Woodworking as a Source of Income

This feels like a question that must have been asked a million times but I did some searching and couldn’t find it. Apologies if I’m completely missing it.

I was wondering if there might be a class or discussion group or Special Interest Group for best practices in doing woodworking as a “side hustle” or part-time job. I started accumulating a bunch of tools at home a few months ago and have been watching hours of YouTube videos, but that’s not really a substitute for talking with people who actually have experience making things and selling them.

For example, some people make “smalls” and sell them through only through Facebook Marketplace and hate to deal with shipping. Some people make medium-size things like cutting boards and end tables, and sell them on Etsy or eBay or at local flea markets. Other people make full-size dining room tables with epoxy designs and charge tens of thousands for them.

I figure we have a bunch of people with experience in all of those categories. Is there already a group to share best practices, or a class for starting a woodworking business? Just curious.


Here is a class in which you may be interested:

Intro to Digital Marketing-The Beginning Basics: Events |Dallas Makerspace Calendar


Thanks! I’ll check it out.

Do you happen to have that instructor’s talk handle or email address? I can’t pay using either of the methods listed but can use Zelle or hand deliver cash.

That’s me! I’m the instructor, cash is fine

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I registered. I can bring cash down today or tomorrow if you’re around - or any other evening if you’re not there this weekend.

And of course I can Zelle.

Let me know.

Hey no rush! I do have a class at noon today in interactive so I’ll be there shortly! If not I’ll catch you again soon!

A significant question, IMO, is how are people able to command a high enough price
to justify their time investment?

It might include evolving from one category to another (small to large). In my experience with hand-crafted objects, few buyers are willing to pay for the labor you have invested in the object so craftspeople often try to start with objects that take (relatively) little labor compared to the perceived value. At the top end of the scale, it seems like sellers are only able to command the impressive dollar amounts once they have established themselves.

This observation is not woodworking-specific so YMMV.


I think this is good insight. Take pen making (on lathe) for instance…about the easiest, low effort “small” one can do. Takes about one 2-hour lathe training class and one or two 2-hour pen making classes and…boom…you’re making pens on your own like a boss. But the flip side is that is a really low barrier to enter…just go look out on Etsy and eBay at how many stores/person offer pens.

A decent pen kit folks might want to pay for as a finished product will be minimum $8, but nowadays more like $15, even $20. And a decent pen blank if purchased, as opposed to just some basic cherry, maple, walnut from a scrap pile somewhere, will also be anywhere from $5 to $20, especially for something truly distinctive…remember, people need to want it for it to sell. So that’s ~$25 in material costs, neglecting incidentals like epoxy glue, CA glue, sandpaper/micromesh, pen finish/polish, and whatever it takes to get them all, e.g. driving around, ordering online, etc.

For an experienced pen maker in a “production mode” time/effort all-in is probably around 1.5 hours per pen, not including sales/marketing. What’s someone’s time worth? $1/hour? $5/hour? $10/hour? Then drive an Uber or move to Kalifornia and make $20/hour for flipping burgers and cleaning counters/tables and asking “Do you want fries with that?”.

But even if your value for your time is low, e.g. $10/hour, that’s around $35 price point for a pen. Maybe you get everything on sale for $20% off or buy in huge volume…that’s still ~$30/pen.

And yet, here’s someone selling Cigar style pens made from maple and rose wood with personalization for ~$16! (incl shipping.) Probably one of hundreds selling similarly decent pens for a low price.

My point being, it’s really hard to compete in the “smalls” category nowadays and also have it be worth one’s time and effort.


So IMO it all comes back to having a really good (i.e., unique) idea.

On the flip side, however, there are tax benefits where you can offset (deduct) equipment you might otherwise want to own so “making money” might not be as important.

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That’s another good point.

“People” try make their hobby pay for itself often. Some are successful and continue to grow it into more than a hobby. This takes more than just acquiring "a bunch of tools’ , watching a you-tube video or two or casually shoulder surfing at the DMS for a few moments. Traits like focus, skill, dedication, determination, problem solving, hopefully a bit of original creativity and patience are key to getting past the hurdles and stresses of starting a new small business to reaching your goals.

I have a friend that lives north of Houston and has a serious woodworking hobby. He was home garage based years ago but recently things changed. He cleared some land, built a dedicated woodshop and does his “wood working” in his dedicated shop.


Etsy is the worst, IMO, when it comes to trying to make a profit unless you REALLY find a way to differentiate yourself. There is almost always going to be a fairly large collection of people that are selling something comparable for a tiny fraction of what you would need to charge to even remotely think about doing this for anything but the most casual of hobbies. You’ll need to spend most of your effort convincing people why they should pay significantly more for the same thing from you that they could get from a handful of other domestic, and about two dozen foreign, sellers… often producing some pretty decent quality stuff. You’re going to have to carve a nitch, grow organically the old fashioned way, and expect to lose money for while until you can build up enough clientele that word of mouth becomes a thing. Work to make some really high quality pieces and give those away to friends and family (preferably ones that have other friends with large amounts of disposable cash).

Then, worst case, you made your loved ones happy with your generosity… they don’t need to know that you’re just using them as marketing pawns in your capitalistic scheme for world domination.

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Unrelated, while their is limited demand for pens, there is a ton of demand for furniture. On Facebook Marketplace I posted our used Ikea furniture for 60% -70% of it’s cost.

I would get 100 responses and sell each piece same day. Cash. If you could find a way to make a similar small desk like Ikea for less than they sell it for, you might be able to sell a ton.

It’s not the best business however as you would likely need to make alot of furniture to make any sort of living on it.


And don’t forget that tools and machinery used for generating a profit are sales tax exempt in Texas. I avoided sales taxes on about $13k of CNC stuff because of this.

This may depend on where you buy your tools or gear from! (not intending to argue and i am not a cpa…not even close.)

This reminds me of when i in the “real world” before (now) and a customer bought $8k in Automotive shop equipment from the sales guy next to me. The client /owner of that shop called and in a very heated conversation was not happy about being taxed on the sale of the shop equipment when the invoice arrived.

Yeeeeeeeeeah… Sales tax is paid by the end consumer. For equipment, the business is usually the end user. Supplies? You are charging the consumer the sales tax, so you don’t have to pay any intermediate sales tax. That’s why there’s a space for you to be honest and pony up the sales tax on your personal use items that you bought through your supplier.

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Just going to plonk this down here & back away slowly…

What Items and Services Are Exempt?

The manufacturing exemption applies to machinery or equipment that causes a physical or chemical change in a product in order to make it saleable. The manufacturing process begins with the first stage of production. Typically, the first activity that changes raw materials or ingredients of the product begins the manufacturing process. The manufacturing process ends when the product has the same physical properties as when sold or transferred by the manufacturer to another, including any packaging.

For software, the manufacturing process includes the design and writing of the code, as well as testing and demonstrating the software.

Manufacturers can claim an exemption when buying tangible personal property that is:

  • Used directly in, and is essential to, the manufacturing process and makes a chemical or physical change in the product being manufactured, or to an intermediate or preliminary product that will become an ingredient or component part of the product being manufactured.
  • Used for quality control during the manufacturing operation that tests products for ultimate sale.
  • Used or consumed in the actual manufacturing, processing, or fabrication of tangible personal property for ultimate sale, if the use or consumption of the property is necessary to comply with federal, state or local public health laws.
  • Necessary for pollution control, such as:
    • Cooling towers.
    • Compressors.
    • Hydraulic units.
    • Steam production equipment.
  • Specifically installed to:
    • Reduce water use and wastewater flow;
    • Reuse and recycle wastewater; or
    • Treat wastewater from other sources to replace the use of fresh water.

Manufacturers can also claim exemption when purchasing, renting or leasing the following items:

  • Chemicals, catalysts and other materials used to:
    • Make a product more marketable;
    • Produce a chemical or physical change; or
    • Remove impurities.
  • Gas and electricity used in powering exempt manufacturing equipment other than equipment used in preparation or storage of prepared food, subject to a predominant use study.
  • Lubricants, chemicals, chemical compounds, gases and liquids necessary to prevent the failure or deterioration of exempt manufacturing equipment.
  • Safety apparel and work clothing required for the manufacturing process the manufacturer buys but does not resell to its employees, such as:
    • Earplugs.
    • Gloves.
    • Hairnets required by regulations to be worn by employees during the manufacturing process.
    • Safety goggles.
  • Wrapping and packaging supplies.
  • Other items listed in Rule 3.300.

I think DMS members would benefit from classes structured around turning your art into a business…
I would like to see
bookkeeping 101…
digital marketing 101 :heavy_check_mark: that’s seems covered
Sales 101
Pricing 101
Time management
Return on Investment 101
When to hire help

The list is endless and as the economy tightens up more people are going to need to learn these skills so they can pay the rent and put food on the table…


I taught a bookkeeping/Quickbooks Online class at DMS, I need to find my notes and teach it again. :slight_smile: