Adding New Custom Woodworking Business NichesHomebuilders report great quarterly results, as the housing market recovers — good news for contractors of new home interiors and cabinetry.

The downturn drove firms into new areas of work, often remodeling, or any work to keep the lights on. Of 30,000 building industry businesses surveyed by Brookes Chase, most said they are still relying on remodeling and non-residential work for the biggest part of their business — even as revenue rose for 77 percent in the first half of 2012.

One custom residential cabinetry firm we visited a few weeks ago moved into remodeling, and cut 10 percent of the staff to get by. As business returned, they rehired only half of those they let go, relying on things like screen-to-machine production, and digital table saw fences guided by downloaded cutlists to pick up the slack.

An architectural millwork firm told us it moved into remodeling and medical markets, also doing more small projects. Business slowed so dramatically, only a skeleton crew was retained for two months, and they revised workflow to eliminate waste. With recovery, they restaffed, but at lower levels. Now their old CNC router is the weak link in the production chain, with a new one on the horizon.

Adding Woodworking Niches
The downturn transit to remodeling also brought a number of custom woodworkers and cabinetmakers into a new arena: garages and closets, for remodeling and now, for new construction.

Recognizing this transition, we’re relaunching and redesigning Custom Woodworking Business. The November issue will be accompanied by a sister title, Closets. We’re also remodeling our closets show: Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo debuts Feb. 27-March 1 at the New Jersey Convention Center.

ONLINE COMMENTS

Saw Safety Law Stops

Adding New Custom Woodworking Business Niches

“Gass [inventor of SawStop] told the Times that he was more concerned about preventing table saw-related accidents than in profiting from a table saw safety mandate. If he really meant that he wouldn’t have patented everything he could. I am pleased to see this bill go no further. Maybe safety related features shouldn’t be patentable. Governments aren’t really interested in safety, only taxes. — Trevor, Canada

Not only is Das Williams not wearing safety glasses or goggles, he has the blade at full height which is breaking a main safety rule in that the blade should only be high enough through the material to make the cut — approximately 1/4´´. I am all for safety, but do not like the path that Mr. Gass has taken. It is not all about safety, it is about dollars. — Jeff, Illinois

When custom woodworker Jared Patchin delivered a project, he found he had brought enough pieces for another cabinet. Since the job was fully installed, Patchin asked, ‘Who should pay?’ He ate the $280 cost.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen to us much, but here is how we would handle it: First, it is important to note we do not have a published catalog — we build up our prices for each and every piece on each and every job. We would acquiesce to the customer and smile gracefully, then we would assess (to ourselves) about how many orders this customer was likely to make over the next year. Next we would assess how much higher we could charge them without losing the next orders. Then we take all that information and add a small portion of the lost revenue to each of the following jobs for that customer until we had recovered the amount in full (or as much as we can— if this slight, temporary price increase is overdone, you do lose the customer and will never recover the money). We do the same thing with pricing errors our own salespeople make, too. In truth, all costs have to be recovered in some form eventually for a company to remain profitable and in business. — Carl, Washington

Be glad it was only $280. It does not pay to argue. You may have bought yourself some good advertising by not making an issue. I would still use caution when dealing with that particular customer in the future. — Dave, Wisconsin

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.