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View dennis mitchell's profile

So how are we dealing with the new economy?

by dennis mitchell
posted 11-05-2008 05:54 AM

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69 replies

69 replies so far

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4156 days

#1 posted 11-05-2008 06:11 AM

A good question Dennis. Business has faded for me as well. So, like you I am thinking of how to re-invent myself as well. I am thinking of moving to Galveston, to help rebuild the area and maybe make some money in the process. They will be rebuilding for several years, so it will be work for many people for some time.

It will be interesting to hear what the rest of the community is going to do.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3887 days

#2 posted 11-05-2008 06:26 AM

I can relate to your dilemma. I’ve done casework and closets for a living for 7 years. My business was growing 30% a year and life was good. This year it is off 60%. That’s a tough pill to swallow. The only thing that is helping me keep my head above water is repeat business from my large customer base. I have also taken on jobs this year that I would normally turn down. I had a past customer call and ask me if I could build a 12×14 shed with attic in his back yard. I got it done, but I never want to do something like that again. I’m still doing closets, but not as many and not as large. Work just comes sporatic right now. I also have endcap displays in three Lowes stores and I haven’t had a lead in the past four months.

This is the reason I started doing craft shows. I have this fully equipped shop and lots of time on my hands, so I started building stuff and going to shows. This is has potential, but I don’t think it could ever replace the cash flow that I was getting from my closet business.

I have an Etsy store, but have only sold three things this year. Sales though my web site were starting to increase, then they dropped off to nothing, but people are still buying at shows. The ones that survive all this will be known as master dog-paddlers….

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3978 days

#3 posted 11-05-2008 06:34 AM

I’m selling alot less, but staying very busy building up inventory. Granted, woodworking is a glorified hobby.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3957 days

#4 posted 11-05-2008 02:48 PM

In our case, both the saddle shop and wood shop just stopped getting calls around the first of May. I have over $20,000 in inventory at The Cabin Company and Flynn’s Saddle Shop in Boise. Nothing has sold while I was in Wyoming all summer and fall. I will be going in to talk to these people in the next couple of days. I think small things are still moving a little. Maybe there is something I can do for the winter. At this point, I see little hope of reviving either shop to full time work. I don’t feel like investing anymore time or capitol into the business at this time. There are better craftsmen than myself who are working at the local stop-and-rob to get by. Since I’m approaching 62, I see little hope of any really good employment either. So far, I’ve managed to stay busy and productive but as the economy worsens, it will become increasingly difficult for we older hands to compete for scarce jobs. Maybe Obama can turn it around but I think it will be a long uphill battle. Good luck everyone.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View snowdog's profile


1164 posts in 3977 days

#5 posted 11-05-2008 03:09 PM

Back when in the 80 when the market crashed “black Monday” I was making great money in construction, everything dried up. I decided to try something new. I went into computers, I started at the bottom in an electronics store, assistance manager. 1.5 years later I was contracted to Lotus Development, from there I went to IBM and now am looking at a relatively good retirement at 50 years old by making a few good job moves. It took me 18 years to get here from that bad “Monday” but it was a fun ride. Yeah a lot of it was pretty hard but I am here now. You may have to try new things, you can always go back to construction but you may find that wood working is a lot more fun when you do it for fun and not for a living. I am not sure I believe that last line :) I still miss the construction sites and comradery of the crew. It is not as enjoyable talking to a bunch of stuffed shirts at white collar job as it was in the old days of construction but the pay is a hell of a lot better and there are a few good people at work, it is not all bad. of construction but the pay is a hell of a lot better and there are a few good people at work, it is not all bad.

Good luck and as the song says “the best oppertunities are the ones tha tnever kniock”.

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4016 days

#6 posted 11-05-2008 03:20 PM

For me, as an observer of this craft I think that North Americans must stop importing goods for the landfills.

Life over the last 40 years has become increasingly superficial with the primary goal of pure opulence rather than a focus on quality.
When I came out of school folks saved up for a down payment of 10% of their homes and took on 25 year mortgages.
Today they “were” able to grab the reins of a house 2-3 times the size and get a 55 year mortgage.

Moreover, they could fill it up with offshore crap on payments too.
The half life of almost everything has been cut at least in half.
In short, we have all become consummate consumers.

Moreover is this mindboggling “sense of entitlement”.

This coming back to reality now upon us is growing to be painfully and protracted.
It means deciding not to buy crap because it’s cheap or the box stores give you no choice.
It will involve personal resolve to say no and stick to it.

Making a living during the adjustment means taking on some of the smaller neighbourhood tasks instead of doing what you like in the shop.

In 40 years of business here I have never had a single offer to clear my snow from the sidewalks. Same at home. Yet clearing the walks probably pays better than carpentry or cabinetmaking.

Your next machine purchase may have to be a snowblower and a trailer but it’s a small price to pay for your independence.

Go Figure?


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View odie's profile


1691 posts in 3835 days

#7 posted 11-05-2008 04:15 PM

I being a realist, made my living with Ma Bell for thirty years. Towards the end with them I was saving close to 20% of everything I made so I could become an independent woodworker. I now sell my “art” at arts and crafts shows. I have seen this economy affect my sales for the last 5 years. It didn’t just start the other day.

“Forgive them for they know not what they do”, you say as you watch a union loyalist hide his “buy American” sign in the trunk of his car while in Walmart. I’m afraid this can only get worse with our new government wanting to punish success and hard work. I think anything American can only get more expensive as business tries to keep up with new taxes and regulations.

The American people have spoken. I just wish they hadn’t spoken so loudly for me. It will be my goal not to give this new government one more penny than I have to. This is not something I’m used to doing. Being one that has lost 1/3 of his net worth in the market (it will come back), I don’t wish to support the spending machine in Washington. So for this reason, I’ve decided to do a little less with my “art”.

Because remember, I did plan for this retirement. Now I think I might just live it.

-- Odie, Confucius say, "He who laughs at one's self is BUTT of joke". (my funny blog)

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6855 posts in 3974 days

#8 posted 11-05-2008 05:08 PM

Hi guys;

I get emails from professional woodworkers on a regular basis, asking for advice on how to survive in these economic conditions. Some are giving up after thirty plus years, which is a very hard thing for anyone to do.
The emotional stress this creates is overwhelming, as it not only removes them from something they love and often is the only thing they know, it implants the feeling of failure.

Unfortunately I am not a business whiz so I really don’t have any answers to give them. More often than not, it’s a failure not so much on their parts, but a failure of the leaders of this country who make some of the dumbest decisions possible. There is an obvious lack of common sense in the decisions made, and no apparent conscience regarding the outcome it has on the average person.

For example, when they decided to double the minimum credit card payment, they pretty much signed a death warrant for many families. In an economic climate that was already very difficult, they added the final straw to the burden. People already in a tough financial spot, were thrown to the wolves. This is not to say that frivolous spending, or spending beyond your means is a good financial plan, but the fact remains the timing of such a move was horrible.

When the cost of living is going up in every area possible, and people are stretched to the limit, they decided to add to the load. How creative! How anyone could view this as a good move is beyond me. This single act closed many businesses, since their customer base no longer had the disposable income they once did.

It’s scary to think these people are supposed to be intelligent, and capable of making decisions based on the good of the country.

Consider President Bush’s comments when being interviewed at the Olympic Games just a few months ago. When questioned whether it was a good time to make comments criticizing China’s Humanitarian Policies, considering America’s problems, his response was, “First off, America has no problems”. HELLO, are you paying attention, or are you so far removed from the citizens you represent, that you really don’t know.

It’s not a matter of the business owners suddenly forgetting how to run a business, it’s a matter of the effects caused by changes made by our elected officials, which in turn changes the ability of being able to run a business.

Two months ago large cabinet shop near me had a two year backlog of work in the commercial sector, in addition to a healthy mix of high end custom work for residences. They were demanding overtime, (politely), from their workers in an attempt to keep up with the workload. Now, just two months later, they’re laying off their people. They didn’t “forget” how they got so successful, they simply had the rug pulled out from under them. Orders were being canceled faster than they were coming in.

Now they are caught in a position of having grown to meet demand, which means incurring a very large overhead. Much of this overhead is required to operate a business within the law. Now the income is gone, but the overhead remains. They have to decide if they should continue maintaining this overhead, which permits them to continue being in business, but eats away at their capital, or give up. If they stick it out, but the economy doesn’t revive quickly enough, they’ll be bankrupted. Or they could close up shop and save what capital they have. Great choice. And this is after at least twenty years of being in business, and having a nationally recognized name.

When General Motors stock is at it’s lowest point since 1951, how can a small business owner expect to survive. We don’t have the financial expertise, or the business management teams, or any of the other tools these large companies have at their disposal.

Unfortunately, as the Three Stooges used to say, we’re all “victims of circumstance”.

As my friend Tom Angle pointed out maybe the incoming President can revive the economy, but it will take some time to see any results coming from even the best plans and efforts.

Well, thanks for letting me vent!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3869 days

#9 posted 11-05-2008 05:17 PM

Dennis – this is a question that I think all pros and semi-pros are pondering right now. I’ll throw in my thoughts. These are ideas, not answers, so you may want to take this with a grain of salt!

I had a boss once who often said, “Build for the masses, eat with the classes. Build for the classes, eat with the masses.” Now he basically lives on his huge catamaran in the Mediteranian. I don’t think that “build for the masses” means make things everyone needs. I think it means make things everyone can afford. A lot of people will spend up to about $100 on impulse. Is there something you can make five or 10 a day and sell for under $100? Or make 50 a day and sell for under $20? Some guys build several hundered tops a day. Some guys make a living at wine balancers and back scratchers. Maybe it’s not what feeds your soul, but maybe it will keep you in woodworking until times are better.

Another thing that I’m looking at closely is other hobbies and crafts. People will spend a lot of money on their hobby, even when times are tight. The catamaran guy was working 9-5 in his metal shop, until he started making gun safes – not everyone needs a safe, but people who have guns will spend money on them. So what items do other crafts and hobbies use that are built out of wood? Or better, what niche isn’t being filled that could be filled with a wood item?

How about gift-type items? ‘Tis the season! You build beautiful furniture … maybe you could scale it down to beautiful jewelry boxes?

Like I said … they are ideas, not answers.

-- -- --

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3521 days

#10 posted 11-05-2008 05:17 PM

Still working and punching a timeclock I feel that I am standing on top of a flag pole on one foot and the wind is blowing something fierce… Even though good wood is very expensive where I live I can take refuge in the shop and breathe as I work the wood. Outside the shop door the world seems crazy but inside there is the wood, my hands and a natural connection to time past and hopes for the future. Woodworking is something personal and it also needs to be passed along to others so even if we have to break braches of a tree while we are straving we need to keep moving forward and learn the wood.

(Maybe my next project should be a soap box.)

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View ShopCat's profile


51 posts in 3574 days

#11 posted 11-06-2008 12:47 AM

I been through this a few times in other industries, and have ridden the bear up and down here since the ‘70’s. My father and father-in-law have been doing it here since the ‘20’s. They beat financial caution into me through my entire lifetime, and those lessons have always stood me well. I could have retired last year from IT work, but hung on because I knew I would end up doing air cover for my kids, who are just now graduating from college. There’s lots of things I would rather be doing, but I was taught to not turn up my nose at a steady paycheck. Any steady paycheck.

My daughter is a newly minted lawyer, and the very small firm she just joined is already seeing a definite downturn. In the oil bust in Colorado in the ‘80’s a lot of lawyers ended up doing Para-legal work. A bunch of Geologists and Mineral Landsmen I know ended up working for the IRS. Believe it or not, nothing I have seen, including major national recessions in the U.S. and Europe came close to what we went through here ‘85 – ‘95. So far this still seems mild compared to weekly newspaper lists of thousands of repo-ed homes and neighbors loading U-hauls in the middle of the night and disappearing.

I guess my question is what are the alternatives? The people of the U.S. built up a LOT of personal debt besides mortgage payments. It could be a long time before that all gets worked down.
Financially, we could be at this for a long time. I have been getting business vibes for a while that nationally this looks a lot like the ‘70’s. If you recall we had lousy job growth, double digit inflation, and nobody made much money doing anything. The economists and financial types couldn’t find the way out then either.

I would suggest that you all not be too finicky but suspect you also already knew that.

-- ShopCat

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4309 days

#12 posted 11-06-2008 02:07 AM

Thanks for the input. I really expect to see some hard times coming up. I’m just glad I didn’t invest in a lot of expansion and expensive tools. Hopefully people will begin to value craftsmanship again. Hopefully we can learn to live with in our means. Then again I was listening to the radio and they where talking about creating a whole bunch of incentives to get the construction industry rolling again. I guess we will never learn. Houses are shelter not investments. I think the best thing for America is if house prices fell and we let them fall. Maybe then my kids could afford a house with out getting a 65 year mortgage. If rent wasn’t so high then maybe the local hardware store could compete with the big orange box. How much of the cost of a hamburger is the fact that the store sits on a half million dollar lot? It seems to me every time the government fixes something the small guy gets screwed. I was checking the small business bureau web site and they consider a manufacturing out fit with 499 employees to be a small business. Then again we voted in the same congressmen and senators one more time! We change presidents from a big business to a big government and then back again and keep expecting different results. I guess I’ll stop ranting for a while. I just hate to see my “craft” suffer and more important I hope my fellow craftsmen can survive and enjoy the time off.

View ShopCat's profile


51 posts in 3574 days

#13 posted 11-06-2008 06:07 AM

Therein lies an interesting saga. I have pondered those issues for a lifetime, and in the process read many books. To store the books required shelves, and one very efficient way of building shelves is to create built-ins.

Now, after many books, and many built-ins I have concluded all the built-ins I created +twenty years ago were done all wrong. So far as book storage goes, I actually have a few empty shelves, so rebuilding the shelves will not solve a storage problem. None the less… there are many times when the more woodworking I do, the less happy I am.

I’m not sure that man was totally intended to be happy.

-- ShopCat

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3888 days

#14 posted 11-06-2008 06:19 AM

life will never change

for 5 thousand years men and women have seen mountains and climbed them. When they climb up the mountain they get naked due to inclemant climate or twisted boss with whipand everybody climbing up, if they climb high enough, gets naked due to twisted boss and when you are at the bottom and looking up you see nothing but @$$h0/$ and when you reach the summit and look down you see nothing but smiling faces?????

we need a purge and thus this financial meltdown, for those who bought a house and couldnt afford it, for those who gave the loan to those who couldnt afford it…..........its like seperating the wheat from the chaff… was bound to happen

I think if folks live within their means and finally realize that they really arent that special, that they might not deserve a car, a meal, and/or the simple pleasures we all take for granted, that some one out there really wants what we have and works harder for it, longer for it, that capitilism is a double edged sword and that we are not exclusive to it…...........

the world is changing

be thankful for that!

Three cheers for Obama

He isnt afraid

Nor am I

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3717 days

#15 posted 11-06-2008 07:27 AM

We have been lead to believe that we can have it NOW and pay for it LATER and do it all over again. Well, the hole in this concept finally gave to a big tear in the fabric and many who have foolishly believed they could have all the newest, latest, bigest, nicest stuff to be had on their tiny paycheck are in a big MUCK. The banks marketed the endless lines of credit that gave a false sense of worth to those who didn’t have a clue. But can we really blame them for our own stupidity if we know we only have a certain income but we keep buying more to enjoy it NOW!? I don’t wish to see any family lose their home to foreclosure, but didn’t you really think that it was a little risky buying all that house, all that car, all those gizmos that were a bit too expensive? Do the math, it’s not that hard: $$$ – $$$$$ = not enough $$.

We actually under bought in our home, as it was a fixer-upper and not real large, but not real small, just right for a starter home. We were both hesitant in getting more house than we could handle in payments, although a bigger, fancier one would be delightful to live in, the mortage could have been twice or thrice what we are paying now. We were even looking to purchase farmland to have more freedom and luxury of spacious bounderies. Our hesitation to buy something too far to commute to actually has saved us. We both worked downtown DC and needed to commute within a reasonable distance from work to home as the jobs pay better in the city, so you pay the price of commuting. Because we settled for a comfortable home and have been fixing it up ourselves gradually as finances allow, we have been able to stay within our means. Of course one always drools about the bigger and better, but I’m quite happy with what I have and will keep fixing up my little castle.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3717 days

#16 posted 11-06-2008 07:43 AM

Getting back to the original subject: Has anyone looked into cashing in on the Green movement? As a homeowner, I am interested in saving money and going green. Going green is not usually cheap but if there is a way I can improve my home and eventually save money by going green, then I may be coaxed into giving some of my $$ to install some of these new products. This may not be the wood craft entity that one wishes to make a living in, but it could help pull you through hard times and finance your beloved wood working. You can always market that sideline once you get in the door.

I’m eyeing a gizmo called a PowerSave unit that when installed by an electrician to your home, it monitors your use of electricity by all the gizmos and appliances you use so that you are not wasting current, only using what is actually needed. This does not work on appliances that conduct heat such as toasters, but will make your lights, refrigerators, etc., more efficient. I had this verified by an electrical engineer, so I have been told it is a legitimate unit. Other energy efficient devices are being invented and marketed and hopefully some of these options can bring some jobs and income to help us through this hardship.

Maybe some of you have an idea of your own that you could try to market and install. Homeowners want to update their nests even when money is tight, so a moderately priced item may still be within their reach and interest. The unit mentioned is $300. plus installation. They are looking for re-sellers, so if anyone is in the construction business, this could be something to look into.

Surely there are some clever inventors out there too!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View ShopCat's profile


51 posts in 3574 days

#17 posted 11-06-2008 03:12 PM

Waaay back, again in the ‘70’s, Jimmy Carter created a very substantial tax break for those that added solar heating and energy to things. I did my whole house at that time with a hot water system based on the ‘drain back’ model. My monthly heating bill on my 1200sf house has seldom been more than $30 since then (I live on a ridge at 5,900 ft in Colorado. We see -20F no problemo), and zero for about 30% of the year. That includes heating a lot of water for diapers and showers for 25 years including many with a couple of teenage soccer players.

All good, but unfortunately the boom in solar construction caused a lot of scuzzy operators to go into building and generated a lot of products with dubious value. There were many penny stock ‘solar energy’ companies that never produced anything of a tangible nature. I suspect that you will see something similar coming from the Obamists. Take advantage if they do, but be careful.

-- ShopCat

View Boardman's profile


157 posts in 3756 days

#18 posted 11-06-2008 03:31 PM

I’m just hoping that people were holding their breath and cash until the election. Not getting into anyone’s politics, hopefully the in the pre-election time people were “waiting to see” and now that a decision has been made they’ll resume “normal” living, whatever that is.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4155 days

#19 posted 11-06-2008 06:38 PM

“be happy”... cut back if that works for you, take a 9-5 if that works for you, but do it because you believe it is the right thing for you and “be happy”.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3887 days

#20 posted 11-07-2008 02:41 AM

Yep Shopcat, I got heavily involved with solar in the ‘70s. Carter created the tax breaks, and a large industry was created almost overnight. Then Regan killed the tax break and the whole industry was quickly out of business. If Regan had left it alone, I would be a millionare now.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3549 days

#21 posted 11-07-2008 07:55 AM

I think right now, people are scared so they are saving their money and only buying stuff they really need. That means we have to reinvent ourselves. I’ve been saving and investing money during the prosperous times just for situations like this. I think people will come to their senses and business will come back, it will just be a matter of time.

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3978 days

#22 posted 11-07-2008 08:06 AM

you can go to the dance unless you buy the ticket first …

don’t give up on ebay … start a ebay store and list your studio furniture for whatever you need to make for them… use the BEST OFFER option …. you might find a collector for your work. sales and activity is down for me, but I’m still making almost as much with my glorified hobby then my grown son does in a full time job working at a factory in rural Tennessee. Granted , most-of-my work is most recently selling direct to the collector,... then I’m currently selling on ebay, but the collectors I sell to were all are the result of contact thru ebay auctions

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3643 days

#23 posted 11-07-2008 08:55 AM

Well, woodworkers tend to have some good qualities:
-ability to learn and implement
-problem solving
-abstract thinking
-designing solutions
-and working with the materials at hand.

I’ve been diversifying out of woodworking for several years now -
and made quite a bit of money on the internet. I still enjoyed
woodworking though so I’ve tried to keep a hand in it.

When people are hurtin’ for money they don’t want wooden-ware,
they want :
-to make money
-to learn new skills to make money
-to lose weight
-to save money
-to look better
-to be healthier…

...and so forth. There are some clever people here who
could come up with a lot of good ways to make a lot of money, without
even touching a saw – if they put their minds to it.

I suggest diversification and looking at what other skills you have and
how they can be applied to filling more abstract needs than the need
for cabinetry in the marketplace.

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4059 days

#24 posted 11-07-2008 04:41 PM

Click for details

I would think something like this, or other “green” solutions might be a niche worth exploring. Of course light manufacturing sounds drab and risky until/unless your distribution network is established and you find your client pool. Other thoughts: Wooden computer enclosures, mice, remote “boats”, signs, garden trellises, bird, bee and bat houses. I feel for all of you, having never felt that I could hang it all out there with out the company health insurance, steady paycheck, etc. I wish all of you the best while weathering the downturn until things turn around.
God bless…

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4309 days

#25 posted 11-07-2008 05:18 PM

Good information Dan and Loren.
Douglas one of my ideas was to revive my old bee raising days and try to build fancy bee hives…go figure.

View mski's profile


439 posts in 3975 days

#26 posted 11-08-2008 01:28 AM

Get creative and think what people will buy or need when they are scared to spend.
Like economical Christmas gifts, build more but less expensive products
Hang on.
And remember what my Mom always told me,
It will all come out in the wash!! just gotta hang in there


View mski's profile


439 posts in 3975 days

#27 posted 11-08-2008 01:51 AM

Another thought,
Turn OFF TV, saves on electric and keeps mind free of toxins.
Burn Newspaper before you read it, keeps you warm.
And for GOD’S sake DON’T listen to talk radio wack jobs (ALL OF THEM )!!!
Like MsDebbieP said P/T Job they suck but whatever gets you through the storm,


View rickf16's profile


390 posts in 3576 days

#28 posted 11-08-2008 01:54 AM

I look at it this way; God is still on His throne and he has everything under control. Trust in Him.
I know it’s not much, but it comforts me knowing my Father in heaven is looking out for us. Actually, just after my company announced “no more overtime”, I got about three or four orders from clients. They were quick and easy to make, also my initial cost was low. A blessing.

-- Rick

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3919 days

#29 posted 11-08-2008 07:29 PM

After retiring in 2001 I moved to Florida to retire and peruse my hobby of woodworking after about one year of fishing 8 hours a day and woodworking on and off I went to woodworking 8 hours a day and fishing on and off we rented a home for the first 2.8 years then at the top of the market we bought a house that has left us in a reverse mortgage. For those that don’t know what a reverse mortgage is it means you owe more then the house is worth. After about 6 months in the home I went back to work so I could afford to remodel the home thinking it would be worth a lot more when I was done. WRONG! I put about 30K into it and my own labor and now I sit at about minus 70K. Taxes and insurance went up by about 20%. After working for about 14 months I got real sick with Whopping cough which put me out of work for 5 months but after recovering I decided to try woodworking as a full time job and loved every minute of it, I worked at building my skills for about one year and was about to stat really looking for customers that would pay for my skills. That was 6 months ago and it has not been a very successful search so I decided to start looking into the craft show seen once again. (Another story).

I was lucky enough to get a call from a defense contractor but that only lasted 5 months before I got laid off along with 8 other people, with the promise of returning in 6 to 8 months. I hope to make a successful endeavor out of the craft show circuit. Well that’s my story or at least part of it.

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3978 days

#30 posted 11-08-2008 11:48 PM

Cash flow …

Friend in Tennessee is still making a living on ebay. He has a pretty good eye for antiques and collectables. He hits or drives by nearly ever garage sale in his mostly rural county. His finds have included a old spoon he bought for two dollars that he sold for almost $400. He has two old chicken houses behind his house, One for storage and photography, the other for packaging and shipping. His ebay sales are well over 70k a year and he is technically retired.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View grovemadman's profile


556 posts in 3767 days

#31 posted 11-09-2008 01:49 AM

Dennis, I have always admired your work ethic and craftsmanship. I am sure you will make it when better times return. I have had to swallow my pride and take jobs I considered well below my experience level and personal worth! Sometimes being laid off again(3 times this year) only to find myself scratching with a failed business, no resources, and a depleted savings.
As I watch business after business crumble and crush under the current economic circumstances, and watch as people’s dreams are blown away with the next reach, I too fear with questionable anger and uncertainty How did this happen? I could ponder this question at length – or pick up the pieces of desruction and try to figure out what I can contruct with them… Because that’s what I do, I construct things and I find myself and other areas of my life I never knew existed while I’m doing it!
Something good will inevitably come of all this, meanwhile I appreciate what I still have left and this may get taken away soon too!
Fight on Brutha!!!!!

-- --Chuck

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dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4309 days

#32 posted 11-09-2008 02:09 AM

I remember in 92 we had a slow down. I was out of work and so where most of the carpenters who trained me. I ended up going back and working at the first job I ever had, driving a truck. The company had a new owner. I worked for two days at a third what I was use to before he ran out of work for me. I’m actually putting my energy into building and selling furniture. I’ve been planning this for years, but have been stuck making money in construction. So now I’ve got the time, the tools, the skills now I just need the customers. Oh and that money thing…darn! I figure I have three months to get this thing rolling.

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2199 posts in 3934 days

#33 posted 11-09-2008 02:56 AM

Good Luck Dennis. The money thing gets in the way of a lot of plans, so I hope you find the customers necessary to keep you working.

-- Working at Woodworking

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2128 posts in 3919 days

#34 posted 11-09-2008 06:42 AM

Yesterday is “history”
Tomorrow is the “future”
Today is a “gift”
Which is why it is called the “Present”

Believe it or not I picked that up while watching Kung Fu Panda with my grand daughter

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321 posts in 3776 days

#35 posted 11-09-2008 08:45 AM

Improvise, adapt, and overcome…

Be well….....

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

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1492 posts in 4201 days

#36 posted 11-09-2008 04:58 PM

—-and then tomorrow the new economy is….old economy….till I decided to keep a short list and live in the economy of the moment ! Only one word is needed…..economy.

Use it up….wear it out….make do….or do without and, then the truth just is, that since I started living this way, (and remember one starts to live first by a thought in their mind) a man thinks, so is he….I have never been without and I’ve all-ways had an abundance.

Thank you.

-- --frank, NH,

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2180 posts in 4000 days

#37 posted 11-12-2008 02:08 PM

Dennis good luck with the furniture. You definitely have a unique look going for you.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

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5032 posts in 3888 days

#38 posted 11-12-2008 02:23 PM

get rid of all the fat, all the phone extras, the computor extras….............start cutting out all the excesses that a luxury, not a real “need”. Get rid of overhead including any personel that isntpulling their wieght or making you money.

Turn the thermastst down, put it on a timer if needed. Instead of buying the tool you want only buy what you “need”

Stay versatile. Furniture touch ups, refinishing, repair. Recommend a “re-face” instead of a gut and replace with new.

sell some one elses product…............if some one can make a door and sell it to you for less then you can buy the raw material…............then do it.

There is only reallyone golden rule for business. You always have to take in more money then you spend

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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65 posts in 3693 days

#39 posted 11-23-2008 11:09 AM

I hope this isn’t taken the wrong way…I believe there’s plenty of business to be had you just have to go knock on more doors to get it. It would be nice if we were well known enough that people were knocking on our doors every day but the reality is fewer people are making the decision to spend money right now. That doesn’t mean that no one is willing to spend money though.

It’s easy to get down about it and blame a whole host of factors for the money not coming our way but in the end I believe we have a lot more control over it than we think. Here’s an easy method I use to keep me focused or at least help me explain what’s going on in my business.

I assign points to activities. 1 point for obtaining a lead, 2 points for actually discussing a product with a person who can make the decision to spend money, and 3 points for closing a deal. Guess what? The more 1 and two point activities you have the more 3 pointers will come your way. When I’m having a poor month I look back at how many leads I’ve actually followed up on and usually I’ll see that I’m not doing well at that.

For my online activities I usually get 1 or 2 sales for every 100 views of my stuff. For in person sales the close rate is higher.

Also don’t overlook your previous customers. I maintain a mailing list of everyone that I’ve ever dealt with and with their permission keep them updated on what I’m doing and what I have for sale. It works.

For the record, my business is down from last year but I also noticed that the more marketing I do the faster I’m getting it back. Hope this is helpful. Good luck to everyone and stay positive.

-- Allen, Milwaukee, WI

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Bob #2

3809 posts in 4016 days

#40 posted 11-23-2008 03:16 PM

I don’t know if this is any consolation to you all but it would appear that this paradigm shift in the world economy will bring China to it’s knees. The economy here is like a runaway train and the majority of the world’s assets are being traded there for questionable product.

All politicians must consider bringing jobs back home to support the new shift in employment.
Because corporations have no sense of loyalty nor do they-claim a nationality they have become the enemy of the people shifting in and out of countries without any moral or social obligations.

I am sure that along with the new order that each country will have to change it’s laws to reflect a fair share of return from this shape shifters.
When this happens the economies will return. Until that the debit will worsen.
So how am I dealing with the new economy?

Hard work and incisive spending.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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scott shangraw

513 posts in 4064 days

#41 posted 11-23-2008 03:17 PM

Dennis ,I agree with WIwoodworker think the business is still out there you just have to fight a little harder for it.I have been VERY fortunate this year it actually has been my best year so far.I had a big push with the huge lodge order (posted a few days ago) but I still have quite a back order going and still getting inqiuries on new peices.I not sure what is actually helping me I think it has to do with a few things.I have been doing numerous shows every year trying to get my name out there ,thats were about 75% of my orders have been coming from ,some are people I talked to at a show maybe 2 years ago(the lodge order was from the Western design I think about 4 years ago).Lately I have had a little press in a few magazines that has helped also ,but we just did not get that by chance either my wife is always trying to submit to the mags and it just started paying off a little(God bless her !!!!)And the last thing is this past year for the first time we are getting activity on the web site this is mainly do the my wife again, and her due dilegance on learning about web pages and search engine rankings(also she spends considerable time on follow ups with potential customers).Let me just say I would never be able to accomplish what I have if it was not for my wife we make a great team she handles all the business stuff and leaves me time to create peices ( she also does ALOT of sanding !!!!)All this said though we are still VERY frugal we try not to spend any$$$ unless absolutly needed,we trimmed all the fat,drive used cars and buy used tools etc.And when I travel for shows I tend to camp and sleep in my van instead of motels.Anyway thats were I’m at.And I always stop and thank the man above for which none of this would possible.

-- Scott NM,

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dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4309 days

#42 posted 11-23-2008 05:33 PM

More hope! Glad to hear about your success Scott. I’ve always had crazy luck knocking on doors. I’ll bang on a door and have it slammed in my face. Then have some guy down the street I didn’t even talk to will give me a call. All I really know to do is follow Bob’s advice and get to work.

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scott shangraw

513 posts in 4064 days

#43 posted 11-24-2008 12:57 AM

Well from the projects of yours that I have seen You definitly have the talent you just have to get the clients,Good luck to yah!!!!

-- Scott NM,

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Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3978 days

#44 posted 11-24-2008 01:16 AM

Denniis sells high end stuff. It may be a place for your studio furniture. There is a application process online.


-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

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117 posts in 3452 days

#45 posted 12-07-2008 11:00 PM

Dennis this is my very first entry on this site. But I have some insites for you. But 1st a question….Have you ever heard how a race car driver stop himself from crashing? He never looks at what he might crash into, he looks at where he wants to go. If he looks at what he might crash into he SURELY crashes….food for thought. I’m just getting back into wood working after falling off a highrise building, going bankrupt to the tune of $750,000 and not having my own home anymore. Boo hoo
Now how I think of things, my father was a mastercraftsman, I was a mastercraftsman at 18 scuplturing and I also have training in Hypnotherapy, I KNOW how the mind works. Put in what you want, not what your don’t want…....90% of the people out there are still employed..stop looking at the 10%. Why no target the rich, they still spend money? Get free advertising, give some to charity..radios HAVE to put on your ads for free.

View mart's profile


190 posts in 3619 days

#46 posted 12-08-2008 01:34 AM

I was reading Mike Dunbar’s (Windsor Institute) blog relating to this matter. A very interesting read and some good advice. Here’s the link I have agree with him that folks are going to cut back but as he notes a great selling point for our products is that in most cases they will be around longer than it takes to grow the tree that made them. How much greener can you get? It can be a great way to promote quality in a time when perhaps customers may start to demand more of it in their purchases.


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dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4309 days

#47 posted 12-08-2008 02:13 AM

Good points, Yoda and an interesting blog, Mart. There was a bankruptcy auction for one of the large local cabinet companies yesterday so already a lot of the competition has disappeared….but my eye is on furniture not wall street!

View stevareno's profile


10 posts in 3453 days

#48 posted 12-08-2008 02:30 AM

I was a Master Journeyman in the IBPAT. I saw the beginning of the end here in Cincinnati back in 2001. I left the Painters’ Union when a guy from one of the largest commercial contractors here told me that the building I was working on at the time, would be my last. It seems that the 3rd generation of family had taken control, and these already filthy rich brats were going into “construction management” instead of building themselves! They got rid of all of their in-house Union carpenters, etc.

The two largest Union painting contractors in town are out of business now. We simply could no longer compete in the market any longer. I like to say we were phased out. When you need to study Spanish in order to speak with the drywall finishers, you know we were in trouble.

I have since taken a job with a company as an Industrial spray painter. I feel lucky, as this corporation is virtually recession-proof. However, we rely on coal-fired power plants and off-shore rigs for the bulk of our business, so we are taking a “wait and see” attitude with regard to our new administration.

Ohio is becoming a dead zone once again. Detroit is all but gone, and so is much of the supporting business here in Ohio. Housing is at a stand-still, and existing residential work has died, as people choose to eat, rather than paint little Suzy’s bedroom purple! This domino effect is evident everywhere you look. Strip malls are emptying out, as small businesses fail. Car lots are wastelands. Truckers were suffering from the fuel costs.

I lived through the late 70’s here, and we weathered that one too. This is the low after coming off of the peak. Everything is cyclical in life…we will all make it again….I hope!

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44 posts in 3461 days

#49 posted 12-14-2008 03:31 AM

ITs a ride we have to go on. We do high end custom work as well as imported builders cabinets. The later really hasent sold for months. We used to do a ton of work for “The Green Building Center” here in Utah. Richlite, Paperstone, Bamboo cabinets ect. The problem with GREEN is expence. People want to do good till they see the material bill. It will turn around. I just hope the new administration doesnt tax us out of existance.

Weve down sized from 6 employees to 3. While expanding our shop to make it more efficiant. Lower heat settings. Less night work and no longer are company vehicals being driven home. All cost cutting and those things help. Weve had a awfull lot of companys close there doors in the last 6 months. Mostly due to over head with tons of payments on new machienery. From day one we only buy what we can affords to spend in cash. Thank God for that policy. Its kept me from worrying to much.

-- See our blog at

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Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3957 days

#50 posted 12-14-2008 04:11 PM

Dennis, I recently got a call back from a client from a year ago. Wound up with a bar to build. also picked up some leather work. Just need some more for next month. We might be limping but we ain’t dead yet.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

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