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caryhson1's picture

I am trying to set some finacial goals for myself and was wondering what the range of income was for Furniture-Makers/profesionals who use the craft as their main source of income.

Anyone care to share a yearly avarage or range or what you wish you made?

I love what i am doing and am going to do it regardless. There is just no "salery calculator" for this particular profession. Ive even tried looking up info on the IRS website.

Thanks in advance. dont be shy :-)


"Wood represents a connection with nature's beauty and serves to remind us of the magic of ancient craftsmanship."

SteveSchoene's picture

I wouldn't expect much in the (post #153277, reply #1 of 50)

I wouldn't expect much in the way of numerical answers, given the relatively low degree of anonymity on the site.  I'm not a pro so can't say much.  I will tell a story I heard at a SAPFM gathering a few years ago.  It was told by Jeff Headley, who, with a partner, operates a very well respected shop making reproductions.  He had over a six month back log,  and did a fair amount of high end work including pieces for the White House.  His shop is on a farm, and one evening when taking a break, he noticed the man he had hired to mow the highway right of way.  After a little reflectiion he observed that he was paying him more per hour than he was making himself.  Only a very few stars  become well off  just making furniture in a one or two man shop. 

Remember, unless you are doing and marketing top tier work, you are competing with folks making a few pieces on the side for a little extra spending money.  Many of those people, like many here, can do excellent work.  You have to do better. either in terms of construction and design or in salesmanship to move up to the higher price points needed to make more than a pittance for income. 

Otherwise, people who make money woodworking hire people and build custom items,  including office suites for top executives and high end kitchens.  They have to offer unique products to rich people or organizations, and the ability to sell themselves and their organization is more important than the woodworking ability, though the latter must be at a fully professional level.   It's about being a business man (or woman.)   

 It also really helps to have a supportive spouse with a job that has benefits. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

WillGeorge's picture

given the relatively low (post #153277, reply #32 of 50)

given the relatively low degree of anonymity on the site.


I am me... and not sure I ever should ever post anything in here.. I say what I think.. Gets me in trouble often!

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

RalphBarker's picture

salaries (post #153277, reply #2 of 50)

If you google "U.S. cabinet maker salary" you'll find several links to data sources for average salaries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is also a good point of research:

bduffin104's picture

Expect nothing (post #153277, reply #3 of 50)

I am in my fourth decade as a professional board grinder in one form or another. I love building things out of wood, it's a curse.

My income seems have fluctuated in direct proportion with my business volume and stress level. At one point I owned and operated a high volume custom cabinet shop and at the same time also operated a custom home building company, had a big payroll, maxed out production schedules, made good money but was stressed out big time.

Then I sold everything and moved moved to a cabin on a lake in the mountains and went windsurfing every day. The only stress I had was that I had no income.

You guessed it, I built another cabinet shop and started building homes again and started the cycle all over again and had another good run until the recession caught up with me. Oh well, I was ready for another vacation from stress anyway.

Which brings me to my present situation of the last 18 months or so. I built a nice one man shop out back and I fancy myself a furniture maker, a dream I subsidize by working as a carpenter by the hour and installing cabinets piecework. I currently have no employees. I have had some sales in the shop and some furniture commissions, but sales volume is still low and so is the income. But the stress level is low and I'm managing to get the bills paid.

I keep learning and getting better and I am determined to be a success at furniture building. I work hard and know how to crank out the product when I need to. I am 56. Someone told me that Sam Maloof didn't sell a piece of furniture until he was 56. There is hope for me, and you.

"If it were easy then anybody could do it"

"Expect nothing, then if something good happens you'll be pleasantly surprised"


brownman's picture

I hate to be the bearer of (post #153277, reply #4 of 50)

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I wouldn't expect you could live off the income of making individual pieces of custom furniture .  Very few woodworkers ever arise to such a state. First you have to build furniture that's of superior quality and crafstmanship  that inspires people. Then you have to spend a good many years getting your name and reputation built up so as to create a market for your pieces. I'm not saying you couldn't do this. I'm just saying that it takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work over a long period of time to create that kind of clientele or market. And to build furniture of superior quality you first have to become a craftsman in that field , which alone takes many years of experience and training. Nothing good ever comes without  a good deal of sacrifice, training and struggle. If your just going to turn out well built ,practical furniture, you'll never make it . You'll get eatin up by the large furniture Co's, of which there are many. I've been a serious wood working hobbyist for over 25 yrs and only recently retired from a regular steady income job. I've turned my hobby into somewhat of a business, mostly for extra income and to support my love of woodworking. I've managed to secure a few commisioned pieces over the years , but I've found that there is  a much greater market and easier money in building cabinets, than furniture. I've dealt with enough cabinet shops over the last 25 years to know that I don't want to get so involved in the cabinet business that I become stressed out like this previous poster has. So I pick and chose what I want to do and when, since I don't have to rely on this for income. This is why so many cabinet makers who started out as woodworking hobbyist now hate what they do,because they take on too much too fast and got all stressed out and end up hating anything to do with woodworking. So be careful ! I would suggest if you really want to do this that you find a job in a cabinet or furniture shop and see how they do it. This way you could get some real training and experience as well. Good luck!

bduffin104's picture

Stress is not all bad (post #153277, reply #5 of 50)


The odds are certainly stacked against us would-be furniture makers but success is a journey not a destination. One must follow his dreams.

I've actually done quite well ignoring people that told me" that would never work".

You are most certainly doomed to failure if you don't dream off what could be. Isn't that what being an "Artist" is all about?

Dream on, Bret

oldusty's picture

Hey Bret ,           (post #153277, reply #7 of 50)

Hey Bret ,

          Remember  stress is self imposed (yeah right) ,  Sam was 57 just like us when he sold his first piece.

       Some folks will spend time telling you why something can't be done and some folks will use the same time to figure it out, I love a challenge and still get sucked in to some odd stuff , heck thats why they hire us .One of my ,mentors taught me to think , the other showed me skills.

        You seem to have an endless supply of energy with all your new thangs you are making ,keep on keeping on .

               regards    ,dusty

Napie's picture

Sam was in his 30's when he (post #153277, reply #35 of 50)

Sam was in his 30's when he had his first furniture commissions.

WillGeorge's picture

Perfect answer! I never (post #153277, reply #30 of 50)

Perfect answer!

I never made more than a few dollers profit.. If any profit..  I did it because I loved to do it...

I fed my wife and four children with my 'REAL' Job and the local wood work when not traveling the world... I HATED traveling the world..

Yes, it was nice sometimes.. But not often! I loved my trips to China and Japan.. Very strange folks for my way of thinking... I would think the local folks thought 'I was the strange one!'

I wonder if anyone can make a profit when there are BIG bucks folk,s out there... That can buy wood at prices you could NEVER get at prices they can!



Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

Jfrostjr's picture

Custom Furniture Maker (post #153277, reply #6 of 50)

I am a retired person who loves wood and woodworking. But - there is no way I could earn a living, much less earn what I did in 'real life', as a furniture maker. (My wood costs me more than the sale price of factory-made pieces.)

Let me offer this insight: I loved skiingI was on the boards whenever possible. As such, I got to know many ski instructors. They had started skiing just as I had and felt that Nirvana would be reached by becoming Professional ski instructors. Then they would be able to do the thing they loved  - all the time.

You guessed it! They soon did not enjoy what had been pleasure before: The light is flat; the snow is heavy; I have dumb clients. In fact they had ruined what had been pleasure fby turning Pro.

My advice? Stick to woodworking for pleasure. Earn enough to satisfy your physical needs elsewhere.

Frosty - Older but wiser.


WillGeorge's picture

 (My wood costs me more than (post #153277, reply #31 of 50)

 (My wood costs me more than the sale price of factory-made pieces.) I know you spoke TRUE words! Been there,, did that...

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

oldusty's picture

Cary , setting financial (post #153277, reply #8 of 50)

Cary , setting financial goals for yourself is a good start , once you have determined the amount you want or need to stay afloat per year or month you can select an income level where you need to be .

       That's the easy part , a little tougher to actually make the money you will need with your two hands and your back .

    The ugly but honest truth has already been given to you by the above posters , they are spot on.

You would  be more likely to become a pro athlete or win the lottery then a millionare from fine wood working . 

 There are exceptions to every rule but very few custom furniture makers really earn the big bucks say over 6 figures , unless you sell rockers for $52,000 each like Sam did chances are if you are really blessed with talent and the right location you may be able to support your family (maybe) .

  Cabinet makers in the correct area can routinely earn more dollars then furniture makers.

   So perhaps if you share your goals with us we can guide you as to how much you will have to do and sell to make your required amount .

   regards , dusty 





acornw's picture

When I walked away from (post #153277, reply #9 of 50)

When I walked away from running a 25 man custom Architectural shop, I had a 1,000 s/f shop in the country and no work.  I could no longer stomach working for an abusive employer that had no passion for anything, much less wood.

About a week later, with a new backlog of about a month's work, I had a realization:

Someone has to be the one that makes a living doing what they love, the way they want. Why can't it be me?

Everything changed from that point, 21 years ago.  It certainly is not easy. It is not always fun.  It is however, deeply satisfying, and I will not sit in the rocker and wonder 'What if I chased that dream?'  I don't have the money to retire, so there will be no rocking chair.

Dave S

bduffin104's picture

Dave, I like your perspective (post #153277, reply #11 of 50)


You have a great attitude and might be why you are successful.

The naysayers and pessimists suffer from stinking-thinking.

There are some talented craftsmen and women contributing to this forum and I admire their work whether they are professionals or amature.

There are certainly easier and more lucrative career choices other than Professional Woodworker. Having lived the life, I have a soft spot for other professionals of my craft. I had the pleasure of training some eager apprentices in my time, some of which move on to a successful woodworking career of thier own.

I was recently contacted by a former employee who I trained to become a cabinetmaker but had not been in contact with for many years. Through his own talent and hard work, he parlayed that knowledge into a successful 25 year career. He thanked me profusely for getting him interested in woodworking and the instruction I gave him. After our conversation I reflected that he just gave me back far more than I invested in him years ago.


PSeverin's picture

Figuring it backwards (post #153277, reply #10 of 50)

I sometimes go to craft shows and ask the question "how long does it take to make that.   So a man making beautiful chairs and tables told me it took him 3 months to make the work I saw for sale at $30,000.  Another said one or two weeks to make a chair on sale for $2,400.  

Then I do the math.  Gross for each would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $120,000 a year.  Now take out overhead and expenses and at best you're down to $60,000 or maybe $40,000 per year.  And that is assuming that you can actually sell the work you have and have no down time, sick leave or vacations.  

$40,000 per year, if you're lucky and successful.  It's a guess.  But I bet it's not too far off.   It's at least enough to buy a six pack.


caryhson1's picture

Wow it didn't expect so many (post #153277, reply #12 of 50)

Wow it didn't expect so many honest responses. I guess people with the same interests are willing to help. I found this to be true with mountain biking of all things.


You all have given me lots to think about.
I work full time building furniture for a company running the custom teak department, well the woodworking side of it. there are not many jobs like it and I was trying to get an idea of what other craftsmen were making to gauge how well I am doing monetarily and if there was any room for negotiating my pay.

My goal is to someday is to be able to let my wife quit working and start a family. Seems, though, that I may have to supplement my woodworking income with more woodworking commissions outside of the company. The trick is to know how to do that without conflicting interests. Its not that I am not good at anything else or unable to switch careers, I am doing what I love and I thoroughly enjoy my job. Cant we just go back to the bartering days? I don't understand how something so beautiful, useful, and so time consuming such as a high quality, handcrafted piece of furniture makes less then a tv or ikea crap. I know the reasons, just don't understand why it work out that way. Maybe ill become a ski instructor....

thanks again


"Wood represents a connection with nature's beauty and serves to remind us of the magic of ancient craftsmanship."

9619's picture

 Cary, You sound like a (post #153277, reply #13 of 50)


You sound like a romantic.    The world needs more romantics.    Unfortunately romanticism doesn't pay the bills.  "Doing what one loves"  is an overused phrase which is filled with emotion.   But it is kinda phony. it implies that others, who are making a good living, aren't doing things which they enjoy, and they are basically unhappy people. (That just ain't true.)

Your question about making a living at woodworking is one which I started a thread on a few months ago.    I asked about the chances of a "fine woodworker" being able to earn the "average income" in a city or county.    In my county, the average income is $107,000 a year.  A bunch of "kitchen makers" got upset with me, saying that I was too interested in money.    Wrong. I just wondered if a maker of fine furniture, not a kitchen maker, could make it into the middle class.  That isn't a lot to ask, is it?

The answer is that VERY VERY VERY FEW makers of fine furniture can make an adequate living at it.    Many of the current "STARS" of the woodworking world don't even try.   They have given up on woodwork, and are not into making money in the woodworking field, but not by doing woodworking.   Glenn Huey is a great furniture designer and maker, but he couldn't make a living at it, so now he is on the editorial staff at Popular Woodworking.    Rob Cosman is into making DVDs, saws, and plane irons, and giving courses.   David Charlesworth is a writer and a giver of lessons.    Chris Schwartz is a writer and editor.  Marc Adams started the largest woodworking school in the world.     and the list goes on and on and on and on.     

There is a lot of money to be made in woodworking, and it is made by targeting the rich older men who have a woodworking passion, and who fund it by the money they made in their professions  -- men who love Lie Nielsen and Lee Valley tools and even more expensive tools than those.    THese men often take "courses" which cost about $1000 a week plus meals and hotel and transportation, etc.    THese men have a LOT OF DISPOSABLE INCOME!!!!!,  and they are ready to spend it.  They want to spend it.  THEY DO SPEND IT.   

The people who set up $1000/week courses and who sell high priced tools, and sponsor large woodworking shows, etc etc etc are doing quite well -- because of the woodworking passions and habits of men who made a lot of money, not by doing woodworking, but from their professions.   

There are some "fine woodworkers" (not kitchen makers) who make a living at woodwork,  but your chances of making it into this august group are similar to your making it into the NBA in the next draft.    

What should you want out of life?  My guess is that you should want to have your wife and kids have a comfortable life.  You should want to be able to educate your children and give them a chance of making it in the world.  You should want to make enough to pay for medical insurance.  You should want to be able to retire before you are 70.     

Suppose you are 70 right now and want to retire.  How much money would you need?  Let's say you have saved up One Million dollars.  You could now make about 4 percent on your money - or about $40,000 a year.   Could you and your wife retire on that?    It ain't much,  but then again, could you have saved up the one million dollars that it would take to do that -- if you were "doing what you love".  

My suggestion is that you become a plumber or a Heating and Air Conditioning guy and earn a good income.  Save and invest your money.  Raise your kids.  Get your wife a nice car.   Go on  a vacation once a year,  and do woodworking in the evenings and weekends, and after you retire.    

I think that folks who want to do fine woodworking because it is what they love,   are often in puppy love rather than in real love.  Do you have any idea of what the life of a professional fine woodworker is really like?  Do you know the pressures they are under?   Have you ever worked with "Difficult Clients"?     Do you know much about the business side of woodworking?  Are you adept at finding rich clients?   I hope you know that poor people don't buy one-ofa-kind furniture.    

I wish you a lot of luck.  If you were my kid, I would strongly urge you to do what most of the folks here in Knots have done, and that is to get prepared for a career which will pay the bills and leave you enough to buy expensive tools and wood for making fine furniture in the evenings, weekends and after you retire. 

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO BECOME A FINE WOODWORKER,  I urge you to find five people who have been fine woodworkers for at least thirty years, and to go and visit them, and ask them a lot of hard questions.   Then make up your mind.




Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

Jfrostjr's picture

Wise advice (post #153277, reply #18 of 50)



As usual, you have provided wise council.  Your observations are right on target. In addition, you gave him standards by which he can measure his commitment to change.

Keep up the good work.


9619's picture

Frosty, I really appreciate (post #153277, reply #23 of 50)


I really appreciate your response to my message.  Coming from you, it is really a compliment.    You made my day.

Thank you very much.


Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

oldusty's picture

    Hi Mel ,       Wow , you (post #153277, reply #20 of 50)

    Hi Mel ,       Wow , you have certainly come full circle as they say at least on this subject .

                  From the last go around when mention of how much a few famous Maloof type furniture makers earn it seems you have been enlightened somewhat into the reality .

   Until you were challenged to name all those wealthy woodworkers and could not really name more then a handfull out of millions of makers that exist , you perhaps were more romantic about FWWing for big bucks then ,  after you learned that woodworking is not paying the bills for many of the familiar names you like many began to learn the truth .

     The majority of woodworkers consistently earning family supporting wages are Cabinetmakers not Furniture makers , that is one reason I will gladly do kitchens and baths and then build them furniture for a complete package .

     I know for some reason you talk down on lowly boxmakers discounting the abilities based on the products in your minds eye , and for some reason you place a Studio type maker on a pedestal .The pieces made are spectacular in many cases but have a limited interest and market .

     I would ask you the same questions you asked the OP , do you really know first hand what we must endure ?

              regards ,dusty,justaboxmaker


9619's picture

 Dusty,      Great to (post #153277, reply #21 of 50)



Great to hear from you.  I am glad to see that you have realized that I learn and I change based on getting new information.   I learned a great deal in that last thread on the chances of making a living by making furniture.     

I would like to clear up a point on which you misunderstand me.  First, it is my fault, not yours, that I was misunderstood.  I did not explain myself well enough.  You said " I know for some reason you talk down on lowly boxmakers discounting the abilities based on the products in your minds eye , and for some reason you place a Studio type maker on a pedestal ."

I do NOT put "fine furniture makers" on a pedestal, and I do not look down on cabinetmakers.    I think, actually, I know, that they are two different jobs.  One is not better or more important than the other.   Norm Abrams, one of my heros, is a cabinetmaker, not a fine furniture maker.   Ray Pine, one of my heros, is a fine furniture maker, not a maker of built-ins.    Dusty, is one my heros, and like Norm, he is more of a cabinetmaker than a fine furniture maker,  but DUSTY DOES BOTH.   Now there is a guy I put on a pedestal.        

In that last thread, a number of cabinetmakers entered the fray without showing much insight or intelligence.   They completely misread my initial post, which asked whether a fine furniture maker has much of a chance of making it into the MIDDLE CLASS.  I wasn't asking much.  I looked up the average income in my county and found it was $107k, and figured that to make that much, a furniture maker would have to bring in about $160k (or so), to take care of expenses.   From that I figured how much he would have to bring in each month.        

Then I asked if those ideas were reasonable.   I received a number of thoughtful responses saying that my assumptions were reasonable.   I also received a some heartfelt, emotional and not very thoughtful responses from kitchen makers who said that i was asking for too much money.    ALL I WAS ASKING FOR WAS INFO ON WHETHER A WOODWORKER COULD EXPECT TO MAKE IT INTO THE MIDDLE CLASS!    I do not believe that is too much to ask.  

I hope you now know that I do not look down on cabinetmakers.   I highly respect them.   It is just, as you know,  a very different game than making one of a kind furniture.      Personally, I am not interested in making cabinets.   That doesn't mean it is not important or good.   I am a retiree who has a passion -  a hobby, and that is to build what I consider fine furniture.    I am quite blunt about the fact that I am not a fine furniture maker, but a wannabee, who is learning fast, and who doesn't sell anything.    

I spend better than six hours a day designing and making furniture and carving.    Much of that time is devoted to LEARNING.  The piece that I just finished has a carcase that is joined by half-blind dovetails, and three drawers that are not only half-blind dovetailed, but also LIPPED.   WOW was that ever a challenge.    The two shelves were done with sliding dovetails.   I designed and carved the three drawer pulls, and I carved two Baroque S curves which were applied to the sides.         This was, as is most of my stuff,  a learning experience.    This stuff is all applicable to some types of furniture, but it ain't applicable to makin' kitchen or bathroom cabinets.   Is it?

Please let me know that you understand that I do not look down on cabinetmakers.   It is important for me to know that you do not think I look down on you.   Just the opposite.    In fact, you are the only person on Knots who I have ever asked to make me something.   You should consider that a real compliment.   That is how it was meant.       More important to me than the fact that you do both cabinet and furniture making is the fact that you are a nice guy,  an intelligent guy, and a person with a good sense of what makes sense.   Most of all, you have a great attitude towards life.   You are not pompous.  You are down to earth, in spite of the fact that you are highly skilled.   That is rather impressive.

Please don't let any of that go to your head.    

Penultimately,  I can list far more people than I did who make an excellent living by making fine furniture. 

Finally,  You asked if I really know the answer to the question I posed to the OP about what you must endure.   The answer is: absolutely yes.   If you ever want to do a telephone call, I would be happy to do it.  You can grill me unmercifully.  I am certain that after you are finished, you will agree that I do have a good feeling for it.   

Your good friend (I hope).



Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

sid works's picture

""I looked up the average (post #153277, reply #24 of 50)

""I looked up the average income in my county and found it was $107k, and figured that to make that much,""

Mel: is that the average individual income or the average household income, which is I think what  they usually go by.. That can mak quite a difference in your $ amount


oldusty's picture

Mel , Having a good feeling (post #153277, reply #25 of 50)

Mel , Having a good feeling and learning more on the life and times of a cabinetmaker is quite different than knowing.

          I personally hold in high regard makers of all types who are highly skilled , not necessarily sucessful in the eyes of others or financially.I think this may be a fundemental difference in me and you .

   About 30 years ago when I started out and was new to this territory I made the common mistake of judging others by appearances in many cases .I soon learned that in general and one of my favorite sayings is " things may not always be as they appear"  .

    Rob Millard , Ray Pine are truly on a pedestal to me , I honestly admire the talent and discipline they exibit .

           Lastly , woodworking for a living whether building cabinets or reproduction works is really not much different just another day at work .Many makers like Ray have made their share of regular old cabinets , you can bet your bottom dollar on it , we work with our hands and use what we have to do it .

      I guess what I am saying also is the set of skills for furniture is not too far off from cabinet works.

         regards , dusty , so you still want that box ? I still want that bowl too !

9619's picture

Dusty, Let's trade a bowl and (post #153277, reply #27 of 50)

Dusty, Let's trade a bowl and a box. I will send you a private message with my address. Mel

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

9619's picture

Dusty, Please read the post (post #153277, reply #38 of 50)

Dusty, Please read the post by Madison. She has a considerable history of success in the business. Mel

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

Madison2's picture

Income Poll (post #153277, reply #34 of 50)

Mel:  Long time away I know, i've been so busy this past year and when FWW made the change on this site I sort of got out of the habit!

Wow!  You've said a mouthfull here.  I'd have to agree with most of it as you have taken a reasoned approach to making the assumptions you've made.

I may be a bit simple in my comments but having made a living from my fine woodwork for the past 23 years i can say that indeed you can make it into the middle class as a furniture maker.  I know also that many many people fail when they take the "dream" and try to make it a reality!  Two things have kept me in business out here in the mountains and they too are simple.  1. Have a plan and 2. market the heck out of yourself!  You can't make furniture by hand today and compete with manufacturers so I never try.  Over the years I'll bet I've turned away twice as much work as I've taken in because I couldn't make the piece for what the potential client saw the value to be.

So you must have a plan and it needs to be every bit as detailed as any big corporation's plan.  Hubby and I sit down each Thursday morning for our board meeting and review not just what we're working on but how all of our efforts are progressing.  The marketing efforts the supply line the tax issues the employee issues (yes!  we hired a young woman who is now doing most of our finishing!  She's fabulous!) any way you have to treat the business as a business in every way.

Marketing: Artists and craftsmen are pretty good at what they do but most of us are terrible at telling our story and when we do we tell a comfortable audience not the people we should be telling!  I sell to rich people, period.  I have never ever tried to sell my work to anyone else.  My clients like things like confidentiality, service at very high levels and flexibility at all times.  So one must be comfortable working in a world that most middle class folks like us really can't imagine.  For example, I did some work for a couple last year, the work itself took nearly 9 months but when it came to the lumber they were very specific, it was to be FSC certified and responsibly harvested and if that wasn't enough they flew me, hubby and their attorney to the supplier in PA to review all the documentation and to identify the exact pieces of wood we were buying, all 5,000 bf of it.  It was then trucked across the country via the supplier's truck to my shop.  Now remember the client paid for all of this.

Now my point here is simply that these folks knew exactly what they wanted, had the money to commit to the project and were willing to spend it.  Now could they have had their designer spec furniture from a high end manufacturer?  Of course they could!  But they chose to have the pieces built specifically for them and in exactly the wood they had chosen etc.  Now is this silly or wasteful?  maybe to you and I but not at all to people who are used to and demand the very best that money can buy.  Your neighbor with a picture of a dining room table and chairs can't do that and if that is your market you will indeed starve!

I'll try to come around more often and stick my nose in here and there!  Thanks guys


9619's picture

Madison, It is GREAT to hear (post #153277, reply #37 of 50)

Madison, It is GREAT to hear from you. I hope we never lose touch. You bring a reality to these discussions that few people have experienced, and that even fewer can express as elegantly as you. You hit all the nails on the head. I hope that folks who are interested in going into the woodworking business read your message. Your point about HAVING A BUSINESS PLAN, and your point about treating woodworking as a business, are CENTRAL!!!! The person I was writing to never mentioned such things. ..... Only his love of I reacted accordingly. Love is beautiful but it doesn't put food on the table. To succeed, one must know about business and about woodworking, as you well know. Your point about selling yourself to rich folks (because that is where the money is) is one I have made repeatedly. To sell yourself to the rich folks, you have to know how to get into their heads. You have to know where to find them. As you Pointed out, you also havwPe to know when to say no to a request. None of these points have to be made to someone who has a nose for business. There have been a few threads on making a living in woodwork lately. In the last one, listed a number of folks who are doing well in fine woodworking. In this thread, I wanted to make the point that while it is possible, it isn't likely if you are depending only on your love of woodwork. I also pointed out that many people who make a living in the field of woodwork are doing it not by making furniture but by teaching, writing, making exspensive tools, etc. I am bookmarking your message and will refer to it in the future when some asks a question about making a living in WWing. Have fun. Thanks for the wisdom. Mel

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

Madison2's picture

Great to hear (post #153277, reply #42 of 50)


I agree!  I will try to do a better job of sneaking around here more often.  Like I said it has been a really busy year and 09 was crazy too.  I probably shouldn't say this outloud but there sure hasn't been a recession at our shop!  09 turned out to be the best year I've ever had and 10 is shaping up to be another.  Hubby and I haven't been farther away from the shop than the grocery store in over a year, with the exception of the private jet ride to Philadelphia and back! 

You know one of my pals is an attorney down in Golden, she and I had lunch together today (she was in town to meet with a client) (hers not mine!) and I mentioned this thread to her and said something about attorneys making lots of money.  She said the average income for an attorney in the U S today is about $46k!  We all know there are those who make more and we assume most of them do but the reality seems to be that they don't, so I think all this discussion about "can't make a living as a woodworker"  maybe applies to many more career tracks than we may think!

As you and a couple others have said here, you had better love woodworking because you're going to be working long hours and totally immersed in it all day every day for a long time! 

Have a great weekend Mel


bduffin104's picture

I admire your success (post #153277, reply #39 of 50)


Good for you! Obviously you are spot on regarding marketing. Up to this point my product has been cabinets and homes but my clientele has mainly been rich people as well. Furniture building for a living is a new gig for me but I have had some success in business in the past so I hope I know how to make this work. I think we are about the same age.

Do you have a website or something? I'd love to see what you do.

Thanks, Bret

acornw's picture

Value and Context (post #153277, reply #40 of 50)

Regarding Madison's remarks, I once was told by a customer that the cost of their project - about 60% of my year in my one man shop - was a good day in the stock market for him.  One day.  Sort of like being told extra pickle will add a quarter to your lunch tab - big deal.

You must work for the wealthy if your projects are large and you need income.  It has been this way for centuries.  While I was once idealistic and starry-eyed (Good design for the masses!), I soon realized two things: It was not going to work that way, and I was not the first to cherish such idealism.

Marketing? Life is marketing and marketing is life. Hard to do if you are not the type to blow your own horn.  But essential nonetheless. Unfortunatley, it is as important as the product, maybe more so.  The design, the function, the service - all are important, but second to marketing.  Look at Coke - almost no product cost at all, nearly all marketing, and next thing you know, we all have Big Slurpee's or equal.  Not that I encourage such fluff.

The one commonality that succesful independent furniture makers have is a sincere desire to produce a fine product with integrity and skill. That is why they tend to place marketing back a bit - hopes the integrity and skill will carry the day.

Dave S