Simple decisions and checklist before taking on a woodworking Job.

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Forum topic by a1Jim posted 06-02-2018 06:14 PM 2127 views 2 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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118066 posts in 4354 days

06-02-2018 06:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Here’s a list of questions I think that are important to ask yourself before taking on a woodworking job that you will get paid for and the mistake I made on my own most recent job.
Pros can you add to the checklist?

#1 Do I have the know how to make this project and finish it or am I going to try an learn how to make it and deal with a customer that a first-time project may not meet their standards or yours?

#2 Do I have the tools or equipment to make this project or do I want to acquire what I need?

#3 Is the job profitable enough to make buying the tools or equipment worthwhile?

#4 is this job profitable enough for the time and expense involved in making it?

#5 Will I need Help (and employee) to help with this project and have I considered the liability and cost involved?

#6 Do I have the room to make this project?

#7 Can I transport the project?

#8 Can I accomplish the making of this project to conform to the customers time frame?

#9 Is my workplace zoned to do this work?

#10 Do I need a license to perform this work?

As a 30+ year woodshop owner, you would think I would have this checklist in mind when taking on a job. See if you can tell by looking at the photos what number on the checklist I didn’t give enough thought to?


23 replies so far

View ralbuck's profile


6547 posts in 3043 days

#1 posted 06-02-2018 07:34 PM

Both #6 & 7 became issues for you.

I have a project evaluation coming up for a potential customer; that I may have to turn down due to NOT SKILLED enough, but, I will look it over first.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6869 posts in 4756 days

#2 posted 06-02-2018 07:38 PM

Hey Jim,

Well I’m squinting to see the photos on my IPhone, without my reading glasses, but if I had to guess., I’d say having enough room to complete this project, based on the enclosure you have set up.

So much for being pro, right! We tend to be a little less cautious, as we’ve done it so many times before.

-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Boxguy's profile


2877 posts in 3044 days

#3 posted 06-02-2018 09:29 PM

Jim, my solution is to sell finished projects and not make anything to spec. If customers choose from what is already made they are always happy. If I am making what I think they are describing I always get THE LOOK that says “it was not really what I envisioned in my mind.” Most people don’t know what they really want. They just know that what I made from what they told me they wanted was not what they really wanted.

A couple of rounds of that, and I began making what I liked making and made it the way I wanted to make it. When I am finished making things, then if it is what you want to buy, am really happy to sell it to you.

In short I tell customers,”I will be glad to sell it to you, but I won’t make it for you.” In the long run, everyone seems happier with that arrangement. The people who are not happy with that are probably people I couldn’t make happy anyway.

So I take their name and if down the line I make something like that, I call them. Humidors are an example: I don’t like promoting smoking, I don’t like making urns for strangers or pets. It just isn’t a job that makes me happy. Making cutting boards doesn’t appeal to me. Nothing wrong with cutting boards or people who make them. I just don’t want to make them. Well, you get the idea.

I like having fun in my shop and sharing my work with other people: but life is too short and time too precious. I don’t have to have the money. If you know those three things, it gives you a lot of latitude and freedom for a lot of attitude.

-- Big Al in IN

View oldrivers's profile


2204 posts in 2343 days

#4 posted 06-02-2018 10:22 PM

Excellent write up Jim. I am saving it for a ready reminder in the future. I was speaking with neighbor just today about wood work they were asking about some of the craft items I built; my response was I prefer to built and sell the finished product. Reason being just as Big Al said if they see it and like they are happy. I am also a fun builder I do a few commissioned projects, (have one in the shop now) but I am very selective to what I commit too. Always enjoy your contributions Form, Blogs,Etc. keep up the good work.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4354 days

#5 posted 06-02-2018 10:29 PM

Your right about #6 , number #7 I’ve got handled. Thanks for your input.


View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4354 days

#6 posted 06-02-2018 10:33 PM

Yep you guessed it Lee.

Al and old drivers, you are so right, what they see is what they get. but I’ll still in up making things for my customers.


View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1676 days

#7 posted 06-02-2018 10:43 PM

All things on your list certainly are things that should be considered, however I think your experience answers most of them without having to check them off a list.

Estimating the job covers a lot of the other #’s as well, but when estimating, it is good to have reminders for things you need to charge for.

So as far as which number you went wrong on, I would say it’s #1.
Looking at the job you should have sensed how much room it would take to do it.
That being said, it looks like you found the solution.

Whatever it is your doing, it looks like a nice job, congrats.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30552 posts in 3115 days

#8 posted 06-03-2018 12:05 AM

Painfully have been there. I am lucky now in Charles shop with lots of room.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4354 days

#9 posted 06-03-2018 12:55 AM

Thanks for your input guys.


View DocSavage45's profile


8982 posts in 3619 days

#10 posted 06-03-2018 01:06 AM


As big as your shop is???? LOL! Jim Post said it a log time ago when advising small cabinet shop builders….”Don’t make it if you don’t have a place to out it.” I always add more to the existing space and mine is tiny compared to yours. Enjoy the struggle.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4354 days

#11 posted 06-03-2018 01:11 AM

Well Tom ,I do have more room than you but…Cabinets take up lots of space and have a fair amount of parts to them plus I have too much equipment for what space I have.


View woodbutcherbynight's profile


6069 posts in 3186 days

#12 posted 06-03-2018 01:13 AM

I have to agree with life being simpler when you make something, and the customer buys it. Not they tell you what they want and you kill yourself then hear that is not what I had in mind. Of course for me this is only as hobby so making money is not really of interest. I do make things that people buy, such as Golden Dumb Ass Awards, Order of the Blood Blade frames and the occasional Mallet and make some extra cash. But mostly I am a selfish, I make stuff for me and wife and that’s about it. No stress and nothing but enjoyment.


-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30552 posts in 3115 days

#13 posted 06-03-2018 01:13 AM

You can work it out Jim. You haven’t made it this many years without learning to adapt.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30552 posts in 3115 days

#14 posted 06-03-2018 01:15 AM

WBBN, making things for the wife can be my most stressful job. The client never leaves.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4354 days

#15 posted 06-03-2018 01:26 AM

I’m Glad you are there to help Charles out with his shoulder problems. I’ve known Charles for years and wish I could just visit him, but time and distance has made it all but impossible so I’m very envious of your, but all said and done I’m too old to be much help.
I think I have my situation handled Monte, I originally had it worked out with my customer where he would store most of the cabinets as I finished them but then other contractors have gobbled up that storage space so I had to punt.


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