Who's the most succesful green woodworker you know?

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Who's the most succesful green woodworker you know?

Postby Chris Amey » Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:31 pm

Hello all!

I've just joined your team and have to jump in with a really big one. Sorry!

I want to know:

Who is doing exceedingly well at producing green wood products?

Obviously, once upon a time, when the only chairs-(say) one could buy were from a bodger or the like, a bodger might be doing rather well, given the number of folk wanting to rest on their bums. But in this day and age chairs are two-a-penny (are they not?).

So, to remain even afloat, a contemporary boger must rather think outside the box. No?

Now, I know many of you run courses in the subject. And perhaps others are concerned mainly with research. But who is out there making a pretty penny actually selling their product? Or, more to the point, who is thinking outside the box?

I am but a struggling (no great surplus of money!) creative. I have the hands to work and the imagination to think. But I have to find faith before I will begin!

Bare in mind I love my draw knife, axe and froe. And I am a carpenter - previously of green oak. But I wish to do it all the time, not some of the time!!!!

Thankyou to whoever may shed light!

Chris.
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Postby robin wood » Fri Jan 18, 2008 9:55 am

very few folk make a living primarily my making things. Out of those that do I think most do it out of passion rather than for the money and most have low overheads to begin. My personal vote goes to Owen Jones oak swill basket maker...a hero of mine. He does not think outside the box just got very very good at a traditional craft so that he can make a wonderful oak basket remarkably quickly considering how many processes he has to go through.

If you are thinking more in terms of breaking with tradition I think David Colwell of Trannon did fantastic things setting up a business with inovative design using small diameter green ash and selling successfully to architects. I am also a fan of on a smaller scale of Alun Heslop of www.chaircreative.net

I make a living and pay the rent primarily from making bowls.

The sussex trug industry has always been one of the more financially viable green wood crafts.

I don't think anyone is doing "exceedingly well at producing green wood products" but to me the key is choose a small unique area, get good at it, production speed is crucial and that comes with many repetitions and market it well. Ben Orford is doing a good job with his knives I think.
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Postby Chris Amey » Sat Jan 19, 2008 1:16 pm

Hello Robin, and pleased to meet you!

That was exactly the responce I was hoping for. So to you I am very very greatful! Thankyou.

I will now look up those you have mentioned. Some of whom I have heard of through the grapevine. Alun Heslop I met at the Somerset House exhibition and he was also very helpful.

Many of the points you draw on are ones which I think I was bound to be confronted with. A shame! But there is alway a way, in my mind, to solve any problem. One concept could be that one lives a more self-sufficiant lifestyle and thus has fewer overheads, meaning the chase for the pound in less desperate. But unless we live as gipsies (which I quite like the sound of!) then we still have to pay rent, electricity, water, gas, telephone bills, maybe a vehicle to run too. The list seems very similar to that of all the rest! Besides the groceries - but even all the seeds can cost a small fortune to begin with!

Anyway, back on-topic, speed is definately a must it seems. For this I must first begin making. I don't suppose anyone out there would pay an assistant? Or maybe some other arrangement? Long or short term?

I met a man yesterday who employs Indonesian carpenters to make all his furniture and sculptures (out of wood). He pays them £1.50 per day. Sadly it seems to make great business sense NOT to employ us english folk! As we carpenters would ask for 100 times that price per day! At least here in London.

Anyway, my girlfriend says I'm waffling. So I'd better stop!

Thanks again,

Chris.
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Postby robin wood » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:07 pm

Well Chris if you can get £150 a day as a carpenter and enjoy it I would work 4 days and play with green wood on the fifth because I would be very surprised if anyone is averaging near that in the greenwood world...Not complaining, money just isn't important to me...knowing that if the kids are sick I can be with them, when it snows and they are off school I can have a day off and go sledging, if the surfs up I can go midweek when no-one else is there, if its a glorious sunny morning I can decide to go for a walk on Kinder Scout instead of work...how do you put a value on that freedom? Oh and I love the work I do and feel that it has meaning for my customers too....there are different ways of being rich.
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Postby Chris Amey » Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:10 am

Robin, you're absolutely right! Quality of life is the key!

I have been stewing on this one for weeks. And it started with my basic need - to work with wood in a more organic and wholesome way. I recently developed dermititus from working with teak day-in day-out and I need an exit strategy. It's a real nasty rash and makes me sensitive to all the other chemicals which we use in abbundance too. My training with Mike Abbot has left a huge impression on me and I now feel that I need to make this my goal.

The problem is, how do I blend my life accross to the green? (Maybe I should have put this as a whole new strand!). The four-day week is a nice idea, but most employers don't like that one one bit! So maybe I should just go self employed, as a chippy. Another stewing question! By-the-way, I don't actually earn £150 a day, but a self employed chippy would charge £150 - 250 per day - given his overheads. But the trouble then is that one might get so worked up about the chippy business that the green woodworking doesn't get a look in.

Also, space comes at a real premium here. And we live in a flat with no lift and very thin walls (even the gentle purring of a pole lathe would resonate through three other flats). But the plan may be to move out of the big smoke altogether.

Anyway, at present, I am building my first shave hourse, in the workshop - out of hours. Which is just the beginning!
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Postby monkeeboy » Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:59 pm

Chris,

Don't forget about Working Tax Credits.
When you register as self-employed you can get an allowance towards your living from the Inland Revenue if you earn below a certain amount (7 or 11 grand a year, not sure which). Unfortunately for me, you need to be 25 and I'm only 24 so it's a kick in the teeth for me as I could really do with it at the minute!
There's also Housing Benefit from your local council (tho it's funded by the government) which could help you if you earn little and rent property. I don't think you can use it to pay for business properties, but if you move into somewhere with a wee garden or a decent basement then you're sorted.

Also, if you are self-employed and do work that you enjoy then any profit you make in a tax year you can then just spend on lovely new tools, a vehicle, materials etc before you fill in your tax return and so not have to pay tax. You get taxed on your profits. That's why it's important to do work you enjoy...it pays in other ways too.

I have been self-employed since November 2006 and although I'd love to get money from greenwood, I don't. I make most of my money from making furniture and odd-jobs but I still think of greenwood work as my main aim. I also work occasionally with a tree surgeon who in return can supply me with silly amounts of local woods that would otherwise become firewood.

I'm poor but happy. My housemates all work in mediocre office jobs and end up wasting their money on drink and ready meals.
I brew my own, grow my own at the allotment (obviously not everything tho) and spend my spare money on old tools off ebay!

Go for what makes you happy and you will be happier.

It's more important to live a rich life, than be rich.

And don't be afraid to claim any benefits from the government, they're only going to spend it on bombs and private holidays anyway. Get it while it's going.
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Postby HughSpencer » Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:07 pm

Good advice by Monkeeboy.
Also a good thing for picking up odd tools and things is Freecycle. Google for it, its run on Yahoo servers but is essentially a free exchange system.

If you are paying yourself a salary...
Salary sacrifice (aka salary exchange) is where you forgo a portion of salary so that your employer can pay things like nursery fees, company bike purchase, you then have the use of the bike and at the end of the year pay a percentage of the value to the company for it and it becomes yours.

There are companies that set this up for you but they take a cut out of the 12.8% National Insurance your company saves by not paying you the money as wages. You don't pay NI or income tax on this money either.
:-)
I don't think anyone doing greenwood working does it for the fortune they might earn so don't feel guilty about utilising the above to make life a little easier for yourself and your family as you pursue your dreams.

Oh, if you do hit paydirt, pay your bonus into a personal pension fund as employers contributions. No tax, no NI and you are doing what the govt keeps saying you should be doing.

Of course, none of the above should be construed as financial advice cos that is not allowed under the Financial Services Act.
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Postby Chris Amey » Thu Jan 24, 2008 7:26 pm

Hello Monkey Boy and Hugh,

Pleased to meet you too!

Your advice is so very helpful and is nicely topping up my confidence to break from the boss routine and go it alone. I particularly like the idea of paying no tax, as at the moment I'm loosing a wappin 75% of my income to tax and National Insurance. I also believe that they help you with finacial advice for free these days. Am I right?

After I have worked up to the stage where I can move out of the smoke, I will have find a particular trade to trade in. I can make furniture with reclaimed timber. Or I'm thinking I could do roofs as I enjoyed all that cut-n-pitch stuff that went with the oak frames we used to build.

Anyway, thanks again all of you!

Chris.
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Postby Chris Amey » Thu Jan 24, 2008 7:30 pm

Sorry, that was meant to be 25% NOT 75!
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Postby simon » Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:26 pm

Although I am employed, as a van driver at the moment, I have not worked a full week for about 15 years. At present I get paid 3 days a week. Less money more time.

Sometimes it is good to go to work to have a break, there is too much to do at home and I over do it. On the other hand you can get very lazy and not do any thing or waste time on the internet!! At least I have a choice.

I agree with everything Robin says about being at home with family, it's worth more than anything.

To business: I have sold a stool, more or less by accident, but I do not expect to make money. Sleepless nights thinking about it I conclude that either you make lots of fairly cheap things (boring, and China does that better)
or you make a few really amazing things and charge art gallery prices. (I am not good enough for that.)

In the end being happy doing what you like is worth the problems of not much money, I think.
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Postby Mark Allery » Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:52 pm

Simon,

well said! The ability to be able to say no (not that it happens very often) and know that I am accountable for my own work is worth a lot to me. Just as well 'cos its certainly not generated a lot of dosh yet, but I can live in hope. I notice its only too easy to get work which takes me away from greenwood let alone the pole-lathe, so this year I am going to make a real effort to add a bit more value to my products, be more efficient and remove the temptation to do too many things (faint hope!).

I've noticed that a lot of people at shows where I demonstrate are willing to pay fair prices for small turned items that they have seen made. Quite often I will chat to them about the work (a poor version of Ben Orford) and they will insist upon buying something. A rounders bat doesn't take any longer than a dibber to make, but I notice that many people sell the dibbers very cheap, whilst I can sell the bats for £8. So there is often a difference in the perception of value by the customer and the cost in time to make it. Whilst the small items can be boring (especially if I get an order for a dozen dibbers from a stall holder) if you let them. I tell myself that its good for me to improve my productivity and proficiency and it certainly helps to fill in between doing other things.

Sorry I'm rambling now. So I will just mention a couple of people from the surrey and sussex coppice group, Ben Law and Alan Waters, who are gurus in the art of value adding to greenwood products (you may have seen Ben building his own cruck framed house on grand designs). They tend to sell a mix of products but both will argue strongly that you have to add as much value as possible to the wood to make a good living.

cheers

Mark
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Postby simon » Sat Feb 02, 2008 8:06 pm

Mark,
we are both facing the same way. We keep on along the road as best we can.
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Re: Who's the most succesful green woodworker you know?

Postby ToneWood » Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:05 pm

Chris Amey wrote:...Obviously, once upon a time, when the only chairs-(say) one could buy were from a bodger or the like, a bodger might be doing rather well, given the number of folk wanting to rest on their bums. But in this day and age chairs are two-a-penny (are they not?)...
I don't know, the population is now much larger than it has ever been before, and an awful lot are taxpayer funded to sit on there backsides. Although probably not in the market for hand crafted furniture.

I'm impressed by other posters' "quality of life"/"life-work balance" perspective - that is important but too often undervalued by most these days. Although, I guess it is sobering when one comes to purchase those, sometimes, very expensive (although hopefully once in a lifetime) high quality greenwood tools, fill the petrol/diesel tank of pay the gas/electric/tax bills. Many self employed find it sensible to have "more than one string to their bow" (I came across a ski store in Chicago that sold garden furniture in the Summer, and another than sold bikes in the Summer). I dare say Ray Mears TV programs & teaching others helps. Green wood working seems to have really taken off in the UK now (perhaps taking over where scouting left off/dropped off), hopefully it will stick, as it has in Scandinavia and the USA - in which case, our contemporaries, like Robin Wood, may end up being "founding fathers" in the future (so maybe get a sign copies of their book(s) now ;): "The Wooden Bowl" by Robin Wood: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0854421300/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=various02-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=0854421300), like Sundqvist before them.


In general though, I'd caution against most people pursuing their hobbies as a profession - although that is a popular recommendation in America - unless their passion and commitment is so great and enduring that they must. On the other hand, give everything a try and if it doesn't work out, move on and find something different that does - life is short, you don't want to look back and regret not having tried to do things that excite you. I came across 2 guys in America that retired early but were forced back to work by boredom/their "long suffering" wives, one having left to do wood-turning (got bored after filling the garage with turned poles!), the other to build... harpsichords I think (wife couldn't hack it!). I've also come across 2 formidable fishermen who turned pro and it took all the joy out of it for them and they became the environment harming professionals they despised, one gave it up and I suspect the other will too - but it was an adventure for them and they gain valuable life experiences. Ditto for climbers. For most, the joy is doing something different from your normal job - certainly it is for me, so when you do it as your job...it is no longer a break.

One more thing occurs to me. It is hard, physical work. Nothing wrong with that - in fact probably good for the soul but quite hard on the body, especially for older folk. I did some roughing out this morning with an axe that weighed only around 2lb that I had just refurbished. I am big and strong, although admittedly nowhere near as fit as I once was. My arms* and shoulder were quickly pumped and aching (and I used to rock climb a lot and ice climb sometimes - so had a formidable grip and experience of that "rough carpentry" hammering that is often recommended to budding ice-climbers). I ended up using a tiny old axe as much as I could get away with :D
* I used both arms, alternating them - I'm not ambidextrous but it seems sensible to develop a degree of ability with both sides.

"Wappin 25%" :D -- once you add VAT, fuel tax, car tax and council tax in that, the effective tax-rate for most in Britain now is between 40 and 50% :(.
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Re: Who's the most succesful green woodworker you know?

Postby witt » Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:04 pm

quality of life :
One factor that has contributed to the widespread -and sometimes flabby- criticism of the technocratical mentality and the rampant consumerism of contemporary society is much more profound than the perversion of reason within capitalist processes of modernisation.
it is, as I see it, more of a generalised quest for an "essential Being" which conforms to an irreplacable soil where it would be rooted in.
Thus, my comprehension of my relation to the oak-tree, my relation to my axes, I would say their significance, would be intimately mated, what I would call united, in a "community of life".
If instead I would consider my environment as "at hand", therefore in a certain sens a separation from the original soil would be an essential consequence.
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Re: Who's the most succesful green woodworker you know?

Postby witt » Sat Jun 23, 2012 2:46 pm

I have nothing to say but I want (need) to talk :
This is exactly how I feel, not only now but often. I have particular reason for being convinced that I talk too much.
What is important is not the ego -the immediate power of sensations or convictions in an ego- but the elements of subjectivty incorporating universal acceptance, mandatory for all subjects.
The real importance of immediate power of convictions comes to light only when we view a connection between the uncommunicable ego complex and a unity and foundation of the characteristics of human nature.

I can resolve all of my last post content into elements of that sort. These elements would reveal themselves dependent on important issues both inside and outside this thread, unless I would in fact sick back unnoticely into the more limited standpoint of my specific subject.

It meant an attempt to explain ecology on the basis of Liberty - to get a concept of Liberty other than the one we normally identify and individuate as Liberty : the liberal negativ Liberty. An attempt as exemplified in works produced by Heidegger which were published during a time anterior to popular ecology.

Silence is not bad. In fact, it's just the death of the ego. Some of the most venerable death, surely.
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