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thomaskennedy

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hi,

i am thinking of starting my own furniture making business....hand made furniture made by me!!!!!!

i am 15 at the moment, i intend to go to a furniture making company to get a modern apprentaship.

then i hope to work for a few years get some money saved then start my own business.

Do any of you have any suggestions for me???
Also is there anyone here that actually has there own furniture making company?


I would really appreciate any help!!

Thanks again

Tom
 

trevtheturner

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Hi, Tom,

If you can find a further education college doing the City & Guilds Furniture Stduies course (2 years full time) you could not make a better start. The course encompasses virtually everything you need for a good grounding including: hand tools and machining skills; history of furniture; furniture design and related drawing skills; care sharpening and maintenance of tools and machines; wood - identification, properties seasoning and suitable uses; health & safety matters, etc. And you will end up with a useful qualification to help you to progress into employment.

Regards, Trev.
 

sawdustalley

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Welcome to UK Workshop, I am 16 years old myself so you are not alone.

I looked into training a year back or so. Decided in the end it wasn't for me, and now I am doing A-levels.

There are mixed views on this, some will tell you that craftsmen are rare and you will be coining it in, and some will say that the pay isn't good.

I would buy a few woodworking mags, and see what colleges have to offer - when I was looking around I visited Chichester and Rycotewood and being slightly big headed I looked at their "final" projects and laughed, thinking to myself "Is that it?".

I would advise taking A-level resistant materials if you can. Also, try to get some work experience with a local cabinet making place (Doesn't have to be thru school - you can just organise it yourself in the holidays)

I gained alot from my work experience, although I did enjoy it - then I decided maybe I wouldnt want to do it day in, day out.

I always thing, imagine if a client wants 8 chairs made. That is very tedious to be doing, and at the end of the day they told me if I wanted the serious money you would have to do the more tedious things as apposed to doing what you feel like.
 

Aragorn

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Hi Tom
Great ambition! Having your own furniture making company could be very rewarding.
Hard work though. And there may not be many commissions for years. Also, do you want to compromise and take any woodworking jobs to pay the bills, feed the children, in the years to come?
I have been working professionally as a woodworker for 12 years. I am self-trained. To start with I took any carpentry work I could find, but over the years I became more discerning. Now that I have re-trained as an acupuncturist and started that business I work part-time (professionally)with wood (because I love it) and can take only the jobs I fancy - mostly furniture making.
My point? Slow down! Opportunities come and go, and none of us know what we will want to do in 5...10.. 20 years :D Get your woodworking skills honed through doing it, perhaps taking a part-time apprenticeship but also get your education.
Make some pieces, then try to sell through local art shops or galleries or craft fairs etc. and build it up. In time you will develop a reputation and start getting commissions. If you don't totally rely on them for money, you can enjoy it that much more and take design risks and take your time!
With qualifications and woodworking skills your options will be open in the years to come.

Sorry if I sound like and old fart!

A
 

johnelliott

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It's easy enough to start a furniture making business, and as long as you don't need to make any money you will be OK. Problems arise when you need to make money. Think about it- who do you know who ever bought a piece of furniture that they hadn't already seen?
People do not commission woodworkers to make furniture. If they need something to sit on, eat at, keep their gear in they go to DFS or whatever, if rich enough they go to Harrods.
You could try opening a showroom, and make pieces on 'spec' (speculation). How long would it take you to make a table and six chairs? Cost that time at say £500 a week (most workshops need to sell their time at a lot more than that just to keep the rent etc paid). Add that to the cost of the materials. Have a look at some prices in a funiture shop. Take up woodworking as a HOBBY.

Forget taking courses, apprenticeships etc. Furniture making in this country is virtually dead, and it's not getting any better. Only way to make money cutting wood in this country is as a carpenter, maybe as a joiner, or by making kitchens

For every hundred people who say they are making money by making furniture, I will show you 90 liars, and 9 people whose wives have good jobs.

John
 

mudman

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Forget taking courses, apprenticeships etc. Furniture making in this country is virtually dead, and it's not getting any better. Only way to make money cutting wood in this country is as a carpenter, maybe as a joiner, or by making kitchens
Why is that though? I can see why joinery, kitchen construction would be in demand due to the increased demand for houses. But why would furniture making die in the UK? I would have thought that the demand for well made, hand built furniture would be there still. Is the market being flooded by cheap imports or is it just too expensive with not enough people willing to pay the price?

Regards,
Barry
 

Adam

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johnelliott":1xfehx14 said:
Think about it- who do you know who ever bought a piece of furniture that they hadn't already seen?
Me. I just commisioned a dresser in ash and walnut

johnelliott":1xfehx14 said:
People do not commission woodworkers to make furniture.
Since when? Clearly that isn't true, you only need to look in the phone book to see a few cabinet makers in each area. I would think their is only a very limited market, but it is nonetheless a market. We got a gift of money some while ago, with a requirement to buy something long lasting, and substantial. Only a piece of furntiture met that requirement, and, having checked every furniture store in the area only to find you cannot buy solid qood furniture of any quality, I opted to commision something. I could of course, make it myself, and maybe even justify an extra machine or two, but the gift was to purchase something, in a resonable time.

The cabinet maker who we are using has been doing the same thing for 20 years, think about all the people who need "custom" furniture for a specific space, or just enjoy buying quality products. I know several other cabinet makers making even "higher" grade commision pieces, and again, they have been in business for many years successfully.

Your comments are very negative - it might be hard to eek a living, but clearly it is possible.

Adam
 

johnelliott

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asleitch":syc9kml9 said:
Your comments are very negative - it might be hard to eek a living, but clearly it is possible.

Adam
I expect that if we were to delve into the circumstances of most of the people who were put forward as making a living from custom building furniture, we would turn up some facts that would strengthen the position I am taking on this. For instance, is the person you cited paying a commercial rent on the premises he is using? What's the minimum size of a commercial workshop? I would suggest 600-800 sq ft. At £4psf per annum that would ccome to £2,800. Then add the rates, electricity, heating, advertising, insurance etc etc. How much turnover needed just to start? Probably £500 a week. Forget wages at that level of sales. How long to make a dresser? Couple of weeks? So, add a £1000, the cost of the materials and some wages and ask how many commissions are going to be about at the prices that need to be charged? Yes, there will be some, but the questioner would need a new commission maybe 20 odd times a year. Possible? Maybe, Likely, NO
John

I
 

Aragorn

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johnelliott":29mcil8a said:
People do not commission woodworkers to make furniture.
Well that's odd! I was sure that's what my customers have been doing these last few years.

A
 

johnelliott

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Aragorn":fn5vo8h9 said:
johnelliott":fn5vo8h9 said:
People do not commission woodworkers to make furniture.
Well that's odd! I was sure that's what my customers have been doing these last few years.

A
Yes, but aren't we talking here about making a living from it? According to your profile you make your living another way. Doing commissions is fime as a hobby, problem comes when you have to charge a commercial price
John
 

Adam

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johnelliott":1tij2v1s said:
For instance, is the person you cited paying a commercial rent on the premises he is using?
Yep, both the ones I know both rent a workshop (at commercial rates) - in fact thinking about where we placed our order - their is another cabinet maker in the same group of commercial buildings. Along with a double glazing manufacturer etc.


johnelliott":1tij2v1s said:
but the questioner would need a new commission maybe 20 odd times a year. Possible? Maybe, Likely, NO
Yep, sounds about the number he mentioned. I've seen some work, recently he made a jewelry box - 2 days!! It was fantastic - I couldn't believe it wasn't 2 weeks work! hand cut Dovetails, everything compound angled - superb finish. I reckon our dresser would be about a weeks work, based on discussions with him. With drawers (which we didn't opt for) it would have been longer becuase of the significant extra work involved - we went for the doors only - quite a bit cheaper! He has people who return every year for a "new piece". People who want big "showpiece" dining tables etc etc.

johnelliott":1tij2v1s said:
I expect that if we were to delve into the circumstances of most of the people who were put forward as making a living from custom building furniture, we would turn up some facts that would strengthen the position I am taking on this"
Again, I must disagree - magazines like F&CM - it's aimed at "pro's" more than "amatuers" - according to you that'll be all zero of them - so how come they support an editorial team. What about the companies selling to these "pro's" you say make no money - they still buying machines aren't they? Why would Felder advertise here? Or Startrite? Why is there sawmills selling to professionals?

Are you professional? Do you know just how fast pro's work? Projects are measured in days not weeks. Of the two commercial 'shops I mentioned - one is run by two cabinet makers - who employ a further 3 cabinet makers. Thats five!!! This is high end furniture. Not only that, they are moving from 100% commisions, to some stuff which they design themselves (as it's more "fun") and sell it as finished pieces. Thats only possible in a market where their is strong demand for custom pieces. Can you imagine - making pieces for fun without any customer constraints!! That's be good - and its happening!! I don't think you would emply other people without making a profit would you?

Adam
 

trevtheturner

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This all started off with a young man, Tom, asking for some advice. If that is his interest I think the least we can do is encourage him towards developing his skills. Like many of us, his ideas might, and quite likely will, go in different directions later on but if he has gained his skills (future furniture business or not) he will still have those skills to enjoy.

Wouldn't it be rather nice if this forum had encouraged and helped him, rather than put him off?

Go for it, Tom, if that's what you want!
 

Aragorn

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johnelliott":3hpyj1du said:
...but aren't we talking here about making a living from it?
We are talking about making a living from it. I have been in my new business for 18 months, but before that I made a living from woodwork - not entirely furniture making as I've said, but more and more so as the time went on.
I am sure that you have good reasons to be cynical about the possibility of earning a living from furniture making, but many of my colleagues do so (as Adam is pointing out). Your experiences are you own and other people's will differ.

trevtheturner":3hpyj1du said:
Wouldn't it be rather nice if this forum had encouraged and helped Tom, rather than put him off?
Trev - I thought I was encouraging him! :wink: I think it's a great thing to aspire to, and if it does go another way, Tom will retain his woodworking skills to enjoy forever.
 

trevtheturner

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HI, Aragorn,

Yes, of course you were encouraging - I agree with all you have said.
My observation was directed only at the negative comments - it would be a shame if Tom was discouraged by them.

Regards, Trev.
 

johnelliott

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The negative comments were all mine, and I stand by them. The last thing a youngster needs in this increasingly difficult economic climate is encouragement to go in the wrong direction.
There are many organisations out there who make their living by teaching people how to do woodwork for a living, and they have a vested interest in encouraging people to take up the craft. I don't think there are enough people telling the other side, as I have tried to do here.
The economics are the problem. I'm assuming that those here who make a living from woodwork are NOT paying full economic rent and other costs for their premises. If the young gentleman, whose name I have forgotten, has a workshop in his backyard, and a large circle of friends and acquaintances who are willing and able to make purchases for themselves plus spread the word then yes, he maybe should do it.
If on the other hand he does not have those advantages then he should find something perhaps IT related to do, and keep the woodwork as a hobby.
John
 

Adam

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I have to say, Thomas, the original poster, asked for views, assistance etc. Whilst my (and Aragorn) etc views differ from JohnElliot, I think it does portray a balanced picture of the industry - i.e. it's not plain sailing. He asked for assistance, and John clearly thinks the best assistance is to recommend against WW as a career, the best assistance I can suggest is to keep talking to some professional cabinet makers in your area. I think they'd be more likely to tell you the truth as it is, especailly bearing in mind your age - than they may do to another adult.

I'm assuming that those here who make a living from woodwork are NOT paying full economic rent and other costs for their premises
Why? I just gave two successful examples of people who are - and they just happen to be the two I know - the same picture is repeated over the whole country no doubt. I would imagine the difficult bit is to get started, build up a client base and people who can supply good references, to build up the marketing aspects, get a website etc, in a short enough period that the bank doesn't start complaining. Once you get past that initial phase, as far as I can see, the orders/business gets a lot smoother.

I'm only an amatuer, so I only go on the experience I have had with the professionals I know. I think for a select few, the industry is profitable and fun. I'd be interested to know if you speak from being a professional yourself John, an amatuer, or someone who has had a try at both? Returning to the original posters question, Thomas, although the answers on this forum are a good start, only a few in here are professionals, so you should definately seek out a cabinet makers in your area and go and meet them for a chat and a coffee.

Adam
 
A

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johnelliott":2c72o3ms said:
If on the other hand he does not have those advantages then he should find something perhaps IT related to do, and keep the woodwork as a hobby.
John
I'd avoid IT like the plague! (flippant remark, don't flame me!)

I find the discussion interesting - I currently occupy a well paid job in the IT/telecoms industry, but have been considering quitting the lot, going down to Devon for some training, and then setting up myself. The big stopper is family commitments, but a 15 yr old isn't going to have them! I'm curious sometimes though to see that many of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen (Charlesworth and others of his ilk) now earn their living from teaching rather than making furniture; there must be a reason for this? But, those of the guilds who still make furniture, often to commision, do charge large amounts for their products (usually they're award winners, which probably helps).

My concern regarding the viability has always been the readily available MDF/chipboard veneered rubbish you can get from argos, MFI etc, and even the emerging market for low cost solid-wood (pine) furniture also available from the sheds. Your average punter ain't going to spend 1000 quid plus on a handmade chest of drawers when they can buy a machine made, solid wood unit from argos for 100 quid. So...where do the commisions come from? Presumably, you have to make your name to get the customers in...and that's that hard part. Win some awards, and you're made. Just set up shop, and you could struggle.

So - nutshell....for me, it's probably a pipe dream due to family requirements, but for those nearer retirement (maybe with mortgage gone), or those starting out with no wife/kids, why not? Do the city&guilds...get yourself on a decent 30week course from the likes of DC, get yourself into some exhibitions, win awards, never look back! Go for it!
 

johnelliott

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asleitch":3t916hiv said:
I'm assuming that those here who make a living from woodwork are NOT paying full economic rent and other costs for their premises
Why? I just gave two successful examples of people who are - and they just happen to be the two I know - the same picture is repeated over the whole country no doubt.
No doubt? No doubt? Like I said before, if you know somebody who is a making a living working full time making furniture, in a workshop paying commercial rent, rates etc, then that is something I would like to delve into. Almost certainly that person is working from a back-yard workshop, effectively rent and rates free. It may well be that he has a armed forces pension, perhaps a wife in a well paid job. He might well be working full time as a furniture maker, the question here is how much money is he making??????????? I suppose he has an ad in the yellow pages? Do you know how much that costs? WHat other advertising does he do

I am a full time woodworker. I tried the custom furniture thing. Yes, you can get commissions, I should have said so earlier, what you can't do is make a real living at it, you need the subsidies I mentioned above.
I make kitchens, and that is developing into a reasonable business. The reason why, people will pay LOTS more for a kitchen than they will for furniture.
Did you have a look at my figures in the earlier post, about the standing costs of a woodworking business, what did you think, accurate?

John
 
A

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The only question I had about your figures John, was the rental cost of the workshop - round where I work (Berkshire), you could be paying as much as 25 quid /sq-ft per annum!
 

Alf

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Folks,

I think the words "horse", "dead" and "flogging" are starting to be applicable to aspects of this, er, discussion. :wink: I should think Tom has a pretty good idea of the pros and cons by now, and a few avenues to explore further. How's about we agree to disagree and call it a day? If you really feel you must go on, perhaps take it to private message or email instead. Ta muchly :D

Cheers, Alf
 
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