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monica

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Hello!

My name is Monica and I'm 24 years old. I'm from Norway and I'm working as an apprentice in my father's firm. I did work in another firm for 6 months, but my boss had a bad habit of screaming at me every time I did something wrong. In the end I was so depressed that I didn't want to go to work in the mornings and I wanted to quit my education. He was that bad! My father took me in as an apprentice and now I've got my motivation back. What I really want to do is make special furniture. Designing them myself and then produce them. I'm wondering if any of you are making a living out of furniture making and what furniture sell the most? I'm thinking maybe cabinets? I would love any advice you can give me! I still have 1.5 years left before I'm a carpenter, so I have some time to think about this and make some plans.

Thanks!

Monica
 

johnelliott

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Hi Monica

I can't speak for Norway, but in the UK it is virtually impossible to make a living making furniture (by special I presume you mean bespoke and good quality).
The only way to get by as a furniture maker is to have very low costs and, ideally, a well paid spouse.

Most of the furniture for sale in the UK is made in other countries where the labour costs are very low. You can buy a decent looking solid oak dining table and six chairs for £700.
The well known furniture makers in this country keep going by having students, but even one of the best known, with quite a few students, still went bankrupt.

If you are interested in cabinets, and would like to make a living as a woodworker, then you might consider bespoke kitchens. You can make a living doing bespoke kitchens because it is difficult for large firms to make special sizes etc and made-to-measure is therefore a market niche. Still difficult to get customers, though
John
 

Chris Knight

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Monica,
Other people have discussed this quite a lot with a range of views from "it is difficult" to "it is almost impossible" to make a living out of bespoke furniture.

This thread discusses it as do others. Use the search facility for "career", "professional" etc.

Are you in Norway? Is your father's business a woodworking business?
 

monica

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The firm I used to work for makes bespoke kitchens and also cabinets. They sold their products through other well known firms. If a customer called directly to us, we told him/her what firm to contact instead.

I think bespoke kitchens are something that would sell well here. I think if I ever start my own firm, I'd still work for my father. I know a young man here who is a very talented carpenter. He recently started his own firm, but he still decided to stay in the firm he works for. When he has many projects at home, he doesn't go to work. His boss doesn't mind, lol!

Thanks for the reply!
 

monica

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waterhead37":xktb1j1x said:
Monica,
Other people have discussed this quite a lot with a range of views from "it is difficult" to "it is almost impossible" to make a living out of bespoke furniture.

This thread discusses it as do others. Use the search facility for "career", "professional" etc.

Are you in Norway? Is your father's business a woodworking business?
Hi! Yes, my father's business is also a woodworking business. Thanks for the link!
 

Waka

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Monica

Welcome to the forum, sorry can't advise you on what to do business wise except to say give it a try, as they say nothing ventured nothing gained.

Good luck
 

Gill

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Hi Monica

Welcome to the forum and good luck with your venture
.

There'll be plenty of people who tell you that it's not possible for you to make a living building kitchen cabinets, but by the same token there are people who do so quite successfully. If it's what you want, do it! My only advice is to get yourself a good accountant and be very wary of taking out finance - you want your profits to go into your pocket, not the bank manager's :) .

Gill
 

Losos

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Hi Monica & welcome to UKW - There's lots of experience and knowledge on this forum & I hope you can get started with your 'dream'

As Gill has said, try like mad to avoid any kind of business loan, it might look attractive at your age but it's going to increase your overheads & that'll make it harder to sell your work, also do *not* use paid advertising, this is another overhead which for the small firm never really makes sense, there's plenty of ways of promoting your firm which don't involve heavy media costs e.g flyers etc. anyway satisfied clients are the best form of advertising.

Let us all know in a year (or sooner if you can) how you make out.
 

orangetlh

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hello monica, first thing i would do, and what i have been doing recently is taking photos of every piece of furniture you make for yoursef. As a starting business its unlikely that you will be able to run a showroom as the costs are huge. So a portfolio of pieces you have created will be good for potential customers to see your worth. If you need machinery or tools make sure you buy the best quality you can afford as it will pay you back in the long run. Good luck in whatever you do, personally i work for a small furniture maker, mainly producing kitchens and only produce about 1 or 2 kitchens a month, business tends to be all or nothing, last year we had about 4 months of nothing and then about 7 kitchen orders in 3 weeks. We very rarely make bespoke pieces of furniture as the cost to build them is pretty high and as its been said before you can get cheap furniture now from abroad. The way i look at it is, as long as you dont expect to become a millionare, your willing to work all the hours under the sun and you love your job then go for it! I would love to start my own workshop when i have enough experience so i wish you all the luck in the world
 

IronMonger

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Hi Monica...

This is hard for me to advise since I am quite a distance away. But the guys making it here in the States have to run LEAN, MEAN and GREEN.

LEAN means trim every expense down its bare minimum. Dont buy new machines. Restore old iron purchased from branrupcy auctions and restore them. My drill press was made in the late 1800s and my wysong mortiser was left over by the US Navy from Pearl Harbor. Old machinery like Oliver, Wadkin, Wysong, Porter and old iron Martin will run for 100 years and more.

Keep your shop rent down. Dont go for the fancy new space. Look for comfortable old buildings with cheap rent.

MEAN means to pursue customers. Photograph all decent work and develop an internet site geared for attracting business. Be flexible. You may want to build modern furniture but be ready to do reproduction antiques or 32 mm Euro cabinets instead. Next week you may get to work on what you want. Ethnic Influence often sells as well. Most folks in a given country get bored and when they see interesting influcences from somewhere else, they gotta have it. Keep a pulse on what ethnic influences are hot and realize whats hot this year is dead next year. Be prepared to do corporate space. Modern office buildings often have lots of custom work in the top floors if you know what I mean. Somebody had to do that woodwork. Keep a number of specialty skills ready to go. For example, a buddy of mine in Fla. is an expert in built in fish tanks. He designs and builds custom built in aquariums for private and commercial customers.

And GREEN means cash ready. Dont finance your business unless its truely needed and then think twice. Many companies go out of business because they are cash tight and run into a spree of lean business and cannot make the bank payments. I have a Kindt Collins 30 inch disc sander from a pattern shop. New, this sander cost well over $30,000 dollars US. But the shop went casters up and the bank took it over. They cut a hole in the wall on the second floor and hired a rigger to remove the machines. The government safety guys would not allow them to use the old, 100 year old elevator to remove the machines. I walked away with this sander for $2700 dollars US. And I paid in real cash. Old school auction guys still dont trust credit cards and bank instruments, etc. Your always going to need to do some upgrades and incure some business expenses. So if possible, try to keep some cash in the bank. Many times, that new (to you) machine your thinking about is not available and so you may have to wait until that machine finds you. Its nice to be able to jump on the opportunity when it shows up.

Lastly, keep an eye out for any chance to get your work published. Woodworking magaines, trade shows, etc. There are always opportunities on the local level to get your work into general circulation. That is how you get business comming back to you. Also watch out for agents. As you mentioned, your old boss does not take in business. Rather he uses an agent to take in business which is then indirectly referred back to you. Every wonder what that agent is skimming? He is skimming the cream off the top of the milk jug. You guys do the work and he pockets the commision. Sometimes an agent is needed but you need to watch them and be very very careful.

At any rate, best of luck in your quest....
 

monica

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wow! Thanks for all the good advice! :D I'll let you know how it goes! I think my father will let me use his machines, so I don't have to start from scratch here. There are some machines that I'll buy later when I have some money saved up. I'm also a graphic designer, so making a website won't be a problem. :)
 

srs

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Monica, why not stay working with your father? (That is if he has the work to spare) if you can bring new ideas, markets, directions to the business while you have his experience of business to learn from. I started working for my father about 9 years ago as I was strapped for cash and to be honest he did it as a favour, well I'm still working but now it is with him rather than for him. We have increased business and profit and in 2 years he is off to retire it can be hard working with family but has its upsides.

The word’s of caution I would give you for working either for yourself or a small family business are these.

1. You will not get holiday as you either can not afford it or you fell obliged to keep on working so you don’t let the family down (I took 4 days off last year and that was over x-mass)

2. You will have to work when you are ill as bills don’t wait.

3. Don’t hope to make you millions, just be glad to pay the bills.


But good luck to you whatever you do.

Simon
 

DomValente

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Hi Monica,
Some excellent suggestions here, especially the portfolio one. Customers who come to me,off the street,always ask what I can make.
I also agree that staying with your father as long as you can will give you the experience you will need in the future, he will teach you how to get the most from your materials whether they be solid timbers or veneered boards, waste nothing.
If you do leave your fathers workshop try to locate in the wealthier parts of town, rents may be higher but if your furniture is first class these people will pay top prices.
Finally, when pricing for a client make sure you include everything in your costs, travelling time,glue ,sandpaper,telephone, EVERYTHING.


Good Luck
Dom
 
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