Reply by Tennessee

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2901 posts in 3056 days

#1 posted 03-12-2018 03:48 PM

I sold my first commissioned piece of furniture in 1971. It has been a part-time endeavor my whole life, but I can safely say I’ve sold or refinished thousands of pieces. Some, just a simple two-three piece cutting board, some whole sets like your tables. I have refinished three grand pianos. On the other hand, I’ve scrolled out multiple Christmas ornaments and sold them. It’s all wood…

What I’ve learned:
There is a LOT of talent out there. To make matters worse, the majority of this talent is not even recognized, and a lot of them who are selling are getting hosed for outstanding work, since they don’t have a name. But you are STILL competing with them, as well as the better known people.

For instance, I built two glass river tables in the style of Greg Klassen. This is a guy who has made a name for himself with these glass river tables of all types. Not unusual for him to get thousands of dollars for one piece.
I got $250 for my first one, and the other is still up for sale at $295. Do mine look as good as his? I think so. But apparently most of the buying public does not agree with me. Get used to it. No one knows some old guy from SE Tennessee. Klaussen is in New York Galleries…

When it comes to what you do, try to stick to something that is unique, fairly new, and time yourself on how many hours you rack up building these pieces. Try to keep your pricing reasonable.
I have struck it multiple times, but every time, the items die out, as people move on to other things. No new products? No sales.

Learn at most, two or three decent finishes, and stick to them until you can apply them in your sleep. You need some kind of oil finish, some kind of matte or semi-gloss finish, and some kind of gloss finish that is a mirror. Stop there. For me, I don’t use shellac or water based finishes, but there are guys on here that can make those finishes dance. Settle on one brand of stain and learn everything on how it works. General, Minwax, does not matter, as long as you know how it will react in all conditions.

Lastly, you need some breaks…This sounds hard, and it is, but if no one who cares really ever sees your stuff and knows they can buy it, you will die on the vine.
I have been very lucky to have landed a very good gallery in my area that is attached to a museum, and I have done very well in there. I had a second, but just left it as they didn’t try hard enough on my stuff and were not open weekends. I did about $600 in four months in the second one. Not worth my time if I’m going to seriously pursue a hobby for money.

I don’t do festivals or fairs, but I know people who almost make a living doing that “under the tent” thing. Once you embrace the technology of how to handle a credit card with your cell phone in under 30-45 seconds, you can sell almost anything under a tent. I personally just don’t want to stand there all day, weekend after weekend. And they can be tough. Weather, people knocking down your prices, and guys like me with cell phones taking pictures of your stuff and knocking it off…

Once you get a product, a way to sell it, a decent price you can live with, and customers, you have to remember insurance, taxes, your local, state and federal returns, so on and so on. I just scaled back about a year ago, now most of my problems with taxes are handled by either my accountant or the gallery who collects taxes on the sale, and I can bypass that hassle on the stuff I sell there. Still, I pay my accountant hundreds to do my return every year.

Finally, remember that you need time. Years in some cases. When I started building guitars, it was eleven months before I sold the first one. That was actually pretty quick. I had to give three away to a band so people could see them. Cheap advertising. Number 86 is on the bench, and I am actively trying to stop building them.

As far as tools, buy decent tools that will last, but not top of the line. You can buy plenty of clamps from Harbor Freight, but your bandsaw, tablesaw or lathe should come from a higher source. Settle down on a decent glue. I use 99% of the time, Titebond III.

As you go along, don’t be afraid to give a few things away. Sign ALL of your work. Get a logo of some type.
That’s enough, I’m tired of typing!

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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