A typical day in the workshop


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Established Member
19 Sep 2011
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Nr. Swansea
Following on from my earlier post about being ripped off I thought I would give you all an insight into a typical day in my workshop and maybe those who posted negative comments will have a better understanding of what’s involved in running a small business single handed.

First of all I would like to mention the wood I use, 90 per cent of what I make now is made from Oak and I use a few different types like American red oak, European oak, white oak etc. This comes to me 20mm thick and is kiln dried so it is very hard and cutting it is slow. But I had Hegner increase the speed of my saw from 1450 to 1650 and this made a huge difference. I have always said most scroll saws are to slow. On my Dewalt saw the speed is 1800.

Because of my neighbours I am not in the workshop till 8am and I don’t use any of my 14 machines/power tools until 9am and I generally stop using the saw at 6pm, have my dinner and then concentrate on finishing what I have made until about 10pm and this is more or less the same every day I am at home, the other days I am at craft fairs.

Some weeks ago I was contacted by a lady who is getting married in the middle of September. She wanted me to make her some name signs to go on the tables, one for each guest. 65 in all. The names were to be mounted on plinths so they would remain upright should any of the tables get banged into. For me it was a huge job and I have just recently completed the order and sent it off, some of you might say making a name sign would be quick and easy and I suppose if you were making just one, it would be.

When I made a start on this job I spent most of the day on the computer. First of all I designed the name sign the lady wanted and in the font she chose and on an A4 piece of paper I was able to get one name sign plus the base that it would be screwed to. On and off and in between completing customer’s orders I made all of the name signs first and then I made all of the bases and it all came from oak from the same tree so everything matched up perfectly. After I had all the signs and the bases I then rounded over the edges on the router table and then using my belt sander sanded the backs and the fronts and then it was a matter of sitting down at the bench and hand sanding the edges where the router had been. When I had done that everything was dipped in oil in my dip tank and then left till the following day when they were all waxed polished. It took a good couple of hours packing them in a large box and when the courier called to collect the order he had to borrow my sack trolley.

Earlier today I had an e-mail from a school that teaches children with learning difficulties. Last year I made them 1000 hearts in 6mm plywood, some of you may remember seeing the photo I posted. This time they want 500. The plywood is donated to the school by a local joinery firm, which in turn is delivered to my workshop by the school head in their mini-bus. The hearts are round about 7 inches across and the same deep. I timed myself last year and I can make four in a minute, that’s the actual cutting. I have a template and I draw round this onto the plywood getting as many as I can on each sheet. I then cut the sheets up on the bandsaw so I end up with one heart on a piece of ply. I have tried several ways of making the hearts quicker including stack cutting but it is by far quicker to cut them one at a time. I sit at my scroll saw with a pile to my left and a bin to my right and as I cut them they go in the bin. I used a number 9 FD-UR blade and it’s like a knife through butter. When I have cut all the hearts I then have to drill a hole in them to take a ribbon. The pupils add various designs to the hearts and paint them, add a ribbon and these are then sold in various shops near the school, it adds some much needed income to the school funds.

Another day I had a guy call who had formed a new company and he wanted me to design him a logo and make a few signs, we sat at my computer and using photoshop and an hour later I had what he wanted. He called back a few days later to collect what he ordered and was well pleased with the end result, since then more work has come my way from the same guy.

I meet interesting people at the craft fairs and many of my customers are from overseas and when I have made their order it gets posted to countries such as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and many others. More recently I have sent some tray puzzles to Saudi Arabia.

Today has been a long day. I was in the workshop at 6am sticking patterns onto wood, then I drilled all the entry holes for the internal cuts, sanded the back of each piece of wood to get rid of the breakout bits of wood so it would not bounce on the scroll saw table when I went to cut them. It was a mixed lot I did today. 11 customer orders mainly name signs and plaques. Then I made two plaques to replace two of the same I sold yesterday. Then I made six spectacle holders. Two children’s name signs for bedroom doors and one new design I had been working on. Whenever I come up with a new design I will make one, maybe two and then see how quick they sell. If I have still got them in a couple of weeks I discard the design. Most things I have on the tables are good sellers and I have a few items that are quite intricate and time consuming to make, more to demonstrate what is achievable on a scroll saw than anything else, these carry a hefty price tag so I only sell one now and again while the more popular items fly out the door on a regular basis.

As you can see I lead a very hectic life. In the main I love what I do but at times it can be boring, especially the job doing the hearts, after I have made the first 20 it will be off to the kitchen to make a cuppa, it breaks the monotony, after I have made a 100 I don’t really want to see another heart and when it gets to this stage I think of the money and I am then spurned on the make more. It’s a huge relief when they are finally collected.
Now is the time when I should be making a start on Christmas stuff but that will have to be put on hold for another week or two. I am forced to change my car next week and then I will be able to carry twice as much as I do now. After Christmas there will be no more pressure, I can be a bit more leisurely until about the middle of March when the craft fairs start up again. During this period I concentrate on building up my stock levels and then when the first craft fair approaches in the New Year I will hopefully have at least ten of each item I sell, well, that’s the theory anyway.
Phew Geoff tired me out reading it never mind cutting and finishing them all! lol what you need to do is get yourself some Chinese workers to do the boring bits and you concentrate on the fancy stuff :cool: they will work for 20p an hour (ok not very PC but must admit its a good idea until they steal your orders and mass produce them lol)
I admire your stickability and commitment - something sorely lacking these days. Having said that I think if I had 1000 hearts to cut from ply I'd get them CNC'd - I don't think I could face the monotony.

It sounds like your business is keeping you VERY busy.
I also am a one man band and sometimes just for fun (?) I work out what I really earn per hour when I factor in the time spent pricing jobs, weekends sharpening and cleaning tools, going to visit clients, tax returns, weekly and monthly bookkeeping and VAT returns.

It turns out I'd be better off working the hours stacking shelves at the local supermarket, but where's the fun in that!?
Well done Geoff, keep up the good work, if I had a hat, I would take it off to you.

I can now only manage approximately four hours a day in the workshop, and progress is slow during that time, but I enjoy myself, and it keeps me away from wild, wild women :shock: , chance would be a fine thing :roll: .

But being serious, your post demonstrates very well, that if you want to make a few shillings, then you have to work hard for them.

Take care.

Chris R.
hi geoff
i must admit that i recognize that working day very well but i had a full time job in between the morning shift and the evening one, but i have now decided to stop it all, i have taken all my cuttings from work and completely stopped the craft chaps cuttings and now i only cut a few names when asked for, gives me a lot more time, a lot less hassle and time for my art work, love it..

Hope you keep well my friend..
Hi Geoff,

Many thanks for a very informative post. I work in joinery manufacture so its very interesting to gain an insight into a different area of woodworking. Sadly I hardly spend any time in the workshop, most of my time is taken up with administration and design.

Of course there is the most important thing you forgot to mention -posting on ukw!

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