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Forum topic by woodworkingdrew posted 02-22-2014 09:20 PM 1498 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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190 posts in 1604 days

02-22-2014 09:20 PM

I would like all of your feedback. I am prospecting the idea of starting a small side business. My question is, do you think I would be more profitable with outdoor furniture i.e. trellis, planter boxes, chairs or indoor furniture such as book cases, desks, chairs? What is the best angle to go with this? Thanks!

-- Andrew, California

18 replies so far

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2846 days

#1 posted 02-23-2014 01:42 AM

No easy answer—so much depends on your market and your marketing.

You must have a compelling reason in front of me, your customer, to drive me to buy from you instead of from the vendors I am accustomed to.

Loren has some good resources that could help you.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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190 posts in 1604 days

#2 posted 02-23-2014 04:03 AM

Who is Loren?

-- Andrew, California

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721 posts in 1561 days

#3 posted 02-23-2014 04:12 AM

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10380 posts in 3643 days

#4 posted 02-23-2014 05:25 AM

There is no one best angle. There’s how specialized you
want to get, your own ambition and present skills, the
limits of your work space to consider.

Apparently people like to buy things like picnic tables and
adirondack chairs. I don’t do that kind of stuff because
I doubt it is really that profitable in a market like Los
Angeles where boards are not cheap. There’s no forests
here for small time guys to cut and mill, so that means
wood is spendier than in some areas where domestic
hardwoods are easier to get at lower prices.

By way of example, one guy on here who does exquisite
high-end work also manages some sort of forested
property in Hawaii so he gets his wood kind of for free –
this is an amazing business advantage.

Woodworking is a hard business but all business is hard
in some way or another.

I make chairs and it is not easy to make ones that are so
nice you can get paid what they are worth. I am still
figuring it out. If you want to obsess on fine chairs or
guitars or marquetry you can carve out a real name
for yourself.

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Monte Pittman

29222 posts in 2334 days

#5 posted 02-23-2014 05:36 AM

No one answer works for everyone. What works for me in my area would completely flop for someone else. A few thoughts,

1. Be unique, but remember that just because you think it is cool doesn’t mean that it will sell.
2. Watch what the trends are.
3. Do not just build from the plans. Anyone can make copycat furniture. What sells is making the customer believe that they have something special.
4. You are competing with cheap. Don’t try to out – cheap them. Quality still sells. If all they want is cheap, give them directions to WalMart.

Just my 2 cents

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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10380 posts in 3643 days

#6 posted 02-23-2014 06:00 AM

Monte’s shop burned down and he’s experiencing a setback
there. He also cuts and mills his own wood and while I’m sure
it’s a lot of work it’s probably kind of fun and allows him to
explore design ideas at price points I could not consider
due to my higher material costs. Check out his projects page,
because it looks like he knows how to crank out OOAK work that
sells at effective price points in open-air type shows.

Here in L.A. there are a lot of affluent people and the population
is just dense as heck so the buyers are here but many are
still looking for better quality than they are willing to pay
for. That’s the rub. Also many cabinet shops are Spanish
speaking and guess what? The guys are pretty good, they
work hard and many of them make an hourly wage that
is not much better than working at Home Depot. That’s not
your problem except that these shops may be able to beat
you on price for custom jobs and they know the game a
lot better from experience.

That’s competition. That’s business. If you want to get
out ahead of that you can do it in 3 major ways I can think
of off hand:

1) Lower material costs due to in-house lumbermaking or
bulk buying power.

2) Higher productivity due to superior machinery investment
and optimization of workflow and labor.

3) Better skills at the craft of making really cool stuff.

... considering the cheap wood is probably not happening for
you, would you rather invest in some serious machinery (I’m
not referring to 10” cabinet saws and 8” jointers), or invest
in growing your capacity to produce exemplary and distinctive

P.S. don’t draw an opinion about me from my comments about
immigrant labor. I’m from the east side of L.A. and I know the
situation and respect all laborers and hustle. I’ve hired some
of these guys and they are good people to get a job done,
having integrity and resourcefulness.

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31 posts in 1592 days

#7 posted 02-23-2014 06:07 AM

Do something you enjoy. If you enjoy doing it all then do it all. and do it all till you find what you enjoy. I have found that art sells. If you can make furniture and call it some form of art, people will pay well for it. It has to be unique and Monte is right don’t go by plans. People know when it doesn’t come from the heart. Going by the book makes for boring woodwork.

-- Perfectly Imperfect. Thats my style!

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3037 days

#8 posted 02-23-2014 07:21 AM

I wouldn’t limit myself to one type or the other to start. I do whatever the customer wants me to make.
I prefer not to make outdoor furniture around my area because there isn’t many woods that do well outside around here. But, if i use the right finish it lasts longer.

Do your research in the area, local markets, local mills, art and craft shows. No one can tell you that doesn’t live in your area what sells best.

To answer your question, in general I would say Indoor furniture is more profitable. I would truly just prefer to go get some outdoor furniture down at Lowe’s then buy some over priced furniture made by someone, and there is a lot of good outdoor furniture readily available. I also prefer metal outdoor furniture in any environment. Real good high quality indoor furniture that doesn’t cost an A&L is harder to find.

Good luck on your endeavor.

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467 posts in 1613 days

#9 posted 02-23-2014 08:41 AM

I see some very sound advice in the replies to your post.
I would try to dedicate a major portion of my work offering to high end repair even it meant going to the customers site.
If you have a “way” with people, keep an ultra clean work space and the utmost respect for the customers property you will not have to miss any meals.
It isn’t about a customer wanting to get a cheap repair, it’s about preserving a memory.
If you are in their face, they will find other projects for you.
A clean vehicle and store front is critical, it can be old but it has to be nice.
We have a about 25% of our labor force working in the service sector of our HVAC business and they outperform the other 75% of the business. Need I say more?
We’ve been doing this for 35 years and still growing.
Good luck.

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10380 posts in 3643 days

#10 posted 02-23-2014 08:57 AM

I don’t understand some of of FMARMC’s comments in relation
to custom woodworking. I respect the spirit of them though.

I do not thing being in somebody’s face is a way to get jobs.
“Top of mind” awareness is a good method though, and
useful in cultivating relationships with interior designers.
While these designers may have access to affluent clients,
they may want a markup on your work of 100% which
is problematic because it may in some situations inspire
them to lie to clients about the quality of the work. In
other words: they may beat you up on price in order
to double it and make the sale. It’s probably a predatory
habit but it is perhaps fair compensation for their taste.

Wry comment above. Some clients have more money
than they know what to do with. They are not so easy
to get, even in L.A.

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467 posts in 1613 days

#11 posted 02-23-2014 03:22 PM

Here’s an abbreviated version
Don’t cheat your real job, your boss will catch you.
Follow the Golden Rule

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8189 posts in 2572 days

#12 posted 02-23-2014 03:39 PM

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76 posts in 1698 days

#13 posted 02-23-2014 05:13 PM

You’ve gotten some great answers here.

If you want to sell something people might dismiss as a commodity, you can stand out from the market by adding value. Custom sizes. Unique finishes. Things like that.

Take a look at your own knowledge and interests. Watch what people interested in the same things are currently buying.

But your best success? Think markets, not products.



View woodworkingdrew's profile


190 posts in 1604 days

#14 posted 02-24-2014 04:50 AM

Thank you all for the sound advice. It sounds like I need to do some research for my area. Thanks!

-- Andrew, California

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58 posts in 2328 days

#15 posted 02-24-2014 04:57 AM

wseand pretty much summed it up. Most Americans would rather go buy something from Ikea or Lowes or some cheap fibercore bookshelf form Walmart than pay good money for a custom handmade piece of furniture. I’m a general contractor and would also love to be able to stay in the shop and just make furniture for a living, but it just doesn’t pay. To make a living making furniture on your own you have to pretty much be an artist. Which is to say you would have to earn a reputation for producing truly unique, finely crafted items that people are willing to pay decent money for. If you figure out a business plan on how to do this, let me know!

-- It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. - Harry S. Truman

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