Motivation starting out

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Forum topic by dragginbutt posted 11-09-2009 02:42 AM 1677 views 1 time favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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28 posts in 3154 days

11-09-2009 02:42 AM

Hey folks, just wondering what everyone’s motivation was when they started woodworking.

Did you start it as a hobby and it turned into something else, or were you planning a business from the start?

How did this change your approach to woodworking, and the tool selections?

Did you have a market already in hand, or was it something that developed over time?

Are you willing to move into doing something new and away from what you have been doing just to chase a few dollars and was it worth it in the end?

Would the professionals do it again, or would you have preferred to have kept it as a hobby.

Which brings you the most satisfaction? Hobby or a profession?

13 replies so far

View BlankMan's profile


1490 posts in 3377 days

#1 posted 11-09-2009 02:55 AM

I wanted to build a fancy wine rack of my own design, so I looked into the tools and machines I would need. Got a fully equipped shop now. Haven’t built the wine rack yet….. Too many other projects interceded.

For me it’s a hobby, gets me away from my professional work. Hobby’s have become professions for me, including my current one, although I still do it as a hobby also, and I enjoy my work, it’s not quite the same.

Woodworking will remain a hobby for me. However, when I retire, which is what I have been gearing up my shop for, I may make things to sell, but will keep it at my pace so as to remain fun. Gearing up the shop now while I can afford too so that once I’m retired I only have to buy wood.

Me and one of my buddies entertained the idea of going commercial at one point, as have myself and other woodworking friends since then. But it’s hard to get established, and with all the cabinet shops around it can be cutthroat. And everybody wants a deal over quality, just don’t want to deal with that. I’m sure repetitive mass production would take the fun out of it so I won’t be going there.

My Dad was into woodworking as a hobby too, had the tools and some machines. I tired it when I was young, but got frustrated, couldn’t make anything square. But when I got older, patience probably had something to do with it, but I learned quality tools and machines played a part, but more so, having those tools and machines properly setup and aligned is the key.

Now I no longer worry about things coming out square, they just do. Probably my patience in milling the wood along with accurate machines. Any box comes out square, regardless of the size. And I’ve heard it said if you can build a box that is square you can build most anything, because when you get down to basics, most things in some shape or form are a square box.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

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18286 posts in 3700 days

#2 posted 11-09-2009 03:00 AM

I started as a kid whittling out toys I didn’t have and never quit building things ;-)) Never did it as a profession, other than a side job or two.

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

View LesB's profile


1748 posts in 3467 days

#3 posted 11-09-2009 03:05 AM

Mine started of necessity. Remodeling an old house and not having enough money to hire some one who knew what they were doing. Today I could pay but know what I’m doing and can’t stand paying someone else for what I know I can do cheaper and often better.

-- Les B, Oregon

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Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3846 days

#4 posted 11-09-2009 03:11 AM

Les and I think a lot alike. My enjoyment of woodworking was a direct result of home improvement and refinishing projects. These led to the tools, the foundational knowledge and desire to pursue woodworking as a hobby.

Would I consider going pro? NO WAY!! My wife would sum this up with her usual comment on my work- “You do beautiful work but you are toooooo slow”. If I had to rely on my woodworking skills to pay the bills I definately would end up going to bed hungry a lot of nights.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Scott 's profile


103 posts in 3383 days

#5 posted 11-09-2009 03:28 AM

I have played in the shop as long as I can remember. I guess I just grew up into it. I only do it for a hobby but would consider the money end of it if I needed to. As far as motivation goes, having a shop in my family is like wearing underware…..its just something you are suposed have. My goals at the time, are to replace all of the crappy MDF furniture in our house with my stuff.

-- Scott, South Carolina

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3309 days

#6 posted 11-09-2009 05:40 AM

25 years ago I took my coat and tie off and threw them in the closet and decided to make saw dust for a living. I had no desire to be a cabinet shop…....I’m not into production, based on speed and price and waiting to get paid for my work, so decided to focus on quality custom cabinetry and furniture. There’s been a lot of good times and there’s also been hard times over the years. I’ve built a strong customer base, but it’s a non stop effort. What keeps me going is my passion for woodworking. I love every aspect of it, so that makes it easier for me. From selling, designing, building, “sanding” and finishing, even to cleaning the shop. I would love to be known for my woodworking, but wish it was now instead of 100 years from now! LOL.

-- John @

View shopdog's profile


577 posts in 3509 days

#7 posted 11-09-2009 05:39 PM

I also started woodworking out of necessity. I had to build my own house down in Costa Rica. I didn’t have electricity, or any skills…but I did have about 10-15 handtools, a carpentry textbook, and a Sunset book on building. I also had a lot of time, and beautiful hardwoods. That was back in 1977. It came out good, and is still my house, although the termites like to eat parts of it, and I keep replacing the boards with new ones.
I also made all of the “furniture”. I got the woodworking bug, and went on to build 2 more houses down there for friends. When I moved back to NYC, I worked for contractors as a finish carpenter, and then a cabinet maker. I still get a few jobs every year for built-in bookcases, but deck building, fences & pergolas are my main focus. I just like to be outside, and the $ is good
I still love making sawdust, and spend alot of my free time in the shop…turning, scrolling, and making other things like birdhouses, cutting boards, etc. Those things are always made to give away as presents.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of woodworking, whether it’s hobby work, or for pay. Since I do get paid, my wife never complains when I buy tools, which is the most fun of all.

-- Steve--

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4242 days

#8 posted 11-09-2009 06:00 PM

My dad was always the handy-around-the-house type, so I grew up around tools…. but not really “woodworking” ...just general carpentry type of stuff.

I was pretty much the same way throughout my adult life. I always owned a drill, circular saw, jig saw, etc., and did minor tasks around the house like putting up shelves. Then one day in January of 2005, when I happened to be walking around Home Depot, I saw a display of Ryobi table saws for $89. I had some extra cash in my pocket, and it just seemed like something I might have a use for once in a while, so I bought it on impulse.

Well, the rest is history. The first time I ripped a board on that cheap little saw, my mind exploded imagining all the things I could do now that I had the power to size my own lumber! My first project was to make a box out of various scraps I had lying around, and an addiction was born. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Barto's profile


24 posts in 3339 days

#9 posted 11-09-2009 09:00 PM

I’ve always been quite handy, always building things. Work in IT and miss using my hands so really need my daily dose of making sawdust.
Don’t see how I could make a living out of it though. I know an excellent cabinet maker who is installing kitchens (nothing wrong with that) because he can’t make enough money making cabinets. Maybe the New Zealand market is too small.

-- Bart, Waimauku NZ

View bench_dogg's profile


63 posts in 3161 days

#10 posted 11-13-2009 05:03 PM

I was furniture shopping with my wife one day when I thought ‘if I had a table saw, I could probably make that way cheaper’—well here I am a few thousand in tools later, those prices look a lot more reasonable :). Turns out though I really like making furniture, I spend a good bit of time thinking about it. The corporate world often takes a good idea and turns it into a mediocre one through the committee process. I like that what I build is my creation and I have total control over it. Nobody is going to tell me I have to drop a big ugly lazy susan in the middle of my table because someone in marketing thinks customers want easy access to the gravy.

View rustedknuckles's profile


160 posts in 3775 days

#11 posted 11-13-2009 05:32 PM

I started like a lot of folks here did, as a youngster watching Dad in the shop and “building” things from the scraps. I went into trade school after high school and took a 2 year program in wooden boat building with the intentions of doing this for a living. As luck would have it I landed my first job about a month before graduation ( the shop owner let me finish the course). That job took me from my Maritime roots to the big cities of Upper Canada to work in the pleasure boat industry. Let me tell you, I had an eye opening experience there, what seemed like living the dream as a young man quickly turned into the personification of the addage “time is money”, and mistakes are even bigger money. In short, the money stank, the job stank, or more accurately the boss stank and I moved on to a teaching career, as things would have it teaching shop. Since then and a few job changes I have learned that wood working as a hobby is far more relaxing than wood working as a job.

-- Dave- New Brunswick

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117115 posts in 3601 days

#12 posted 11-13-2009 06:05 PM

For me it was watching good old Norm he made all his projects look easy so when I needed an entertainment
center I thought I’ll just make one. After making that entertainment center I was hooked and it grew into a contracting and separate furniture/cabinet shop . I wanted woodworking to be my full time business and worked at it. There was more of a market for the remodeling business so it grew faster then the cabinet/furniture business,but eventually did gain business. I think in my area and most areas you have to take business your other wise not interested in doing, so if you call that selling out to make something to make money so be it. I call it making a living and most people need to do that unless there indepently wealthy or want to do the starving artist bit. would I prefer to do woodworking as a business or hobby? I have enjoyed having a woodworking business and it has paid for the equipment I have now and paid the bills, but I would be able to make what I want instead of what customers want if it were a hobby. Would I do it again? Yes!

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3917 days

#13 posted 11-13-2009 06:32 PM

I know when I started I really, really liked woodworking and really sucked at it. That said I had two toddlers who were constantly hungry, rent to pay, heat and hydro, and with ZERO dollars/jobs in engineering due to the recession of the 1980’s, I thought at least best to stay in school and studied Industrial Woodworking. Thinking back, there was absolutly nothing in the program that even remotely resembled “Industrial”.

I got an apprenticeship at a growing custom furniture/kitchen cabinet shop and continued to suck at it. The boss must of liked my slave wages and me because I miraculously didnt get fired. After a few years I realized that my skill level was increasing disproportionatly to my wages. looking around at the other guys, some with 10 years more seniority then me, I realized that thier paycheque sucked so I gave notice, thanked them for their patience and blindly started my own shop to which I have very few regrets.

In the early ninety’s another recession reared it’s ugly head, business as I knew it vaporized almsot instantly and after the Xwife finished skinning me I had as much to my name as the day I was born ZERO, pennyless but at least I knew how to hitchhike so I spent the next decade working for wages that sucked and for bosses who were nothing short of terrorists but I did learn a lot, retained a bit, quit and started subcontracting to cabinet shops.

Eventually I started subcontracting to one single shop fulltime and after another decade of pure frustration I became a partner. he hated me as much as I hated him so we went our seperate ways and I am happy to say that the X partner and I are now friends.

and the rest is history yet to be written as I hope and pray that the current wife wont skin me as bad as the first one.

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

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