Dreaming of Going Pro?
Five recipes for success in a difficult business
Synopsis: Ever wondered if you could make a living at woodworking? Even for the most talented furniture makers, it’s a struggle. And in the wake of the economic meltdown of 2008, which seemed to target furniture makers with special force, the struggle got harder. Those who try the rough waters and succeed seem to arrive at designs for their businesses that are as various as their styles of furniture. One thing that unites them is a willingness to work at the business as hard as they do at the bench. Jonathan Binzen takes a look at a handful of woodworkers who have managed to go pro. Included are interviews with Tom Throop, Geoffrey Warner, Jeff Miller, the team of Dan Chaffin and Matt Frederick, and Don Green.
Once you’ve taken a few sweet shavings with a well-tuned plane, cut a few tight-fitting dovetails, and built a few sturdy cabinets or cradles admired by friends and family, it’s probably inevitable that the thought occurs: could I make a living doing this? the answer is, probably not—at least, not the kind of living you’re used to. the math is despairingly simple. Building extremely labor-intensive objects in an era of extremely high labor costs results in prohibitive prices.
It’s been evident since the craft’s revival started some 50 years ago that even for the most talented furniture makers, it’s a struggle to make a living. And in the wake of the economic meltdown of 2008, which seemed to target furniture makers with special force, an already bleak picture got even grimmer.
And yet… the desire for fulfillment in one’s work, the passion and the pleasure to be found in working wood continue to prove irresistible to some, overcoming coldeyed assessments of profit and loss. Those who try the…