Updated: Nov 5, 2021
As a life long woodworker (since the age of 13 or 14 anyhow...), it has always been an exciting adventure to build stuff - from experimenting on bending wood, while attempting to build our own snowshoes in Missouri as pre-teenagers, building a shared tree house with my neighbor, to building my own crude, but functional wood lathe, to building some nice furniture that is still being used by my Family today, to taking formal classes and learning how to build Windsor style chairs with early Colonial techniques and tools.
I took the traditional High School Shop classes (built a cedar chest and a Boston style fan back rocking chair – both of which I still have), and then taking more advanced woodworking classes in College. I had a true love for trying new techniques and learning new skills, and learning new tools. So, building furniture came very natural to me and I considered that part easy.
What I have learned in the last couple years as I prepared to launch an actual business - is that running a business is HARD!! Hard like ice in Alaska during February. Hard like dried clay in Georgia. Hard like a heat-treated steel casting. Hard like a US Army Airborne Ranger…. Trust me, it’s hard.
I would argue that even for a college business major fresh out of the best business college program, running a business is still hard. That person might know tips on how to tackle problems, but the problems are still the same. Their resolutions and problem-solving techniques might be a little more developed than mine. Sometimes, mine consists of brut force and hard headed determination, and a couple extra hours in the shop...
As I go through daily woodshop operations, I learn how fast I use supplies (sandpaper, glue, screws, and more importantly, wood). Some more unique things I have learned is how much dang dust and chips I create! Holy cow, there is dust everywhere! Even with an exhaust fan and a decent dust collector, there is far more dust and chips created than I ever anticipated. Resolution: rent a separate trash bin from the trash company…. It gets filled up EVERY week!!
Time management - WOW! That takes on real meaning versus some obscure concept that colleges or the Army taught me. Time really is money - gained or wasted depending on how it is used! Now the trip to the woodworking store needs to be a real need and strategically planned (after I glue up or need to wait on stain, or glue to dry).
I learn how much time in a day that I actually have to stand at the bench and work on a project. There is machine prep and set up. Then test cuts to make sure jigs are set up to a tight fit for joinery. Of a 10 hour shop day, maybe half is actually building. The rest of the time is prepping or taking apart of swapping work spaces to start another project or tracking client correspondence and answering/ providing cost estimates. All those pre- and post- steps have to be accomplished, but they don't always directly effect the outcome of a project.
I have saved this short column from Fine Woodworking magazine from years ago, but it still holds true. Most of these have actually been said in my own shop, and I can only laugh at the irony. And then there is this whole bizarre world of IT related issues and a thing called ‘social media’… For the love of humanity!!!!
In 1985, my college professor made us learn how to use an Apple II E, the cutting edge in computer technology. I can remember thinking, ‘This is a waste of time. I’m going to teach woodworking and drafting. Why do I need to learn how to type it into a computer, then print, when I can just write it out to start with and be done…” Ok, so, I guess he had more foresight, and you could say…, maybe, I was a little narrow minded on the changing world at the time….
Now I am downloading various Apps for editing assistance, learning how to take quality digital pictures, edit on my phone (that thing that is supposed to be to use to call people on – now the least used option anymore…), post on multiple platforms, write content and post at the right time of the week based on customer analysis and trends of when people look on the web, and try to figure out what each person is looking for, so I can create a hashtag that will help steer them toward my content and website.
All this has to be harder than what it was for NASA to figure out how to get to the moon the first time….
Sweet Mother of Pearl - I just want to build some really nice furniture! But I really like the way it sucks, and this whole 'woodworking business' is really a good kind of 'suck'. Running your own business is far more challenging than I ever anticipated. I thought I had war gamed about everything.. Ha! New surprises everyday! But it is the same kind of challenges as trying to build those snow shoes or the tree house - just on a different level . Its all a new adventure every day, and I wouldn't trade it for anything!
Spend some time to develop a new craft or skill for yourself! Make something with your own hands and tools. It will give you a whole new satisfaction level and a new appreciation for skilled craftsmen.