Woodworking


     I worked part time for my father from the age of seven until I graduated from high school. Part time is defined as: after school, on the weekends, and throughout the summer months. Although I didn't appreciate it at the time, my father taught me a lot of things about carpentry, plumbing, digging ditches, and pouring concrete.

     Thanks largely to his training, I enjoy designing and building furniture in my workshop. Having labored in the hot sun and in below freezing temperatures while helping my father, I decided to splurge and install a heat pump in the workshop. (One of my smarter decisions!) Here are pictures of the workshop.

     This web site is dedicated to describing furniture and other items I have designed and built. The pages are organized into logical groupings. These groupings are:

     Each page contains a brief description of hand-built items and a representative picture. In some instances, there are multiple pictures and drawings. Links to these additional pictures have been provided.

     I hope you enjoy reading about my furniture and seeing the pictures.

Picture of Joe's Workshop
Joe's 20' x 30' workshop

How do you furnish a workshop?
     Some woodworkers prefer using hand tools and eschew using any power tools. They are the purists. I ain't one of them. I've often told friends, "I do better work with better tools." In the pictures below, my larger tools stay on the shop floor. Notice that several are equipped with rollers which offers greater flexibility within the shop. Additionally, there are hundreds of smaller tools stored in drawers, cabinets, and tool boxes.

     Woodworking tools are expensive as are power tool components. Examples of power tool components include router bits ranging in cost from $11.00 to over $50.00 each, a table saw blade costing over $125.00, and a set of carbide tipped knives for a planer costing over $225.00.

     What tools am I lacking? I don't have a scroll saw ($610), wood lathe ($4,500), or a 22" sanding drum ($2,550). Ummmm, maybe one this year and another next year?

     Whoa, nobody ever said woodworking is an inexpensive hobby. In fact, woodworking can be just as expensive as bass fishing, owning sports cars, or collecting paintings, stamps or coins.


Inside Joe's Workshop
Spindle sander, 12" disk sander, and router table
Inside Joe's Workshop
13" Planer and 10" table saw

Inside Joe's Workshop
Cabinets, shelving, bench top drill press, floor stands, and work bench
Inside Joe's Workshop
12" Miter saw and wood storage rack

Inside Joe's Workshop
Router table (again), more shelving, and 14" band saw
Inside Joe's Workshop
More storage shelving, mortiser, and floor-mounted drill press

You might have noticed that my shop is dusty and has wood scraps strewn around the floor. Mea culpa - I'm a messy person.

How much should you charge for building custom furniture?
     In addition to tools and tool components, you need supplies such as paint brushes, filters for the shop vacuum, bolts, screws, nails, staples, pre-stains, stains, sealer, paint, glue, wood filler, sand paper, and lumber. Lumber is a big expense.

     And if you're calculating operating expenses, you must include electricity, filters for the heat pump and air filtration unit, blade and bit sharpening, tool and component replacement, equipment depreciation, building costs, taxes, insurance, and truck expenses.

     Here is the selling price formula:

  • Labor (number of manhours times the cost per hour) plus
  • Prorated materials and supplies (see above) plus
  • Prorated operating expenses (see above)
     Sounds complicated? If you're building furniture for a living, you're running a business and you must include all costs when determining the selling price for your products. Woodworking for profit is just like any other business. If you don't include all expenses and sell your product for too little money, you'll run out of money and have to close shop - literally.

     Well, what about building a single item for a customer? Are your expenses less? Should you charge for your labor? These are great questions.

     Friends and family members sometimes ask me to build something for them. Of all my woodworking projects, I especially love building stuff for friends and family. However, unless the furniture piece is intended as a gift, I've found it best to mention cost up front. Even if I only intend to charge for materials and throw in my labor for free, I let them know that a charge will apply.

     As a writer, I often imagine conversations about a variety of topics. I have yet to have the following conversation in real life, but its possible that a friend or relative could say, "Joe, you sick, stingy, SOB! What the hell is the matter with you? You're retired from the Federal Government and Joan has told me you're drawing a substantial pension. Your labor should be free! And I know you shop around for good quality and best prices for materials. Look, the Federal Government gives stuff away. Why do you have to be so greedy? Besides, don't you know that you can't take it with you when you die? How about building this chair, table, cabinet, etc. and just give it to me?"

     I'm not sure what I would say if someone initiated that conversation. Surprise and shock would describe my facial expression. What sounds might accompany my look of surprise could range from laughter to a string of choice words which have been lying dormant since I completed my military service. Over the years, I've noticed that when people get something for free, they tend to treat the item as something of little value. The item is not precious to them because they didn't exchange something of value for the item. This is not unique; it's just human nature.

     What would irk me is someone complaining about having to pay $12.50 for a cork trivet which takes me over 2 hours to build! This is the main reason I'm not out trying to sell my furniture creations. It's hard to find people willing to pay for well-designed and built furnishings because most folks prefer, "cheap but nice looking." And that's why most furniture stores exist; they are catering to the vast majority of consumers.

     I remember my father talking about customers who complained to him about the cost of their custom-built homes. After years spent earning a modest living, he finally switched into water and sewage treatment plant construction where he dealt with engineers, prime contractors, and other professionals who knew the value of a good product and were willing to pay for it. After he transitioned into commercial construction, I once heard my father say, "I don't care if they have to live in caves - I've built my last house!" That sounds cynical, but I fully understand his sentiment. Luckily, I'm retired and don't have to depend on my workshop for a living. I can work at my own pace and build whatever and for whomever I choose. Ain't life grand?


Back to Joe East Homepage
Updated 03/25/2018
Joe East - Webmaster