The Difference between Professional Woodworking and Hobby Woodworking

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Forum topic by shipwright posted 01-25-2012 02:25 AM 2652 views 1 time favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7992 posts in 2824 days

01-25-2012 02:25 AM

There’s no “right” forum for this one. Just made an observation today that when I was building boats for a living things were as they should be. That is to say that the bigger the job was, the longer it took.

Now I’m retired and building much smaller projects and it seems to be going a little sideways in the project size vs. duration of construction department. I’m under the impression that if I build anything smaller than the little six inch cube box that I’m working on now, I may have to live to a very old age to complete it.

I’m wondering if any other retired woodworkers have noticed a similar phenomenon.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

31 replies so far

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4112 days

#1 posted 01-25-2012 02:36 AM

This is why it is improper to price an item by size!


View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2830 days

#2 posted 01-25-2012 02:51 AM

when we/I retired, I pretty much don’t even look at a clock anymore. when the sun comes up, I wake up (hopefully), and when the sun goes down, well, it’s time ta hit the hay. I don’t get in any rush whatsoever on any project, really.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4104 days

#3 posted 01-25-2012 02:51 AM

Just an interjection about semantics!
The definition difference is;
Look it up!
I have known AND seen an individual AND a “company” receive “compensation” based on the distinction!
There was a definite difference (to the better) on the part of the “hobbyist”, and to the “better”!
Take a look at all the posts here and you will see!
Some folks get better pay, based sometimes on the label!
Just saying!
(ANYONE) that disagrees, let me know!

A professional gets pay for their efforts, and a “hobbyist” may OR may not be compensated!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View DocSavage45's profile


8601 posts in 2869 days

#4 posted 01-25-2012 02:55 AM

Size of the workspace, may limit size of the project? Without the bigger space a lot of time is invested in setting up?

Maybe getting older means you don’t have to build big to prove yourself?

Krenov eventually just made his planes. But he kept going, even after he lost his sight.

You’re not retired just changed careers?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Nighthawk's profile


556 posts in 2383 days

#5 posted 01-25-2012 02:56 AM

The Difference between Professional and Hobby

Practise… & money

The Difference between Professional Woodworking and Hobby Woodworking

Time scedule and pressure to proform well…

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

View Schwieb's profile


1858 posts in 3488 days

#6 posted 01-25-2012 03:03 AM

Paul, I’ve never been a “professional” woodworker, if the definition of that is you make your living at it; however, I’ve been around woodworking since even before I was born. My Father was a self-taught woodworker and had his own business, I grew up immersed in this experience. I have two younger brothers that have made a living at woodworking, but neither love it or certainly explore it as much as I do. They both say that they neither have the patience nor the energy to persue it further. I think I’m the lucky one, especially now that I am nearing retirement from my “professional” career. Most of my life woodworking was about doing things I needed to do for personal or family reasons: Shelving for home, remodeling, building an office to practice in, getting things built that I couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do, business needs, the house the way I wanted it to be, etc.

In my retirement I am able to spend whatever time I want to, doing whatever I want, and it’s OK. I’m proud of the buildings I have built, the cabinets I have used for 30 years in my office, the trim work in my house, but the satisfaction of a well done turned bowl, a nice box, wood strip kayak,or a guitar in the making, is priceless to me and brings great fulfillment.

I think you are very fortunate to have made a career of woodworking and still love it enough to execute the finer things. In my experience, smaller usually equals proportionally more time, because the details really count.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View JAAune's profile


1802 posts in 2343 days

#7 posted 01-25-2012 03:39 AM

I work as a full-time professional and as a hobbyist out of my own shop. There’s definitely a difference in how I approach a project. At work I stay very focused and stick to deadlines. Also, once I finish making detailed drawings and begin the fabrication process I’ll seldom make any unnecessary alterations to the original design. Even complex projects get completed quickly with this approach.

On my personal projects I often end up messing around with new ideas and altering my designs on the fly. It takes a long time to complete even simple projects for that reason.

-- See my work at and

View RandyM68's profile


693 posts in 2344 days

#8 posted 01-25-2012 03:45 AM

I think it takes you longer because you care more about what you’re doing. Professionals are doing it to pay the bills, that doesn’t mean they do their absolute best to do it perfectly. Most of us are just trying to make it ‘til quitting time. You try to do enough to not get fired and maybe get a raise every now and then. Even working for yourself, people rarely put their heart and soul into every thing they do. They just do enough to make sure they get paid. As a hobbiest you are building something that you and your family will be looking at for years. You will know every single thing that you did wrong. Most people would never even notice that that board is 1/16” too short, the extra hole, or a slightly over-sized hinge mortise. You will know, forever. It’s not about the size of the project except these little bitty slip-ups are magnified. Who cares if your boat is a 1/4’ out of square. Try that with a jewelry box for your grand-daughter.

-- I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you. I'm sorry,thanks.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2716 days

#9 posted 01-25-2012 04:55 AM

Paul, If I had the talent to create the beautiful pieces you build, I wouldn’t care how long it took me!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4245 days

#10 posted 01-25-2012 05:08 AM

I can build a bookcase quicker than I can build a small box. The smaller the project, the less room there is for error.

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

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2824 days

#11 posted 01-25-2012 05:24 AM

This was a passing observation. I had no idea it would get this much discussion. I think that I take more time now because I’m playing and letting my imagination run where it will. When I was building yachts I had someone else’s money and time tied up and owed them my best work in the best time.

I agree that some people working for a paycheck may not give their best all the time and I know the many discussions that have been held here about what a professional is but I can honestly say that I built every boat as if I were going to sea in her and never settled for less than the best I could do.

I guess that in the long run it’s mostly just about attitude and responsibility. A hobby is just that and shouldn’t warrant the commitment that a commission demands.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View cathyb's profile


793 posts in 3270 days

#12 posted 01-25-2012 05:28 AM

I’m working at a frenetic pace at the moment to prepare for a big show this weekend. To me there never was a difference between working as a hobbyist versus making a little money. My work ethics never changed and my drive is as strong as ever. I was never in for the cash and have always been a lousy businesswoman. To be honest, the things I make appeal to so many people that I just lucked out. As long as people keep calling me to make their furniture, I am a professional furniture maker. When the phone stops ringing, I will be a hobbyist again.

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View a1Jim's profile


117120 posts in 3603 days

#13 posted 01-25-2012 05:41 AM

It doesn’t seem to matter what size the project is I have two speeds slow and slower. Another point Paul when you built boats you had a lot of help ,now you do it all by yourself.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2824 days

#14 posted 01-25-2012 05:49 AM

I ran a one man shop most of the time Jim with a helper or two if I was really busy but having other people around does keep you working.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 3009 days

#15 posted 01-25-2012 06:28 AM

shipright, pro or hobby? money and pressure is the difference.
how about a side question, brought on by your answers. you professional retired types; shouldn’t you pass on in some way, your knowledge to a younger guy, wanting to learn parts of this working skill?
i know you can’t completely teach a guy, how to build a boat; but aspects of it , or your six inch cube box; making secrets. just a thought. i wish i had such a chance.

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