Traditional Woodworking or Power Tools to make some money?

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Forum topic by Micah Muzny posted 09-30-2013 07:12 PM 2666 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1697 days

09-30-2013 07:12 PM

Hello, I was wondering if there is any gain in using traditional woodworking methods over modern power tools? I wish to make tables, chairs, and other projects to sell to make some spending money. I really like and I’m very interested in the traditional woodworking techniques (thanks to Roy Underhill) but also drawn to the ease and quickness of modern power tools. Which would come out to be more profitable? Is there any extra money to be made by doing it all by hand and no power tools? If I took the traditional way, would I just be wasting time and not make any extra money?

6 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10260 posts in 3613 days

#1 posted 09-30-2013 07:17 PM

If you go with machinery, you’ll need more space and all that,
but you’ll be able to do casework a lot faster, which is one
of the easier areas of woodworking to sell the work.

Mike Dunbar used to earn a living making Windsor chairs
with all hand tools except a lathe and he thought it was
a good system. He had a little shop somewhere and every
day some bozo would walk in and tell him he needed
a band saw. For the type of work he was doing, he
didn’t, and he knew that.

It really depends on the sort of work you want to do
and how committed you are to excelling in the craft.

Without machinery you’ll find cabinetwork impossible
to make money at, and cabinetwork is the easiest
way to make money at woodworking if you’re set
up for it. Refinishing is nasty work, but there’s money
in that too.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2741 days

#2 posted 09-30-2013 07:22 PM

I have a couple people that I make stuff for – mostly by hand. I am not trying to make a living on it, it is my fun.

I still use a combination of power and hand tools. The power tools for the rough planning, jointing, and sawing – the hand tools for the finish and joinery.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 2851 days

#3 posted 09-30-2013 07:27 PM

If its about revenue generation I would go power. Most people can’t appreciate your work vs what they buy at Ikea and will offer you $45 for those solid cherry end tables because that is what they can get cardboard cored cherry laminated tables for at Ikea.

View Tennessee's profile


2860 posts in 2479 days

#4 posted 09-30-2013 07:44 PM

I have to agree with agallant totally. I have items in a local museum gift shop that features about 50 local artists of all types. They people making things totally by hand don’t get any more money for their wares than the people like me who do almost everything by power. People don’t know, and they don’t care. Save your hand tool technique for someone who will appreciate it more, like possibly your spouse.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Micah Muzny's profile

Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1697 days

#5 posted 09-30-2013 09:51 PM

Yeah, I figure I will just go with power tools, will be easier to learn and get techniques down and start making stuff to sell faster.

Tennessee, I am sure there would be people that would appreciate hand work but for me it wouldn’t be a spouse haha, I am 21 and not married yet. I understand what you are saying though, family and friends would enjoy it. A few strangers but most wouldn’t understand the difference between it and like agallant said, Ikea.

View Loren's profile


10260 posts in 3613 days

#6 posted 09-30-2013 10:01 PM

Fine acoustic guitars, for example, can be made almost at the
same speed with hand tools as with normal shop machines.
Manufacturers have a custom machine for nearly every operation
and much higher overhead, but if you work at it you could
turn out 20-40 guitars a year by hand. Of course you’d
have to learn how to build a guitar first and build a few
not very good ones to learn from. Aside from that there’s
the experience of selling the work, which can be a major

If doing green woodworking, do you have a source for the
right materials?

There is a market for good quality chairs. Chair making
can be approached from a hand tool method of working
and there are several styles of chairs you could specialize
in. Again, though, there’s the issue of getting appropriate
wood for riving chair parts from.

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