Of course you can make a living with Woodworking, just dont expect to get rich. I can only talk about the Situation in Austria though Germany is very similar from my knowledge.
You have to understand that the world of Pro’s is vastly differnt to Hobbyists, Pauls methods work fantastic for the latter but not really for the former.
It all boils down to Materials, Efficiency(Tools), Time and Money.
Modern Furniture has long since gone past only Solid Wood, you’re gonna work with Plastics, Veneers, Metals, Glas, Synthetic Materials like Corian, and ofc Sheetgoods. Multiple reasons for that: Money, Easy of use, Suitability to certain tasks, Durability etc.
Blockboard or Plywood are much more Stable for large surfaces such as Tabletops for example while Plastics and Corian are way easier to clean. Sheetgoods in general are easier to use (no need to glue up large surfaces) and, depending on the type, cheaper.
To Work these Materials you need machines and Powertools, no way around that. Handtools just arent efficient enough anymore, the only ones still really using them are Furniture Restorers as far as i know.
Not to say we dont use things like Chisels or Handsaws or even very very rarely a Handplane when its appropriate but in general its machines all the way. Time is money so you need to complete the job as swiftly and efficiently as possible.
To really make it clear lets take 2 optically Identical Desks. One is Solid Walnut with Handcut Joinery, the Other is Veneered Plywood/Chipboard all Machined.
Some Numbers: 1m³ Solid Walnut costs about 2000 – 2500€, 1m² Walnut Veneer 6 – 20€, 1m² Chipboard 19mm thick ~10€, 38mm thick ~20€.
The First Costs 5000€ the other costs 1500€, both look exaclty identical, I’ll let you figure out which one the Customer will buy.
So unless you work for a company specialised in Solid wood Furniture or a Restorer, its only used when necessary for reasons that i hope i explained earlier.
I might’ve gone a bit overboard but hey.
- This reply was modified 6 years, 2 months ago by Philipp J..
I have thought about this topic at length. I think it would be possible given the right circumstances and the right mindset. The mindset is something Paul touches on frequently in his blogs. If one wanted to make a living doing the type of work Paul does I don’t think it would be possible with the 40 hour work week type mentality. In order to truly succeed in this type of work I think one would have to adopt it as a true lifestyle, much in the same sense as ranchers, farmers, etc.. My grandpa and dad both worked as ranch hands most of their lives, now this came with very little pay and basically working 7 days a week. However it wasn’t really work it was a lifestyle, in addition us kids were always around. There really wasn’t any distinction between work time, family time or any other time, it was all part of one whole. The same sort of mentality would have to apply to doing artisan type work. Also i think a simpler life would be nessacary. Such as living in a smaller house, spending less on frivalous goods, not taking extravagent vacations, etc. Someday I hope to move into this type of lifestyle by building my skills and customer base slowly. However right now I have school loans and a family to take care of so I work a good 40hr a week job with excellent benefits that allow me extra time to work on my craft while including my family in it,
I think you can if you’re in an area where there is a market for hand made furniture or whatever you build. For example, when Paul lived in Texas he made fly swats and has posted he sold 12 or so of them at a time with no problem. I think he lived near a national park. I’m not saying he moved to America to sell fly swats near a national park but I believe that his experience in woodworking in the UK gave him the ability to be very versatile. So to me this means Paul pursued his dream to be a woodworker…ended up in the U.S…and was skilled and good enough to make whatever he could sell to substain a working wage that supported his family. He taught classes in the evening as well.
What all this means to me is that one day if someone sees something that I build and wants to pay me to make them one, whatever that would be, my answer would be “Absolutely!” I would put whatever personal project I was building on temporary hold and make them what they wanted. BUT, that does not mean I would stop making what I want to make for myself because then I would not be growing as a woodworker. So let’s say the person asked me to make them a chest of some kind. I do and I get paid. So does this mean I go into only the chest making business. Personally, that’s not for me. I would eventually feel like a machine and dread going into the shop because I would have to make the same thing over and over. If other people wanted chests made by me because they saw the one I made the customer, yes I would build more because that’s the bread butter item that would be currently making me money but eventually I feel that I would stop making them if the demand continued and continued. Like I said earlier, I would feel like a machine. But then maybe my chest would lead the customers I sold to wondering what else could I make them such as tables, chairs, doors, cabinets, dressers, etc. and the process could possibly continue. This is the process I’m interested in. This process seems more like craftsmanship. The customer probably wouldn’t care if it was or wasn’t but then again maybe they would but it wouldn’t matter because I would care. I would care and love the idea and process of making something by hand that’s my design and knowing that what I made them will last forever because of the joinery I used to make it along with the tools and method I used to make it.
- This reply was modified 5 years, 11 months ago by Anthony Greitzer.
Sure you can make a living being a woodworker! First you need to develop the skills to design and make unique things. You need to develop good business skills and have a strong work ethic. For myself it will be a sideline that I enjoy rather than something I depend on to make a living. I built cabinets for kitchens in the 1980s and it quickly became like any other work one might do for a living with all the demands of any other job.
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