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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Hello everyone, first time posting. Recently laid off from my job and found a new job but looking for a small cnc business for some supplemental income. I think this is something my wife and I can pull off together, also have couple of kids who will soon be teenagers and think they may really take an interest in it.

My question is I'm trying to put together some numbers and business plan, but curious where any of you have found a reasonable place to purchase lumber. Looking at walnuts, maples, oaks etc. If we put together some 12x18" signs, what is a reasonable number to plug in for materials?

Thank you in advance for the help.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 05:27 PM
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First off --- what's your name, where are you located, what kind of machine you got or plan on getting, and what kind of realistic plan do you have? And how serious are you about this?

Dr T --- time for you to chime in.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 06:00 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your reply. My name is Justin and I'm from Oklahoma. Currently looking at the Gatton setup for router. I already have every other woodworking tool I would need, along with a 40x40 insulated shop we can use after moving a trailer I use on our farm outside.

At this time, we are very serious about pursuing this. Unless the number crunching comes back as not making sense.
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Last edited by 4S Creations; 01-03-2019 at 06:03 PM. Reason: added to it
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 06:03 PM
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Welcome to the forum! And I'll second what John said - when you get a minute complete your profile with first name to clear the N/a in the side panel and add your location, as well.

I'll also second John's questions - give us a little more to go, please sir. Add to that your skill level with CAD/CAM software and woodworking in general.

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 06:10 PM
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I just took a look at the Gatton CNC, never heard of it until now. I would definitely keep looking if you intend to use the CNC for business reasons. A plywood CNC will have far more flex in it than you may realize. Repeatability will be low and accuracy will be in the 'hobby' range. It may work for a while but you'll quickly wish you had found at least an aluminum extruded machine, a steel one would be better.

That's my $0.02

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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 06:13 PM
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Dr T here as requested. We've had some pretty extensive discussions of the marketing aspects of a CNC business. I was a consultant teaching marketing for 3 decades.


Here's a link to the discussion and the kickoff posting. Read through all the posts, it is filled with practical informaiton on exactly what you're considering doing, including from folks who are already making money with their machines.

LINK https://www.routerforums.com/cnc-rou...iving-cnc.html

INITIAL POST: Making a Living With CNC

With the surge in interest in CNC on the Forum, I thought it was time to post some information on how to make serious money with one, other than craft shows and sharing profits online and in consignment shops. This orignially was posted in response to a couple just about to take the plunge, but with added information. This is long.

CNC marketing methods to make CNC pay.

If you are planning to make a living from a CNC, you will have to become very good at marketing your services. Translated, that means being very good at identifying and effectively contacting people and businesses that are likely to make good use of your services. Everyone and their uncle Tom is making occasional signs, or signs with clever sayings or even images they hope to sell in consignment shops or weekend craft gatherings. But to really make any money, you have to identify markets that need lots of what you have to sell, but not so many that they go to a completely automated shop, or one that markets and jobs out the work to Mexico or Asia.

One example would be a small chain of regional hotels with a homey feel where signs, plaques and things of that sort , in script or with logos or other identity setting features are needed in fair numbers.

As machines go, that means something pretty fast with easy setup and software that makes such things as using special fonts or logo images easy to set up and produce in limited runs. In marketing, you'd probably have to locate, contact and work with art directors, architects and interior designers -- the real buyers.

With really good software, you could locate individual property owners for inns or mountain cabin owners, whose orders would be small, but beyond hand made sign quantities. Entrance, exit, mens, family and womens' bathrooms, room number, breakfast, meeting room and other signs with logos and unique fonts are all possible products.

I teach marketing to eye doctors, and know how important it is to any business. The internet and social media are good places to search, and 150 to 300 searches will turn up a good number of customers. You don't want to just have one big customer, they apply intense pressure to cut prices and profits. A good mix of lots of medium sized repeat customers is essential.

Deliver as fast as you can. Get all art approved by several people. If you see something odd or off in the design, check it with the customer before you make it and try to provide a proof run before you produce in quantity. Learn to proof read. Check the spelling of every word and if any problem shows up, check with the customer before starting design or production. These kinds of projects seldom get full attention and you backing up the person who orders this way will save their fanny if you catch a problem before their boss does.

Check out all kinds of materials to use for projects. See if you can find sources of cutoffs that are consistently available. For example, my son in law gets large quantities of 2x6 asian hardwood from pallets used for forklifts. For outdoor signs, you might try using weather resistant composite or engineered lumber. Can you cut aluminum for small signs, room numbers, etc?

Make your laptop the center of your business rather than the CNC. Being able to sit in your car on vacation while handling a design shows up as exceptional service, and pays for the vacation at the same time. Plan for rush orders. Designers are notorious for pushing deadlines and giving the producer precious little time to finish. That is a formula for a designer who makes an error to blame the producer for errors and delays, and to cut you off. Make this attention to detail and possible "inconsistencies" a feature of your service. You've got your customer's back. If necessary, run everything by a skilled proof reader before submitting the final design to the customer for approval. It's no fun eating a $2,000 order because of a missed comma or wrong font. In other words, make no assumptions, donít skip a check because deadlines are tight. Email proofs on copy, layout drawings, printouts of drawings made in the software, and photos of the first test piece, lit by side light so the carving shows up well. Be VERY fussy about approvals for logos and special images. If there is any concern about size and proportion, you want them handled on paper, not on some exotic or expensive hardwood. Make sure your contactís boss reviews anything more than a run of, say, 3 pieces.

Do not make the mistake of competing on price. Start as high as you can stand it, then go up another 10 percent. If you slash prices to below market rates, you can be dismissed by competitors merely by their saying, "you get what you pay for." When I raise prices, I have to practice saying the amount in front of a mirror until I can do so without making a face or showing uncertainty.

Consider having someone else run the machine, spend your time marketing and taking wonderful, thorough care of your customers so they do repeat business. Making stuff sounds like fun, but it IS a business first, and the dollars and cents, relationships and posting examples of your fine work rank higher than running the CNC.

Social media and developing a great newsletter mailing list is VERY important. (I use Constant Contact because they just donít allow practices that appear as spam.) Social media drives people to your website, where they see your work, read your information about how to design, order, avoid errors, plus all kinds of pictures of finished work (not all of which has to be yours, by the way. These photos become an idea bank. If you have some pre-made standard items, show those on a separate page. Publish a checklist of steps from design to ordering to final production runs that emphasizes review and proofing.

There is a great little book titled ďYour First 1000 copies,Ē which was written for self publishing and other authors on how to use social media, website and email to generate business. It translates to any business and isnít full of fluff. Itís one of those little books with a huge load of practical information, and itís $10 bucks on Amazon. Really upped my business results and lowered my marketing costs. Low cost social media and email are now our primary source of new business.

I know free advice is easily dismissed, but I've been doing and teaching marketing for 35 years, and charge a lot for my recommendations. If I were in your situation, what I suggested is what I'd do, and I'd have a list of 30-50 high-potential 50-signs-or-more per year customers in hand before I put a penny down on a machine.

Now follow the link and read the rest of the posts. Personally, I wouldn't consider going with even a good entry level machine and would plan on something in the $10,000 range as minimum. Run your buying list by the folks here, they'll give you good advice.

The more I do, the less I accomplish.

Last edited by DesertRatTom; 01-03-2019 at 06:22 PM.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 06:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by honesttjohn View Post
First off --- what's your name, where are you located, what kind of machine you got or plan on getting, and what kind of realistic plan do you have? And how serious are you about this?

Dr T --- time for you to chime in.

HTJ do you mean @DesertRatTom ? with this link?

Lol...
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by UglySign View Post
HTJ do you mean @DesertRatTom ? with this link?

Lol...
That be him.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 07:11 PM Thread Starter
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I found the thread earlier today about making a living and read all 9 pages. Very informative information in there, and ordered the book recommended. I also have zero experience with the software to answer another previous question. I’m assuming everybody reading this sentence also had zero experience at some point in time.
As of right now, I have $0 invested in this project. Just at the stage of trying to decide if this is something we want to pursue. Can I make enough money with to offset the time involved?

That’s the reason for my original post. Where would you guys suggest looking to purchase materials for a reasonable price? I know some of you have a “hookup” where you get free stuff. As of today I don’t have any of those connections, but something I can pursue.
My background with woodworking is fairly extensive, so this is not an entirely new arena for me.
Any advice or help you can provide is greatly appreciated.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-03-2019, 08:02 PM
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Fwiw, Justin, I built a 2x4 CNC in late 2016 and it's a beast of a machine - very rigid, highly repeatable, fast, good accuracy. It's in our two-car garage which is now our full time shop along with the usual staple of woodworking equipment. In 2017 I didn't have a shingle hung out, didn't advertise, did work for a local trophy shop and odd jobs I could find. The CNC paid for itself in the first 6 or 7 months.

In December 2017 we opened an Etsy shop and have managed about 90 sales for 2017 and I still do work for the trophy shop. The CNC has become 'just' another tool in the shop and I use it when it makes sense. There are a few things I have created for our Etsy shop based on having a CNC, things I wouldn't be doing without one, but the CNC has become an essential tool.

I am using Fusion 360 for CAD/CAM and it is free for hobbyists and small businesses earning less than $100k per year. Sadly, we qualify... The CNC stays busy and I use it just about every day. Some days it's 4 or 5 hours and sometimes it's for one job that's 20 minutes long. We could advertise and go out to find more business and I probably will do that this year.

What's the market like where you are?

David
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