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Forum topic by Harry4386 posted 07-18-2018 03:34 PM 1302 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Harry4386

9 posts in 95 days


07-18-2018 03:34 PM

Hey guys, new here, first post. I am going to be starting a woodworking business soon. Currently reading some textbooks, watching videos etc. I want to make dining tables, dressers, bed frames etc. So it makes sense to make bed frame dresser sets eventually. Since I’m going to be doing dining tables, should I also be making dining chairs? If I am to make them, is my best bet having only a couple designs which I master, and just change up the finishes to match the table? I mean rather than probably struggling with a bunch of complex chair designs, from what I see, chairs look pretty finicky once the designs get a bit more complex. So my question is should I be specializing with making a couple nice elegant fairly simple to build designs or stay away from chairs and just sell the tables? I imagine I should be able to make a bit more money with full sets eventually, once I nail down the processes.

Also, I’m a mechanical engineer that can’t find work in my field, figured I’d create my own work doing something I know I will enjoy, so I’m not just looking for a get rich quick scheme but just want to ensure I succeed by having a good plan, knowledge, and work hard.

Thanks.


32 replies so far

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3992 posts in 1914 days


#1 posted 07-18-2018 06:04 PM

I would first do some research about your business. Is there enough demand for high end quality furniture in your area? Shipping cost can be tremendous and time consuming as most any furniture you make has to be crated.
Time, material, and overhead has to be calculated to the price of furniture. With high end furniture comes high demands so you may have to have a website and possibly a physical gallery. Most buyers of these type of furniture will look at what you have and want modifications made. Customer may say, “can you make me a dining room table like this one but with a lighter color wood, a little wider and the chars should have captain back”. Demands like that put the maker in custom builder category which can be very stressful based on customer’s timeline. If what you make is not appreciated, you will more likely get negative reviews and that can really affect your business. You will have to do quarterly tax reports, maintain a travel log, estimate you depreciation on your machinery and all that accounting jazz.
For me, the hobby is wonderful because it is therapeutic and stress reliever from my day job.
It can be done if you have enough resources and can make high quality furniture and some how get your name out there (have Oprah, Martha, other celebrities promote your product, donate to smithsonian, etc.).
I am not sure where you live but I believe TX can be good location for a person with your degree.
Good luck

-- earthartandfoods.com

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Rich

3661 posts in 735 days


#2 posted 07-18-2018 06:20 PM

Besides the large pieces, which will be slow movers, look at some smaller items. I do residential doors, and when an order comes in, it’s generally for a house full of doors, which adds up to some serious cash. Often the orders come in groups, since customers like to show off their new doors and that generates more orders. I also go for months at a time with no orders.

I fill in by making smaller pieces that sell in the $30 to $300 range. Items like that are always in demand for gifts, etc. They are also suitable for sale at craft shows where a ton of money can be made. I’ve managed to get pieces into retail settings. That provides a good quantity of sales, but it’s at a wholesale price, so I get less per piece. You also need to consider what wholesale pricing is worth it for you. Retailers all want keystone pricing, but for some items with a large material and labor cost, that’s just not practical.

On the opposite end of the residential door scale, I make premium chopsticks. I have gotten them into specialty shops in Santa Fe and Taos, where they retail for $40. Even with keystone pricing, that’s a good markup for a tiny bit of wood, although the labor is substantial since they are 100% hand crafted.

In summary, offer quality furniture, but have smaller items to fill in the dead times. Look into wholesaling and craft shows. I’m fortunate that my wife is a retired marketing executive, and she is the one who got my stuff into the stores. It’s also good to have a representative who can talk up your work for you.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Harry4386's profile

Harry4386

9 posts in 95 days


#3 posted 07-18-2018 06:26 PM

I’m near the GTA (Toronto) so would likely just deliver the stuff myself. Would be making it just to sell it at first to get some pictures and everything. Will be using all the online resources, Facebook, Pinterest, Etsy, website etc.

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

1374 posts in 309 days


#4 posted 07-18-2018 06:42 PM

Rule of Thumb: never let anyone see the work that you yourself are not proud of.

best of luck in all your endeavors

.

.

-- I started out with nothing in life ~ and still have most of it left.

View enazle's profile

enazle

66 posts in 154 days


#5 posted 07-18-2018 07:10 PM

Rich is giving you some really sage advice. There are different levels of woodwork firms as far a quality and capacity. Successful firms seam to grow into their own niche through a common path. From production cabinetry to bouquet furniture makers, they all have to generate enough sales to stay in business. The problem the custom furniture maker has is attracting enough commissions where price is not an object. Rich has created a custom door business which is an offshoot of Architectural woodworking. Premium Grade Architectural woodwork projects include everything from the doors, frames, casings and wood base molding all the way up to the Reception, the secretarial and Associate’s workstations to the Boardroom table and chairs. If you can find a niche as Rich pointed out, you will be able to get bigger and bigger pieces of the project. I remember many little $20,000 jobs we farmed out to former employees that are perfect examples of jobs that had the potential to lead to other jobs. Get out and introduce yourself with as many interior contractors as you can. Find out who in your area does prefinished Premium Grade woodwork and show them your work and ask them for leads. If your a 1 or 2 man shop, you may be a perfect sub for them?

I would also suggest you learn how to spray finish and do/make finish samples. Giving a potential customer a high quality sample of your finish is the best calling card I ever found. I remember several jobs where the decision was made by the customer to pay more to our firm because our finishing process.

Good luck, if you have any questions shoot me a message.

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woodbutcherbynight

5559 posts in 2555 days


#6 posted 07-19-2018 03:30 AM

Some sage advice from some knowledgeable people above.

One thing to remind yourself going in, mistakes will happen, some really bad and possibly have to start over at a loss. Try not to think your going to get $20,000 first few times out.

I have a good friend from the Marines. He started in his garage 25 years ago making cabinets for people local. Then got a big job that took alot of capitol and time. That went well, but was stressful for him. That job led to another big one and now 25 years later he ONLY makes custom order stuff well over $50,000 a hit. No website, no employees, does it all by himself. Works out of a converted 3 story firehouse last 15 years. And takes 4-6 weeks off a year. If you met him you would never know, very low key and just takes life like it is.

2 things, 1. he stayed at it even when it was very hard. 2. guy never got married.

LOL

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Charlie H.'s profile

Charlie H.

276 posts in 796 days


#7 posted 07-19-2018 03:38 AM

Where are you located ?

-- Regards, Charlie in Rowlett, TX --------I talk to myself, because sometimes I need expert advice.---------

View tomsteve's profile

tomsteve

828 posts in 1365 days


#8 posted 07-19-2018 12:40 PM

firstly, i wouldnt by a new table without chairs.
secondly, i personally dont like having to look through and decide on a bajillion choices of one certain product.

View Harry4386's profile

Harry4386

9 posts in 95 days


#9 posted 07-19-2018 03:23 PM

I’m around Peterborough, not far from the GTA.

So that’s one question I had. Would I be able to sell a nice wood table without chairs if it’s sufficiently cheap? Seems like a touch place to start trying to build an entire table and chair set for the first thing I build, would take some time.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

3092 posts in 1627 days


#10 posted 07-19-2018 04:08 PM


Hey guys, new here, first post. I am going to be starting a woodworking business soon. Currently reading some textbooks, watching videos etc. I want to make dining tables, dressers, bed frames etc. So it makes sense to make bed frame dresser sets eventually. Since I m going to be doing dining tables, should I also be making dining chairs? If I am to make them, is my best bet having only a couple designs which I master, and just change up the finishes to match the table? I mean rather than probably struggling with a bunch of complex chair designs, from what I see, chairs look pretty finicky once the designs get a bit more complex. So my question is should I be specializing with making a couple nice elegant fairly simple to build designs or stay away from chairs and just sell the tables? I imagine I should be able to make a bit more money with full sets eventually, once I nail down the processes.

Please take this as constructive I’m not trying to discourage you but the vast, vast majority of consumers looking for a dining tables, dressers and headboards are going to a furniture store, not a furniture maker. Its a very tough business to start because of the extremely limited market willing to pay a premium for custom woodworking and furniture.

Trust me, no way you can compete with $50 solid oak chairs from Ikea.

I am finishing up a trestle dining table I can tell you I have north of $500 invested in the lumber and probably 200 hours of my time. I would have to charge $4500 for the table to make $20/hr. And I haven’t made the chairs yet!

What I’m saying is there’s a reason why for every custom furniture maker there are, like 10,000 cabinet shops. I know a couple guys with shops making some furniture, but they all make there living in cabinet work. They both told me they lose money on furniture but do it because the love ww’ing. IOW the cabinet shop subsidizes their furniture making.

Also, I m a mechanical engineer that can t find work in my field, figured I d create my own work doing something I know I will enjoy, so I m not just looking for a get rich quick scheme but just want to ensure I succeed by having a good plan, knowledge, and work hard.

Thanks.

- Harry4386

What exactly does “create your own work” mean? There’s no such thing as “build it and they will come” in woodworking :-D

Yes you need both a marketing and business plan. The analysis is what mahdee and rich said.

You’re going to have up front capital investment to get things off the ground. My suggestion is to start building a portfolio, which means, start building some pieces. Doing this will help you with design, efficient production, and time. Have them professionally photographed. Get some brochures printed, start a website, Facebook etc.

You could target interior designers, high end builders, etc. You could show your pieces at an art fair or other venue like rent a booth at a home show.

And no, I wouldn’t think you could sell a dining table without chairs.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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Harry4386

9 posts in 95 days


#11 posted 07-19-2018 04:39 PM


Please take this as constructive I m not trying to discourage you but the vast, vast majority of consumers looking for a dining tables, dressers and headboards are going to a furniture store, not a furniture maker. Its a very tough business to start because of the extremely limited market willing to pay a premium for custom woodworking and furniture.

Trust me, no way you can compete with $50 solid oak chairs from Ikea.

I am finishing up a trestle dining table I can tell you I have north of $500 invested in the lumber and probably 200 hours of my time. I would have to charge $4500 for the table to make $20/hr. And I haven t made the chairs yet!

What I m saying is there s a reason why for every custom furniture maker there are, like 10,000 cabinet shops. I know a couple guys with shops making some furniture, but they all make there living in cabinet work. They both told me they lose money on furniture but do it because the love ww ing. IOW the cabinet shop subsidizes their furniture making.

What exactly does “create your own work” mean? There s no such thing as “build it and they will come” in woodworking :-D

Yes you need both a marketing and business plan. The analysis is what mahdee and rich said.

You re going to have up front capital investment to get things off the ground. My suggestion is to start building a portfolio, which means, start building some pieces. Doing this will help you with design, efficient production, and time. Have them professionally photographed. Get some brochures printed, start a website, Facebook etc.

You could target interior designers, high end builders, etc. You could show your pieces at an art fair or other venue like rent a booth at a home show.

And no, I wouldn t think you could sell a dining table without chairs.

- rwe2156

create my own work i.e. start a business i can work in. so youre saying i cant just build something and sell it, but then at the end youre saying i need to build stuff and sell it to have a portfolio. basically i want to build something, table, table with chairs, whatever and put it on a plethora of social media accounts. and again, i dont care if i make much on the stuff i build to begin with. people seem to eat up unique furniture on pinterest, etc, so i think i need to go with something that will stand out and not just be a cookie cutter project.

good advice on reaching out to builders and interior designers, i will likely do that once i have some stuff built.

also, the tables at ikea are trash, im sure the chairs are too, but ya, 50-100 for a chair is cheap, but again, if i cant make a dining set that looks better than something from ikea, im probably in trouble doing any sort of work for money period.

View JADobson's profile

JADobson

1207 posts in 2257 days


#12 posted 07-19-2018 05:50 PM

Good luck with your endeavour. I have a full time job and am selling a few things on the side to make a little extra cash. I’m busy enough that I have a three month wait period right now but I’d never dream of leaving my job for it.

Don’t underestimate Ikea – they are your direct competitor. You might think they are junk but millions of consumers would disagree with you.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

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eflanders

310 posts in 1996 days


#13 posted 07-19-2018 05:57 PM

Your product portfolio will be determined by your target customers /market. Your competitors will determine your pricing. Trying to learn what will sell at a decent profit is one of the hardest things to do in business. I’ve made both large pieces and small items trying to find a good niche at a price that makes it worthwhile. So far, while I have established a very good reputation, no particular product I’ve made so far has been definitive as a high demand niche product. Thus I have been unable to rely on the income derived so far to support myself on woodworking alone. Keep in mind that repeat sale items also mean repetitious work and you need to have a completely different work layout and process than doing one-off custom work.

View Harry4386's profile

Harry4386

9 posts in 95 days


#14 posted 07-19-2018 05:59 PM

well ikea is what it is, i need not compete with them. i need to be using designs, finishes and materials that will separate my work from theirs. part of the issue i guess is my income earning ability through employment is so low, i just dont see how i couldnt make 15-20$ an hour a while after i start doing it. my degree is essentially useless and id rather do woodworking over factory work. and if it doesnt work out, im going bankrupt anyway lol so it really doesnt matter. if i do fail but still make some good pieces, i could almost definitely make 20$ an hour at a cabinetmaking shop, given i can use cad and cam software.

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Harry4386

9 posts in 95 days


#15 posted 07-19-2018 06:26 PM

I think Pinterest and the like are great for determining what people like, there’s a lot of work on there that you aren’t going to find at ikea that would be easy enough to build repeatedly.

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