Getting a job in furniture making

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Alexh1992

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Hi everyone my name is Alex I'm 29 I live in West Yorkshire near cleckheaton I am a skilled fabrication engineer working in pharmaceutical fabrication wanting to persue a career in furniture making as woodworking is where my passion is ,I've been woodworking for a few years making furniture in my free time for myself ,family members also a few friends. Does anybody know someone that may be hiring or even just to work with for a bit to get myself some valuable experience in my area I have looked online but it seems to be mostly work making cabinets and work surfaces for kitchens not so much furniture.

Any help is much appreciated.
 

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Spectric

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First give yourself a good talking to because I doubt there is a good living to be made in furniture making these days, imports and automation etc. These are uncertain times and having a job with known regular income is important if you have mortgage, family etc etc rather than an erratic one where you may not know when you will next get income.

I would expect working in the pharmaceutical sector is pretty sound with the threat of pandemics and Covid variants everywhere, maybe if you are looking for a change then look at BAE systems or Motorsport because I assume as a fabricator of stainless glove boxes and other equipment you are a dab hand at TIG welding and your skills would be valued.
 

Alexh1992

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Thanks for the reply Roy

I agree it is difficult to make a living in furniture making if you was to go self employed and I also agree having a stable income is very important but I was thinking more along the lines of working for an established company or a small established company but these can be hard to find there is also the option of bespoke kitchen makers.

Work is good and steady I just don't get the satisfaction out of metal work anymore ,I tried the Motorsport sector at ginetta cars but it was just TIG welding very little fabrication which got tedious quickly going from bespoke to a production line style job. What are BAE systems?
 

Jameshow

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First give yourself a good talking to because I doubt there is a good living to be made in furniture making these days, imports and automation etc. These are uncertain times and having a job with known regular income is important if you have mortgage, family etc etc rather than an erratic one where you may not know when you will next get income.

I would expect working in the pharmaceutical sector is pretty sound with the threat of pandemics and Covid variants everywhere, maybe if you are looking for a change then look at BAE systems or Motorsport because I assume as a fabricator of stainless glove boxes and other equipment you are a dab hand at TIG welding and your skills would be valued.
Agreed most of the guys I know (north Bradford) don't make stand alone furniture more often built in furniture / gates that sort of stuff.

I think you want to look round harrogate / dales for guys making furniture as that's where the clientele will be living...

Also what is a great hobby can quickly become a rotten job....
 

Spectric

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Work is good and steady I just don't get the satisfaction out of metal work anymore
I know the feeling, but unfortunately many jobs can become tedious and it is not good once you do not enjoy going to work, but I think many of us have been there and suffered just for the income. It is not going to be easy to change jobs at the moment because things are very unsettled and unless you have financial stability then making a risky move could be unwise and are you in a position to put the love of a job above hard cash? There are people who have taken on really shiete jobs like courier drivers for a few years working seven days and long hours but getting a good stash of cash to give them the stability of getting their mortgage down and some cash to see them through an initial phase of a big carreer change so short term pain for longer term gain.

Well wish you all the best and hope it all goes to plan,
 

johnnyb

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you need to be a bit more specific in your aims. if you are imagining a beautiful old barn with the doors open on a summers day with a razor sharp lie nielsen etc. wake up. it's not like that.
more like a dusty dump that's to cold or hot. running around like nutter to finish a job that should have been finished a week ago. I much prefer to work with people who come in with both eyes wide open. does anyone still make stand alone furniture( apart from scaffold type stuff?)
 

D_W

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Here's how this works. Keep your day job. Spend your extra hours making furniture - 25% coming up wiht something interesting, 25% marketing, 50% making.

See if you can manage to get a reasonable hourly rate for your stuff. If you're making it in small volumes and you can't, increasing volume isn't going to help.

if you can do it in small volumes, see if you can do it in greater volumes and chart outcomes (What sells, to who, how easily, how profitable).

If you can't get to the point where you're making 1 1/2 times what you think you'll need to make to make ends meet comfortably, it won't work. If you can't get there, then you need a different plan.

For example, there are plenty of engineering managers, etc, in the US who have left work for a few years and tried to make things, repair things, design things that they find more interesting (one comes to mind repairing guitars and making and manufacturing guitar boutique pedals on a small scale). After a couple of years of that (he had a working spouse) the last I checked, he's a software engineering manager on linked in.

BE realistic, be honest with yourself, measure things, try things that you think people will buy and be ready to make something different than what you expected.

40 years ago, my mother embarked upon this - she's a retired teacher. She never stopped teaching, but I'm sure if she could've come close to even-up wages, she would have. She ended up selling over a million dollars worth of stuff during that period (or double that in current money) and spent about 20 hours a week making (as much as we hear teachers here talking about workload, I watched this for years - teachers have lots of free time if they run their classroom efficiently and don't waste their prep periods in the teacher's lounge or take on things seeking glory). What my mother was able to make was about $30 an hour in current dollars. She saturated the market and took a few months off from it each year after Christmas - not completely off, but far less working.

So what's the point of this? First, she ended up making what people wanted her to make. She started out drawing, and then designing and felt above the stuff she was making shortly after that - it was clear (she was just making hand painted folk art stuff that is early american style) that she could both make and retail her stuff easily if she was willing to do early american simplistic stuff and that was the end of that.

Perhaps it was luck, but she ended up maintaining the market size almost to a T for the entire period, but always had some stuff left over, just not too much (nobody was knocking down her door to make it something she could do full time). What she did was a far easier sale than furniture, too.
 

djellworth

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Hi Alex
I wonder if there are high end kitchen makers around you use a lot of the same furnture making skills. Near me up in LS29 there are a few such as Eastburn Pine near Keighley. I dont know the Clekheaton area but I am sure there are similar within 30 mins or so from you. Anyone know any?? I suspect that they may be pretty open to someone with your engineering/machining skills along with a love for wood. However I guess you'd be starting at the very bottom!
 

Alexh1992

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No I'm not imagining a old barn door open with a nice lie nielsen in my hands haha although that would be nice, more just a bispoke furniture company or possibly a high end kitchen makers like djellworth mentioned I'm not set in stone with this decision I'm trying exploring my options at the moment. I've thought about the self employed road but like you say this can get very difficult but it could be worth doing a bit on the side if it becomes my only option then see what comes of that.
 

thetyreman

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I think starting a business is possible whilst still having your current job, work on it, make contacts, and see how it goes, there's nothing to loose, perhaps look at starting an etsy store.
 

TRITON

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Find a workshop. Or rent something for you alone

Both have benefits. An established workshop usually have all the big versions of the machines you might have to start with. Kind of hobby/Craft size. Totally inadequate in comparison.
Theres usually other highly motivated people there.
Occasional 'Cash in hand' ;) jobs.
And ~I reckon they would be happy working with someone of your skill set. Always nice to have others there that have different skills to their own. Carpentry, someone does electrics, Upholsters etc.
.
Downsides are you've got to usually find your own customers, or at least liaise, drawings, talking to them in person, back and forth back and forth.
And bench space is usually expensive. and they're mostly on farms in the middle of NO$%^@&^where....
.
Your own workshop.-
Cost of your own machinery, and you still have to find customers, drawings, back and forth, more drawings but it has two good benefits.
1.You can kick components across the floor in a psychotic rage at your own stupidity.
2.You can kick components across the floor in a psychotic rage at your own stupidity and swear ever so loudly :D

Best of luck.
 

Against_The_Grain

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Many have tried, most have failed and who are left struggle. I’m afraid there’s simply no realistic way to make a living making bespoke furniture unless you’re happy to live on or below the poverty line, or have a nice amount of passive income that can subsidise the lifestyle. The only people left that really make any kind of real money are the ones who make fitted items like wardrobes and kitchens as you’ve found, really mundane stuff.

“It’s easy to be a millionaire in woodworking, start as a billionaire.”
 

DBC

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Nothing is impossible I suppose but there is a good reason why a lot of well known furniture makers spend a large part of their time teaching and publishing. Wish I could remember the name of the book I read on holiday a few years ago by a US furniture maker. He kept opening workshops and eventually going under as his work went in and out of vogue amongst his rich clientel; can’t find it on the shelves so someone must have lent it to me. His fallback position was running classes in furniture making and that is how he ended up.

I am self employed - and while I now have a good customer base - it was hard at the beginning and we couldn’t have lasted long if my wife wasn’t working too. A lot of guys don’t survive those early lean years. Especially the ones that only want prestigious work, go out and rent big workshops and will only be satisfied with new machines and fancy handtools. I guarantee you that a great many of the hobby guys that frequent this site have more upmarket machinery and tools than me and I am woodworking 49 weeks a year 6 days a week and 9 hours a day.

If you are thinking of going out on your own think of being self-employed like this. Assume you want to make £200 a day. You have work on the Monday. £200 can go in the bank. Tuesdays work falls through as the customer isn’t ready for you. Now you have made £100 a day so far this week. If something goes wrong - or you don’t have any work for the Wednesday and Thursday - you may as well be on the dole for the amount you are bringing in. And all the time expenses are accruing and the timber mill wants its money on the 20th for your materials. This is obviously overly simplistic and I am not trying to be all doom and gloom just realistic.

In my case I make it work by keeping expenses low and making sure the customer is always happy by keeping the quality up and ensuring they got what they asked for. I am not raking it in by any means but I make more than if I was on wages which was my original metric for success; although if I was on wages I would be working more sociable hours and have less stress. I am usually booked up about a year or so in advance but I never shake the fear of one day running out of work. Luckily I love woodworking. Even if the poster immediately above would describe many of the things I am making as ‘mundane’.
 
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Alexh1992

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I agree with you all in that going at it along it's extremely difficult I never intended to go at it self employed I was wondering if anybody knew any bispoke furniture makers near me that could be interested .it's such a shame the craft is slowly dropping out of existence.
 

Fanous

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Best of luck mate with what you trying to do.

If I was in your shoes, trying to find a such shop, I'd try to do the same google searches similar to what their customer would do. You shoudl get a number of results. Write down all the shops near you and then do your research for details. Size of the shop, work they do, whatever you can. Narrow it down to few best fitting jobs, that you think you would be happy working in. And have a chat with them.

Not sure it's the best aproach, but it might work...
 

Against_The_Grain

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I agree with you all in that going at it along it's extremely difficult I never intended to go at it self employed I was wondering if anybody knew any bispoke furniture makers near me that could be interested .it's such a shame the craft is slowly dropping out of existence.

Without wanting to sound impolite but the only two real ways to getting a job in woodworking is to either get an apprenticeship (which unfortunately you’re the wrong side of 20 for, most people want young apprentices as they generate more grant money and cost less to pay) or you need to already be a known, skilled craftsman with many years under your belt and the connections within the trade to find work.

I would recommend keeping the engineering as a career and the woodworking as a pleasant hobby, it’s surprising how quickly something you had a passion for initially can wane once you start doing it everyday, especially for little reward.
 
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