Whether you’re ready to launch yourself as an entrepreneur or you’re looking for a way to make your woodworking hobby profitable, there are tried and true projects that sell. The key is to keep your projects simple – at least at first.
You might have dreams of making gorgeous custom speakers or building a cabinet using techniques from Japanese joinery. But those are high skill, labor-intensive projects. It’s great to know where you want to be and what you want to be making in one to five years.
But, unless you are already in a woodworkers guild or have a reputation as a woodworker, you might think about making small popular items to start out. Be great at it. Gather positive reviews and build trust in your woodworking business.
Popular things to make out of wood
Look around your friends’ homes for wooden objects. I guarantee you’ll find a wooden bowl, utensils, and a cutting board. And that’s just in the kitchen. In the living room, there are picture frames, some cool shelves, and a wine rack. Out in the hall or mudroom there’s a coat rack and maybe a clever storage bench with built-in cubbies for shoes.
These are the kinds of practical items made of wood that people will buy for their home or for a gift, especially if you add a spark of your creativity to your design to make it stand out. And you’ll definitely give yourself an edge if you can make multiple copies of an object while keeping the quality high.
You can use reclaimed wood, scrap wood, wood from an old pallet, or wood from other sources for your wood crafts. The important thing in creating your craft business is mastering your woodworking skills so you can deliver a consistent wood product that you can sell.
It’s not exactly mass production, but if you want to make money, you have to think about how to make your beautiful wooden items efficiently. Meaning, the less time you spend on the salad tongs and rice spoons, the more money per hour you can pay yourself.
Questions to ask before you start building
Being an entrepreneur means you get to be creative and practical as you build your woodworking business. Two questions to think about before you buy supplies and start making things: Who is your buyer? And, what is your edge? What sets your work apart from all the other products out there?
The first question will provide you with an idea of the quality level you will have to achieve. The second question is about two things: style and branding.
Maybe you have access to special hardwoods. Maybe you have specialized tools that you are using in your workshop. Are you using your own design or is there a name for the style of woodworking you are using? This is the beginning of building your niche — your brand. It’s the reason why people might find your work more interesting than the next guy’s.
How will you run your craft business? As the business owner you have to make decisions like will you have an online store or will you use an Etsy shop? It’s, of course, possible to have both just like it’s possible to make everything from a candle holder to a coffee table, furniture, and even wooden toys.
Creative ideas for building wood items to sell
Creativity isn’t just for your woodshop. Once you have an idea of who your customer is, think about how they purchase things online and off. Do people buy one wooden spoon? Sometimes, but usually people buy sets of things.
If you make sets, then those pieces can be sold together or individually. For example, design and make a salad bowl with utensils or tongs, a cheese board and coasters that match. As an incentive, maybe the customer gets a very slight discount for buying more than one piece in the set. The individual items might have a higher price.
Sets can include wooden toys such as cars, trucks, and alphabet blocks designed in one simple but unique style. Maybe build a storage line including boxes, chests, and jewelry cases. Another idea is to think of one room, like a dining room or a kitchen, and specialize objects for that space that complement each other like coasters, a wine rack, and floating shelves.
And, of course, it’s important to consider what you’re capable of making with the tools you already own. Start with what you have, unless you can borrow from a friend or a neighbor.
If you don’t have a lathe, maybe skip bowl making, unless you’ve already figured out a cool bowl hack. If you do have the skills to make a beautiful bowl without a lathe, get that online. We all want to watch that video.
You can pick your wood projects based on your tools and your abilities. Profitable woodworking projects may not always be the most clever. There is, however, a market for a handmade product and you can promote yours via social media, online, or even by taking a table at flea markets.
Using woodworking patterns versus creating your own items
Now that you are thinking in practical terms, consider whether you want to use woodworking patterns or DIY. Some of the choice comes down to your woodworking tools and some comes down to what you want your business to be.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel unless you get joy out of it. Even then, you do have to consider time and costs. Patterns are out there. Some are free and some have a price. If you use a fellow woodworker’s free pattern, it’s always polite to send a note of thanks. Or if you have your own craft blog, tag them in a post. Building a community online is about being positive and getting connected. If you are starting a business, these small gestures are even more important.
You can make all sorts of different items including a wine rack, furniture, cutting boards, and anything else that can be made from a little lumber. Your craft business is really only limited by your ability to find customers for whatever you might create.
Creating your own items individually is labor-intensive, but you can charge a higher price if the design is unique. There’s no right or wrong way to get started, but even if woodworking is just a side hustle, you will have to consider how much time you have and what your time is worth. If one spoon takes a whole day to finish and you charge $10, that’s about a dollar an hour. If that one spoon is truly unique and looks fantastic you can maybe charge $80. See what the market will bear.
My recommendation if you are a novice woodworker looking for patterns is to check out woodworking guilds online. Guilds are ready-made communities of like-minded people who love the art and craft of woodworking. Many post trustworthy advice and free videos on their websites. Some offer classes and support members’ business sites. There might even be a local group near you. It’s something to have on your radar.
How to create a business to sell your wooden products
I’ve touched on a number of tips about how to create your woodworking business, but here’s a nugget for you: Creating a business isn’t the same thing as selling products.
You might want to see if you can sell your products before going through the trouble of forming a company. I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice: however, it’s typically legal in most states and on most websites to sell arts and crafts online or in shops without having a business.
But, keep records and invoices. Once you make more than $600, you have to start paying taxes on that income. And, if you are using a free pattern you found online, make sure you have the right to sell products made with it.
Now go get woodworking!
–-By Nic Desmet
Great point about making things with coordinating pieces. As a consumer, that is often making purchases. It only makes sense to apply that to the products that I’m making to sell. Thanks!