HOW TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL WOODWORKING BUSINESS

Elizabeth Floyd has a good start on her own woodworking business. She's still working full time and is proceeding carefully building her business to provide income when she retires.

Elizabeth Floyd has a good start on her own woodworking business. She’s still working full time and is proceeding carefully building her business to provide income when she retires.

We spoke recently with Woodmaster owner, Elizabeth Floyd, of Shelbyville, Indiana. She’s got strong woodworking skills; a great start on a woodworking business; and a Woodmaster 718 Molder/Planer.

 Elizabeth has taken the essential steps to start her business the right way. And she’s carefully planning how to make it grow. We think her careful, practical point of view will be quite helpful to our readers who’re thinking about starting their own woodworking businesses.

 “I work full time,” Elizabeth tells us, “and do woodworking on days off and weekends. I’ve been doing more in the last few years so that, when I retire, I’ll have something to support myself.”

“My full time job is a cook in the county jail,” she says. “When I retire, I want some income and if things go well with woodworking, I might retire earlier than planned. I’m the kind of person who sticks their toe in the water before jumping in. I want to see if there’s a market for my style of woodworking, and see if it would support me.”

 

What Elizabeth calls her "little tables" are already popular. She says these are "production items" -- she makes one after another in the same patterns.

What Elizabeth calls her “little tables” are already popular. She says these are “production items” — she makes one after another using the same patterns.

She’s started a business part time while working full time

A square of richly veined marble gives Elizabeth's tables a beautiful finishing touch.

A square of richly veined marble gives Elizabeth’s tables a beautiful finishing touch.

“I make clocks,” she says, “and a lot of little end tables. Right now I’m working on a big entertainment center. My little tables are unique in that they’re something you don’t see in stores. They’re a stock production item, I just make them and sell them. I have a couple designs. I wanted to have set designs and use them all the time” to speed production.

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Elizabeth took a woodworking class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana. Master woodworker Gary Striegler taught the class. (Editor’s note: Gary’s a big Woodmaster fan and demonstrates his techniques in several videos on the Woodmaster website.) “Gary had a Woodmaster,” she said. “After the class, I figured I had to learn more about it. I went ahead and got one. What I love about it is I can trim up my tables and make my molding just the size I want it to be. That’s the main reason I got the Woodmaster — when you go to buy trim, you can’t find the right size or profile.” So, like Woodmaster owners everywhere, she makes her own.

 Brains over brawn

“I’m 53 year old and throwing lumber around is not my thing – I’m just not able to,” Elizabeth says. “Anybody could be worried about this machine being too much – too heavy, too big to push around but there’s a way to figure it out. I bought it with the wheels and can roll it out into the middle when I use it, then back up against the wall.”

"Women, or anyone, might think the Woodmaster's too much for them," says Elizabeth. She proves it's not so.. When she couldn't change out the Woodmaster's head with her bare hands, she gained extra leverage by attaching a long-handled clamp. Problem solved.

“Someone might think the Woodmaster’s too much for them,” says Elizabeth. She proves it’s not so. When she couldn’t change out the Woodmaster’s head with her bare hands, she gained extra leverage by attaching a long-handled clamp. Brains over brawn every time!

“I changed the Woodmaster’s head and couldn’t get the belt off,” she told us. “I thought, ‘You’re not big enough to use this.’ But I noticed a bolt on the end of the pulley so instead of trying to turn things by hand, I put a clamp on the bolt. That did it and, so far, that’s the only problem I’ve had with thinking it’s too much. The Woodmaster is really easy to use. I was blown away at how smoothly it operates.”

“Woodworking’s not anything to be afraid of,” says Elizabeth. “It’s very rewarding. Sometimes you have to do things different from the way others do them. It may take an extra step or more time but where there’s a will there’s a way. Sometimes it’s hard to find a tool to fit your hands but they’re out there and it’s worth it to find them. It’s OK to ask people to show you stuff. Sometimes I’ll see someone doing something I want to know and I’ll just go ask. It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re afraid of not being able to handle a Woodmaster, there are ways around it if you study it a little bit.”

A mentor told her, “If you can draw it, you can build it.”

She’s hard at work building a woodworking business and building future income…and that kind of work brings its own deep rewards.

“I enjoy woodworking,” she says. “A long time ago, when I was in my early 20’s, I was told by a woodworker who had built a stereo cabinet that I could be a woodworker, too. He said if you can draw it, you can build it. I started with a saw, a hammer, and a chisel. I made a stereo cabinet with dadoes and grooves; it was really crude but it just put a bug in me. After that, if I need a shelf or something, I’ll make it to fit instead of buying it something and try to make it work. It just started to be a challenge.”

Networking to grow her business

Elizabeth is planting seeds now that will sprout later. “I’ve talked to a couple of people who do construction about making molding for them. I’m going to do up some samples and just try to do molding for people. The idea hit home with one contractor already. He told me he’s tired of going to the lumberyard for molding and when he goes back to get some to match, they don’t have that pattern any more. Or they have it only in oak instead of pine, or pine instead of oak. Or it’s the same pattern but it’s thicker and he has to spend more time messing with it or finding it in stock.”

Elizabeth’s business has started and is growing but isn’t in full production yet. She wondered whether she could afford a Woodmaster. “I’m not making enough things yet to pay for it but the time it saves makes it worth the cost. I’d rather be making something than driving all over looking for a certain piece of wood. Time is in limited supply, saving time is a big factor.

Lots to learn

“I’ve got a lot to learn about marketing and the internet – how to put your stuff out there. I need to learn

Elizabeth used the guidelines in Woodmaster's business plan to get her business started. You can get a FREE copy -- click here.

Elizabeth used the guidelines in Woodmaster’s business plan to get her business started. You can get a FREE copy — click here.

each aspect of it, I don’t know how long it’ll take. Having weekends to work on it, it’s not going to be a fast thing. But I’m not against retiring early – not at all!

I got the book from Woodmaster, ‘How to Set Up and Operate a Profitable Molding Business.’ It’s an excellent book. As a matter of fact, I followed what it said and have already consulted an attorney and filed my business, got my tax ID. The book says go ahead and start right and I agree with that.

(Editor’s note: You can get the same molding business startup book FREE. Click here.)

I’m setting up a bookkeeping system and getting that worked out so it’s all done right. I’d rather prevent getting myself in trouble than get myself out of trouble.

Why Woodmaster?

I chose Woodmaster because of my experience taking Gary’s class. I also like that it’s made in the USA and it’s heavy duty. I chose the 718 model because I felt I might want bigger than the 12” 712 and I didn’t think I could handle the biggest 25” 725. I got the one in the middle.

If someone’s thinking of getting a Woodmaster, I’d tell them I have no complaints. It’s a quality piece of equipment that’s well built. The company is good. I like Woodmaster’s blog that shows other woodworkers and what they’re doing. It gives you a connection with other people.

Local stores may have lots of woodworking equipment but you can tell real fast that you know more than the salesperson. But when I contacted Woodmaster, I could tell I was talking to people who knew more than I do. It gave me confidence. That’s how I feel about the Woodmaster product. I think it’s good. It’s an investment that’s worth it.”

Elizabeth fits a piece of molding to a large entertainment center she’s building. She makes the molding with her Woodmaster 718.

Business viability in today’s economy?

“I’ve thought about the economy and the viability of a woodworking business. I guess my thoughts are there’ll always be a market for things that are quality-made. I’ve learned how to do it right so my work is quality. Regardless of what the economy does, I may not get rich, but I’ll get a good reputation by doing it right.”

— Elizabeth Floyd, Woodmaster owner

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