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Where to start? Need some advice

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Forum topic by Aculous posted 04-08-2015 03:19 AM 1042 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Aculous

14 posts in 606 days


04-08-2015 03:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: part-time cabinetry jobs work carpentry furniture

Well…so a little background. I have worked in Computers and for the man…for the past 10 years. SO went back to law school and we are both in a big transition period of our lives. I want to change careers, but I am having a hard time figuring out where to start.

I want to get into woodworking as a profession, cabinet making and furniture making seem interesting to me and I love getting out in the garage and working on projects. (I am acutely aware that something you love to do can turn to a nightmare if you have to do it for a living but I want to try this one)

The issue I am having is I am not sure where to start. I used to have my own house painting company in college and I am not afraid to work so I thought an apprenticeship or working in a shop as a part-timer would help me get some basic skills that I feel like I do not have. But am having a devil of a time finding anything. Basically there are 3-4 lumber yards in the area that I am thinking of calling and asking around about who may be a bigger customer or one close to me.

I live in the Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania area so I thought I would be able to find SOMETHING that I could work weekends or nights at to get a foundation. However so far my search has been short and unfruitful. I even went so far as to see if I could learn something from the amish community in my area. Their style of woodworking I think its interesting, joinery is beautiful when done correctly and especially when done by hand.

So after my long winded ramblings…ideas for entry level/part time work to learn to be a woodworker? cabinet/furniture building? Log cabin/structural carpentry? Other ideas?

-- "I started out with nuthin' and I got most of it left" -seasick steve


28 replies so far

View TheWoodenOyster's profile

TheWoodenOyster

1275 posts in 1396 days


#1 posted 04-08-2015 03:51 AM

First off, I do this as a hobby and barely successful side job. So take my words with a grain of salt.

My first tip is don’t quit your day job. Then everything really will turn into a nightmare. If you feel like you lack even a foundation of basic skills, now is not the time to quit a steady job. Do stuff on the side and see what you can learn. Let all your friends and family know you are doing it on the side and some odd jobs will start to pop up. Do those in combination with stuff you want to be doing for fun. You may be able to earn $5k or so for the first two or three years. At that point, assess the situation and maybe think about changing careers.

I have been down the “find your passion” path and it was a mistake. I think I tried to force it too much and wasn’t willing to go into a bunch of debt. It sound to me like you are trying to force it a little bit.

In my opinion, learning on your own in your spare time is much better than being a slave in a shop or a lumberyard. The glory of working with your hands every day all day loses its glory when you are doing it for someone else for meager pay in poor conditions.

I hate to be a naysayer, but being a custom furniture maker will probably mean a SERIOUS step down in living conditions and a truckload of sacrifice (unless you have a sugar mama or a trust fund). Very few out there “make it big” and even the rock stars of woodworking still probably make about as much as you or I do now.

Take it slow and enjoy the hobby for a while. Then maybe think about a change.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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TheFridge

5764 posts in 947 days


#2 posted 04-08-2015 03:57 AM

Ditto

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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Aj2

687 posts in 1259 days


#3 posted 04-08-2015 04:10 AM

What’s that saying I heard once something like behind every successful woodworker is a wife with a good job.Aj

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waho6o9

7171 posts in 2037 days


#4 posted 04-08-2015 04:16 AM

Double Ditto with a pearl of wisdom from AJ

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Aculous

14 posts in 606 days


#5 posted 04-08-2015 04:25 AM

@thewoodenoyster
Point taken, and I am guessing it would have helped to have a little more detail. My thought is that I will transition over the course of 5-10 years from a part time gig to full time in a perfect world. I have no delusions about how vastly different it is to make your living doing essentially something that has been a hobby for you but I think its doable. And hah! no sugar mama for me, maybe an airtight prenup but thats it.

I am not a complete novice but I think my attitude of “well that sorta worked…I’ll refine or fix it later” has really caught up with me and I’m not satisfied with making projects that just “work”. I want them to look good and I want to be able to plan things out before I start, not just bang my head against a wall until I round the square peg for a round hole. My tool collection is a series of ok pieces but I regret probably 90% of them. I am over ambitious if nothing else.

And I am completely fine with “stepping down”. I am currently on track to downsize my lifestyle and live on around 40K$, thats while supporting another person. So I think I’ll be fine.

I would say you don’t have to be a rock star to make money with woodworking, I think the biggest issue is getting your name and reputation out there. Which you can’t do if you don’t have jobs/projects to build a reputation on. Also selling things online has changed the landscape. I would like to stay in just woodworking but my guess is that if I were to make a go of it I would have to have multiple revenue streams, probably do some leather and Home theater/audio work. I design speakers as well so that could meld both. Point being I understand that woodworking is most likely not going to be the be all end all. It would be nice to have the demand that Maloof had in the 70s/80s but I am not sure that will happen again. People are putting more of a premium on higher quality, not mass produced items but I am not sure you could make a ton of money on low volume one offs.

-- "I started out with nuthin' and I got most of it left" -seasick steve

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daddywoofdawg

1010 posts in 1036 days


#6 posted 04-08-2015 04:26 AM

use your vacation and other times to take weekend and weeklong woodworking classes,by some online classes,there are many real woodworking schools around.google woodworking schools and your area.
http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/article/woodworking-schools-directory.aspx

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Aculous

14 posts in 606 days


#7 posted 04-08-2015 04:26 AM



What s that saying I heard once something like behind every successful woodworker is a wife with a good job.Aj

- Aj2

:) Well, I guess I can dream a bit.

-- "I started out with nuthin' and I got most of it left" -seasick steve

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Aculous

14 posts in 606 days


#8 posted 04-08-2015 04:48 AM



use your vacation and other times to take weekend and weeklong woodworking classes,by some online classes,there are many real woodworking schools around.google woodworking schools and your area.
http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/article/woodworking-schools-directory.aspx

- daddywoofdawg

I have been looking at a couple of things but haven’t found any classes that looked worthwhile. I found two at my community college but they are so basic is insulting I feel like. As in…”learn how to use a jig saw…part 1 and 2”

But I have a techshop near me and I am wondering if I can take a class or two there. Or at Woodcraft, they have some good ones. I just learn a lot by doing OJT so I figured that would be a good way to get going on it.

-- "I started out with nuthin' and I got most of it left" -seasick steve

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Rick M

7908 posts in 1841 days


#9 posted 04-08-2015 05:09 AM

Red posted this the other day …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBi4zroEj1w

Years ago (~15ish +) I had the same dream of being a cabinetmaker, then I attended a talk by Kelly Mehler who is an exceptional craftsman and furniture builder. I saw his work then heard his story that woodworking barely paid the bills which is why he began writing articles and why he eventually opened a school. I’ve heard the same story from many others. It’s not that you “can’t” be successful, but most are starving woodworkers and talent and dedication are not enough.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View TheWoodenOyster's profile

TheWoodenOyster

1275 posts in 1396 days


#10 posted 04-08-2015 12:10 PM

Aculous – I think the idea of doing some leather work and cabinet work on the side is a great plan. It would be HARD to bring in $40k on Woodworking alone. Supplemented with other things that have better profit margins (like home theater installation), you could make the lifestyle work.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View codemonkeyww's profile

codemonkeyww

40 posts in 887 days


#11 posted 04-08-2015 12:18 PM

Aculous I too have the same dream but then reality hits! ;)

Anyways if you are in the Maryland area this is the best place to take good woodworking classes. I’ve taken a few there. Best of luck!

-- "Cause I know that time has numbered my days" -Mumford

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helluvawreck

23127 posts in 2327 days


#12 posted 04-08-2015 01:13 PM

Do I understand that you are in the process of getting a law degree? Why not continue your hobby woodworking and get your law degree? If you still want to have a woodworking business you could make money on the side with a law degree. There must be plenty of things that you could do with a law degree and not necessarily practice as a lawyer would normally. Title searches and contracts comes to mind. Maybe doing research for a full time lawyer. I really don’t know that much about it but I would think that a law degree would be a valuable thing to have.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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Aculous

14 posts in 606 days


#13 posted 04-08-2015 01:57 PM



Aculous I too have the same dream but then reality hits! ;)

Anyways if you are in the Maryland area this is the best place to take good woodworking classes. I ve taken a few there. Best of luck!

- codemonkeywoodworks

beautiful, I definitely check that out!

-- "I started out with nuthin' and I got most of it left" -seasick steve

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Aculous

14 posts in 606 days


#14 posted 04-08-2015 02:03 PM


Do I understand that you are in the process of getting a law degree? Why not continue your hobby woodworking and get your law degree? If you still want to have a woodworking business you could make money on the side with a law degree. There must be plenty of things that you could do with a law degree and not necessarily practice as a lawyer would normally. Title searches and contracts comes to mind. Maybe doing research for a full time lawyer. I really don t know that much about it but I would think that a law degree would be a valuable thing to have.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

- helluvawreck

hah! no Charles that would be my girlfriend. Shes finishing up law school.

I am more then likely going to be pursing a more non-traditional employment track. And I bet I will be working about 100 times harder then I do now but I think it will be worth it in the end as I will have more control over my time and a more fulfilling job. Right now I fight for my job daily, have to deal with literally everything I do being stolen, personnel issues, being fired and hired on a whim every couple of months while having to switch contracting companies, travel that is approved and then not paid for, clearance issues and the list goes on. A change needs to happen and so I am trying to feel out what will be the best for right now. I am not positive what that will be.

After working in commercial kitchens for years a food truck is lookin’ good!

I think more of the issue now is focus more then anything. This conversation has been illuminating. I think there is a general pessimism initially when it comes to trying anything new or anything that seems out of the ordinary. I understand that and I know that for the most part in this circle that pessimism seems to be backed up by experience. Which completely changes my mind really, usually I would take what people are saying with a grain of salt because its hard to really know the source but I think for the most part what I am hearing is something that I am starting to hear a lot lately, that if you don’t do high volume you can’t get the price point right and if you do low volume people are paying for it. So really going it on your own without a established name is going to be next to impossible to live on.

I am crossing this one off the list of things that I think could be viable. Which is a little depressing but whatever I’ll probably just use anything I sell to augment my tool collection or at most build a garage but its back to the drawing board for the most part.

-- "I started out with nuthin' and I got most of it left" -seasick steve

View Ocelot's profile

Ocelot

1470 posts in 2099 days


#15 posted 04-08-2015 02:38 PM

Hey now, wait a minute! You are crossing it off the list already!??

Yeah, probably this will sound harsh, but if you’re ready to quit before you start just because a few strangers dampened your vision, well I just don’t know what to say.

I’m going to go against the grain here because I think I understand where you’re coming from.

I would advise jumping in with both feet – put yourself deeply in debt – and then work your tail off.

First thing: Find a good woodworking school. You say you have been “in computers”. Well, you know the difference then between the usual career track of somebody with a MS in computer engineering from, lets say, Stanford – and the career track of a guy who just fiddled around with computers and figured it out on his own. Of course, there are tremendous success stories from people with no formal education, but that is not the usual result. A good woodworking school will also connect you with the kind of people who can help you get business – or get a job if you work for somebody else. And, I think, working for somebody else is not all that bad a plan. If you work for somebody else, you let them buy the tools.

So, go into debt paying for education, not buying tools.

That’s the way I would do it.

There is no try, only do.

-Paul

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