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woodbrains, I take my hat off to you for this thread and the way you have kinda bared your soul. Its a risky move as it doesnt always bring comments you would ideally like!. Just a question - does your woodworking experience extend only to making or have you any experience in repairing furniture and if so do you enjoy that?
 

custard

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[email protected]":1hpuha2e said:
have you any experience in repairing furniture?

Apologies for jumping in on a question that wasn't addressed to me.

I trained as a cabinet maker twice. Once in the early 80's and then again more recently. The first time around any serious cabinet making training included a large dollop of antique restoration, because it was assumed you'd either earn a living making repro furniture or as an antique restorer.

Since then the antique furniture market has absolutely crashed, and with it has gone a large part of the antique restoration trade and almost all of the repro market. Yes, truly museum quality antique pieces continue to set record auction prices, and there's still a top end restoration business to support that market. But the core middle antique furniture market has been in decline for over twenty years now, and there's no sign of any respite. When antiques are being broken up for scrap timber it's hard to make a living restoring the stuff.
 

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woodbrains

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cowfoot":3txv6loq said:
custard":3txv6loq said:
cowfoot":3txv6loq said:
the latest being the most simple and taking 15hrs (plus £55’s worth of Ash)...I reckon they could turn a profit

I wouldn't bet your house on it,

http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/products/tabl ... de-tables/

http://www.sebastiancox.co.uk/shop?category=Bayleaf

There’s a price somewhere between those two extremes that buyers would also be happy with.

Hello,

there is some interesting stuff here, but I'm not sure the prices are reasonable, in the sense they are in between IKEA and high end handmade. http://www.sebastiancox.co.uk/shop/hewn-bench-hyfny

£320 for a rough ash board with a few branches stuck into it. 21st century and we are becoming less sophisticated than iron age man!

Mike.
 

cowfoot

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I certainly don’t think their prices are reasonable - but presumably they have a market.
One of the main points in that book I linked to many, many posts ago makes is that it’s very important to study the competition and to have a realistic idea of where you stand in relation to them.
Of course, if we’re being brutally honest this thread could just end with Custard telling us not to bother and an IKEA link, but there are people out there making a go of it despite multinational tax avoiders with a good line in particle board to go with your meatballs.
I was in Skandium on Marylebone High Street the other day; it was full of young(ish) people with an interest in well made, fairly expensive furniture. Hope springs eternal.
 

woodbrains

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[email protected]":3v51yji8 said:
woodbrains, I take my hat off to you for this thread and the way you have kinda bared your soul. Its a risky move as it doesnt always bring comments you would ideally like!. Just a question - does your woodworking experience extend only to making or have you any experience in repairing furniture and if so do you enjoy that?

Hello,

I've done a little, but Custard's answer, welcome by the way, pretty much sums it up. There is a nice fellow with an antique shop just along the road from me. When I say antique I mean real antique, not one of the multitude of bric a brac shops that open up everywhere these days, but not chalk stripe suited proprietor either. I did a small amount there but even he admitted the market was so poor, if he hadn't bought the shop decades ago and have no overheads, he couldn't make any money.

There is some interesting stuff done by repurposing stuff rather than restoring. But then there is a lot of terrible stuff done too. I'm not sure if there is a viable business here, by nature repurposed stuff tends towards low end. If you are good enough there are some London dealers who seem to be able to get a lot of money for some of this sort of thing, but I don't think it will work up North. I have been saving some salvaged bits and bobs with an idea to repurpose into useful things, for myself for now. If the results are favourable, then it could be another avenue to explore.

Mike.
 

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woodbrains":29mi7v7v said:
[email protected]":29mi7v7v said:
woodbrains, I take my hat off to you for this thread and the way you have kinda bared your soul. Its a risky move as it doesnt always bring comments you would ideally like!. Just a question - does your woodworking experience extend only to making or have you any experience in repairing furniture and if so do you enjoy that?

Hello,

I've done a little, but Custard's answer, welcome by the way, pretty much sums it up. There is a nice fellow with an antique shop just along the road from me. When I say antique I mean real antique, not one of the multitude of bric a brac shops that open up everywhere these days, but not chalk stripe suited proprietor either. I did a small amount there but even he admitted the market was so poor, if he hadn't bought the shop decades ago and have no overheads, he couldn't make any money.

There is some interesting stuff done by repurposing stuff rather than restoring. But then there is a lot of terrible stuff done too. I'm not sure if there is a viable business here, by nature repurposed stuff tends towards low end. If you are good enough there are some London dealers who seem to be able to get a lot of money for some of this sort of thing, but I don't think it will work up North. I have been saving some salvaged bits and bobs with an idea to repurpose into useful things, for myself for now. If the results are favourable, then it could be another avenue to explore.

Mike.

not really the type of work I was referring to but no worries, good luck with your plans :)

btw people like the nice fellow with the shop are fossils who havnt moved with the times - seriously, you dont want to be taking advice of people like that!
 

Jacob

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woodbrains":1rv79jz2 said:
Jacob":1rv79jz2 said:
woodbrains":1rv79jz2 said:
.
Jacob, you can't make those side tables for 250 and make any money, You would have to make them in a day from scratch to polish. No wonder you still get enquiries you are practically giving them away. The cherry alone would be 80 quid, more for figured boards and I can't make and fit a drawer with dovetails and slips in much less than a day.

Mike.
You couldn't make one in a day but you could make 5 in a week. That's the difference between one offing and batches.

Hello,

So what do you do when someone asks for one? Tell them to find 4 other buyers wanting exactly the same or expect them wait till another 4 fill the order books and then charge them the batch price. Or do you charge them the batch price for a one off and make a loss. Or ask the one off price and lose the job. Or make 5 charge the batch price and have 4 left gathering dust and taking up space I don't have, for and even bigger loss.

It is easy to spout this wisdom Jacob but experience tells it different.

Mike.
You stack them up in a corner until somebody comes and buys them. Just like 99.9% of businesses who sell things. Hardly anybody makes stuff to order. Space is an issue of course.
 

Jacob

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woodbrains":1ozu4o4a said:
.......... I can't make and fit a drawer with dovetails and slips in much less than a day.

Mike.
If you do one at a time that's no surprise! Like being baker and making one mince pie at a time.
If you did a dozen it certainly wouldn't take 12 days

PS oops edited the wrong post! Lost what I was saying.
 

cowfoot

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Jacob":5a40pffq said:
No proper furniture maker does one offs - it's a penitential cross our "artist/craftsmen" have chosen to bear.

I think you’re being deliberately provocative there, but I tend to agree...
What do you reckon to my idea (well, not really my idea, pretty much every succesful manufacturer does it to some extent!) of standardised components for several different items of furniture? That way you haven’t got large items gathering dust and you can build to order. I live quite close to the Ercol factory, I’ll have to pop my head round the door and pick up some tips.
 

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Mr T":2fmkiwfc said:
The truth is that some people are not cut out for being an entrepreneur, which is what you are as a self employed maker. Successful entrepreneurs believe completely that their product is the best thing since sliced bread and can also talk the talk to convince others of this. Many highly skilled makers are unsuccessful because they do not fit this bill. They concentrate all their on the workshop when they should be spending about 20% or more of their time chasing up prospects, advertising and generally putting themselves about. That takes a lot of self belief. I speak from experience, that's why I teach instead of making!

Good luck Mike.

Chris


Slightly off topic to the thread, but there might be an "interesting" programme on channel 4 next week called -Worlds most expensive presents. Someone on there selling doggy coats for £40k, someone gold plating bikes,phones or cigars and selling them to people with more money than sense. Are these people true entrepreneurs, or highly skilled makers
 

dzj

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Kitchen cabinet refacing (resurfacing?) is something you might try in a low rent area.
Few tools, no workshop required. A weekend job.
 

Jacob

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cowfoot":hp1y9o7y said:
Jacob":hp1y9o7y said:
No proper furniture maker does one offs - it's a penitential cross our "artist/craftsmen" have chosen to bear.

I think you’re being deliberately provocative there, but I tend to agree...
What do you reckon to my idea (well, not really my idea, pretty much every succesful manufacturer does it to some extent!) of standardised components for several different items of furniture? That way you haven’t got large items gathering dust and you can build to order. I live quite close to the Ercol factory, I’ll have to pop my head round the door and pick up some tips.
Not trying to be provocative just trying to point out the obvious.
Your idea would be be a design problem first. Just depends on what designs you'd come up with. As you say it was/is normal. Turnings especially - they'd be bunging out table legs or windsor chair bits by the gross without knowing quite where they'd end up.
 

woodbrains

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Jacob":zfot6kaz said:
cowfoot":zfot6kaz said:
Jacob":zfot6kaz said:
No proper furniture maker does one offs - it's a penitential cross our "artist/craftsmen" have chosen to bear.

I think you’re being deliberately provocative there, but I tend to agree...
What do you reckon to my idea (well, not really my idea, pretty much every succesful manufacturer does it to some extent!) of standardised components for several different items of furniture? That way you haven’t got large items gathering dust and you can build to order. I live quite close to the Ercol factory, I’ll have to pop my head round the door and pick up some tips.
Not trying to be provocative just trying to point out the obvious.
Your idea would be be a design problem first. Just depends on what designs you'd come up with. As you say it was/is normal. Turnings especially - they'd be bunging out table legs or windsor chair bits by the gross without knowing quite where they'd end up.

Hello,

Jacob, almost all small makers, one man outfits, do one offs a lot of the time and only when commissioned. You didn't make dozens of windows hoping a customer with the right sizes apertures just happened to come along. Batch production when you get a whole house of windows, yes, just the same as I batch produce the components for a set of dining chairs when someone wants a set, (like people buy those!) But batch making without an order is speculative, it requires investment and space and the hope they will sell quickly enough to recoup the cost quickly enough to avoid bankruptcy. You are talking about factories which make stuff in bulk and sell later. If a one man band tries to work like a factory, it will fail. Everyone does some speculative stuff from time to time, but it is not something you can base your business on entirely. You might make speculative stuff in between commissions, during a lull, or to try out a new design.

Look at the shaker table above. Someone wants one, in a nice figured cherry, raw materials cost 110 quid for some curly cherry. You make a batch of 5 saving some time through efficiency, in a week. (You can't, but let's argue you can) You sell for 300 because it is nicer than the 250 quid one we saw in plain wood and a week's shop overheads are a minimum of 200 for the week. We take 300 for an outlay of 750. Brilliant, how long can we continue losing 450 a week, and I haven't fed myself either. Jacob for pities sake, all the small makers know speculative making is suicide.

Cowfoot, the same thing applies. Make a whole load of components waiting for assembly for when the customer decides to buy your product. But you've made everything in Maple and the customer wants cherry, so you batch a whole load more in cherry and the next customer wants oak, then another wants walnut. It doesn't matter how charming a salesman you are. You NEVER I repeat NEVER tie up capital like this, it is one thing I am smart enough to have found out from last time. Even big companies don't make more than they have projected orders for. Look up 'Just in Time' as a manufacturing strategy.

Mike.
 

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woodbrains":3qcn5e23 said:
Tomahawk, I did take almost everything on when I had a workshop last time; I installed fitted kitchens, laid floors, did some house joinery and door hanging, picture framing, I made packing cases once! I thought this was part of my downfall, the diversity meant it was hard to get fully efficient at anything. I found it difficult to cost jobs too. Someone would come along with any woodwork related thing, but I had no datum for costing something I'd never done, so I was likely undercharging just to make the rent. Conventional wisdom would be to specialise in a narrow field and get efficient and streamlined to maximise costs. If it worked for you, then fine, I'll give it some more thought.



Mike.

Mike

I am not saying that all the jobs I have taken on made money, the trick is saying no the next time.

I first went into business when I was 21 and made ALL the same mistakes that you made, I got out after 9 years of struggling when I was offered a job as a works manager in a furniture company.

Older and wiser I set up again in 2005 and although with the problems caused be 2008 I have slowly grown the business to employ 6 people.

You have something in common with me that you have done it before and if you think about it, you should have an idea of what to avoid and what to take on that will make money, even if it is not what you may want to do.

You now have the pricing datum as you have been tried in the past.

I would say that you seem to be fixated with hand dovetails and drawer slips, this will not make you money, buy a dovetail jig and use a router.

Offer hand cut dovetails as an option, I think you will find that at at least £200 per drawer box ( 1 days work ) most customers will go for the routered option with a veneered MDF base.

I am not saying you won't be able to make high end hand made furniture, but have been in this industry long enough to know that these jobs are few and far between especially if you are not in the right bit of the country.

Most customers just want a nice looking piece which is a price they can afford and are not really interested if you have spent 3 weeks cutting all the joints by hand and scraping the surfaces with a cabinet scraper.

Finally my training as an apprentice was partly making high end reproductions, and I loved doing it, and if I thought I could make living at it I would jump at the chance even now.

I am enough of a realist to know that it is a very small market place and I would struggle to keep my head above water.
 

cowfoot

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woodbrains":qroerx9o said:
Cowfoot, the same thing applies. Make a whole load of components waiting for assembly for when the customer decides to buy your product. But you've made everything in Maple and the customer wants cherry, so you batch a whole load more in cherry and the next customer wants oak, then another wants walnut. It doesn't matter how charming a salesman you are. You NEVER I repeat NEVER tie up capital like this, it is one thing I am smart enough to have found out from last time. Even big companies don't make more than they have projected orders for. Look up 'Just in Time' as a manufacturing strategy.

Mike.

You’re thinking like a bespoke maker, who wants to give prospective customers too many options. Fair enough, but I’m more of the Henry Ford school when it comes to giving people a choice...
That aside, a few thousand years of economic history testify to the fact that it’s usually necessary to tie up a certain amount of capital in stock. How much depends, but rarely none at all and never NEVER, caps or not.
 

Jacob

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woodbrains":26x4hhk1 said:
........... ... Everyone does some speculative stuff from time to time, but it is not something you can base your business on entirely.
You can if you want to. Basically you have to keep up on the selling front so that you aren't accumulating too much stock - so it's effectively a bit of both with a proportion of what you are making already ordered, but not all of it, and during lulls you keep on stocking up.
Look at the shaker table above. Someone wants one, in a nice figured cherry, raw materials cost 110 quid for some curly cherry. You make a batch of 5 saving some time through efficiency, in a week. (You can't, but let's argue you can)
You could quite easily - they are very simple.
..... all the small makers know speculative making is suicide.
No - some of them fail, but it has to be either the product is no good to start with or not enough selling effort. All the big makers start with speculative making
Cowfoot, the same thing applies. Make a whole load of components waiting for assembly for when the customer decides to buy your product. But you've made everything in Maple and the customer wants cherry, so you batch a whole load more in cherry and the next customer wants oak, then another wants walnut.
You don't necessarily offer options. If you decide to use cherry you use cherry. If they want curly maple you either say no or you make it a special at 3 times the price of the cherry. Probably more - if you've got to go out and get the wood specially and interrupt the flow of production.
It doesn't matter how charming a salesman you are. You NEVER I repeat NEVER tie up capital like this,....
It's probably the most effective way of tying up the least amount of capital and when you get an order it's delivered and paid for immediately. Imagine being a baker setting up his stall with just flour, yeast, currants and expecting to sell bread and cakes!

Interesting reading all your arguments for doing nothing and taking no risks. Stick with the day job Mike! Have to say - you do seem to be in the ideal position for having a go - may be you don't really want to do it?
 

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woodbrains":envffv2x said:
I don't know if ETSY is worth a try, but to be honest, the few people I know who sell on it aren't shifting a lot of stuff. I always think that seeing items in the flesh is vital for people ti judge the quality. I have just opened an ETSY account and hope to put some things on it soon.

Thanks for the replies so far.

Mike.

I own 3 Etsy shops and admin a 4th. One sells my own carving work.

My advice for Etsy is do cheap and quick stuff. As you need loads of stock on there in order to be seen.

If you need any advice with Etsy please drop me a pm. I would love to help out with helping you to achieve your goal in life [SMILING FACE WITH SMILING EYES]



Sent from my Moto G (4) using Tapatalk
 

woodbrains

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tomatwark":xc2e7kmj said:
woodbrains":xc2e7kmj said:
Tomahawk, I did take almost everything on when I had a workshop last time; I installed fitted kitchens, laid floors, did some house joinery and door hanging, picture framing, I made packing cases once! I thought this was part of my downfall, the diversity meant it was hard to get fully efficient at anything. I found it difficult to cost jobs too. Someone would come along with any woodwork related thing, but I had no datum for costing something I'd never done, so I was likely undercharging just to make the rent. Conventional wisdom would be to specialise in a narrow field and get efficient and streamlined to maximise costs. If it worked for you, then fine, I'll give it some more thought.



Mike.

Mike

I am not saying that all the jobs I have taken on made money, the trick is saying no the next time.

I first went into business when I was 21 and made ALL the same mistakes that you made, I got out after 9 years of struggling when I was offered a job as a works manager in a furniture company.

Older and wiser I set up again in 2005 and although with the problems caused be 2008 I have slowly grown the business to employ 6 people.

You have something in common with me that you have done it before and if you think about it, you should have an idea of what to avoid and what to take on that will make money, even if it is not what you may want to do.

You now have the pricing datum as you have been tried in the past.

I would say that you seem to be fixated with hand dovetails and drawer slips, this will not make you money, buy a dovetail jig and use a router.

Offer hand cut dovetails as an option, I think you will find that at at least £200 per drawer box ( 1 days work ) most customers will go for the routered option with a veneered MDF base.

I am not saying you won't be able to make high end hand made furniture, but have been in this industry long enough to know that these jobs are few and far between especially if you are not in the right bit of the country.

Most customers just want a nice looking piece which is a price they can afford and are not really interested if you have spent 3 weeks cutting all the joints by hand and scraping the surfaces with a cabinet scraper.

Finally my training as an apprentice was partly making high end reproductions, and I loved doing it, and if I thought I could make living at it I would jump at the chance even now.

I am enough of a realist to know that it is a very small market place and I would struggle to keep my head above water.

Hello,

Thanks for more good advice. Don't worry, my dovetail jig saw much more action than my dovetail saw, trust me! And my supplier of veneered MDF saw my face more than my solid timber supplier; come to think of it so did my paint supplier, most of the stuff I did towards the end was painted built ins. The handmade dovetails and drawer slips was really only to illustrate Jacobs bunkum business model based on his assertion that Custard's side table (which had drawer slips and hand cut dovetails) could be made for 250.

I've done my fair share of expedient, cost saving methods, and I don't mind it. Sometimes the challenge of doing something down to a price and ending up with a satisfactory product is gratifying. I think you said before, that I'm probably in the wrong area, though.

Perhaps you could tell cowfoot why his generic batch idea is not as good as he thinks. The clue is, I think, the fact that no one else is doing it, might illustrate its inviability. It is not that he is the first to think of it, that's for certain.

Mike.
 
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