Living the Wood Life- how I make a living

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Forum topic by ErikF posted 10-19-2015 11:55 AM 1959 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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649 posts in 2811 days

10-19-2015 11:55 AM

A few years ago I started entertaining the idea of making a living off the wood industry. I envisioned a one man shop putting out one-of hardwood furniture pieces. I read all about the struggles of the trade and even posted a few topics about it on here.

I don’t build furniture for a living but everything that I do throughout the day revolves around the world of woodworking. I’m writing this to encourage anyone wanting to be full time in this industry. I’m also writing this because since Nov, 2014 I don’t feel like I’ve worked a single day even though I “work” seven days a week. It’s a blessing.

What I do:
I build woodworking tools- saws and marking gauges specifically. I started out with only basic woodworking equipment and now have a small machine shop to do all the fab work in house.

I sell hardwood- like most woodworkers, I’m always looking for deals on Craigslist. It started with “that’s cheap! I bet I could resell that if I was patient”, and it worked out. I now have a couple full truckload orders being prepped to ship out. I found out that the best deals are at the source (foresters and land owners) and now go to them when I need trees.

I sell slabs- when I moved home I saw a giant log of ash on township land. It was too big for them to move when the tree was taken down due to the ash borer so it was destined to rot. A few phone calls, a trailer, and a winch from harbor freight netted me that log for free. It scaled out at 934 board feet and I had to find someone with an Alaskan mill to pay for milling service. I now have a log/slab inventory that keeps getting bigger.

Logging- this is my newest development. Spending time involved with the sale of timber and woodworking has allowed me to make educated assessments of trees. I knocked on a few doors and am now doing a selective cut of mature black locust and cherry. QS black locust anyone?

Things aren’t always roses and Popsicles. I work a lot, I don’t have a guaranteed paycheck, hazardous environment, and a growing overhead. So far this month I’ve had to drop $900 alone on tires. Everything I could consider profit has to go back into the business.

The good! The $900 of tires kept my equipment and trailers going. Work doesn’t feel like work. I get to pick out the most prime pieces of wood for myself! I save a lot of trees from being wasted. Most people I talk to on a regular basis have similar passions and interests. I’m outside a lot. My daughter comes to work with me when things aren’t going to be unsafe. I don’t have a boss. I work with my hands.

I hope someone finds this information useful.

-- Power to the people.

25 replies so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3433 days

#1 posted 10-19-2015 12:18 PM

It sounds like you have a wonderful and rewarding occupation. May you always be happy in your work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1743 days

#2 posted 10-19-2015 12:22 PM

As the old saying goes “find something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life.”

I am glad you have your something.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Woodbum's profile


898 posts in 3632 days

#3 posted 10-19-2015 12:23 PM

to paraphrase: “May the wind always be at your back and the road rise to meet your feet and may the sun shine warm on your face” You are to be envied.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View Don W's profile

Don W

19387 posts in 3134 days

#4 posted 10-19-2015 12:33 PM

Good luck Erik. And thanks for taking us along for the ride.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View chrisstef's profile


17988 posts in 3573 days

#5 posted 10-19-2015 01:00 PM

Best of luck Erik. Do what you do brother.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View ChuckV's profile


3247 posts in 4094 days

#6 posted 10-19-2015 01:05 PM

Thanks for sharing this great story with us. I wish you all the best!

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Robert's profile


3571 posts in 2047 days

#7 posted 10-19-2015 01:11 PM

I admire your finding a job that is not a job.
I am lucky do be doing the same, although its not ww’ing.

Everything you describe is “right up my alley” so I envy you.

I would just say that “making a living” is quite a subjective term, as I’m sure you know.
Many people are trapped in jobs, and could be free to make a living at what they love – not because of lack of opportunity, courage, or know how – but because they have bought into a warped version of the American dream and cannot maintain their standard of living without a high paying job.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View waho6o9's profile


8804 posts in 3143 days

#8 posted 10-19-2015 01:55 PM

May you continue to have good fortune going forward my friend.

View shipwright's profile


8415 posts in 3365 days

#9 posted 10-19-2015 02:09 PM

Good on you Erik.
After a life of building wooden boats I can understand completely how you feel. I have often said that I never “worked” a day in my life when in fact a lot of the time I was “working” really hard and sometimes long hours. It’s all about how you define “work” I guess.
Another old cliche that I believe in is “The harder I work, the luckier I get”. I got so lucky that I could retire at 55. Of course the first thing I did was build myself a wooden boat. .... :-)

Good luck Erik, you’ve made a good choice.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View a1Jim's profile


117800 posts in 4144 days

#10 posted 10-19-2015 02:35 PM

It seems you’ve found a number of ways to make a living ,congrats on innovative thinking.

View summerfi's profile


4339 posts in 2254 days

#11 posted 10-19-2015 03:11 PM

Glad things are going so well for you Erik. Keep on livin’ the dream my friend.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View XquietflyX's profile


339 posts in 1527 days

#12 posted 10-19-2015 05:29 PM

It’s an awesome thing when you can do the thing you love, and it continues to be the thing that you love, for a living!!!!!

Now how much for a 12×12 x19 block of cherry?

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 3081 days

#13 posted 10-19-2015 06:12 PM

Good for you, Eric.
I had always thought a decent exotic lumber store would do very well where I live. We can buy domestic from the mills in the Smokies for almost nothing, but try to buy a piece of zebrawood, Whoh!!

And the worst part is the exotic lumber guys in North Carolina give tremendous wholesale pricing.
But alas, I got too old and could not get the financing.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View bigblockyeti's profile


6142 posts in 2287 days

#14 posted 10-19-2015 06:43 PM

Sounds like you really love what you’re doing, and it sounds like most of it would be great exercise too. I’ve thought of doing the same thing but always back into “safer” investments. It would be interesting seeing a cost break down of a start from nothing to properly (if sparingly) equipped to do the logging & milling, drying & reselling. The few major expenses I can think of are a truck, trailer, saws, chainsaw mill (for slabbing), bandsaw mill, kiln and storage to name a few. Not to mention consumables like tires, fuel, oil, brakes, insurance, maintenance and the list goes on. Another thing that I’ve thought of every time considering this is insuring my ability to work, if you’re using your body to work, your checkbook might suffer more than a little if you were injured. I’ve spoken with a few different agents about how this would work, and most policies would only offer short term payments assuming that you could return in full capacity to your pre-injury ability. Disability offered by the government would only cover the taxes the same government is charging so that wouldn’t be something to rely on.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Jerry's profile


3284 posts in 2215 days

#15 posted 10-19-2015 06:44 PM

Eric, l love your post. I find it to be an inspiration. Thank you!

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

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