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Forum topic by ChrisOK posted 11-13-2012 05:09 PM 1211 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 2044 days

11-13-2012 05:09 PM

Hi, My name is Chris O’Keeffe. I am currently looking for a job in woodworking and you seemed like the right guys to talk to. My dad and I just finished putting together a basement wood shop and I cant seem to leave the place. My passion is for fine woodworking (furniture, cabinetry, door making, etc.), but I am willing to start with a carpentry position. My ideal career would be a cabinet maker/furniture maker and owning my own wood shop. I am a strong 26 year old thats highly motivated, a fast learner, and willing to go the extra mile to make sure I one day have a great career in fine woodworking. I am just starting out as a woodworker so I have very little experience other than working with my dad, but I would love to hear your input and suggestions on what I should do to kick start my growth in this craft. I’m currently living in the philadelphia area but willing to travel. Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you. -Chris

10 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#1 posted 11-13-2012 05:19 PM

Good luck Chris
It might help if you let folks know where your located.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#2 posted 11-13-2012 05:25 PM

Look into timber framing. I have seen apprenticeships available
for people able to travel. It is also an in-demand skill where
clients cannot simply shop for a cheaper alternative online,
unlike cabinets, furniture, musical instruments and most other
finer wood products.

Also, going to school to learn CNC operation and programming
skills is a good idea if you want to be employable in the woodworking

Time spent improving your drawing skills won’t be wasted either.

View ChrisOK's profile


5 posts in 2044 days

#3 posted 11-13-2012 05:37 PM

Thanks Jim and Loren! I will definitely look into timber framing and CNC operation/programming.

View ChrisOK's profile


5 posts in 2044 days

#4 posted 11-13-2012 05:37 PM

Oh and I am in the philadelphia area.

View jerryo's profile


135 posts in 2987 days

#5 posted 11-13-2012 05:44 PM

Hi Chris. Have you thought about taking some classes? Mario Rodriguez is a woodworker and contributer at finewoodworking mag and teaches at the Philadelphia furniture workshop. Check out the website
www. Even if classes are not an option he may be able to give you some advise. Good Luck. Jerry O’keefe

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

716 posts in 3642 days

#6 posted 11-13-2012 05:46 PM

Try attending a trade school such as Thadeus Stevens. Not many employers are willing to train someone who hasn’t shown that they are willing to invest some of their time and money to learn a trade. “Working with my dad in the basement shop”, unfortunately, doesn’t cut it. Some free advice from someone who hires cabinetmakers.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4123 days

#7 posted 11-13-2012 05:47 PM

There are usually 2 routes to building your business as a fine woodworker. Keep in mind this is very distilled information but it is accurate.

Here is route #1 and it is the route I took because I did not even know of fine woodworking when I started my own business as a home remodel/repair contractor.

My opportunities come from my business as a remodeling contractor. Since I am in charge of the projects, I get to design them, run them, build them, and not rely on a designer to pass me work. But that means I have to do a lot of stuff I don’t care for too, although I usually do a better job than anybody else would so it is easy for me to follow my own work with my installs.

The variation on this route is to get hooked up with some contractors and designers to offer your services to them.

Route #2 is to start doing the fine woodworking shows – not the cheesy craft shows, the higher end juried shows. Some craft shows are juried and have some pretty nice work so I am not necessarily knocking them. But if you want to present your work at a certain “fine” level then you need to participate in a certain level of show.

I know guys that travel the fine furniture show circuits and they actually make a living at it. It is tough, you are travelling and showing so you are not building anything. The mileage and the costs are all deductible but you are also not making money at the show because you are not actually building.

Then you return to the shop and build like mad to fill your orders. You have to get things done before you head out to another show and you need to build some product to display at the show. You are not getting paid for this, it is all on spec and for demonstration purposes.

Make no mistake, it is a lot of hard work either route you take. But those are the 2 BASIC routes that most people travel. There are other things involved and everybody’s situation is different depending on their own local economy and the connections your are able to make.

I recommend this ebook from my buddy Scott Morrison (he is an LJ member) Marketing Ideas and Strategies for Woodworkers

It is actually a really good book to give you ideas on just what the title says. Without reading the book I had already done many of the things that Scott covers in the book and so I know they work. I also know that the book is full of things that he has really done since I have had many conversations with him. The book essentially shares with you the many things that I have actually talked about with Scott – he is the real deal.

There is much more but I do not have time right now to share. You are beginning quite a journey and there is a lot of experience to draw on right here at LJ’s.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

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Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4123 days

#8 posted 11-13-2012 05:50 PM

One of the big secrets to success is TIME. It takes time to build a portfolio, experience, connections, and reputation.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View ChrisOK's profile


5 posts in 2044 days

#9 posted 11-13-2012 06:04 PM

Thank you Todd and everyone for your input. You have been very helpful.

View bruc101's profile


1200 posts in 3565 days

#10 posted 11-13-2012 09:57 PM

You’ve found an awesome career in woodworking Chris.

If you’ll learn Microvellum you could probably get a job anywhere in the world in an architectural millwork shop and name your salary. Microvellum operators are in strong demand all over the world and the shops are begging for trained people in the program. My daughters get emails every week from someone wanting to hire them.

Good luck

-- Bruce Free Plans

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