Is this not a hobby?

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Forum topic by Jim Finn posted 11-03-2010 02:50 AM 3207 views 1 time favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jim Finn

2763 posts in 3482 days

11-03-2010 02:50 AM

I have seen threads discussing how it is hard to sell “fine woodworking items” at craft fairs etc. Making an item with tender loving care, enjoying the creative part of wood working and then we want others to pay a preimum price for our fun? If our purpose is to sell things, we need to look at the market and make things that will sell at the price folks will pay. ( In my experiance mostly under $20) A hobby does not earn money… it costs money. A business makes money and must offer what there is a market for at a price folks will support. I make some $100 trunks and sell very few of them. When I do I am earning about $3 and hour and I love it. I have sold 15 of them in the past year. I make little money on them but it helps to fund my hobby. I also make and sell cheaper items that sell like hotcakes. These are not fine woodworking items as are the trunks. I can earn $20 and hour making these cheaper saleable items
( toys and boxes). This pays the space rent and funds my hobby (including liability insurance). “Attitude is every thing.” Mine is, someone else is funding my hobby so it does not impact my household budget a bit….................. Life is good.

-- No PHD just a DD214

44 replies so far

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3483 days

#1 posted 11-03-2010 03:19 AM

Hadn’t quite thought about it that way Jim, but you are right. Thanks for enlightning me.

-- Life is good.

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 3990 days

#2 posted 11-03-2010 03:24 AM

This is a HOBY for me too. I just like to sell things once in a while to pay for more supplies and tools!


-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View Bogdanovich's profile


120 posts in 3324 days

#3 posted 11-03-2010 12:25 PM

One m3 of Beech wood (woodwork grade, dry and reasonably without notches) in Serbia costs 400 EURO. 1 liter of mineral oil is 17 EURO. My monthly pay is 250-300 EURO. It will be fine if I can pay material whit woodwork money. Up to now all money I spend is from paycheck envelope. However, many LamberJocks finance work selling things, and idea of self-financed work started to wonder in my head. More money, more tools, more materials maybe even toy wheels from a shop…

-- My English and my woodworking are matching skills.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4687 days

#4 posted 11-03-2010 12:58 PM

Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking
If you are selling your work, then you have entered a woodworking dimension with added complexity and stress. If you would like to discuss with other professionally-minded woodworkers topics such as: estimating, taxes, insurance, record keeping, photography, brochures, jury applications, taking credit cards, finding skilled help, sales, marketing, and a host of other issues, then this is the Forum for you.

-- 温故知新

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4720 days

#5 posted 11-03-2010 01:06 PM

good point.. good point.. and good point.

so this is a good discussion to help people decide if they are in it as a hobbyist or in it as a professional.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3543 days

#6 posted 11-03-2010 02:42 PM

For myself woodworking is a hobby, that is totally funded by myself. That isn’t to say that I haven’t sold a couple items along the way. I’m very passionate about my woodworking and it gives me peace of mind to create things that will be handed down through the years. In fact most of the things that I make I give away to friends and family. I have made very few projects meant just for myself. I’ve had people ask me why I don’t make things to sell. My reply to them is simple, *if I made things to sell what would I do for a hobby then? *

I’m not opposed to others who sell things to support their hobby or are trying to make a living doing woodwork. The Closetguy had a very good blog on working shows with your wares. He brought up some very true statements about the nature of selling items at shows. A lot of what I experienced doing gun shows was pretty much the same as working craft shows. Getting what the market will bare means being diversified enough to meet the demands of the market. When you think in terms of fine woodworking those are the type of shows you should consider. When thinking in terms of craft items this may mean making items more related to the buyers at craft shows and the demand there. In effect it means thinking in terms of the market to make a living or to support your hobby.

For some like myself woodworking is a hobby for others it may be a combination of both a hobby and a business. A choice made by each individual as to what woodworking is to them. I commend those who try to make a profit from their woodworking as there are easier ways to make a buck. I feel Lumber Jocks brings together the hobbyist and the professional to learn from each other and to give insight and knowledge from our experiences.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Alex Lane's profile

Alex Lane

553 posts in 4450 days

#7 posted 11-03-2010 04:25 PM

It may or may not end up being profitable, but a person could always make the things that they themselves like to make and enjoy as a final product. Then see if people would want to buy it at the price it’s really worth. If you spent 100 hours making something, put on a price tag that reflects a respectable hourly wage. And don’t worry about whether someone will buy it or not…Wait a minute, that’s foolish…I take it back…
Sigh, there must be a fine line between building things that you enjoy building and getting some monetary compensation for your work. Unless you’ve got a bountiful income from a day job (or a spouse that brings home lots of bacon ;-D), the projects that you make are taking needed cash out of your pocket until someone buys the piece. Clear as mud, right?

That’s what the late Sam Maloof did. He made things that he wanted to make while taking into consideration customer preference, and people loved the fact that he got so much enjoyment in the design and construction of the pieces. And what a price his work brought!! He had customers on waiting lists 6 months and longer, and there are some sorely disappointed people that he never got to do work for…

That’s not a reasonable expectation for most woodworkers (who are indeed hobbyists), so just do what you love for the pure enjoyment of it, and perhaps paying customers will be drawn to give you business and a fair price for your work. Fall in love with doing the absolute best quality work you can, and people will involuntarily love what you do too. They may not be able to afford to pay you for your time/effort right away, but they’ll always have admiration for what you do, and a desire that they could afford your work. They might just make it a point to save up some cash and make a purchase.

Maybe make just a few items that your wallet can support, and try to market them as best you can until your funds allow you to make another project. Otherwise, forget trying to sell things that most people see as overpriced, and just make nice things to beautify your own home and the homes of other people you care about. Just don’t place yourself in the position of having to eat sawdust stew for supper!! Or would you prefer curly maple casserole? Bubinga Bayou Bisque? Sorry…I got goofy for a second there.
Woodworking is a labor of love. And it’s undeniable that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” Just have fun!!

-- Alex...builder of wooden wings for vintage sport biplanes...I'm your wingman :)

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 3792 days

#8 posted 11-03-2010 04:42 PM

Jim, for some it is a hobby, for others, a business. I would expect that those that would be all that successful at a woodworking business know their markets, and are trying to sell what the markets will bear at a cost that they will bear. I think this site tends to get some folks that are trying to cross over from hobby to profession, and a lot of the pricing etc… questions seem to me at least, to be feelers for what the market will bear. And honestly, this is the wrong place to be asking. If I wanted to know what was selling at Craft Shows in say Salem, Oregon, I wouldn’t be asking on a forum frequented by guys and gals from all over the globe, your results will get skewed with local market variation that makes the input nearly pointless. If you want to know how much, say a hand carved monkey with a clock in its belly sells for at your local craft shows, welll. go to your local craft shows and find out. Of course hand carved monkeys with belly clocks probably don’t exactly fetch a premium price I am guessing…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View a1Jim's profile


117782 posts in 4137 days

#9 posted 11-03-2010 05:06 PM

No woodworking Is not a hobby for me I have thousands of dollars worth of equipment based on it making money for me. Unfortunately people who work for $3 hr make it difficult for me to make a living. It lowers the value of what I do in the customers mind just like furniture in Walmart or other items made in china lowers what wood furniture is worth. I would say if you really consider it a hobby why sell at all give you projects away as gifts.I think it’s great that people have woodworking as a hobby and enjoy every second their in the shop ,but many work for nothing or very low wages just because it’s fun not realizing their possibly depriving others of their lively hood. This is not directed at you Jim just my point of view.

View Eli's profile


141 posts in 3566 days

#10 posted 11-03-2010 05:07 PM

By selling $100 trunks, you’re hurting professional furniture makers, at least in your area. Why would anyone by the same trunk from a professional for $1000? Not only does it directly affect local woodworkers, but perpetuates the under-valuing of the craft.


View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3634 days

#11 posted 11-03-2010 05:29 PM

For me, woodworking is both a hobby and something I like to do on a charitable basis. I have never considered it a potential source of income.

Once a year I sell crafts at a fund raiser and only recover the cost of my materials. The rest goes to a worthy charity. I have done numerous projects for my church and a few other worthy charities. This gives me a sense of “giving back” that is quite meaningful to me.

Of course, I also enjoy building stuff for my wife and me. My goal is to eventually make every non-upholstered piece of furniture in the house (and some upholstered pieces as well). With respect to each piece I want to make something unique that one could not normally buy at a store.

My equipment costs a lot of money and, from a financial perspective, this does not make sense. Most hobbies don’t. I know lots of guys with $1000s of dollars in their hunting and/or fishing equipment or a large boat or an expensive country club membership. That’s their choice. Woodworking is mine.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2763 posts in 3482 days

#12 posted 11-03-2010 06:27 PM

“I would say if you really consider it a hobby why sell at all give you projects away as gifts.”
....................If I could afford to do that, I would, but alas I need to pay for my equipment and materials. I have tried selling Trunks and wooden vases for more $ and could never do it. It took me 20 years to sell all of one item I made (fifty pieces) and I gave 22 of them away. I started selling them at $60 and finally after many years sold them at $20. Different markets, different states. ............................................ “By selling $100 trunks, you’re hurting professional furniture makers, at least in your area. Why would anyone by the same trunk from a professional for $1000? Not only does it directly affect local woodworkers, but perpetuates the under-valuing of the craft”. ....................The market will not bear $1000. The craft is not undervalued. It is worth what the market will support. I do understand your point of view though on taking someone elses work just like Habitat For Humanity undercut my construction job for decades. Here is a thought, I will sell you the trunks I make for $100 and you sell them for $1000.

-- No PHD just a DD214

View Eli's profile


141 posts in 3566 days

#13 posted 11-03-2010 07:11 PM

If you’re making $3/hour, the market won’t bear that either. You’ll go out of business. Success in the market is not measured by sales, but by profitability or sustainability. $3/hour is not sustainable for most businesses. I know my shop costs more than that. Lowering the price is treating the symptom. The piece needs to be built more efficiently, which in turn brings the price down.

That’s where manufacturing comes in. Manufactured furniture is not underpriced: it’s extremely efficient. Custom woodworkers can’t compete directly. Instead, we have to build things that are inefficient for factories. It’s expensive to retool a factory for custom pieces. We fill the gaps between supply and demand.

I’m with a1Jim. I’d prefer you gave them away. If you want to sell them, that’s fine, but at least acknowledge what you are doing. If your trunks are really viable in the market, I’d gladly buy them from you for $100. I’m not saying the trunk is worth $1000. Sometimes, though, a product just doesn’t work as is. Innovate or die, right?


Just to be clear, are you saying $3/hour net or gross? I suspect that’s not including expenses, but I hate to work on assumptions. Regardless, that hardly seems enough to live on.

View CampD's profile


1794 posts in 4046 days

#14 posted 11-03-2010 07:27 PM

$3 an hr wont even buy me lunch and a coffee!

-- Doug...

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2763 posts in 3482 days

#15 posted 11-03-2010 10:34 PM

I see we differ on our approach to woodworking and I am glad that everyone here has treated each other with respect even though we may not agree. Thanks for your input guys.

-- No PHD just a DD214

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