Keys to living off wood

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Forum topic by rhett posted 05-02-2013 01:47 AM 1945 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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742 posts in 3690 days

05-02-2013 01:47 AM

Curious what others might say are some keys to making a living cutting wood. I’ve made a meager, yet satisfying, career of it. As I see it, it has more to do with work habits and efficency than actual woodworking skill. Woodshops are a glaring example of time = money.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

14 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3670 days

#1 posted 05-02-2013 02:03 AM

32mm cabinetmaking is probably the most straightforward
way to make good money. Requires some costly
specialized equipment to do it fast.

In terms of more interesting wood products… I think
it prudent to invest time in creating original designs that
sell well. If the designs sell, you can tool up for efficient
production, focus on selling more and outsource
the overflow production or hire more labor.

Learning about “lean manufacturing” is a good thing
for a pro looking to streamline in order to make more

View firefighterontheside's profile


18351 posts in 1879 days

#2 posted 05-02-2013 03:06 AM

For me it would be a big risk to quit the fire department and try to make my living at this. So I think you have to bE willing to take some risks. My job provides our insurance, as my wife is self employed. To make a living at this I would have to make a lot more per hour than I do now, so definitely efficiency is important. I see this maybe as my early retirement future.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View MNgary's profile


301 posts in 2440 days

#3 posted 05-02-2013 03:40 AM

First is, to me, design. If it’s not what the marketplace desires it won’t sell. Or, if it’s just another copycat item there’s no incentive for the buyer to purchase.

Next is Marketing. One may make the finest product, use the best materials, have the greatest customer relations, and always deliver on time; but if no one knows . . .

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View shelly_b's profile


850 posts in 2140 days

#4 posted 05-02-2013 03:51 AM

Very good question…I’ve always thought cabinet making would be the way to go, which is why my goal is to start a cabinet shop. Unless you can become a very well known high end furniture maker where people pay crazy amounts of money for your furniture, then it’s hard to make enough for all the hours put into furnituremaking. I’m interested in seeing what others have to say…

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3690 days

#5 posted 05-02-2013 10:48 AM

It would be lying to say I have remained a fulltime woodworker all these years through only my skill. The biggest asset to my woodworking business has been my loving and supportive wife.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3916 days

#6 posted 05-02-2013 12:23 PM

Find one or two well known and respected general contractors. Get your foot in the door and your busy for life.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3181 days

#7 posted 05-02-2013 12:40 PM

Build an outdoor covered patio…a nice one. Throw a party. Then, watch how many people ask you what it’ll take for you to build one for them. Seriously. It’s not fine furniture, but if people can work out the details for making it part of a business, then there’s definitely a demand for that. In fact, any home improvement/handyman types of projects would be a good parallel income source when your boxes and cutting boards just aren’t selling like you hope.

-- jay,

View helluvawreck's profile


31351 posts in 2889 days

#8 posted 05-02-2013 01:27 PM

We built a very nice business from working with wood. Our main formula wast hard work and long hours. We’ve been in it for over 40 years.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3308 days

#9 posted 05-02-2013 01:46 PM

What we consider being succesful or making a living doing woodworking is different for every individual.

Marketing and selling will always be a major factor if you want to have a succesful woodworking business. You need to be as good in marketing and selling as you are as a woodworker; actually better!.

Depending on what you base success on will also have a lot to do with how you treat your business. If money is your sole motivator, then everything….............and I mean everything will be geared towards your “bottom” line. It will have very little to do with how much you love woodworking, what “you” may enjoy building or how much time you would like to devote to a certain project. You will have to look at everything as a “dollar”.

I feel that’s why a lot of woodworkers have a hard time making a “living” doing woodworking. We do woodworking because we love it and want to be build the perfect piece, but making a living; and again, depending on what you expect from your business, you have to be able to put some of the love aside and focus on making money.

That’s a fine line and can be very difficult to balance.

Looking back on my business, if I based my success on strictly how much money I made, then my most successful years were when I had my son working for me and we had seven other shops (small one man shops) building for us also. (made a lot of money, but spent all my time as a manager, not a woodworker).

If I based my success on enjoyment and fullfillment,but still making a modest living, then it would have to be after I went back to being a one man shop and went back to doing what I loved doing the most, and that was woodworking.

The funny part is, the less I worried about making money, the more creative I was and easier it was to design and sell my work.

It’s a beautiful way to make a living!

-- John @

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8083 posts in 2351 days

#10 posted 05-02-2013 02:28 PM

Being a good woodworker and being a good businessman are two different things. Though they are not mutually exclusive, in no way does one automatically imply the other.

If you go into business and you’re not a good at running that enterprise, it will likely fail…. regardless how nice your work is, how desirable your designs are, or how efficient you are with your time.

There is also a very real amount of “good luck” (or at least the absence of “bad luck”) that is required. Case in point, there were many viable operations set up in the 2007/2008 time frame that have failed, through no fault of the business owner.

Business implies risk no matter how you slice it. Yet if you’re successful and do well, you’ll very quickly be punished by the government for your efforts.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2967 days

#11 posted 05-02-2013 08:44 PM

The way I see it, it is marketing and sales that is the biggest part of the job.

No matter how good or fair your work is, if you can’t sell it or market it, you might as well had done nothing.

I have learned over the years that my primary job is sales and marketing. That is what drives my business forward. Quality keeps it going. Watching expenses and costs is what keeps me afloat.

As mentioned above, being is business is the first thing. You just happen to be in woodworking.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3916 days

#12 posted 05-02-2013 11:44 PM

Some body else said it. Long hours, very, very long hours, lost week ends, lost birthdays and anniversaries, post-poned holidays.

30 years later, it isn’t unusual to log 80 hours a week, after week, after week, after week, month after month after month. I think it takes a lot of perseverance to get through a very long and bumpy road : )

Doesn’t matter how you slice the cake, you are only as good as your word, good work isn’t cheap and cheap work isn’t good.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View tncraftsman's profile


92 posts in 3162 days

#13 posted 05-08-2013 10:08 AM

If you treat it like a business you can probably make enough to cover your expenses and make a little profit. You need to be flexible in what you make and find a niche. I find it very difficult to support a family on cutting wood. To make any kind of decent money I see to paths. One is mass production of wood products. This takes you out of being a woodworker and puts you in the role of a factory boss. The other is selling high end pieces.

View Timberwerks's profile


360 posts in 3184 days

#14 posted 05-08-2013 11:49 AM

Flexibility is the key for me. Even though I’m a studio furniture maker I need to make things such as butter presses, cheese presses, cutting boards etc to bring in steady pay. Even guitar picks :-)


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