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Forum topic by Tommy_Joe posted 12-22-2008 06:26 PM 2467 views 3 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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25 posts in 3629 days

12-22-2008 06:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question resource tip

First off let me say there is a wealth of knowledge here. I say that knowing that I have just scratched the surface on this website, so I’m looking forward to continued discoveries.

I have done a few projects for commission and I know I didn’t charge enough for them. I’ve also donated allot of what I’ve built over the last 5 years of woodworking, and friends have asked for items and have paid for them. (Material only, which is how I charged them.) Now I’m looking for a part time job and I’m thinking that this maybe a good path to take.

The plan that I have (as it stands) is to go slow and small. I’m starting with jewerly boxes. (Actually a pin and neckless chest.) I planned on making one of them, find out the details in shipping it, then make another 3 units and sell tham on Ebay or (that I found here). I also have kind of an “On-Call” setup with a friend who owns a Hardware Store. I’ll get referrals for building new window frames on older houses or (like the current one) replacing a kitchen cabinet part. (ie: Drawer, door, etc…)

I’d rather build furniture and custom cabinets, but there seems to be a demand for this kind of work in my area right now. So I thought about maintaining both for now, but take them slow. I’ll have a better idea (I think) after I build and try to sell the jewerly chest.

I do have a website and need to get more exposure to that site ASAP. (

Right now, I plan on officially starting in ‘09, though it may start slow cause my wife is still healing from a broken ankle that was surgically reset. After she’s on both feet, I’ll go as far as the going slow method will take me.

So… Time for honesty… AM I nuts? Is this plausible to do both? Do I choose one over the other and expand that? I’m not looking to quit my day job (yet)... Just earn some extra cash. (BTW: I did file for an LLC for the shop as I was kind of on the state’s radar with the last commission job.)

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

-- Tom, St. Louis,

24 replies so far

View lew's profile


12382 posts in 3930 days

#1 posted 12-22-2008 06:52 PM

Wish you the best!

There are several Lumberjocks that have great business savvy and advice. A quick search of the site will probably turn up their posts.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Justin Wright's profile

Justin Wright

11 posts in 3693 days

#2 posted 12-22-2008 08:02 PM

I also wish you the best,

I don’t do many furniture items, I run mostly lineal footage, (flooring, log siding, etc.) but I’ve never had great luck on Ebay. I’ve done better with selling items to local dealers and let them worry about it after that, you can spend a lot of time showing and showing before you ever sell an item. I would also add make sure your as legal as possible so you don’t have any IRS problems later. You’ll sure sleep better.


-- justin@americanlogsandsiding

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4489 days

#3 posted 12-22-2008 08:32 PM

First off you are entering a field where lots of people sell for less then they pay for the material. Let alone the cost of the shop. So competition might look distorted. Lots of imports from countries that pay workers up to two dollars a day. Then they have the shops that just spew out cheep crap here. My first boss had me watch the yellow pages from year to year to see the large amount of changing faces, and that was in a good economy. Really check out what people actually sell on Esty. I’ve seen lots of folk with very cheap prices that have only sold 2 or 3 pieces a year while having 20 not sell. That is a lot of inventory. I’ve had a web site for 3 years and never sold a thing. I’ve done 3 shows and never sold a thing. Yet this is how many woodworkers make their living. Good luck finding your niche. My furniture you see on Lumberjocks is my passion. Some pieces even sell, but most of my work is just building “cheap” kitchens for contractors. Good luck to you. This is a great way to make a living. Please just respect the craft.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3939 days

#4 posted 12-22-2008 08:39 PM

Been there, done that, never again. If your not nuts now, you will be.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4137 days

#5 posted 12-22-2008 09:52 PM

I still have my shop but very little work for it. The competition is tough, especially from China. People are used to buying crap at WM and think we should work for those kind of wages. I wish you all the luck in the world. Maybe you can find a niche market that will really work out for you. There are several Lumber Jocks who have Etsy stores and some who work E-Bay. I’ll probably be back packing mules in Wyoming come summer. It still pays money.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3939 days

#6 posted 12-22-2008 10:01 PM

I don’t think China is the only problem.

View Tommy_Joe's profile


25 posts in 3629 days

#7 posted 12-22-2008 10:16 PM

I don’t think China is the only problem either… However there seems to be a movement (according to USA Today) of folks asking for heirloom furniture and not wanting the “throw-away” stuff from overseas. I made two Media Cabinets for a University and they replaced two MDF style units. Also there has been a very good draw for Church raffles every year for 5 years so far for one of my garden benches or outdoor chairs.

So far, with the old houses here, I’m getting a few side jobs from the hardware referrals (A new drawer box, a replacement garage window, and right now a old cabinet door) so I’m wondering if that needs my focus, or do I make the new furniture switch, or both in moderation. (Seems to be based on the responses so far, stay with the hardware referrals.)

Thanks for sharing. More input is welcomed.

-- Tom, St. Louis,

View Karson's profile


35140 posts in 4575 days

#8 posted 12-22-2008 10:40 PM

Word of mouth seems to be the best way to contact buyers, because they usually seek you out. So give business cards to the customers that you make a window for or patch a door. It will pay off in customers finding you.

You can spend a lot of money on advertising like Dennis says but it can be a tough haul. I had a friend that took photographs of sports teams (little leagues) and he said when he made the same ammount of money from his photographs then he’d quit his job.

He did and he did. But, make sure that you keep food on the table.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View EEngineer's profile


1115 posts in 3788 days

#9 posted 12-22-2008 11:47 PM

Personal experience – woodworking is still only my hobby, so take it with a grain of salt…

My wife (this is going back some years, she’s 15 years ex now) used to buy the cheap junk that craft stores in the area would sell. You know, like the cheap pine jewelry chest, unfinished, stapled cheap drawers that fell apart in a year, etc. She’d then bring it home and ask me to finish it. After a while I got tired of finishing crap and told her the next time she saw something she liked to show it to me. I would then proceed to make a much better one on the same general theme but with decent hardwood, better joints and maybe a little actual glue. Let’s face it: none of these are very complicated designs because they are made to be banged out as quick as possible. All I had at the time was an 8” table saw, a cheap router from Sears and a few hand tools.

She showed a couple of pieces to friends and I soon had more business than I wanted. It was my hobby, not a business and after the 3rd or 4th copy of the same thing I wanted to move on. Just to cut down on the orders, I charged considerably more than the junk they sold at the craft stores and I still had more than I wanted to do. I finally refused to do any at all.

Quality does sell!

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

499 posts in 3957 days

#10 posted 12-23-2008 12:09 AM

Are You Nuts? No.
I’ve been scratching a living (kind of) for 10 years with my woodworking (mostly). I’ve done cabinetry but it was too hard to get paid by the contractor, and too hard to find jobs on my own. I started with small craft shows with some cheesy wood crafts that was too much work for too little $’s I built really nice lamps & got in a few high end galleries..on consignment…with no sales I designed & made some great furniture pieces & did the high end shows for a few years….it was very expensive & I didn’t get too much to show for it. I’ve had a web site for 6 years but untill I started making cutting boards & put an actual shopping cart on the site I had no sales. (Now some of my larger pieces are selling too).
In todays economy & the penchant for ever cheaper imports you have to find a niche you like & crank out the pieces fast enough to actually make a profit.
You do not have to sell yourself out to make $’s. Build what you like, put as much quality as you are capable of into it & work hard to make your goods without spending too many hours doing it.
But FIRST figure out how you are going to sell your items. Furniture is never going to sell online unless you have a well established name, then only maybe.
Galleries are OK, but you will only see 50-60% of list IF they sell your piece.
A top show can cost $2000-$4000 by the time your all done.
Small gift shops can & will sell your smaller pieces ( jewlery boxes ) Go find some NOW. Take you first few pieces to them & see if they think they can sell them at ??$. Figure you will see 50% of list if they will purchase from you outright, 60% if they take them on consignment.
Etsy is okay——but it’s so huge that I don’t see a whole lot of traffic coming to my pages, 2 sales in the last month. At least it’s cheaper than Ebay.
Word of mouth is the cheapest & the best, but the hardest to achieve.
Try all of it, a little here, a little there, and you’ll find you spot if you work at it & are LUCKY
Bottom line—- Go For It.


View Icemizer's profile


88 posts in 3714 days

#11 posted 12-23-2008 02:19 AM

Ok Tommy I cant help with the mortise and tenons of wether or not your business idea is sound, but what I can offer is some advise on your website and some advertising. You have a nice website, but not a sellers website. If your going to sell something, in your case jewely boxes, that needs to be the first thing people see when they come to your site. ( as an example)They dont want and shouldnt have to search around for what you are selling. Put a few boxes on the home page with prices on them. These items should be easy and quick for you to make so if you do get orders for them you can get them out the door. Another page can contain some custom box designs people can special order. These should also have a price by them as well as the amount of time it will take you to get them done. Remove everything from the site that is not related to selling your product. Yes you are redoing your basement, your wife had surgery(hope she is getting better) and your dog passed away(I have had two dogs pass away myself I feel your pain)But guess what? The buyer has no interest in these things. They will either want to buy your product or not. You can and should maintain a blog on your site to keep people(customers) up to date on things like your wife, your cat, shop improvements, etc. but these should only be linked to at the side or bottom of the screen. The blog as well as emails will keep the customer up to date on when projects are finished and shipped. Remove the words “hobby” and “part time” anywhere you see them especially from the home page. As far as the buying public is concerned you do this for a living and are quite possibly the best in the world at it. If they are interested in how you started they can go read the blog, otherwise you are there to sell and they are there to buy. Come up with a tag line for the business “Rhodes Ave. Woodsmith: Heirlooms for You and Forever” or something like this. The pictures or your products will be of the utmost importance. If they dont look good, they wont sell. Buy a light tent from ebay This will make you pictures look a lot better. At the very least have a neutural background without any clutter when you take the picture. Multiple shots of each box are best, open, closed, front, back.

Ok all of that was the easy part and guess what most of it will help your site look better, but how to get people to see your site? Well thats the big hard question and the one that will cost the most money. Flyers, shows, newspaper ads, buy an ad in the church bulletin if they have one, have lots of business cards printed up and see if they can be left anywhere it looks like they might be picked up. Vista print has lots of ideas you can put a logo on and they are pretty cheap as well. Finally you can make yourself a small 30 second or 1 minute video and put it up on youtube and other popular viral video sites. Will it drive a ton of traffic to your site? Probably not but it will increase your hits in search engines the more time your sites name comes up the better.

You can see it doesnt need to be anything fancy. Just some music some pictures and your website on it. I did that one for one of the Lumberjocks here. Thats my real job, woodworking is just a hobby.

I hope some of this information helps and you dont feel that it is criticizing your current site. Its a nice site but as I said at the top not a sellers site. Please feel free to ask me any further questions you may have. Thanks for looking through this rather long winded post.

-- Say what you mean and mean what you say.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3939 days

#12 posted 12-23-2008 02:46 AM

I looked at your website also Tommy, and see your working out of your garage like I am. After many years of working out in a garage, I’ll say it works for a hobbyist, but it’s pretty tough to make a buck when your constantly seting up and tearing down.

View Tommy_Joe's profile


25 posts in 3629 days

#13 posted 12-23-2008 05:37 AM

My website will get overhauled. It was generally designed to “show off”, but now with changes going on with what I want to do and somewhat need to do, it will be overhauled. Also I’ll be moving it to a hosting site and off the server of my day job server.

I know setup and teardown of the garage shop is a bit of a pain, but being in the city with street parking only there’s not too many options other than get proficient at setup and teardown.

Thanks for your inputs folks. It’s greatly appreciated.

-- Tom, St. Louis,

View ERICSFISHIN's profile


8 posts in 3628 days

#14 posted 12-24-2008 04:35 AM

Great luck to you! Ebay is tough. I have sold a thousand Wood fishing Plugs on Ebay over the past 5 years. I took a loss on many sales but made up for it on others. If you do ebay would open an ebay store $15/month with listed items and put a few items on auction to draw them in to your store. You are selling somthing i dont know much about (profit margins ect…) but I do sincerely want to wish you luck and am sure you will do well.

-- Eric J. Walsh

View firecaster's profile


573 posts in 3593 days

#15 posted 01-15-2009 04:38 PM

I read this thread with great interest. Especially the great advice about a website. I would like to start a part time business. Firefighting is my primary job. I want to make enough to feed my habit of buying tools and still have time to fish for trout and smallmouth while sitting in a canoe.

-- Father of two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.

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