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Woodworking Co-op

by Andrew1605
posted 10-18-2009 02:28 AM

23 replies so far

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18265 posts in 3669 days

#1 posted 10-18-2009 02:33 AM

co-op to buy tools or a shop to use them?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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15 posts in 3184 days

#2 posted 10-18-2009 02:49 AM

I’m thinking an actual shop. I read an article not long ago about a group in Boston. They have a shop and several members who share the shop space. Every member is his own boss but the jobs,( whether it be a kitchen or furniture piece or architectural), are billed to the customer through the shop as a whole. The individuals are payed through the shop as contractors on a 1099. If a job is big enough , they help one another out to complete the project, making payment arrangements on a case by case basis.
Apparently, there is a core group of guys who take turns every quarter as co-op business mgr. and when a bench or shop space is free, they bring in another member periodically by a vote of the existing members. Whatever tools you bring into the co-op, you leave with when (if) you leave the group. This particular co-op has been going now since the early nineties, I believe. So far, it seems to work, although I’m sure it has it’s issues.
Anyone else familiar with anything resembling this?

-- Its not Rocket Surgery!

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10874 posts in 3552 days

#3 posted 10-18-2009 03:10 AM

Sounds like a great idea. I’ll follow this post and see what develops. Where are you located? Interesting concept.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View a1Jim's profile


117085 posts in 3570 days

#4 posted 10-18-2009 03:12 AM

I know Portland Oregon has a building with many artisans that share space in one building But I don’t remember it’s name.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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2828 posts in 3278 days

#5 posted 10-18-2009 03:21 PM

Sounds like being married to a half dozen women at the same time. I’m sure there are some advantages, but also see where it would be tough to please them all. I’ve heard of co-op’s before, but not quite like that. Usually they share a large space. (You can rent a 15,000sq.ft. building a lot cheaper per sq. ft. then you can a 2,000 Sq. ft. space}. Each woodworker has his own alloted space and then shares some of the common space, and each woodworker has his own cliente’s. If the project is large enough, he may get help from some of the others, but mostly each is independent. They share the rent and overhead and will share the cost of someof the large stationary tools. (Example: A small shop may not be able to afford a 24” planer, or a large molding machine, but the co-op can go in together and purchase a large machine and it’s used by all. They all share in the purchase and they share in the maintance. Some co-ops will have a common office space with a receptionist taking care of all the incoming calls etc. There’s a lot more to it then that, but I’ve heard it’s worked in a number of areas. That’s one you better have a strong business plan before you venture into. Good luck and keep us posted.

-- John @

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Paul G

5 posts in 3141 days

#6 posted 10-20-2009 11:10 PM

I don’t know specifically about woodworking co-ops, but you might want to see if there’s something like TechShop in your area. The focus is more broad than just woodworking—it includes things like electronics and even software development.

A place called i3 just opened in my area, and I’ve been meaning to check it out. Members pay a $100 monthly fee for 24-hour access to the space and tools. I believe i3 itself is a non-profit, and most of the members are amateur hobbyists.

Here’s a list of similar facilities.

View mild's profile


2 posts in 2867 days

#7 posted 07-14-2010 05:02 AM

hey Andrew—don’t know if you are still looking into this, I just stumbled on your post. I’ve been a member of two coops, that had similar organization. For us, the coops were ways to sharing the expense of being a small business, machinery being so expensive, space also being at a premium. Neither was a business coop, but I suspect that’s what most people imagine, but shared space, machinery, experience, and often coffee. Definitely how I prefer to work, but people in this area seem very attached to having their “own”. Good luck.

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260 posts in 3019 days

#8 posted 07-19-2010 04:09 AM

hmmm, being married to five women at the same time… interesting thought….

-- Lloyd Kerry; creator of the Kerry-All Pouch,

View woof's profile


2 posts in 2778 days

#9 posted 05-05-2011 06:24 AM

Hi Andrew. I have some information on Co-op shops. The ones I have heard of typically there is a main person who owns all the machinery, pays the building lease, utilities, etc., and may or may not provide the actual benches. There would be a fee, usually per month you pay to this person for the bench space and use of machines. How consumables ( Blades, sharpening, maintenance etc) are handled would be specific to each shop. This is how all the woodworking co-op shops I am aware of are handled. Sharing of income or any business mingling does not occur except on a case by case basis out of necessity. These shops are very common these days, at least here on the west coast, Machines and building costs being what they are. Good luck, you will find something. SW

-- Steve Wolfe

View Mike_in_Columbus's profile


5 posts in 2996 days

#10 posted 05-05-2011 02:49 PM

In Columbus Ohio we have a guy who kind of has that idea. I am linking the website below. He does a pretty good job with the tools and leaving you alone to get done what you want to do

-- Look Ma still got all 10 fingers

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258 posts in 2643 days

#11 posted 05-05-2011 03:25 PM

I wonder how high the liability insurance is? Gotta be crazy expensive.

View poopiekat's profile


4354 posts in 3728 days

#12 posted 05-05-2011 04:18 PM

There was a nicely equipped 10,000 sf shop here in an industrial park. They had dream machines that generally sat idle. They did do woodworking seminars occaisionally. You could sign up and have free run of the shop, for $18.00/hr. But if you used their wide-belt sander, the price was $36/hr. I think rent eventually forced them to close, but I felt they did not aggressively market themselves.
I’d personally prefer a situation where a bunch of woodworkers could rent personal space for our own workshops, with a common area providing access to a few machines, jointer, planer, DC and TS available to all tenants. Though, yeah, insurance would be a nightmare….

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View TechRedneck's profile


768 posts in 2850 days

#13 posted 05-07-2011 02:50 AM

You may want to check out the West Virginia Wood Technology Center in Elkins, WV. Here is a link to their site:

It was started by the county development authority years ago with the help of a federal grant to assist the secondary wood products industry. The industrial tools are available for a nominal fee for use as overflow or to test a piece of equipment they may be interested in.

In addition to the shop there are around 26 local amateur and professional woodworkers who have their own equipment in the same shop. For a monthy fee of ( I think $30) or so, any member can use the entire shop. They meet monthly, have safety training and guest speakers on various topics.

I was a member for a couple years but since I live 30 minutes away I started building home my shop. The guys and girls there were a great help to me and I still enjoy stopping by and talking shop with them.

As a woodworker, I guess I am lucky to live in an area with lots of mills, cabinet mills, flooring mills and molding mills. I worked at the Wood Tech Center for a while and actually had keys to the place! Give Matt a call and he can answer your questions or send me a private email if you want more information.

-- Mike.... West Virginia. "Man is a tool using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.". T Carlyle

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3 posts in 2390 days

#14 posted 08-30-2012 05:05 PM

I realize this is an old thread- I hope some are still reading it. This is an idea I have toyed with for some time as well. My idea was to find a group of maybe only 10 like minded woodworkers to combine their resources and build a great shop together. The rationale is the same- 10 people can afford much better equipment that 1. And it would be nice to have friends around for advice, assistance, etc. Each person could have their own bench and nook for their personal hand tools. Also, it would get all my tools out of my garage! Any ideas?

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1 post in 2046 days

#15 posted 10-12-2012 06:54 PM

So.. lots of people with a good idea (including me). Has anyone come up with the business plan? Marketing plan? Financial forecasts?

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1739 posts in 3724 days

#16 posted 10-12-2012 07:32 PM

I used to belong to a carpentry co-op.
It’s still going strong. In the winter when things get slow, some of the guys go on unemployment insurance. The original core group were experienced carpenters that had worked for themselves for years. They were all used to being the boss, but in a co-op the hierarchy is flat, meaning nobody is anyone else’s boss. As such when we had meetings everyone had to learn to listen and compromise. We had one guy who was the business manager and he handled the day to day business dealings. He was payed the same hourly rate as the other members. The nice thing for some of the guys that had been working for themselves for years, was that the business manager now took care of paperwork, invoicing, etc. leaving them free to do carpeOn a job site there was one guy in charge of that job and everyone else had to respect that. It’s not for everyone, and it took a while to work out the kinks, but they are still going strong.
Here’s a link to their website.

-- Mike - In Fort McMurray Alberta

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1 post in 1326 days

#17 posted 10-02-2014 04:46 AM

we can do this need all the woodworkers in sw Mi.

View ebbflow's profile


15 posts in 1684 days

#18 posted 03-06-2015 05:38 PM

I am very interested when expanding, in expanding into a worker cooperative model. Here in the SF Bay we have an organization called the Sustainable Economies Law Center that specializes in assisting cooperatives start up & thrive. This includes legal advice, offering business resources, as well as direct training. They’re a rad organization that’s really allowing communities to organize themselves in a robust way in spite of a shaky legal/economic climate.

-- "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in." -Greek proverb

View alohafromberkeley's profile


257 posts in 2398 days

#19 posted 03-07-2015 11:17 PM

Co-ops are a great idea….In SF Bay Area we have worker (too many to name, but “The Cheese Board” is one of the better known Co-op), living ( I live in a limited sweat equity housing Co-op in Berkeley that started in 1977)....One of the better known woodworking groups in Berkeley is the “Heartwood Woodworking Shop”...Some are incorporated and some are less formal….either way they are a big part of the fabric of life in Northern Cal…..”Let a Thousand Co-ops Bloom!”.....Thanks for the link, ebbflow….....Wes

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

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1 post in 811 days

#20 posted 02-29-2016 05:09 PM

Hi Everyone! New to LumberJocks but am very interested in this post. I have been kicking around the idea of a carpentry co op in the Northern Colorado area for some time now. My vision would be like some of the other posts above…. 1 central shared area where all the big tools are located and private workspace for each member. I see it as a place where people of all skill levels come in to learn, share, advise, or just a place to do that project that has been on your mind for years but you have no place to do it or tools to do the job. We are a college town so there are plenty of Sculptors and artists as well as kids going through college that are trying to help pay there way. I will check out all of the suggestions above but if anyone has a business plan that has worked could you please share?

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955 posts in 1145 days

#21 posted 02-29-2016 05:29 PM

This just opened up near me a week ago. It is not a coop but a pay for membership.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View MGKIRELAND's profile


14 posts in 553 days

#22 posted 11-13-2016 05:36 AM

Andrew, I’ve thought of this idea many times myself. Starting a shop yourself, costs many thousands of dollars. Sharing that expense, with other like minded woodworkers, makes a lot of sense! Obstacles are definitely in the way, finding a location, choosing the machinery, and most importantly how to get it to pay for itself (with maybe a small profit for yourself, for starting it). I believe it can be accomplished. Factoring in your location, motivation, start-up financing and marketing. Please let me know how you do. It just may motivate me to go forward too! Good Luck!

View JAAune's profile


1797 posts in 2310 days

#23 posted 11-13-2016 08:38 PM

Co-ops sound like a great way for people to start out but I can’t see how a business could flourish in one utilizing shared machinery in the long term. Efficient workshops need to be organized for the products being produced and no one setup works for all businesses. The shared spaces where everyone has their own section for a workshop and shared machinery is limited to big iron sounds much more doable.

After being in my building for 2 years, I’ve launched the first phase of a major reorganization. Without co-owners, renters or landlords to stop me, I was able to build a bunch of new fixtures and remove an unwanted workbench at moment’s notice. Once that bench is gone I’ll soon move onto moving/selling equipment followed by a redo of dust collection and electrical. I can’t imagine the nightmare of consulting with multiple inhabitants and trying to come up with an inefficient compromise that is passable for everyone.

-- See my work at and

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