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post #21 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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I’ve read every reply and I thank you all for your honest answers. The point that gave me the most serious pause was when I read that the second of any given item being made is never as much fun as the first, and after that it’s just work. Even if I’d never made a second of anything I believe I still would have understood the wisdom spoken in these words, but as luck would have it I do have at least one experience with a second making of the same thing. That fishing rod rack I made and sold for $100. The first one was for me and the second was upon request after the person saw mine. I enjoyed the making of it but for different reasons, probably mostly because I knew I had it sold and I was more into that experience than I was the making of the item. I recall actually putting off making it until close to when the person wanted it, but I still did my best on it and exceeded what I’d made for myself, and I’ve had no real desire to make a third since then. So this point really rings home with me.

So thank you! It’s a bit of a relief actually to see it clearly in this way. I think I’ve actually had myself under some kind of self imposed pressure to one day start making these tools pay for themselves and more. I’m pretty sure that’s never gonna happen, and now I have a reason to tell myself that maybe I don’t really want it to after all. It would still be nice to sell a few pieces but I believe I’d rather just make the stuff I want to make and then let it sell or let it sit rather than take orders and meet deadlines.
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post #22 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 10:07 PM
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I've often heard it said: "If you want to make a small fortune in woodworking; start out with a large fortune."
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post #23 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 12:30 AM
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The thing about building contracting, Duane, is that every job is different. Sure the routines and sequences are pretty similar but there's just enough difference to keep it interesting. But you know, after some 35 yrs. of doing it and then retiring, I don't miss it all.
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post #24 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 08:07 AM
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I believe that a successful business in woodworking can be an organic experience, one that evolves vs. one that is designed. There are millions of stories out there of failures and successes, just like many other business attempts. My story is very organic in that I didn't "seek" to create a business, the business came to me: My nephew is a member of the National Guard and has been for many years. He is very proud of his service yet when I visited him at his house, I didn't see anything hanging on his walls to commemorate his many years in the Guard. I created a wall plaque out of walnut using both my CNC and laser. When I gave it to him, he couldn't contain his emotions. Ultimately he posted a picture of his plaque on Facebook. He also showed the plaque to his platoon. This led to a request for other items from the platoon - some as intricate as the plaque, some much simpler, but all were military-based. I never charge for anything I do for these guys, regardless of the job size or quantity. For one particular job they asked me if I would allow them to sell the products so they could raise money for a charity they were supporting. This led to more requests.

My business - where I actually make a few bucks - was born from the things I made for my nephew and his fellow Guards. Simple word-of-mouth advertising. All my military-based creations are clearly marked with my logo and my location. I do not leave a phone number but in todays world, it is very easy to do a Google search, which is what many people did. Over a short period of time, I began to receive requests for other items, some designed by the customer, others designed by me. Items are as various as my customer base, from cutting boards to signs, lithophanes and even small furniture. I still work full time so I keep my backlog in check so I don't fall behind too much where I will irritate customers.

In the early days of my business, I returned all the money back into my fledgling enterprise - purchasing tools, rehabbing my basement shop, improving dust collection etc. I also invested in design software and a computer system not to mention developing a strong inventory of raw materials.

After a few years, I was able to bank my profits. I hope to retire from my "real" job in 3 years at which time I will focus on my retirement business 100%. I won't become a millionaire making sawdust, but I will be very happy just the same.
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post #25 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 08:33 AM
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Niche, man, niche. The designer websites are stocked full of imported designs made cheaply, and can be replicated better with domestic materials, at a fair price, well below the website prices. The trick is having a customer to knock on your door, and ask for said designer item. Most people want it NOW, and cannot wait even a day for custom hand made services. I know, because I also do hand engraving, and most people balk at the thought of 24 hour turnaround time.
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post #26 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 10:31 AM
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If you can make it, and sell it, then sell it if you want to. I've designed a few things over the years that would likely sell nicely. But, like some others, found that making a second one was not on my to do list, they were just a real PITA. And, a lot of other things, were also one time items. Thus went my dreams of a mini-production line pumping out things to sell.

However, I finally figured out a sort of way around that. I have made canes for a few years now, for my own use mainly. Had to, kept putting them on my vehicle roof while loading stuff, and would forget, drive off, oops lost another cane. Amazing how hard it was to break that habit. After I snapped a sapling cane, by falling on it from a snowy step, and not even realized it had broke, went to a site I'd found a few years before, with plywood cane instructions. Well, didn't like any of their three cane designs, nor how they made them. So, made up a simple design I liked, figured out how I wanted to make them, and viola, had a nice light, sturdy, cane. Made some, lost some, then is when I started designing my own cane handles. Among the first were my Grumpy Fish, Grumpy Turtle, Grumpy Buzzard, then I started going ape on the designs. Hehehe Found out making multiple canes is no issue at all. I think it is because I make one handle design, the next of a different handle design, and so on. It is basically making the same thing over and over, because after all it is canes I am making, but because the handle design is not repeated time after time, it is like making something different each time. No PITA at all. Had planned on making the separate parts of my canes, one part at a time, and stockpiling them. Having read this thread, realize that may not be the way to go; oh I will try it, it would likely speed things up, but also could make my cane making into work. Plan B is to just make one complete cane, piece by piece, put them together, then move one to the next design - this I already know is agreeable. And still coming up with different handle designs, came up with one last night, and three this morning before I even got out of bed, four if you count how I modded one. Less than a minute for a rough sketch, then later I will lay each out on 1/4" graph paper full size. That's part of the fun, making original designs.

I'm hoping that my piggy bank, and monster truck bank, builds will work out similar. I plan on making one type, then then the other, and also shifting around with different sizes of each. One can only hope.

This thread also made me realize that a previous design of mine need not be a PITA to make multiples of. The trick will be to make one, then back to my canes and bank, then every once in awhile, maybe once a day, maybe once a week, make another one or two; they are simple, easy to make, fast to make, should sell, but oh so boring to make more than one. I think they will be decent sellers, but to pump out more than one or two at a time, would be a real mood killer. I think this is the answer. I'll have to dig out another idea or two and see if it would work with them also.

Still working on where and how to sell my stuff. I'm thinking that with a partner flea markets could be good. Loads of people walking by, all there to buy, no need to talk to anyone not interested in buying. Should be a quick way of finding out what sells well, and what doesn't, and get input from customers. Possibly even some custom work wanted, but not huge on doing custom work, but always possible - for extra $ of course. This has been a good thread.

"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.

Last edited by JOAT; 12-21-2017 at 12:33 PM.
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post #27 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 11:09 AM
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Default Some suggestions for JOAT

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Well, I'm not looking to get rich, but would like to sell what I make now, and am thinking about what might be called special items. That sounds very interesting. So, can you expand some about where people spending money for them operate?
@JOAT In my field of pediatric optometry, therapists use a number of special boxes, "walking rails," lens holders, color filter storage boxes, "toy" organizers. I'm sure other professions also have similar needs that I don't know about. But I would consider going to local professionals and telling them you're looking for things they need, or would like, to be made of wood.

I'd start with the professionals I go to for care, and expand out from there. You will find groups on Facebook, some with closed membership, others are open.

Balance boards are also used by physical therapists, and you can contact associations in your area and ask to visit practices and doctors to determine what they would like. One way to come at this is to ask what kinds of problems they have. Or notice where there are messy areas with paper or things stacked up.

For example, most dental and optical offices have things they deliver to patients stored in shallow boxes. The color of the boxes sometimes represent a code (Blue boxes for ordinary orders, red for rush). But if you're delivering a $1,200 premium pair of glasses, they might want to have a custom wooden box with the practice name wood burned into it. Presentation supports the perception of value, so produce a closed lid box with padded interior for the highest end goods. If people want to buy the box, Goodie goodie for them, the doctor and you. Cleaning glasses with antireflective coating requires a special solution and cleaning cloth. Make the box vertical to hold the glasses at the bedside, plus the cleaning material, all in one spot with the practice or Dr.s name and phone number. So far as I know, no commercial producer is making that. What doctors have now are plastic, molded trays with the glasses wrapped in the lab order. And after a few uses, the trays are banged up and have marks all over them. Why wouldn't a good optician prefer to deliver that $1200 pair of glasses in a better way?

These are just a few ideas, but the foundation of marketing is, find out what people want (they may not know), and give it to them.

I don't think woodworking is going to make anyone rich, but paying for tools and materials for this best of all possible hobbies is there if you really want it. I would go for private practices, not the commercial ones in malls or other commercial chains or locations. The chains will need lots of these, more than you'll enjoy making for sure. Premium items for premium practices.

Hope this gives you some help.
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post #28 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 11:53 AM
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A few years back, the motorcycle group I belong to was looking for ideas for our annual fundraiser - we roast a whole pig on a grill and provide the other "stuff" for a BBQ - and the suggestion was made that I make a turtle planter and raffle it off. This was a huge success, and I got talked into making a second one for a regional fundraiser. A couple of people asked if I could make one for them direct, rather than through the raffle, so I made a couple more - meanwhile, my wife is upset because she doesn't have one. At this point, I'm up to 9 total, and still have people (including my wife) asking me to make one. I will echo what has been said before - the first one was fun, the second OK, but after that it became a chore. There are, I believe, 54 separate pieces, made into sub-assemblies before the final assembly. I used each batch to come up with ways to speed up the process, making fixtures for the table saw and miter saw, but it was still cutting out the 54 pieces on the bandsaw, sanding them to the final size/shape and then assembling - and, to make it wore, I was initially working with pressure-treated lumber and had to deal with either working with wood of various moisture content or stacking it along the edge of my small shop and losing the floor space for a few weeks. I made the last batch out of douglas fir 2x's and eliminated the "wet wood" problem, the customer was advised to apply an appropriate protective finish. Here are a few photos showing the finished product as well as some showing the various production steps. The photos are of a batch of 3 units, about my limit as I need to move everything out of the open space there so I can store my bike each night. As I had committed to make two more, plus the one for my wife which has to be "special" as she wants the size increased to hold a 10" diameter flower pot rather than the 8" standard, I'll probably try to knock those three out this winter and then I'm going to burn all the fixtures and tooling I made and throw away the plans.
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post #29 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duane Bledsoe View Post
Iíve read every reply and I thank you all for your honest answers. The point that gave me the most serious pause was when I read that the second of any given item being made is never as much fun as the first, and after that itís just work. Even if Iíd never made a second of anything I believe I still would have understood the wisdom spoken in these words, but as luck would have it I do have at least one experience with a second making of the same thing. That fishing rod rack I made and sold for $100. The first one was for me and the second was upon request after the person saw mine. I enjoyed the making of it but for different reasons, probably mostly because I knew I had it sold and I was more into that experience than I was the making of the item. I recall actually putting off making it until close to when the person wanted it, but I still did my best on it and exceeded what Iíd made for myself, and Iíve had no real desire to make a third since then. So this point really rings home with me.

So thank you! Itís a bit of a relief actually to see it clearly in this way. I think Iíve actually had myself under some kind of self imposed pressure to one day start making these tools pay for themselves and more. Iím pretty sure thatís never gonna happen, and now I have a reason to tell myself that maybe I donít really want it to after all. It would still be nice to sell a few pieces but I believe Iíd rather just make the stuff I want to make and then let it sell or let it sit rather than take orders and meet deadlines.
This topic sort of came up a while back (I think the premise was how many make the same thing twice) and it was generally conceded that if you want to make money at woodworking you have to turn out one or only a few different products. This allows you to make all the jigs and find out all the shortcuts needed to be able to make it as fast as possible and since time is money, that would be the most feasible way to make money. Very few people are able to make one offs and do it profitably and it's extremely hard to find clientele who are willing to pay for that.

The majority of us said that we rarely make the same thing twice. Which is the reason I make quick cheap jigs, so I can tear them down and get rid of them as soon as I'm finished with them. Most of us said we weren't interested in making the same thing twice. As has been said, the second one is not nearly as much fun as the first and the rest follow an accelerating downward curve if you graphed the interest factor. However, a CNC could address at least some of that problem but likely not entirely.

So that's the end question in my mind is do want to do it for fun or are you okay with working at it?

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #30 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-21-2017, 12:30 PM
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Default Thanks Tom

Just the type of thing I was hoping for. I likely wouldn't want to do most of the things you suggested, but there are a few there that piqued my interest, besides the advice, the advice was what I was really interested in anyway. I have started saving some of your advice, and this will be added. I also plan on going back and finding more from you. Really appreciate it, thank you.
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"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.
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