Out of the Woodwork: Small Shop, Big Lessons

Many woodworkers dream of ‘going pro.’ Before you take the leap, read this.
By Jim Tolpin
Page: 104

From the  February 2006 issue #153
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It’s now been more than three decades since I began to work wood for a living. In the beginning, I operated alone out of a one-car garage outfi tted with a minimal number of tools. Today, I am the sole proprietor of a one-man cabinet shop, operating  out of a two-car garage outfitted with a minimal number of tools. “That boy’s gone far,” I can hear you saying. “Now he’s got room for a second car.” There is, however, an important difference: This boy can now afford a second car!

It took nearly a decade, however, before  I could make that claim. It took that long for me to realize that it wasn’t my woodwork that needing improving, but rather the way in which I was working the wood. Let me explain: I had started out building highly refined pieces of casework, filling them with lovely hand joinery and intricate detailing, and calling the results of my efforts kitchen cabinets. But unlike the other cabinetmakers in town (who also produced what people called kitchen cabinets), I was going broke like nearly every custom furnituremaker I had ever met. Here’s what I finally figured out was going wrong.

From the  February 2006 issue #153
Buy this issue now