How the Beatles Might Change My Woodworking Career.

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Forum topic by pashley posted 01-08-2012 03:42 AM 2212 views 1 time favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1044 posts in 3745 days

01-08-2012 03:42 AM

Topic tags/keywords: plans

I had a bit of a revelation the other day.

I thought about the Beatles (though it could be any successful artist or software author), and how insanely rich they became because of their music. Yes, they did concerts, though really not all that many; the great bulk of their wealth came from record/CD/MP3 sales. They went into a studio, and over a six months, created their famous “White” album, which then went on to sell 30 millions copies, worldwide. Not bad for six months work.

Then I thought about what I do with my woodworking sideline – built a piece, sell it; built another piece, sell that one. Rinse and repeat.

That’s a bit like the Beatles making an album just for one person, then going back into the studio, and making another album for another person.

No way to make decent money.

So, I reasoned, how to apply that concept to woodworking?

Selling plans that I have created. Make a great product, put a decent amount of time into creating a nice plan, and selling it, for say, $12. Again, again, and again. Put the work in once, and keep selling it for years.

I’m capable of this, thanks to my computer, photography, writing and design skills; it is do-able.


-- Have a blessed day!

30 replies so far

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2972 days

#1 posted 01-10-2012 08:27 PM

It can work if…you still need to the proper marketing of it. It could be a little easier to identify your target market as there are books, websites and other things geared just toward woodworking.

A suggestion to get the exposure is to submit a plan to one or several of the magazines and see if they run it. Would give you exposure and start the building of a list of names for future sales.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3171 days

#2 posted 01-10-2012 08:50 PM

It can work. I’ve done something similar for a couple of knitting patterns that I wrote. It’s nice to sell something multiple times and only have to do the work once! But it did take a long time and a lot of effort/testing to get the pattern into its current form.

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3770 days

#3 posted 01-10-2012 09:20 PM

Challenge is same as the music industry “Napster” types – how many copies will you sell versus a buy one and duplicate it for everyone in your local wood guild etc.

Liability? I don’t know but even though it gets built by someone else – are you then “responsible” for the design?
I sort of do NOT think it is an issue based on all the plans out there, and books on building decks etc, that any failure is likely due to skill of the craftsman and not that there is a flaw in design, but if you design a special Cantilevered Rocking chair, and there is joint failure – - – can someone SUCCESSFULLY claim it is a bad design?

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

686 posts in 2808 days

#4 posted 01-10-2012 10:45 PM

Have you considered the numerical size of the potential market for your product, compared with the Beatle album example?

They were targeting millions of music lovers, mainly young people with lots of cash to spend, but you would have an infinitesimal market by comparison – not only would it be just woodworkers, but only those who would be willing to buy plans (and want to make your particular items).

No matter how excellent your design, I can’t see you retiring on the profits very quickly LOL

-- Don, Somerset UK,

View MrsN's profile


986 posts in 3554 days

#5 posted 01-10-2012 11:33 PM

do you ever follow scroll girl's blog here on lumber jocks? She is a pattern designer of scroll saw patterns. I think making general woodworking plans would be similar. Not as easy as you would think. You need to sell a lot of $12 patterns to make a living.

View KnickKnack's profile


1090 posts in 3594 days

#6 posted 01-10-2012 11:38 PM

I did that a long time ago now – with software. The best day was the order for an additional 10,000 licenses – all we had to do was to fax the client a piece of paper authorising the additional copies. Ah, good times.
I think size of market and preventing it just being posted on the internet are going to be your biggest problems.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

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5849 posts in 3613 days

#7 posted 01-10-2012 11:43 PM

I don’t think there will be the same market for your plans( which the world of woodworking is full of, and give them away free mostly)as was at the height of beatlemania when the beatles were doing there thing a much bigger market and the time was right for them.If the beatles came along tomorrow they would probably not survive for long.They came along when the world was intrigued by a need for such things..The beatles fame popularity is unlikely to ever be repeated by anyone,and has been tried many times.Maybe you feel your patterns will be sought out my tens of millions of addicted woodworkers they won’t be.A good idea which will be ok for some extra pin beer money but not a get quick scheme don’t believe me talk to your bank manager and ask for a loan for such an adventure ( which is not new if it were that easy everyone would be doing it just like every teeenager has had dreams of being the next big stars and 1 or 2 do and even then don’t last long).Please don’t as they say give up the day job or dreams of a day job.Typically people get old machine manuals and sell photocopies of them for extra money few ever live off that as anyone can copy these and sell them do you have plans for anything not already tried then that might be interresting but everyone will copy them and give their pals a fee copy.In Short have fun and very best of good luckAlistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2953 days

#8 posted 01-11-2012 01:24 AM

Would be an excellent idea if it would work!

If you have the kind of talent they had, you will be rolling in the green stuff in no time at all.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3096 days

#9 posted 01-11-2012 01:48 AM

It might work and – if you go for it – I wish you the best.

Yes, the Beatles made a fortune with their music, but how many groups do you suppose never made it past playing gigs in local clubs and finally gave up and got real jobs. – lol

I had some buddies in college who had a garage band that did pretty well in a two state area. They did lots of covers and a few original songs. That’s all they ever did, however. The last I heard of them (40 yrs ago), one was selling insurance, another had taken over his parents farm, and one had been killed in Nam.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Rick's profile


9731 posts in 3060 days

#10 posted 01-12-2012 06:35 AM


I did when evryone was telling me “You’re Nuts.” “Never Work”, BLAH BLAH!!! That was more than 25 years ago. I sold the “Rights” to it about 17 years ago. I Retired at the Ripe Old Age of 49.

YOU have the RIGHT IDEA! You’re selling Paper, Your Time and Your Knowledge. ANY Business with a Large or even Medium Overhead has to crack that nut before you start making anything for YOU. Your Overhead would be How Much??? PHFFFT!

If it doesn’t work, are you going to have to declare Bankruptcy??? If you DON’T at least try it …How long and How often are you going to say ….DAMN! I WISH I had of etc. etc.

How much will you stand to lose with that HUGE (NOT!) Capital Investment??

What did I do? PAPER And KNOWLEDGE. I had a Good Personal Reputation for shall we say “Knowledge In The Investment World”.

I put together an Investment Newsletter (First Class Snail Mail, for a reason) and sold it on a Monthly Basis for $85.00 for a years subscription. I COULD have Charged $800 to $1,200 per year. I went the “Other Route”.

I Contracted out the Printing, Mailing and Mailing List Management. THAT was my Overhead that I could walk away from any time I wanted to.

In 3 to 4 years, some “Corportate Connections”, and a few “Other Things”, it was up to 12,000 Subscribers NOT a Huge Number really. You can do the Math.

pashley: “I’m capable of this, thanks to my computer, photography, writing and design skills; it is do-able.”

It sound to me like you have a LOT more Skills than just Woodworking. Why not bring them Into Play also. Can you “Write” about them? Put them on “Paper”? “Design” something else? “Instruct” on one of your other skils …on Paper?

So …..... How you doin’ so far?????

Regards: Rick

-- LIFE is what happens when you're planning on doing Other Things!

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2532 days

#11 posted 01-12-2012 09:42 AM

Print your plans on one of those musical greeting cards with a Beatles song. They will sell like hotcakes…

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3136 days

#12 posted 01-12-2012 09:49 AM

Using your Beatle analogy, do keep in mind that the White Album was not just a 6 month project but a Magna Opus reaching its peak after decades of work, practice, and acheiving a sound that was previously unheard of. As already mentioned, the overhead is not large and you should be encouraged to pursue your dream. Maloof’s family will be very well off for generations to come in the retail of his rocker plan. Try your hand selling plans to magazines, gauge the interest in your material and see what new things you can bring to the table. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that any dream requires time and labor.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3188 days

#13 posted 01-12-2012 09:57 AM

Pashley, I say go for it. I’ve considered the same thing. I’m guessing that writing a book might be better though. Just a bit less likely to be copied and passed around. I’m not saying it won’t happen, just less likely. I’d stick with snail mail rather than an easilly reproduced electronic file. Let us know what you try.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2972 days

#14 posted 01-12-2012 04:24 PM

Pashley, You have gotten a lot of feedback here both positive and negative. Only you know what your goals and requirements are int eh areas of time, money and income.

You have to make the decision on your own and follow your instinct. Reread all of these posts and take what you learn about the good and bad things and incorporate the possible situations into your business and marketing plan. Put your plan away for a week and then take it out and reread it. If you still feel good about it, go for it. If not, either trash the whole idea or revise the plan and put it away for another week. Repeat until you are satisfied with the plan.

Starting a business is a fun and scary venture. Either way, HAVE FUN. If you can’t have fun doing something, why do it?

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 3745 days

#15 posted 01-12-2012 09:43 PM

Yes, thanks for all the helpful feedback.

There are a couple of apparent misconceptions and missing information I’d like to address.

First, I don’t pretend that there is a market of millions for my product, like the Beatles had; but woodworking is a popular hobby, and I think a market in which guys NEED plans for projects they don’t, or can’t sketch out themselves, is reasonabley large. More than once, I’ve had fellow LJs ask me for plans for my projects. On LJ alone, there is almost 38,000 guys registered, which would make a nice target audience for web ads.

Regarding people stealing or “passing along” my PDF plans. Sure it can happen, but I don’t think it will be enough. MP3s were easy to steal because so many people wanted them, and you could get them easily on peer-to-peer sites, like Napster, or other file-sharing services, like PirateBay, where they swap applications, movies, PDFs, music and so on. I would be quite surprised if you found ANY woodworking plans on these sites, as they are primarily apps and entertainment. I might point out that the music industry was going nuts with electronic transmission of their product, now it’s the prime way of getting music. In short, pilfering is not a concern.

I’m doing this, not as a full-time, must-do, do-or-starve venture; it would be a sideline that could grow into something worth doing full time. Thinking about it, I think I would be more satisfied, artistically, building an interesting piece, creating good plans, and selling them (then, moving onto the next piece), rather than build one piece over and over. They just aren’t selling anyway; not that they aren’t good, interesting pieces, but because not many people want to spend that much money on a clock, table, chair, etc. Also, having it NOT in front of them to experience is a detriment.

Now, how to market it. I could do my own website, and hope that Google bestows it’s blessing upon me; I could take out an ad right here on LJs, or similar websites. I could let a retailer sell my plan alone with theirs, and split the profits. I’d have to look into that.

Let’s look at the upside of selling plans, versus building and selling:

1) Low overhead. No wood to buy, fingers to lop off. No parts, no glue. No packing boxes or shipping materials. I need a computer to be able to produce good plans on, and I have that already.

2) No shipping. Shipping is a pain, and very costly, sometimes a detriment to a sale. Try shipping a table across country, you’re looking at a minimum $200. I’ve had stuff sent back for repair due to shipping damage, and yes, I do pack carefully. Shipping a PDF? Next to nothing.

3) Recurrent income. Building a plan once can produce income for years; building a single piece produces income once. Granted, the income from the latter is substantial, but nevertheless, over the long run, the income from the plans could be more, given the very low overhead.

Rick: it was very uplifting hearing your story. Yes, I am multi-talented. I can do my own photography; i have the equipment, and am good at photography (see my clock pics). I can write well, layout stories, and am adept at using Google Sketchup for the illustrations. I believe I design pretty darn well too. My weakness is marketing, and how to get going at that. You have asked what I have done so far. Well, i’ve checked out the building and selling aspect, and that hasn’t worked out, so I’ve done THAT research, lol. I’m just at the mulling over stage right now to see if it’s a feasible idea, that has a market.

-- Have a blessed day!

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