/ profitable woodwork projects
Any suggestions ? The independent craftsman is stuck competing against mass-produced items from china (or IKEA), or otherwise those requiring more expensive workshop tools.
Made to measure dining tables. Unique wood tops. Size, shape and extendability to suit.
You've probably already heard of Mouseman, but there is a market still for quality. What is missing is probably the gap, it's either megabucks craftsmanship, or Ikea practicality & price. With very little selling between them.
Are you asking as a project which you can do yourself and enjoy, or things which you could make and turn into a business?
Try your hand at design, rather than furniture look to simple small everyday objects that could be styled in wood. Look at items such as Skagerak
mass market is too price sensitive to be competing in as an individual; it's a race to the bottom that you don't want to be a part of.
find a cozy niche and make a name for yourself:
Wooden bikes? In many ways it's a nice material choice for a bike and it's a market where people already expect to pay for design and bespoke products. It's also genuinely useful rather than decorative or an anachronistic curiosity which appeals to me. Possible downside is you're straying to the edges of craftsmanship and well into engineering which may or may not suit your interests and skills.
Whatever you make the trick is going to be finding the right market.
Climbing wall construction.
A bit niche, but I'm planning to make my own stand for an electric piano.
Fairly simple construction, but bulky if you will need to deliver them.
The commercial ones are mostly basic, expensive or both.
Wooden lady pleasers?
Choice 1. proper bespoke furniture, which appears to be eye wateringly expensive but there is a market for. Even with this there are lessons to be learned from mass produced furniture that you can use to cut the amount of expensive solid timber used by using engineered sheet materials and soft wood frames.
Choice 2. Make overpriced tat and spin some marketing bulls**t about your artisanal authentic craftmanship, but you'll have to grow a beard, oil it, get one of those trendy hipster haircuts and wear a lumberjack shirt
What expensive workshop tools do you think you require?
Summer houses, posh shed. Much value added.
Those beautiful workbenches you see on YouTube
Bespoke media stations. IKEA don't make flexible enough shapes.
Looking for products I could sell to earn a (humble!) living
edit: not true ... If I can earn more and extend climbing time off then so much the better :D
> Wooden bikes?
I can't imagine getting close to lightness of alu - esp combined with necessary rigidity :/ maybe large diam bamboo ?
And if they weren't as light - then who would buy - trendy city clients perhaps.
> proper bespoke furniture
Agreed - if a client wants shelves / work surface for a particular nook - then I might be ahead of ikea - eg. a shelf system to maximise vertical height available
Number Boards for houses. So many houses do not have a number easily visible. Walk down the street and sell on the knocker offer a nice number board personalised and fitted.. A good add on sale wood (get it be a door bell.
> Number Boards for houses.
Yes - I had also thought of name plates - routed into characterful hardwood
> What expensive workshop tools do you think you require?
I would be delighted to justify a table saw and planer / thicknesser
> Agreed - if a client wants shelves / work surface for a particular nook - then I might be ahead of ikea - eg. a shelf system to maximise vertical height available
Bespoke storage is what I am looking for at the moment.
Boot/Utility room with nice bench seat and wall full of storage cubbies for wellies, walking boots, running shoes etc...
There is money to be made in stairs if you are good.
Ok, well this is sort of why I asked. I think, unless you're making small things (like the number boards for houses), then it will almost certainly make sense to get machines like a thickness/planer, table saw, radial arm/mitre saw and decent quality too. You will both save on time, and almost certainly achieve a better finish - improving your productivity as well as the quality of your product, which in the end will earn you more money.
On the other hand, if you're making things as a hobby, or for your own pleasure, then you can use whatever tools you want. I have just finished making a wooden sailing boat, and the only power tools I've used for it are a cordless drill, jigsaw and random orbital sander. My favourite thing to do with woodwork is hand planing, and as I could do as much of that as I liked because I didn't have a deadline to meet or a productivity target. The point of making the boat myself though was not just to have the end product, but because I like the process of making it too.
Saving on expensive power tools is great if you are building for pleasure, but is almost certainly a false economy if you're wanting to make furniture professionally. Almost all the wood you get will need some kind of finishing to it, which will cost a lot of time without the proper tools. The good news - if this is going to become your living, then that's plenty of justification for buying tools
> ... I have just finished making a wooden sailing boat
Cool! Any pictures?
Blimey, you'll be a bit limited without those. You could always build your own, check out www.woodgears.ca.
My brother is a professional joiner, who learned his craft in a workshop specializing in antique restorations. Just when he finished his formal apprenticeship the dotcom crash of way back killed the market, and he was unemployed for quite some time.
He then emigrated to Ibiza after seeing a recruitment ad looking for joiners and carpenters with a German apprenticeship diploma.
Several years later he owns his own workshop and makes good money at the really pricey end of woodwork. Customers who can afford a yacht or finca in Ibiza most likely did not even feel the 2008 crash, and continued to order the bespoke windows, patios, or boat furniture....
Overall, if you are looking for a niche I would therefore guess that the upper end of the market will probably more promising and definitely more stable. However, you need the skills and connections, and for the first ten years you can forget about time off for climbing.
> and for the first ten years you can forget about time off for climbing
I'm surpised the UKC moderator didn't chop this post ;) :D
> I can't imagine getting close to lightness of alu - esp combined with necessary rigidity :/ maybe large diam bamboo ?
I doubt you'd beat the weight of 'traditional' high-tech materials but you can get close. Wood, especially something strong, formable and tough like ash is essentially a unidirectional composite with mechanical properties not dissimilar to epoxy-glass. It can be used as is, formed with heat, combined in layers to develop multi-axis strength and of course it's naturally beautiful, people love the touch and look of real wood products. Bamboo is another interesting material that grows in really useful forms, there are already traditional 2-triangle bikes available in natural (rather than engineered/laminated) bamboo.
> And if they weren't as light - then who would buy - trendy city clients perhaps.
Perhaps. As I said, finding the market is a big part of making a craft pay in a world of convenience and mass production. Bikes aren't one thing, there are a lot of high value, beautiful bikes for sale in the trendier corners of Europe's big cities that aren't in cutting edge high-tech materials or high-performance racers, they're each offering something slightly different whether it be design, provenance, practicality, comfort or something else.
Anyway, I thought it worth mentioning, it's something I've been having a good think about of late. The Man Who Made Things From Wood might be worth a read.
Box Sash windows aren't too difficult if you can find a local source for the mouldings. If you've not made them before, by the time you've done half a dozen, you'll be fine. A morticer is useful. After that it's a bit of time consuming mitring if you're going the trad route, which gives a nicer finish, though butt n scribe is also do-able (router table handy)
I've made them for period/listed places - made to measure so a bespoke item commanding a decent price.
Mighton website is useful for seals and hardware:
> Box Sash windows
amazing - there's a real niche product - thought they'd been superseded - memories of childhood ...
How about fitted under-stairs storage? No possibility of flat-pack competing there because it will have to be tailored to the space.
Someone already has that corner of the market covered.
> Someone already has that corner of the market covered.
I thought your were boasting in relation to your username for a moment. Also, I would hope that market is rounded, not cornered!
> Boot/Utility room with nice bench seat and wall full of storage cubbies for wellies, walking boots, running shoes etc...
Good idea, but I'm not sure about the market for that sort of thing as a business. I'd think the majority of people, particularly for a utility/kit room, would probably go DIY. It's what I did, and I have pretty much no joinery skills.
Stairs is a good suggestion, they're a feature and people would pay a premium. I think the bespoke thing is the way to go.
Log burner sales are at a record high and the flat packed stores a utter trash.
> Someone already has that corner of the market covered.
Nice that they have them on a coffee table
€140!! surly there's room in the market for another supplier, perhaps using less wood (more life like?)
> Log stores.
> Log burner sales are at a record high and the flat packed stores a utter trash.
That's a great idea, big, sturdy ones for outdoor storage or small, finely worked ones for putting next to your wood burner in the living room, depending what sort of joinery you prefer.
I have a workshop kitted out with woodwork machinery which i'm going to use to make furniture for the house, I might have to steal the log store idea if I ever try to make a (partial) living from woodwork.
The challenge in anything like this is finding the customers. I've made various table/sculptural/decorative pieces that sell for anywhere between £1500 to £20000. But they are comissions from people/companies with money to spend and a willingness to pay a hefty premium for something of a bespoke unique design. Selling a design/idea to people like this and the making it a reality is pretty easy if you have the appropriate skillset. Finding the buggers in the first place is witchcraft and networking.
> Good idea, but I'm not sure about the market for that sort of thing as a business. I'd think the majority of people, particularly for a utility/kit room, would probably go DIY. It's what I did, and I have pretty much no joinery skills.
Many people don't have the time, tools or workshop though.
To the OP, do you live somewhere where there's a sufficient quantity of wealthy people wanting what you can make? For example, the sash windows will require an area with lots of wealthy people living in listed buildings where they can't just fit plastic windows.
It's all about reputation and networking - if you want to work for the posh people who will pay big money you need to look and act like a 'gentleman craftsman'. If you turn up looking like Mr council house chippy smoking a fag, tattoos, chavvy trainers and a hoody you won't do anywhere near as well as someone who turns up in a shirt, canvas trousers, long brown coat and leather shoes. You want your customers to talk to their mates about you in a good way at their dinner parties.
There are also lots of clubs where you can build your own (partly) bamboo frame, for example
I have yet to see a bike with bamboo forks!
As mentioned earlier, sash windows is a possibility and depending upon where you live, restoring old shutters and window frames might be a nice niche if you live somewhere with lots of Victorian flats and houses.
> you need to look and act like a 'gentleman craftsman'
Hmm maybe somewhere in between would suit me - not so much a problem of dress but I haven't great motivation for 'finishing'. Rustic would be my keyword - and something of an opposite to IKEA stuff - work with interesting knots and the waney edges of hardwood.
Otherwise I don't like working with glue; the idea of achieving perfect flatness over an 80cm surface with 16 x 5cm seems so naff. OK so flat is practical but its not Real wood; are there folks out there who will rate monolithic chunky-lumpy as character ?
I did my own shelving unit for the sitting room. Measured the height of the shelves to fit records/CDs and some pottery pieces to display. But when it came to storage for our odd shaped bedroom we used a local carpenter to build bespoke as the job was too big for me.
I recently sold a table made of reclaimed scaffold boards, galv handrail fittings and a couple of bespoke steel twiddles to a corporate client for a significant sum of money. The boards were from the scaffold used to build their new head office so they bought into the 'story of the piece'.
A family friend struggles to make more than a survival living doing bespoke furniture and kitchens and similar, he did an amazing job in my front room and bathroom, and he has a friend who makes a decent living selling chopping boards.
I'm sure marketing plays a large part in doing well, and general business acumen.
A stand you can put a bouldering mat onto to turn it into a sofa. I've seen one somewhere before and thought it couldn't be too difficult to make.
Check out Amdro Campers you could maybe look at something like this but pitched at a slightly more upmarket clientele.
Might be worth exploring the hifi buff market (by which I mean those who spend LOTS of money for the most marginal gain in sound quality, rather than those who, erm, listen to music in the buff - I really hope they are not overlapping groups though...).
I was idly looking at speaker brackets one day and disappeared off down a rabbit-hole of bespoke wooden speaker stands for a few hours. When I escaped the pull of Google I popped by our local timber floor and oak kitchen workshop and was offered my pick of the offcuts bin. After an hour or two in the shed and some metal speaker stand spikes from Amazon I have two beautiful oak speaker plinths that would easily cost a couple of hundred quid from your friendly local top end hi-fi shop. For the nerds, it is all about isolation from vibration (hence the spikes).
Subsequently I have made Mrs B a pine and rimu media centre thing - a low unit to sit the TV on with shelves for DVD player, amp, broadband router etc. My cabinetry is pretty basic but if you actually had skills and craftsmanship then bespoke hifi units can be thousands, by the look of it, and with a good timber merchant on side that could work well.
PS I recommend plinths mostly because the word "plinth" is totally addictive to say out loud. I made the plinths with my elderly dad, and we were just totally delighted to be working together in the shed with an excuse to say 'plinth' repeatedly
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