Crafty Sales for a Furniture Maker?

Let's all admit it, we don't like to throw away of-cuts from projects. But what do you do with all these bits that clutter up the workshop? I once believed creating small craft items for sale at local events, was the answer.

Here's a typical off-cut I might have in the workshop, naturally split in two pieces. Each fairly chunky, and with gnarly bark edge. Phone docks, tea-light stands, book-ends, all come to mind. But at what cost? Let's look at the simplest, the tea-light stand:
Bore a hole to take the tea-light - this means chucking a large forstner bit in the drill press, changing belt drive to match bit diameter, clamping piece onto table, boring the hole, unclamping, etc. From stepping into the workshop to leaving it, perhaps five to ten minutes. Divide your hourly rate appropriately, and add the small amount to cover tool wear, electric and other workshop overheads, and don't forget the cost of the material (you did pay for it at some point!), and you probably have a total that is just about reasonable to the average consumer.


That might surfice, if all you made were rustic tea-light holders. But if you are trying to build a name for yourself as a decent woodworker, you would have to additionally think about planing or sanding all the faces smooth, adding consistent chamfers to all the corners, and then going through a whole finishing process, before adding protective feet and signing the piece! Now add up the cost of your tea-light holder. Reasonable? Well it is a premium product, so the price tag should reflect that. Is it a price that most people would pay? Clearly not - although many might appreciate the effort involved and see the price as justified, it may be on their wish list but it won't be on their shopping list. It's exactly the same with quality hand made furniture, the market is small. So, you may sell a couple here and there, but the idea of converting all your off-cuts into small craft items really isn't a goer.
But what about using the internet to tap into the whole world market - surely even a tiny slice of that could keep sales rolling in? My experience of this is not good either. Photo's can only show a fraction of the quality of your items, so immediately you're at a disadvantage. If you are in the 'developed world', you are competing with makers whose costs are a tiny fraction of yours. And let's not forget the costs - shipping is not cheap, listing and sales fees, and the sheer time involved in sales handling.
I still have such items on my Etsy store though, but only because the stock is already made. Once it finally all goes, that will be it. Tried it, didn't work, move on

Small off-cuts now head for the wood burner - I'm told since it saves on heating gas that it's better for the environment!

Larger off-cuts now get turned into more unique and saleable furniture or artwork. There's still space for a tea-light or two in my floating, live edge shelves, though!



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