Archive | starting a woodworking business RSS feed for this section

My first commission … the never ending project ends

17 Oct

Hooray! After many weeks of toil I finally wrapped up my first commission.

It was a surprise to me how much I had underestimated the time it would take me to complete the project. I felt like I was treading in quicksand as each deadline passed. I hate missing deadlines. As much as I was looking forward to getting my first commission I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! As I found out, two hour sessions in the shop don’t allow for very much momentum and flow. So I’ve resolved that before taking on future commissions I’ll carefully assess how much time I’d need to complete the project, and the complexity or amount of procedures involved and then ensure that the timeline is loose enough that I can still have a life outside of woodworking (which I haven’t had much of these past weeks!). Above all I want to make sure that woodworking doesn’t become a stressful activity that I start to hate!

Without further ado here are is the wrap up of my first woodworking commission!

I last left off with the seven pullout surfaces completed and delivered. Next I moved on to  building drawers…

I started by re-sawing the stock I was given. I set up my shop made bandsaw fence to account for drift and was pleased with the results. BUT feed rate made all the difference, on the right I fed the stock too quickly and the blade wandered. I then began feeding the stock at a more moderate feed rate and the rest of the re-sawing came out like the example on the left. Luckily the wobbly cut pcs. still planed out all the bandsaw marks.

I then pre-milled the boards and let them sit a few days on stickers before milling them to final dimension.

I was pretty impressed with the cut quality of my planer. There were some that tore out no matter which direction they were fed, but others came out smooth as silk. Sapele has reversing grain all over the place- it sure isn’t predictable!

I had to laminate some boards and then I cut them all down to size for the drawers.

Next I cut the joints at the router table- rebates and grooves.

Here are some of the parts awaiting assembly.

I then assembled all the drawers…

Then I fitted all the drawer bottoms…

And then I sanded them, here are the final drawers.

Four drawers in total.

Next I worked on the remote control caddies:

I started by cutting out my parts.

I then glued the faux frame and panel together.

The clamps at work


I then rounded over the top inside edge of the sides, and added a rebate for the bottom at the router table.

I then ganged up each pair with the routered parts facing each other and cut the angle at the bandsaw and smoothed that out at the edge sander …

… which I just bought myself as a birthday gift! Let me count the ways I love thee ridgid edge sander / spindle sander! I’ve already used it so much that I don’t doubt it was an excellent buy.

Next I realised I had read the plans wrong and the faux frame and panel was a bit too short! I hemmed and hawed a bit then decided to add a wood lip on the top edge to lengthen the panel. I edgebanded right over the endgrain on this late addition. It turned out to be a seamless fix that I quite like.

And the final assembly! The sheet stock off cuts in the middle are just spacer blocks.

Here they are completed. You can see here how the edge banding covers the endgrain of the top trim. The center of the panel will recieve moulding and the caddy will be mounted against a panel of the built-in which is why it doesn’t require a back.

And finally I worked on the wine glass racks:

Onwards I went with the wine glass racks. I cut out the parts and edge banded all of the parts first.

Here’s my set up for filing the edge banding flush.

Three sides on 7pieces and all four sides on 7 other pieces. That’s a lot of edge banding.

I drilled mounting holes in the backs.

I used two large push blocks when routing the profiles and that kept me safe and the profile consistent.

I decided to rip the molding off of the board each time so that I could work with a larger more stable board at the router table.

I sanded these moldings a little before moving on to the next step.

I cut all my moldings to size at the mitre saw.

I used tape to clamp the glue-ups, but I’d love to get some mitre spring clamps.

I pre-drilled holes and then screwed on the backs to the bottoms

Which gave me this. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that I sanded all the parts just before assembly.

Then I cut spacers and sighted the middle of the molding, then secured each end with one screw.

Which gave me this.

Here they are in all their glory. The racks will be fastened to the insides of the built-in’s cabinet doors, and then wine glasses will be stored in these racks.

I delivered each batch as it was completed and the final batch was just delivered to Tim on Monday. He still has to coat them with finish and have the components installed in the built in. The last batch I was the least proud of- some of my mitres were fugly- but I will now take the time to adjust my miter saw and even build a 45degree shooting board so that I can quickly fine tune miters. A mitre jig for the table saw and a hold down jig for the mitre saw might also materialize. I’ll probably also get some clamps in the near future- I seem to have  awkwardly long/heavy clamps and none suited to smaller and/or finicky glue-ups.

Progress at a snails pace…my first commission!

3 Oct

Greetings woodworking friends! If I’ve been absent from the blogosphere it hasn’t been on purpose. I’ve been hard at work on my first woodworking commission! I’ve been pushing hard to visit the shop as often as possible. It’s a half hour drive from my home, so it certainly takes some orchestration. I’ve been getting in about 2hrs at the shop before I have to head off to work. As with most woodworking projects I feel I underestimated the time it would take! And working 2hrs at a time is really a stop and start method I don’t recommend. I recall reading that one of the woodworking bloggers can only get in half hour increments in his shop- I couldn’t even imagine! Even 2hrs amounts to a couple of sawdust blinks and it’s over!

The commish (haha remember that show?)

My apprenticeship mentor (“Tim Timberland” as earlier mentioned in my blog- not his real name!) provided me with this- my first woodworking commission. He has been transforming a room over several months into a study that basically IS a built-in. All four walls are covered by a monumental built-in. Now that he’s wrapping up the project he has had an overflow of work and called in for extra hands. All that’s left are small components that complete the built-in: drawers, pullout writing surfaces, and some caddies that will hold remote controls(to be hung next to a couch) and wine glasses(to be hung on the inside of cabinet doors).


Tim provided me with materials, some detailed plans, and even some samples!

The designs are a mix of veneered sheet goods and solid wood.

I kind of lucked out that Tim had pre-cut all of the materials- it made for hassle free transportation of the materials, and more-over my shop is small so I didn’t have to cut down full sized sheet goods.

Here’s a sample of the pullout surfaces- it’s a cut-away. These will be mounted inside the built-in and the fronts will receive drawer fronts.

And the build…

And so it began! I started with a flurry of cutting parts to size at the table saw. Scroll saw pictured here was just a place for my parts to collect.

A lot of edge banding followed.

Pictured here are all the parts needed to make the pullout surfaces. The far right pile is edge banded on three edges.

Next I put together the sub-assembly of the pullouts. With glue…

…and brads.

And more edge banding ensued.

Next it was time to start assembling- slides and the pullout bases.

But first I stopped to sand my parts. I wanted to use my new sander but it seemed a little heavy for veneer and I’m not used to it yet.

First I attached the slides to part of the base.

Then I screwed the slides onto undersides of the pullout surfaces.Shown here with a 1/8 spacer block, and a registration block that helped position the slides.

Here it is once installed.

Next I added the final parts to the base with glue and brads.

My fingers are holding up a 1/8″ spacer block to show how I aligned the parts. The surface is 1/8″ narrower than the base, and is set 1/8″ forward on the base so that the base will not interfere with the pullout closing.

Now to get your bearings on this built-in component, here it is upside-down…

…and here it is right side up. I pulled it out to demonstrate the full extension slides.

And finally here is the stack that I delivered earlier this week.

I have lots of the other parts all cut to dimension and they are awaiting routing and edge-banding, sanding and assembly. For clarity purposes I’ll present each component from start to finish in a post. In reality space and time are a jumble in the shop and any number of the components move forward with each machine set-up and shop visit.

I wish things would go a bit faster, I feel like I’m letting Tim down. But I can only do what I can fit in the time I’m given. So I’ll just keep trucking. The stress aside- it really feels great to get in the shop and build something with purpose and it’s giving me a chance to test out how effective my tool selections have been. I know now that I need to tuneup my jointer soon, but that I really do have most of my bases covered.

Tomorrow I head off to the shop again- wish me luck!

Til next time, happy woodworking!

My Shop… the tour!

25 Feb

The jumbled beginnings…

Once I was allowed to take over my future shop space I was SUPER eager to clean it out and fill it up. The timing was unfortunately a bit backwards. I got the space, had enough time to clean out some major shelving units and lots of stuff, and then  immediately afterwards I had the delivery of my table saw. I’d planned to paint the floor before hand- but I was forced to paint it afterwards, in sections. This required moving all the shop contents to one side and then the other, and on my part a lot of sweat and patience. Even more so because I had to coax  away 10 years of  dirt from the concrete with a steel wire broom, some degreaser and THEN treat the floor with concrete conditioner before painting. I had to wait a full day after conditioning and eight hours between coats of floor paint ( I only added  a second coat of paint to high traffic areas). It all happened in the full swing of summer.  Thankfully I had a few old fans to use. Next summer I might consider finding a cheap air conditioner!!

After much cleaning out and some organizing

These shots are after the delivery of my table saw but before painting the floor

You might be able to make out the outline of two massive shelves that were a struggle to remove by myself and stripped screw heads were also a delightful twist

All the stuff needed to be piled out of the way for painting the floor...

I got a lot of exercise this summer!

I wore a gas mask for painting, the fumes were pretty thick in the hot summer air AND it was a tight space.

I couldn't wait to paint over all the rust patches

I was glad that at this stage I hadn't really "installed" anything permanently so everything was easier to move (ie. my bench was still collapsible)

Finally, the floors were sealed!

And then smooth sailing… except….

I had this very optimistic timeline projected onto me by my friends and family members. Surely I’d be set to start woodworking in no time. I had a job to go to and was only fitting in what I could on weekends. I had to arrange the layout satisfactorily and hang up new brackets for wood storage, fix up some kind of bench, and attend to a load of other details that don’t become apparent until you’re facing the need in question. For instance I found it absolutely necessary to track down a sound system. I did so for $20. Then there were other needs piling up, where to sit, how to put up the peg board, where to put this or that, how to make it easier to pull the bandsaw out for use. It went on and on, it felt overwhelming.

Other things weighed heavily on my mind as well. I needed to re-roof  one half of the structure before the first snowfall. I bought shingles, and felt paper and luckily had nails and other supplies.  With the help of my sister who had previous experience with roofing, it was done in one day.

I’ve only found ONE of the “before” shots of the roof and no “after” shots. Oh well. One side of the roof  had shingles that were almost comically corroded. That same side of the roof  now looks immaculate and has proven leak proof thus far.  The building now has a thick layer of snow on top as does the yard.

The before picture! Look at those nasty shingles!

I still have an issue with carpenter ants nibbling away at the framing in the walls. I discovered it around the same time as re-roofing and I tried some house hold product solutions to no avail. I’ll have to call in a professional it seems. Procuring and maintaining a shop space is not always a walk in the park like we’d like it to be!

But after much toil… the moment you’ve been waiting for!

Here are the photos of my shop just a week or two ago.

There's a dust collector in the background. I haven't found a window treatment for the door window yet...

My jointer was made in 1986! There's my planer that I built a base for, but I still lift it up onto the bench.


There's my makeshift bench, bench vise, and dehumidifier.


And here's my precious.


The drill press nook. I have to pull the router table out for use generally.


One of my newest additions.


The bandsaw that is on loan to me, and the fence that I made-- more on that later.


I actually fit quite easily by everything. 8'x16' is tight but so far it's working out.


I hope you enjoyed the tour! Next I’ll be talking about the shop furniture and fixtures that I recently made. More specifically: a cross cut sled, an infeed table for my table saw, a rolling base for my planer and a fence for my bandsaw.

Blog hiatus is over

22 Feb

It’s been a busy while since I last posted. But a lot has happened and I’m going to post about my woodworking progress (and process) again.

If you’re just tuning in: I started woodworking not long ago. I took a 14 month course and graduated almost exactly a year ago today. This blog follows me as I begin my career in woodworking. My ultimate goal is to become a self employed woodworker.

A brief recap of my woodworking career over the last year:

  • I had an apprenticeship last winter that lasted 6 weeks. I enjoyed learning in an environment that had completely different methods of operation than I’d experienced at woodworking school.
  • I lined up a woodworking job about a week after my apprenticeship and worked for a studio that specialized in high end corporate gifts such as vases, bracelets and desktop organizers. I stayed on for six months.
  • I then lined up a new job to diversify my experience and skill sets and worked in the aerospace industry building cabinetry for private jets.
  • Now I’m looking for a new job again and also spending time in my own shop making furniture

A brief recap of my personal shop activities over the last year procuring a space, furnishing it with tools and working wood! :

Winter 2011

  • I made arrangements with my family to use a 16’x8′ outbuilding on my family’s property. It’s heated, and wired for 110.
  • I took inventory of the tools I had available to me through family connections. Mainly hand tools, a few portable power tools, a drill press, and a bandsaw.
  • I also  planned which tools I might need to purchase next and which ones would run on 110.
  • July was the month that I took possession of the outbuilding on my family’s property
  • A LOT of time was dedicated to cleaning out and preparing my new shop space
  • I put up peg board, fashioned a work bench out of an old collapsible table and some fence 4x4s, and dismantled some giant shelves that took up too much floor space.
  • My first major purchase was a table saw-  a 1.75hp professional cabinet SawStop saw. It was a demo model so I got $1000 off the ticket price. I paid for it in installments and had it delivered by mid summer.

If the blade touches skin a brake is activated and the blade drops down under the table.

  • I soon realized that my shop space was very humid and so I picked up a dehumidifier for $50 at a flea market, and some wax for my cast iron surfaces, and finally a magnetic cover for my table saw
  • I also needed a dust collection system so I found a small portable model for $100 second hand. I sold the hose and fittings that came with it for $40 and bought a rockler extendable dustright hose and attachments to easily hook up to any machine. I didn’t have the space to run hoses along the walls and or ceiling.
  • Late summer and early autumn saw me painting the shop floor and re-roofing the shop to seal out the moisture of the impending winter.
  • Autumn was when I made some serious plans to start my shop up. In my mind it came down to not having all the necessary equipment for that to happen. I made a series of purchases. A cheap drill $50 brand new. A second hand 6″ jointer for $125. A brand new lunch box planer with helical cutters $890. I also got a cheaply made but fully equipped router table from a local home improvement center for $120.
  • With birthday money I bought a bench vise which was an adventure to install, and a kit of 4 bessey parallel clamps. $200 for everything.
  • Leading up to Christmas I finally had (in my opinion) amassed enough equipment to tackle a project that would effectively christen my shop. I decided on building a set of toy trucks for my nephew. I didn’t have a drop of glue so bought my first 4liter bottle. The gift went over well!
Winter 2012
  • While building my first project I saw many areas that needed improving around the shop for my work to be accurate, predictable and repeatable. I adjusted my table saw fence correctly (second time’s a charm). I built a collapsible infeed table  and a crosscut sled for my table saw. I built a fence for my bandsaw, and I built a rolling base for my planer. I also got a set of drum  sander bits for the drill press, a quick change drill/counter sink and driver kit,  and hallelujah I finally bought sandpaper. I’m finally free to throw out sandpaper AS SOON as it doesn’t cut efficiently.
  • I replaced an old mitre saw that didn’t have a guard with a basic dewalt mitre saw and it’s 10 times better, the fence, the guard, and the cut quality. I bought it used for $100 and it came with an 80 tooth fine crosscut freud blade. I also caved into a sale and bought new porter cable drill for $50 because the drill I had needed 24HOURS to charge! Check the fine print when buying!
  • Now I’m out in the shop building a series of tables, I’ve just started but I’ve already made a jig and my table tops are done.
  • I’m making the tables out of wood I pulled out of the scrap bin at school (a year ago!) so I’m trying to use what I have on hand. In so doing I’ve paired each top with possible blanks for legs and stretchers and popped the measurements of the pieces I have into Google Sketch up. Spent some time on the designs and now I’m ready to go back to the shop to build them!

I’ll be posting regularly again, and I’ll be posting about any and everything that comes up. The journey continues! I promise a shop tour soon!

My potential shop space…

31 Jan

Here’s the potential  shop space I have to work with.  It had had a fire, then was cleaned and functioned again. Next it sat unused for 5 years and had many leaks in the roof. All the mold covered and soaked items were tossed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now the shop has been outfitted  with a new roof and has been dry for about a year. Because of the previous water damage, the electrical wiring is compromised and will need to be redone. As is clear in the photos the shop has served as  storage space in the mean time. There are many counters lining the walls of the shop and overhead storage galore. The process of sorting and purging the shop might take a while. What a mess!

You may have noticed that I also included photos of the tools in the shop that are relevant to woodworking. These are the tools I’m lucky enough to have right out of the starting gate.

To these I will need to add:

-a planer

-a jointer

The most immediate being a planer. I’ll buy a bench top model if I can’t find an affordable used one. I’ve decided that I can go without a jointer for a little while by using a straight bit in a router table to get edges flat and square. Then I’ll skip plane rough boards taking off small amounts at a time until the faces are flat.

I have to start clearing out the space to get to that point though, so first things first!

As for hand tools, I have what I bought for school- added to the rusty assortment I have yet to sift though in the  shop.

  • a marking gauge
  • a 4″ engineer’s square
  • a handful of 6″ rules
  • a cheap set of chisels
  • a gents dovetail saw
  • a digital vernier caliper
  • a block plane
  • 2 other hand planes
  • a dowelling jig
  • a card scraper
  • 2 handmade mallets
  • tape measures
  • utility knives
  • a contractor’s calculator

So for now this is what I’ve got to work with- looking at it now I can see that it’s a versatile selection that should allow me to start tinkering in the shop on new projects as soon as I clear a bit of space and get the electrical issue sorted.

For those of you who are looking to start a woodworking business as I am and don’t have a space or tools yet- I’d urge you to ask your friends and have them ask their  friends if there’s a shop space and/or tools that are not being used. It seems all of my friends from woodworking school already have a space (a garage will do, or basement) or connections to a space (to share with someone they know), OR have woodworking tools already from someone they knew who was closing their shop.

Ideally I’ll gain some funds from working in the woodworking field and purchase a 10″ cabinet saw, a 15″planer and an 8″ jointer. So stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it pans out!

Pricing and pace… what’s a woodworker to do?

28 Jan

I recently gathered with my fellow woodworking graduates to have a catch up session. They are at the half way mark in their apprenticeships. The issue of pace came up. This was one of my worries, what pace does industry run at? It varies!

I learned that one of the shops was scary fast. All operations carried out with speed in mind. Production had to be quick.

In another shop the owner admitted to being the slowest worker he knows. He gets teased for it but insists on working at his own pace.

This led me to thinking about how price and pace are linked.There are a myriad of different ways to run a successful business but to simplify:


There are those who focus on speed to keep costs down.


There are those who focus on quality to keep prices up.

I realize there is a large grey area in between the two. As I said, all kinds of business models lead to success. And success is a  subjective term.

But this thought process helped me to plot out a definite direction for my future business. I decided I want to head more towards quality and a slower pace. Especially since I envision staying a one man shop. I don’t want to manage a larger shop. I also don’t want to spread myself too thin trying to work at the speed of light every day AND stay safe AND still take care of the administration, marketing, sales, accounting, and designing. Of course the direction you choose will be unique to you and the goals you have for your own business.

So with the pace figured out for myself I move on to pricing…


Do you charge based on  materials + markup + hours+ overhead?


Do you charge based on the value and quality of the product?

Can’t I just make some hybrid of the two? If  I can, I probably will.

In the research I’ve done on the topic, most people start small, selling to friends.  At this point you’re not charging on an hourly wage, nor on the value of the product, you’re giving a discount. It’s a trade-off for building a name for yourself and starting to spread your network to get that target client that you need. Then gradually you build the right clients and start to price according to that market.

Some Pros and Cons for both types of pricing

Cons: sticking to an hourly wage that was prematurely high or just ran over the time estimated can scare off clients when you’re just starting out. Whereas if you do a job based on the value of the product and you find you’ve lost money on it,  that doesn’t make sense either.

Pro: Pricing by the value of a product could help you profit from a product line, where production is fast and quality is predictable.

Pro: Knowing that the materials, time, and the cost of the shop will all be taken care of in the pricing can set a business owner’s mind at ease.

Pro: Pricing by the value and quality of the product can remove limitations to a project. When the limit is however much your clients are willing to pay, you could potentially build a whole different type of furniture by pursuing this pricing model. The highest of the high-end, always challenging yourself more than you would when you have a set hourly wage.

PERSONAL Conclusions

I think that pricing by the hour is for businesses that want to do well financially through strategic pricing, but pricing by the value of the product can mean that you are not worrying about getting by, you just want to be a creative free spirit and the client is happy to pay for that end product.

So… ultimately I guess what I’m saying is:

I’ll probably start  my business by charging by the hour with all my costs etc.

But I’ll aspire to raise the level and quality of my work until I don’t need those training wheels anymore!

I expect as I gather more and more information that I might even change my mind about this, but for now this is where I am and I’m documenting it as such. EVERY single woodworker that I’ve spoken with or whose opinion I have read has had very different ways of tackling pricing, so it’s definitely worth forming your own opinion.

%d bloggers like this: