Many woodworkers dream of making woodworking their livelihood, and a good number do, but there is also a whole universe of opportunity out there for part-time-woodworking jobs, often smaller jobs that the "big shops" don't want to do.
In an ideal world we would all get to use our own woodworking tools and make lovely furniture and sell it for a nice profit and make a living. Sadly, reality says - this isn't going to happen for most of us - SO what are the alternatives.
One industry that I have always felt there was extra work in, and a good part-time business as well, is the CNC woodworking business. For those of you who need a quick refresher, a CNC machine is nothing more than a computer controlled router. On a computer you create some sort of a graphic, like lettering for a sign for example, send that information to the router through the computer and in a while the router carves out the exact same drawing you input into the computer.
There are a number of different types of CNC machines and they have different capabilities and sizes of wood that they can accommodate, so there can be some restrictions. For example, all CNC routers will go back and forth and up and down, but some have even more control, and could for example turn the bit to 90 degrees or more to actually make three dimensional items. But all that is detail, for now we want to look at the business of creating a CNC router business.
If you were to select a more basic machine, it would be capable of making signs and relief pictures on wood. Similar to detailed carving. While making signs is not exactly "exciting" work, when the machine goes about making the sign, it's not like you have to stand and watch it ... the machine can make these signs all by it'self so you can go about doing other things while the CNC machine starts making money for you. Yup, signs can be boring ... or you can make them a bit more exciting by adding graphics ... interesting lettering and other things that will make the signs stand out more, and create a bit higher price for you too, so don't discount these ... signs could be a mainstay.
If we started to look at more creativity, what about doing some custom carving on say cabinet doors. People are ALWAYS updating kitchens, bathroom and other living areas, if you could create a variety of door panels with graphics, drawings or other images you could give the clients something absolutely unique. If you wanted, you could wholesale this service to other cabinet shops who are already getting the business. These businesses are often looking for something unique to offer their clients. CNC images on doors could be just the ticket. Be careful though ... you will NOT want to offer this to every cabinet shop. All businesses want to be able to offer unique services and if everyone offers the same thing ... it devalues your business.
And speaking of doors, there are many other custom furniture makers in your area who COULD use some custom CNC work for their clients too. This could be doors, could be table legs, table tops or a whole realm of different items. Custom furniture makers are often very creative people and will dream up ideas most of us would never consider. They could be a wealth of info to you.
Still looking for more work? Well you could go into business for yourself too by creating your own items and selling them yourself. You could make relief pictures of certain things in your region that are popular or tourism places or unique in some other way. You could make wooden puzzles for adults or children, you could make fancy wooden spoon kits that need to be finished by the purchaser, you could make boxes, bowls or similar items or make them with special carved features on them. Cutting boards are constant sellers and there is a whole market that could created with these alone. I always suggest to people to browse through kitchen supply stores. They are always filled with cooking and serving items that could be made from wood, especially by anyone with a CNC machine at home.
Trophy shops often find them selves being asked by customers for "something different" ... they don't always want the same old bowling trophy .. they want something different and unique. If yoiu talk with them you can probably come up with a number of ideas that will help both of you by providing unique items that are well worth their money. This might not be big business but it all helps pay for your time and your CNC router.
The only real holdback is what YOU can create. All it take is going out and talking to prospective clients ... and you can do this even before you purchase your machine. I know many business people who secured contracts before they went out and purchased their equipment. This is not for everyone, but for some it works. You too can create your own CNC router business. No it may not be full time, but who knows ... in time it may work to that, you will never know if you don't try.
Copyright - Colin Knecht