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Getting Started Making Money Woodworking

So, you have been woodworking for a while and you feel that you are regularly producing high quality products. Your projects are welcomed as beloved gifts and you spend more time at your workbench than with your kids. Likely, the thought of woodworking for money may have crossed your mind.

Unless you are willing to take on professional carpentry, cabinetry, or furniture-making, this would entail coming up with a product to sell. This would also require asking some questions to yourself about your expectations and your commitment to this new venture.

So, What Do You Want to Achieve?

The best way you can make money woodworking depends largely on what you are seeking to accomplish. For example, if you are only seeking to make enough money to pay for your hobby, then you can afford to take a casual approach to your salable woodworking. If you are looking to make enough money to actually support yourself, however, you will need to come up with a business plan.

You should ask yourself:

  • Do you have the space and equipment to commercially produce enough product to meet your financial goal?
  • Do you have reliable sources for wood and other supplies? Do you have backup suppliers, if needed? A great source for supplies is OVIS. OVIS is a family owned business that carries a broad line of quality products for the woodworking professional and hobbyist and homeowner.
  • Where do you plan to sell your product (online, flea market, Etsy, etc.)? How are you planning to market yourself?
  • Is your product of a high enough quality to warrant commercial demand?
  • Can you successfully distinguish yourself from your competitors?
  • Can you manage the legal requirements of selling to the public? This includes tax collection, obtaining and maintaining tax IDs, registering and complying with local authorities, etc.

Before deciding if you should sell woodwork as a part-time or full-time venture, you will need to determine how much you need to make in order to live. This is a complicated question that depends on one’s standard of living, location, and family size. You will need to take this number and divide it by 2,000 – the number of full-time working hours there is in a year, assuming a 40-hours week and 50 working weeks. This resulting number will be the minimum net profit (after taxes, supplies, equipment depreciation, and utilities) you will need to make per hour in order to woodwork full-time.

A way to look at this is this: let’s assume that you make wooden rocking horses that retail at $250. It takes you ten hours to make one. Assuming a ready market for the horses and about $50 in supplies and miscellaneous costs, we can assume (($250-$50)/10)*2,000 = $40,000 yearly earnings, pre-tax.  If your earning expectation is $50,000 per year, this would be not viable.

Failure to meet your number does not mean you cannot sell your woodwork. It just means that you will need to start small and work your way up to being a full-time woodworker.

What to Make

Once you decide how much you want to make and where you will sell your product, it’s time to decide what to make. Your product of choice should be something you have or can master making, something you enjoy making, and something you can make quickly and efficiently. Possible choices include:

  • Children’s wooden toys: At one point, wooden toys were common. Today, they are a collectable novelty bought more for adults than children. Wooden toys tend to be sold at a high premium because of this. Making wooden toys may require additional oversight regarding materials and durability – certain states have laws regarding child plaything safety – to which you would be obligated, should you go this route. As most wooden toys ship well and are universally accepted, it may be easier to find online and real-world selling venues for these than for other wooden goods.
  • Baby cradles. High-quality baby cradles and baby furniture – including high chairs and changing tables – are always in high demand. Unless you intend to ship your goods unassembled, the size of these pieces tend to limit your customer base to those that are local. Like wooden toys, state law may require additional oversight regarding these goods. Extra attention should be spent to sturdiness, quality of construction, and finish.
  • Bookcases. Bookcases designed to accommodate specific pieces of furniture, like armchairs, are always in demand. The key here is to be creative and innovative; a bookcase that can only come from you will make your woodworking a must-have.
  • Picture frames. One of the simplest and cheapest products a woodworker can make, a picture frame is a product that will pay off for a creative woodworker. Unique designs and good craftsmanship can make this evergreen item novel and in high demand.
  • Turned bowls. Bowls are common items, so they sell a lot. It takes some skill to lathe a bowl, and even more to lathe a nested set of bowls. This craftsmanship is typically rewarded by customers – especially if the bowl is of high or exceptional quality.

  • Wooden boxes. There is always a need for high-quality crates, trunks, and lidded boxes. The idea here is to create a purpose for the box and build it better than what a person can find in his/her neighborhood Wal-Mart. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it must be of such high quality that the customer cannot imagine going without it.
  • Birdhouses. Birdhouses are just wooden boxes with a special purpose. Well-made and beautiful birdhouses are always desirable, but you can also differentiate yourself by designing birdhouses and feeders that draw specific type of birds. A birdhouse made for blue jays, for example, is significantly different than one for finches. Such specialization can create niche consumer appeal for your projects.
  • Clocks and mantle-pieces. It can be difficult to carve a clock or a mantle-piece. It is for these reasons that these pieces are regularly in high demand. Making these pieces requires additional skills and tools, but can be lucrative in the long-run.

  • Wooden utensils and cutting boards. Wooden spoons, tongs, cutting boards, and ladles of all size are popular. From large wall hangers to salad turners, beautifully made utensils are regularly big draws, especially in light of the fact that a growing number of consumers are turning away from metal and synthetic material utensils. One must be sure to use food-grade materials when making anything that will contact food, however.

Whatever you choose to make, make sure you are having fun doing it. One you stop enjoying woodworking, it becomes a job. Your efforts should always be a celebration of creating and your love of working with wood. Being able to share something you love with others is an opportunity not many are afforded and, truly, this is why many of us decided to bring wood to saw in the first place.

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