, fax, tablesaw, whatever, doesn't mean that there isn't still a cost to using them. Sit down and realistically decide what your overhead is. On paper, rent your garage to your business, rent your truck to your business, etc.

Don't give up your day job and keep as much cash as you possibly can. Don't fall into the trap of relying on the deposit from the next job to finance the finishing of the job you're working on now. I think this is what kills most new shops.
 

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Start out with $2 milliion dollars

At the end of the first year, if you have $1 million dollars, you're still a millionaire.

Ed
 

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edp's comment kind of reminds of an old airline joke. "How do you make a small fortune in the airline industry? Simple. Start with a big one" There are similarities.

Gerry
 

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Or....

Did you hear about the cabinetmaker that won the lottery?

When asked what he was going to do he replied, "Well I guess I'll keep building cabinets 'til the money runs out, then, who knows."
 

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Well, I'm about 2 seconds from taking the plunge myself. Hey...if I'm gonna be broke I might as well be happy.:smile:
I may have to keep a part time job though just to buy essentials. You know...sandpaper,hardware...beer....:laughing:
 

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Well, I'm about 2 seconds from taking the plunge myself. Hey...if I'm gonna be broke I might as well be happy.:smile:
I may have to keep a part time job though just to buy essentials. You know...sandpaper,hardware...beer....:laughing:
Are you gonna give it a whirl Corndog? Keep us posted.

Gerry:smile:
 

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I'm not so good at the "business" side....I just gotta give 'er another shot....and another...and another...and...
 
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