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Forum topic by mision56 posted 10-25-2016 08:07 PM 2368 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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mision56

43 posts in 415 days


10-25-2016 08:07 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cabinets question cabinet maker full time woodworker

Hi Everyone,
I am fairly new to the forum, but have been doing carpentry/Woodworking as a hobby for about 6 years. Over the past 2.5 years or so I have become increasingly interested in this as full time gig. I have sold a few pieces, and have done a couple of commissions, but my plan initially wouldn’t be to strike out on my own. Ideally I’d like to be doing custom furniture, but am aware of how hard it is to start independently and good opportunities in established shops are few and far between. Instead I thought I could work up to being a cabinet maker, and then potentially do occasional pieces for commissions.

I currently have a fulltime gig doing marketing, so this would be a fairly sizable step down financially, but other than my student loans (working to get them paid before making the leap) I don’t have a lot of set costs, and unlike most 27 year olds, I don’t drink, so no excessive bar/restaurant tabs to reign in. Also, I grew up in my father’s body shop and doing landscaping, so I am no stranger to hard work and am prepared to start small.

My questions is, once my finances are in order, what is the best way to go about doing this? And what types of experience/skills/tools would help me achieve this in say a 3 year window? Also, what should I expect from a pay standpoint? (I live in New England if that matters).

Also, I have about 6 years doing digital marketing, so I will plan to continue doing some of the contract work I have done to help pay the bills.


44 replies so far

View paratrooper34's profile

paratrooper34

915 posts in 2787 days


#1 posted 10-25-2016 08:54 PM

I can’t offer anything but good luck. I wish I could do what are doing and hope you can find success in doing it.

-- Mike

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

9614 posts in 3483 days


#2 posted 10-25-2016 10:05 PM

Develop a nice looking furniture portfolio and sell
to rich people.

In addition to being not very well paid, custom
furniture is competitive. You’ll need hot designs
of your own or serious reproduction chops. I
would avoid going after Sam Maloof as a lot of
people are doing that.

I would recommend keeping your current career
and bypassing opening a shop specializing in plywood
casework. If you want to do furniture and fine
work, don’t do kitchens if you can avoid it. It’s
a trap!

If you want to work for somebody else, consider
timber framing.

View 01ntrain's profile

01ntrain

210 posts in 906 days


#3 posted 10-25-2016 10:32 PM

Well, the experience with digital marketing will help you, for sure. You’re your own built-in web-designer, which is what’s going to get your work out there for the general public to see. Wish I had those skills….I screwed the pooch when I split with an ex, years ago. She was a big-time web designer in these parts.

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mahdee

3828 posts in 1603 days


#4 posted 10-26-2016 12:08 AM

New England is a good area for this. Lenox, stockbridge and areas where those rich folks live is where I would start. Also, you have the tourist coming from Boston and NY whom you can expose to your products. I used to live there 30 years ago so, things may have changed. For sure, the best plan is transition from one job to another; think of it as your new part-time job until the demand makes it full-time. You need the income from your primary job to support your endeavor.

-- earthartandfoods.com

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MadMark

979 posts in 1288 days


#5 posted 10-26-2016 12:31 AM

Build, build and build more. Get set up to run stuff in bulk. Every time you sell 10X more your production costs need to be cut in half. Get finished inventory ready to sell.

Listen to customer feedback.

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

5050 posts in 2101 days


#6 posted 10-26-2016 12:37 AM

I recall quite some time back another LJ mentioned that he had begun to do retail business out of his workshop. He had previously been covered under his homeowners insurance. He found out as a result of going into the retail area he was required to purchase a business insurance policy as his home owners wouldn’t cover his tools and shop.

Something to consider.

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

1175 posts in 1633 days


#7 posted 10-26-2016 12:39 AM

It’s been a while since someone asked this question.Good luck.
http://youtu.be/VBi4zroEj1w

-- Aj

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1281 posts in 1050 days


#8 posted 10-26-2016 02:59 AM



It s been a while since someone asked this question.Good luck.
http://youtu.be/VBi4zroEj1w

- Aj2


FANTASTIC vid for those who want to venture as a “professional woodworker” thank you for the enlightenment.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View Gaffneylumber's profile

Gaffneylumber

98 posts in 664 days


#9 posted 10-26-2016 04:19 AM

I used to work in a cabinet shop and I can say what used to be fun turns old fast when you are constantly building boxes. Not to mention there is always a time crunch. This generation wants everything built now. It takes a lot of tools that have to be set up to optimize efficiency. I can imagine there will be some high startup costs. Good luck though!

-- Grayson - South Carolina

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JAAune

1769 posts in 2152 days


#10 posted 10-26-2016 04:23 AM

Best way to start is to determine your product/niche. With your marketing background, this should be doable. Once you’ve got that figured out, calculate the ideal outlay of capital required to make it succeed and also calculate the minimum needed (I mean bare-bones minimum) to get things rolling. You’ll want to launch the idea with the minimum outlay to test the market before committing.

If you have to build the first products with a handsaw and chisel do it. Work massive over-time to get the jobs done fast enough to eke out a profit. Once you know sales are happening it’s time to start spending money on acquiring better equipment. Read books on lean manufacturing to get a sense of how big tasks can be done well on small budgets.

I do recommend heavily focusing on a niche. Being good at all things is too expensive and too time-consuming. You want to pull this off in a three year window so you need to keep your goals realistic. You aren’t going to get a shop equipped to build conference tables in three years. You won’t get a name as a fine, custom furniture-maker in three years. You won’t even be able to get the needed skills in three years.

With good coaching and 40-60 hours of work per week, you can become a skilled (but not a master) furniture-maker in 3-5 years or master a narrow, specialized niche in the same time.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View Tabletop's profile

Tabletop

127 posts in 583 days


#11 posted 10-26-2016 08:02 AM

Here is what I did…
Worked for nearly 15 years just building for friends and family. Then when I wanted to go full time I made a bunch of “smalls” and hit the local festivals. I then sent my wife and a few of her friends to several small town “boutique” stores. Many small towns in the south are renovating their downtown areas and opening new privately owned stores They would ask about real wood furniture and if they had any Nashwood furniture. They independently would visit these stores and the last one to visit a particular store would just happen to have my card. For every store that carried my furniture they each would receive $100. This resulted in 6 stores carrying my furniture. The only problem is I was selling at discounted prices so they had room to markup. However, this grew my reputation and has led me to customers willing to pay for quality products. Will I ever be financially rich, No, but I’m happy and not having to sell a kidney.

View becikeja's profile

becikeja

823 posts in 2649 days


#12 posted 10-26-2016 12:08 PM



It s been a while since someone asked this question.Good luck.
http://youtu.be/VBi4zroEj1w

- Aj2

Wow this video cuts right to it. I too want to go into woodworking full time, I have run the numbers against my skill and capabilities every which way I can, and I just can’t seem to make the numbers work for me in my stage of life, so I stay in hobby mode with the goal of selling enough stuff to take a vacation once a year, and completely fund my tool addiction. It works for me…

But don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make it work. You can make a living doing anything if you’re committed to it. Just be realistic on what your financial goals are. I once read an article about a guy who makes a living teaching people how to play croquet, yes croquet. That convinced me anything is possible.

Good luck.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

1503 posts in 1223 days


#13 posted 10-26-2016 12:39 PM

Build your portfolio while you still have money coming in from your current job. Keeping your job while you do that will help you buy materials and tools to hone your skills and designs and start getting some recognition for what you do. You need to find a look, technique, style or niche that sets you apart in your target market so that you can charge enough to do more than just get by. To be more than just another carpenter or cabinet maker (nothing wrong with that if that is what you want to do), you have to be seen as an artist and craftsman so that you are competing for top dollar, not just appealing to people deciding whether to buy from Ikea or you.

My 2 cents.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View mision56's profile

mision56

43 posts in 415 days


#14 posted 10-26-2016 12:58 PM

Hey Nathan,
Your two cents are appreciated. Seems like this is the consensus, spend more time in the shop working on skills and efficiency and find something unique and focus on that.

Thanks for the advice


Build your portfolio while you still have money coming in from your current job. Keeping your job while you do that will help you buy materials and tools to hone your skills and designs and start getting some recognition for what you do. You need to find a look, technique, style or niche that sets you apart in your target market so that you can charge enough to do more than just get by. To be more than just another carpenter or cabinet maker (nothing wrong with that if that is what you want to do), you have to be seen as an artist and craftsman so that you are competing for top dollar, not just appealing to people deciding whether to buy from Ikea or you.

My 2 cents.

- Lazyman


View mision56's profile

mision56

43 posts in 415 days


#15 posted 10-26-2016 01:00 PM

becikeja,
Thanks for the insights! I think the financial aspect of it will be as critical as the skills/marketing. I’m fairly young right now and have been able to keep a relatively small nut (compared to some friends of mine in the same work) but I think getting down and figuring out ways to cut out waste and lower my living costs will be just as important as getting top dollar for my work.

It s been a while since someone asked this question.Good luck.
http://youtu.be/VBi4zroEj1w

- Aj2

Wow this video cuts right to it. I too want to go into woodworking full time, I have run the numbers against my skill and capabilities every which way I can, and I just can t seem to make the numbers work for me in my stage of life, so I stay in hobby mode with the goal of selling enough stuff to take a vacation once a year, and completely fund my tool addiction. It works for me…

But don t let anyone tell you that you can t make it work. You can make a living doing anything if you re committed to it. Just be realistic on what your financial goals are. I once read an article about a guy who makes a living teaching people how to play croquet, yes croquet. That convinced me anything is possible.

Good luck.

- becikeja


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