You Don't get something for nothing

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by Bob Kollman posted 08-05-2012 04:42 AM 2084 views 1 time favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3429 days

08-05-2012 04:42 AM

I guess this is a tribute to my father, as much as it is a statement about success in wood working. To wood work is a work ethic, all the rest hold the title of artisans. My father told me from day 1 in my life,” that you don’t get something for nothing. Nothing comes easy, and hard work in the end is it’s own reward. “

For the past few years I have worked hard at wood working, I am not an artist. I will not make a band saw box and ask for 300 bucks and wonder why it doesn’t sell. I will make you a pair of bookshelves and charge you 600 bucks. But most reading this forum could do the same. Wood working is work, and people will pay for hard work.
I don’t buy into the crap that you can buy better from Ashely’s for less…I can build better for less than Ashley’s can import.

What I love to hear is what sells???? Well anything that people use and need. The trick is how can I keep cost down so I can sell it. Work hard son, you’ll find that if you work hard production time will be reduced.

Do not buy into the crap that Chinese cheap furniture puts you at a competitive disadvantage. Most of there stuff is particle board and veneers, a steuart sauder book case 6’x 2’x 1’ will cost 150 bucks. I can build that bookshelf in pine for 250 bucks in pine or in cherry form 400 bucks. My bookshelves will last a life time in cherry or pine, steuart sauder will be lucky to last 10 years. Buyers know this, as you do.

Hard woods are at there lowest price ever. Builders are in a slump and I am buying wood dirt cheap, now is the time to buy wood. Folks are buying small items, bookshelves, benches, out door chairs, now is a great time to sell wood products, But you will not get something for nothing.

Hard work is it’s own reward in that customers will seek out your quality and workmanship.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

13 replies so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4112 days

#1 posted 08-05-2012 05:23 AM

Bob – interesting thoughts. From my experience, though, most people do not recognize the difference between mass-produced particle-board-core furntiture and solid wood, nor do they understand the difference in quality of construction/joinery. I find that part of the process is for me to educate people on the differences.

I have had people insist that their kraft-paper-on-particle-board coffee table was solid cherry.

I have had people bring me photos of mass-produced paint-grade furniture and ask me to make it custom to their space out of quarter-sawn oak, and when they receive my bid they are shocked because my they thought my price would be less than the big box furniture store.

I had a potential client who had purchased a table from a big retailer, and in three years it was no longer servicable. When she received my bid for a replacement table, her response was “I can just go buy another one at the store for about 20% less than that!” I said “Yes, and you’ll be replacing it again in another three years. If you buy mine, you grandkids will be fighting over it in 50 years.” She bought one from the store.

Unfortunately, our society has become comfortable with buying cheap products and replacing them in a few years, rather than being willing to pay a bit extra for something that will last.

-- -- --

View Lenny's profile


1616 posts in 3765 days

#2 posted 08-05-2012 10:05 AM

Nice post Bob. I guess my opinion falls somewhere in between yours and Peter’s. I guess I would change Peter’s “most people” to “many people”. There definitely is a market out there for good quality items. Our task is to find them, or hope they find us. Some friends recently commissioned me to make a blanket chest for their son as a wedding gift. The family was willing to pay the cost of a good quality, dovetail jointed, hard maple chest that included quality hardware. When I make a nice box that is appealing to the eye, friends say: “You could do well with that box in the right community or if sold to the right gift shop.”

I agree with both of you that many folks prefer to buy furniture and other items that look good and cost little, all the while sacrificing quality. As with most things, it often comes down to dollars and cents. People want to buy something and feel they got a great deal (money-wise) on it. One of the first things a friend/relative will ask is: “How much did you pay for that?” rather than saying, “Tell me about the quality and craftsmanship that went into that.”

On a final note, your Dad taught you well!

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View dhazelton's profile


2805 posts in 2534 days

#3 posted 08-05-2012 12:22 PM

“Hard woods are at there lowest price ever. Builders are in a slump and I am buying wood dirt cheap, now is the time to buy wood.”

I wish the same could be said of moulding – I just redid a room and 60 feet of small crown made out of MDF was over a hundred at the HD, small pine shoe moulding was 89 cents a foot! Doorstop was close to a dollar a foot!

View bobsmyuncle's profile


110 posts in 2929 days

#4 posted 08-06-2012 02:36 AM

“There is hardly anything in this world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and those people who consider price only, are this man’s lawful prey. It is unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot; it cannot be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better”

John Ruskin (1819 – 1900)

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3429 days

#5 posted 08-06-2012 03:58 AM

Thanks for the comments all, it’s nice to have a little blog with positive constructive comments.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4258 posts in 2799 days

#6 posted 08-06-2012 04:15 AM


I have never done professional woodworking nor have I sold it, however, I have found 3 types of buyers.
1. The older folks that want a quality item or a rich individual that will pay for a quality item.
2. The young married couple who are just trying to fill their new house or apartment and can only afford throw away furniture.
3. The Middle who are not sure what they want. They have some cash and would like nice pass me down furniture, however, they do have alot of things demanding their money too and they have to make choices.

When I was married I had some money saved and bought some nice furniture in which I should have waited afew years to do because Kids do trash it sometimes. When my children were older I no longer had the cash and only bought what I needed or could afford.

I really think times are harder now since the great depression and those who can afford it will buy it and those who can not will not.


-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 2931 days

#7 posted 08-06-2012 12:31 PM

dhazelton – At those prices for that “quality” doesn’t it prompt you to go out and buy the machinery to make your own in any kind of wood or pattern you want?

bobsmyuncle – Absolutely true today as back then.

Peter Oxley & Lenny – It all boils down to location, location, location. You need a locaton where people who can afford quality can find your products. I live in an EXTREMELY ecconomically depressed area people here cannot afford anything I can build. Case in point my wife wanted a stool for the kitchen I knew exactly the style she wanted so I knew the best materials for the job and I guessed exactly the finish she wanted even though she KNOWS what I prefer to do. Well the stool cost me about $30 for materials and paint (yes paint she wanted it RED!). Now if a customer comes off the street I would have to, at a minimum, at minimum, have to double the price. The people here cannot afford the $30 let alone anything more so they go buy a cheap plastic one for a few dollars it brakes, they get hurt and go buy another one. Now my stool even in pine as it is I am wondering which of my sons or grandkids will get it when we are gone. If it wasn’t for “dollar stores”(read in cheap C———e crap) these people would have nothing. Personally I have always lived by the saying “A poor man cannot afford to buy cheap shoes” I apply this to all areas of my life.

And an added thought – “Give a man a fish he will eat today. Teach a man to fish he will eat everyday.” These people here have been on social services for multi-generations and have no idea of work ethic, quality, skill. They have no urge to learn skills that will improove their lives. A local teenager stopped by my shop the other day and asked if I could fix his bike. He said it had been sitting around the basement for years and he couldn’t use it. I said ok even knowing I wouldn’t make any money at it just being a good neighbor and doing my “Good Turn Daily”. It took about 5 minutes to fix and when I was done the teen said “How did you do that?” My reply was “Knowlege, skill and tools” I left it at that hoping that that answer would prompt him to at least go to the library and read about bicycle repair.


-- See pictures on Flickr - And visit my Facebook page -

View upinflames's profile


217 posts in 2400 days

#8 posted 08-06-2012 12:52 PM

I agree with the economy thought, but also have found that many people have gotten into “I gotta have it right now”, they have the funds at that moment, kinda “burning a hole in their pocket” syndrome. They probably won’t have the funds tomorrow.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3911 days

#9 posted 08-06-2012 01:39 PM

Nice post, Bob.

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2414 days

#10 posted 08-06-2012 08:25 PM

Quality work means money saved.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2725 days

#11 posted 08-06-2012 10:04 PM

I’ve made a little bit of money from my wood working hobby and while I do agree in general, I find that I get a lot of customers by doing free stuff.
For instance, I had a couple of cardboard beer cases full of 1 1/2” x 1 1/2” x 1 1/4” blocks. These were cut offs from a project I did.
I didn’t want to waste them so I made some cheese cutting boards, small trivets and other stuff out of them. I think total cost was a bottle of glue.
I gave these away as ‘friendship’ gifts, house warming gifts with the welcome wagon lady, and I even made some coasters that I would give away 4 at a time to anyone who stopped by.
From that little bit of advertising I got commissions for 4- 36” x 24” x 2” cutting boards at $300 each, not end grain, just maple and walnut. A pair of butcher block chopping blocks on roll around castors to be used for butchering wild game $550/each, and a set of bedside tables made from mostly plywood and some veneer over them to make them look pretty $200 each.

Location, Location, Location might be very important, but I think that good advertising is also important. The stuff I made and gave away was waste and could have been burned in the stove, but instead I invested a little time and a little glue to make $2500+ in a single month.

Now, it is to be said, I’m not a professional wood worker and some of my works sucks big green weenies, but I think this idea has merit and can be carried on farther.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 2931 days

#12 posted 08-06-2012 10:21 PM

Dallas – Very good! I agree what ever works and what you did worked out quite well.

-- See pictures on Flickr - And visit my Facebook page -

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3429 days

#13 posted 08-07-2012 06:03 AM

Hey Dallas…Improvise adapt overcome Clint Eastwood, Heartbreak Ridge, great movie. I love that phrase.

Over all I have a nice customer base, but I think my real point is that I am always working, and you can make a living wood working, but it is a lot of work. I do not under cut my price, I do not discount other than planned discounts. If you build what is needed they will buy. But I am always working. I wish I could cut a band saw box for 300 buck…but they wont buy that….!!!! :( I work a regular job 40 hours a week and I work for myself 30 hours a week. I will be at the point of wood working full time within the next 5 years, but I do not see my work day getting any shorter. But I enjoy my work at home where as I bored with my job. I guess it is because My business I do everything Buy wood, work with people, bookkeeping, and wood working, design, and sell. My plate is full and I enjoy it.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics