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Forum topic by Will Merrit posted 01-09-2017 04:37 PM 710 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Will Merrit

83 posts in 727 days


01-09-2017 04:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: woodworking kids business shop money commission

Good morning guys,

I would like to run something by the community I am questioning. I will be transparent in this so you can have a better idea of my goals and wanderings. I am a father of 5 soon to be 6. I adopted my two oldest children from one of my sisters and those are two boys ages 14 and 11. They are all great kids, but in my young age of 30 I have been forced to grow up pretty quickly and am now facing questions about their carrer futures, or at least post High School. I also am a board member of a Classical Christian School where my kids attend, the school is closely tied to our Pres. Church where there are a bunch of families that have 4+ children. The groups of kids are very very smart and many of them do not want to go to college and some do. I am the only income source for my family and I make about $90K a year working just up the road from the house.

I built a woodworking shop with my boys a year ago, its a 32’x16’ and I have stocked it full of good machines and decent handtools. I have made about $1-2K building things for friends and family but have not sought at all to offer my service. People see my work on FB, Instagram and just come asking. I turn most jobs away just because of my time dedication to all the kids and work. Plus, I like to do what I want to do, I aint building no stinking pallet furniture. I have my boys in the shop with me a bunch and they really enjoy building. I never inteded to build the shop as an income source, it was just for my relaxation. I have grown a ton in my time out there and feel like I am pretty capable of building nice furniture.

Here is my question for you guys. Since I live in a relatively small town, (Monroe, LA. Yes home to Duck Dynasty) there are not a ton of jobs/careers that will keep our kids tied here. There is a real lack in craftsmen that know how to market themselves, mostly 50+ year old men who do commission work and remodeling. So, I know if I started marketing my shop I would have orders out the wazoo in no time. Its something I would love to do full time but I just cannot replace it with that $90K I make at work, then there insurance etc. However, if it were possible I would be willing to start marketing the shop by building 5-10 dedicated things that I can mass produce with the idea that I build a name/business in this area. Then, by the time the young men in the school are ready for work I will have them partly trained and have the processes in place for them to come work the shop and make their way in the world. It would probably not be their carrer but it would provide a way of learning a great trade and getting all the intangibles that come along with it, better equipping them to take on a carrer later.

Do you guys think its a sacrifice worth taking? Namely, to start the shop up by marketing a few items, getting that business off the ground and then slowly handing it off to the boys to run as they come of age? I should note a bunch of these boys (especially my 14 yo) have entrepreneur tendencies. There is a real chance one of them takes this thing and really turns it into something big. Even if that does not happen I would be making a stepping stone for them to transition into adulthood.

Thoughts?


22 replies so far

View JCamp's profile

JCamp

472 posts in 384 days


#1 posted 01-09-2017 05:49 PM

I’m just a fuzz younger that u but I’ll throw my two cents in…. to me it doesn’t sound lik a “sacrafice”. I grew up helping on small construction projects I took my birthday money when I was 14 an bought my first scroll saw. When I was younger An had the time I done more with that little saw than I’d ever hav the time to do now. To me it sounds lik ur boys r leaning towards doing at least small projects anyway. With your help they will have a chance of making a little money at it an not getting screwed over. Knowledge they gain thro this will very likely save them money in the long run by them being able to build for themselves instead of paying to hav it done. It’s also worth noting that where I’m at in southern Ohio there’s a bunch of Amish an every group of workers I see they hav their kids with them. The girls An young boys tend to stay home an work around the house an in the garden when the boy are around 8 they tend to go with their dads An do the construction or make furniture in shops. To me they seem to raise good hard working kids.
All that being said I would advise u talk it over with them first. If ur family is in agreement then I’d make a “pool” of money (mayb $2000) an use that to start making stuff and don’t go in debt over that amount.
Also pray a lot An see what God has to say about it. In my experience he knows better than me

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

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OSB

147 posts in 359 days


#2 posted 01-09-2017 06:35 PM

Manufacturing is a tough business. I know one professional woodworker and he owns a shop that makes drawers. Not cabinets, just drawers. He supplies cabinet makers who don’t want to bother.

So a career in woodworking could be just making drawers.

A long time ago I tried to go pro with one of my hobbies but there was never any money in it.

I am strictly amateur now.

I have only seen little bits and pieces of Duck Dynasty but I imagine that behind the beards and hunting, there is a well organized shop churning out calls at a high rate with a lot of bored workers pulling a machine handle at their station.

I don’t want to be too much of a downer but it is tough to find a niche in manufacturing that pays well, allows you creativity and won’t turn your hobby in to a chore (or worse).

Unless you have an idea that seems like it can’t miss, I would want a very specific plan before you jump in.

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Rick_M

10606 posts in 2213 days


#3 posted 01-09-2017 07:41 PM

Best advice is sell the dream, don’t try to live the dream. That’s why so many experienced cabinetmakers run schools, write books and articles, make videos, do speaking tours, etc.

But if you want to live the dream find a product to sell, a niche to fill, like the drawer example. Do something other people don’t want to do. Ultimately you’ll need to sell big ticket items or really refine your production. It won’t be a dream it will be a business that takes most of your time and energy.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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eflanders

218 posts in 1684 days


#4 posted 01-09-2017 09:06 PM

I did something similar to what you are proposing several years ago. I built a niche business hoping that one of my boys would take it over. Sadly things didn’t work out as I had hoped, thankfully I kept my day job. Insurance is a huge issue as well as a costly one. There’s health, workers compensation, liability and more. I would suggest that you discuss your ideas with your family and start to make out your business plan. Be sure to thoroughly research everything: market size, niche, advertising, branding, material sourcing, costing, insurance costs, code requirements, etc.. The written business plan process will help you all to better understand the realities of going after your dream. After your plan has been documented, have several people review it. You will be amazed at how much you may have missed and will learn. Good Luck!

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

9605 posts in 3481 days


#5 posted 01-09-2017 09:12 PM

Get Cabinetmaker+FDM, it’s a trade journal. It’s
free if you say you’re a pro. Woodshop News
is similar.

They cover product development.

One shop idea that really caught my attention was
this business basically just had a bunch of router
templates and a wide belt sander and they were
cranking out wooden multi-compartment candy
and nut dishes and selling them direct to customers
via Amazon… hitting price points under $100 mostly
and you gotta sand out all those core-box routed
indentations, so that’s where the costs were and the
customers in my opinion were basically paying for
hand sanding.

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bruc101

1197 posts in 3375 days


#6 posted 01-09-2017 09:31 PM

I’m going to give you some experiences, what’s now happening and what the future holds for the majority of professional woodworkers, but there will always a be place for the amateur.

What’s happening in the woodworking industry? 70 years ago my great and grand dad started a woodworking shop in a shed attached to a barn. It made livings because they were the only ones anywhere around here that did general woodworking, and moved into cabinet making.

By the time it was time for me to take over management of it, about 30 or so years ago, it had grown into a business with 27 employees and state of the art woodworking machines, and at that time was designated an architectural millwork shop, meeting the growing demand of big new buildings, libraries, courtrooms, schools, etc.

Here we are 70 years later it’s being managed by my 5 daughters, the two oldest with master degrees in architectural engineering. We’ve gone from designing on a drafting board to Autocad now to a $17,000 program called Micorvellum.

We now have 11 employees doing the job of those 27, all but 11 have retired and we didn’t have to replace them. Our shop is still state of the art and it’s now called CNC machines. We don’t pay most of our people to be woodworkers anymore, we pay them to be CNC operators.

This is called automation, and it’s costing 1000’s of people their jobs every year and it’s not going to get any better. My wife and I recently toured a warehouse distribution center. Five years ago it had over 300 employees, it now has five employees that monitor the robots in the building.

There will always be a place for the small woodworking business but will see it’s profits drop because of larger shops automating and selling for half what the small shop can do. We build our own doors and drawers and make a comfortable profit because we’ve automated and can compete. Our highest paid CNC operator is a 28 year old young lady with a degree in mathematics and computer programing. I can’t run the machine nor do I have the desire to learn it nor the math brain it takes to write the programs for it.

Now cabinet shops are having to deal with manufactured cabinets and half the cost of custom built in a cabinet shop.

I would advise anyone going into the woodworking industry now wanting to make above average incomes to think college and automation. To get a job in our business now it takes a college degree and being a specialist in a certain field.

Amateur woodworking fills a much needed niche and I never see it going away, but as a career with a good income to raise families it’s going to just get tougher.

-- Bruce Free Plans http://plans.sawmillvalley.org

View Will Merrit's profile

Will Merrit

83 posts in 727 days


#7 posted 01-09-2017 09:47 PM

Loren,

I appreciate you input and would like to know more about those sources you mentioned…could I get a website maybe? Thanks

Bruc101,

Congratulations on a stellar carrer. I feel the weight of what you are saying and fully agree in as far as making a good income goes. I think its unfortunate that things have gotten that way, but it is what it is. However, I do think that we will see a Resurrection if you will, at some point in handmade stuff come back into fashion. I have some doctrinal points on why I think this but my main reasoning is that its the nature of fads. I mean really who ever thought that people would go nuts over wanting a piece of furniture from a pallet?

Moreover I am thinking about putting the young kids to work making things as a way to grow them up further into a full man. This thing will not be a end unto itself, it will be designed as a stepping stone for them, I doubt I ever make a real profit on doing it, hence sacrifice on my part. But if they can learn how to use those 5 fingered things on the end of their arms for something else than typing and checking their Facebook then it will have served its purpose in a way.

I think its a very sad thing to see so many jobs put out because of tech advancements and I hope that someday, (it will be after Im dead) that this country would covet things that have the good intention and focused work of a human on the other end of it. Things like that do not just come about, there have to be martyrs along the way, sign me up Scotty.

View Rick_M's profile

Rick_M

10606 posts in 2213 days


#8 posted 01-09-2017 09:56 PM

One of the coolest niche markets I’ve seen was a guy who made reproduction wood dashboards for classic cars. He had bunches of templates and would cut them out with a pin router.

Another niche market is making cabinets for tiny houses, motorhomes, airplanes; but there are already a number of people doing it.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View bruc101's profile

bruc101

1197 posts in 3375 days


#9 posted 01-09-2017 09:59 PM



One of the coolest niche markets I ve seen was a guy who made reproduction wood dashboards for classic cars. He had bunches of templates and would cut them out with a pin router.

Another niche market is making cabinets for tiny houses, motorhomes, airplanes; but there are already a number of people doing it.

- Rick M

We do work for the aerospace industry and the rv industry.

-- Bruce Free Plans http://plans.sawmillvalley.org

View Will Merrit's profile

Will Merrit

83 posts in 727 days


#10 posted 01-09-2017 10:03 PM

Bruce,

Awesome plans on your website by the way! Thanks

View bruc101's profile

bruc101

1197 posts in 3375 days


#11 posted 01-09-2017 10:04 PM


Loren, I appreciate you input and would like to know more about those sources you mentioned…could I get a website maybe? Thanks

Bruc101,

Congratulations on a stellar carrer. I feel the weight of what you are saying and fully agree in as far as making a good income goes. I think its unfortunate that things have gotten that way, but it is what it is. However, I do think that we will see a Resurrection if you will, at some point in handmade stuff come back into fashion. I have some doctrinal points on why I think this but my main reasoning is that its the nature of fads. I mean really who ever thought that people would go nuts over wanting a piece of furniture from a pallet?

Moreover I am thinking about putting the young kids to work making things as a way to grow them up further into a full man. This thing will not be a end unto itself, it will be designed as a stepping stone for them, I doubt I ever make a real profit on doing it, hence sacrifice on my part. But if they can learn how to use those 5 fingered things on the end of their arms for something else than typing and checking their Facebook then it will have served its purpose in a way.

I think its a very sad thing to see so many jobs put out because of tech advancements and I hope that someday, (it will be after Im dead) that this country would covet things that have the good intention and focused work of a human on the other end of it. Things like that do not just come about, there have to be martyrs along the way, sign me up Scotty.

- Will Merrit

I’m with you and I agree with you. My daughters were brought up working in our shop and had no time to loaf, and I paid them well too.

You’re doing something that a lot of kids don’t get in today’s society and that’s called parenting and teaching them self discipline and a solid work ethic. You get that installed in them and they’ll be successful adults. I wish you good luck with them and I certainly appreciate the effort you’re putting forth to help lead them into their adult lives and be successful.

-- Bruce Free Plans http://plans.sawmillvalley.org

View bruc101's profile

bruc101

1197 posts in 3375 days


#12 posted 01-09-2017 10:07 PM


Bruce, Awesome plans on your website by the way! Thanks

- Will Merrit

Just saw this post, Thanks and I have many more going on the new website, especially for beginners, when time permits for me. When I get home at night I have a wife and five daughters…hey dad, yo dad, my redbone hound won’t howl at me today, hey dad my horse sneezed today. reckon what’s wrong with her. I’m sure you’re in the same boat with me. :-)

-- Bruce Free Plans http://plans.sawmillvalley.org

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Will Merrit

83 posts in 727 days


#13 posted 01-09-2017 10:10 PM

Great deal Mr. Bruce.

I am having the 6th graders at the school I am a board member at come on a field trip to the shop in the spring. I will have a oak mallet heads for each of the boys as well as a handle. I will probably already have the hole bored for the handle. They will get to use spoke shaves to do the final shaping for the handle fit and shape the head. Then I will let them finish them with some Paste Wax and take them home.

———I only have 1 spoke shave at the moment! I need to go get some more from ebay I reckon.

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

9605 posts in 3481 days


#14 posted 01-09-2017 10:11 PM

View bruc101's profile

bruc101

1197 posts in 3375 days


#15 posted 01-09-2017 10:20 PM


Great deal Mr. Bruce. I am having the 6th graders at the school I am a board member at come on a field trip to the shop in the spring. I will have a oak mallet heads for each of the boys as well as a handle. I will probably already have the hole bored for the handle. They will get to use spoke shaves to do the final shaping for the handle fit and shape the head. Then I will let them finish them with some Paste Wax and take them home.

———I only have 1 spoke shave at the moment! I need to go get some more from ebay I reckon.

- Will Merrit

Great! That might just spark some interest in some of the kids asking their dads, why can’t we do some woodworking.

-- Bruce Free Plans http://plans.sawmillvalley.org

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