My local woodworking guild meetings take place on the third Thursday of each month; except in December, so there are only 11 meetings per year. We always have a guest speaker at each meeting. Sometimes that speaker is a fellow guild member and sometimes that speaker is someone from outside the guild, usually a local businessman who is associated to woodworking in some shape or form.
Ever since I’ve joined the guild, I’ve only missed a couple meetings, and I’ve never skipped a meeting because I didn’t want to attend the lecture. It has always been because of a scheduling conflict or a medical reason (once when I’d thrown my back out and pretty much didn’t go anywhere for a few days and then I missed January’s meeting because I had my LASIK eye surgery that day – a bit of poor planning on my part). I’ve never wanted to skip a lecture because no matter what the subject is, I always take something away with me by way of some sort of useful information or knowledge.
This last meeting was no exception. The lecture was by a local guy who makes childrens’ rocking horses. They seemed well-enough made, but… they just weren’t my thing, you know? I’ve never been much of a toy maker or a fan of country-style or western-style design or furniture, so there wasn’t a huge appeal to me. But I thought maybe I could learn something about the business-side of his woodworking.
I guess, in a way, I did… but it was really more of an example of how NOT to run a business. Best I could figure, he ended up spending about $300 or so on parts and paying for others’ labor and his final price, whether he was selling to an individual or selling to a high-end toy store who would mark it up 80% more, was $350. That means he clears about $50 per horse if he factors out paying himself any sort of hourly wage for work. With that factored in, he makes about $2.50 to $3.00 per hour per horse.
Last year he said he made about 30 horses for a total profit of about $1500. I figure he spent at least 600 man-hours, if not more, on these 30 horses. He said he really enjoys the work, and he doesn’t want to quit his full-time job to make them for a living or anything, and I guess that’s a good thing because he really isn’t even making enough to pay for all of the woodworking equipment he uses in a year.
One thing my mentor keeps repeating to me over and over is that you’ve got to pay yourself if you’re planning on using your woodworking to supplement your income in any significant way. He is semi-retired, he gets a navy pension, and he shares the pastor duties at a local church, so he gets some pay from that, but for the most part his income comes from his woodworking. For him, it is just as important to make money as it is to have fun.
So while he does have the occasional custom piece for some of his customers, for the most part he has five or six different things he makes with a production-like attitude. For him, time is money, and he’ll always try to save an hour or two by batch cutting pieces and spending less time making table saw adjustments. That’s also why he doesn’t really mind when I offer to come over and sand whatever he is prepping for finish. I certainly don’t mind because the company is always good and I never fail to learn something.
I find it quite interesting to juxtapose his methods to the methods of the speaker this evening. Both seem to have just as much an interest in woodworking, but they have a completely different mind-set when it comes to the business aspects of their hobby/profession.
As much as I enjoy blogging and participating in woodworking forums, I also enjoy that face-to-face interaction with other woodworkers I get at our monthly guild meetings. It doesn’t ever bother me that out of 50 attendies I’m almost always the youngest one, usually by a good 25 or 30 years.
And it doesn’t really bother me that I’ve already been on two contest committees and I seem to be one of the few ACTIVE members of the club, whether it be asking questions or making points in meetings or volunteering to help out with a committee or whatever. There are people in life who are active participants and people in life who are passive participants. We have them in my local club and we have them here on Lumberjocks. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t know if the passive participants get quite as much out of the experience as I do, but maybe they aren’t looking for the same kind of experience as me. I hold nothing against them for their passiveness. Indeed, there are times when I enjoy taking on a passive role… those times are most certainly few and far between, but they are there none the less.
So to all you Lumberjocks who enjoy reading blogs without writing and enjoy the forum discussions without commenting and looking at the projects without posting your own, I say, “Be as active (or inactive) as you want! As far as I’m concerned, you’re always welcome here.”
Interesting blog flow this evening… I didn’t exactly stay on the one topic the entire time, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.
Time for this Lumberjock to get some sleep.
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com