Pro vs Hobbyist Furniture Makers

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The Professional Furniture Maker and The Hobbyist Furniture Maker
Got on a “watch videos of pro furniture makers showing you techniques” kick and began noting how they do things versus how hobbyists do things. While the end results may be similar, or In some cases identical, the pro and the hobbyist are two distinctly different beasts.
Here’s the differences I’ve got down so far. Feel free to add those you’ve discovered.
The pro makes his/her living from furniture making so Time is Money.
The hobbyist makes furniture for fun/ therapy so time isn’t all that important. The money part of the equation may or may not be a factor. ============================ The pro makes furniture for customers.
The hobbyist makes things for himself/herself or perhaps a spouse, significant other, family member or for friends. ============================ The pro is in the shallower part of the learning curve as far as furniture making goes. The business side may be a different story.
The hobbyist Is in the steeper part of the learning curve for furniture making but doesn’t have to worry about any business end. ============================ The pro will spend semi-big bucks on a piece of equipment that will significantly increase productivity (read make more money by increasing productivity than spent on the equipment to do so). However, she/he is less apt to succumb to impulse buying slick doo-dads and or forking over money for a neat-o-spiral-cutting- filigree-making-laser guided tool or machine.
The hobbyist “will make do with what he/she has” when it comes to big ticket items and agonize for months over Brand A vs Brand B and the hundred dollar difference between the price of the two “final candidates”. YET - he/she will often buy hundreds and hundreds of dollars of “look how pretty this thing is” and “that’s cool - I’m sure I’ll find something to do with it” items.
(NOTE: The pro knows, or is acquainted with, a lot more woodworkers than the typical hobbyist. As a result, the pro is far more apt to pick up tools and equipment USED for less than half the price of NEW - and they’ll be on the high end of the quality, fit & finish and capabilities range. The pro seldom buys doo-dads - unless she/he knows the investment will yield a good return - or thinks it will.) ============================ The pro has developed a set of designs - four or five of the major pieces of furniture - chair, table, cabinet, dresser etc. - with several variations of each. He/she has a fairly clear mental image of what goes where and how, and knows what the finished piece will look like because he/she has made several of this item before.
The hobbyist hasn’t found a style and a set of proportions - yet. Since each piece, for her/him, is unique and exists only as a semi-general/ semi-specific mental image, the details of the components are often vague, coming into focus only as the parts are laid out, cut and set next to each other. ============================ The pro has made full scale templates of the major components of each of his/her best sellers as well as a few personal favorites. Some of the templates are designed to be used with a specific piece of machinery - a shaper, router table, router, etc.. The hobbyist, if he/she is methodical, lays out the components of the piece “on the bench”, right on the stock being used. Being uncertain if his/her ideas will result in a finished piece that is worth doing again, by the time dry fitting answers some of the “is this worth doing again?”, parts have been shaped and dry fitted. At that point, making good basic templates is gone since there may no longer be a flat face or a square edge. ============================ Once the wood is in the shop, the pro doesn’t see it in terms of dollars per board foot. Its type, dimensions, color and grain become far more important than its initial price. Cut-offs are waste, to be disposed of. Ironically, for internal “won’t show” parts a pro will spend time getting the most parts out of a given board.
The hobbyist initially tries to utilize every square foot of each board foot because $/bf, rather than grain direction and grain pattern, is more important. Cut-offs are treasures to be stored away for some future masterpiece. Hobbyists are Silas Marner when it comes to wood, not so much because of the beauty of the wood, but rather all those bucks spent on each board foot. ============================ The pro will have thousands of board feet of wood in the shop or a shed, much of it rough milled 4/4, 6/4, 8/4 and maybe some 12/4. The pro will spend some time milling what she/he needs when needed, knowing that properly milled stock is a key to parts that will fit together properly later.
The hobbyist usually won’t have a lot of wood “just sitting around” in racks and what he/she does have was probably bought already dimensioned and sanded. Very little time will be spent even checking to see if a board is flat, the edges square to the face and straight - UNTIL it causes a problem or twelve later. Only then will awareness that wood moves set in and stock preparation become important. Most stock will enter the shop as 1/2 or 3/4 inch thickness. ============================ The pro has developed an efficient “rough stock to finished piece” procedure, making all the cuts a given set up/ operation will do on ALL the parts that use this set up/operation. This not only saves time but also eliminates or minimizes matching parts that don’t in fact match. One chair or table leg that’s just a smidge shorter or longer than the others will make a difference later.
The hobbyist is often an example of Brownian Motion - do this, do that and then go back and do this again. The result can be “matching parts” that don’t - in the worse case, a table with 16 and 7/16th inch legs .============================ The pro sands to 180, sometimes to 220.
The hobbyist sands to 400, sometimes to 1000 - wet/dry of course and may continue on to 00000000 steel wool. ============================ The pro settles on one or two finishes and stick with them for just about everything but tints/stains to even out sapwood/heartwood differences. The objective is to get a durable finish on the piece that’s fast drying, low maintenance and looks nice. Returns and refinishing them is a money loser so when a piece leaves the shop it should never return.
The hobbyist has shelves and shelves of bottles, jars and cans of shellac, varnish, lacquers, tung oil, linseed oil, boiled linseed oil, walnut oil, teak oil, danish oil, poly and Bubba’s Secret Concoction with a box full of foam brushes. He/she is willing to use a finish that takes a week to dry between coats. ============================ For most pros, furniture making is work, at times fun, but mainly work.
For most hobbyists, furniture making is fun, at times work, but mainly fun. ============================ charlie b
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Well charlie Thats about it in a nutshell except you forgot one, A hobbyist will use hand tools and cut hand dovetails etc, A pro will say are you outa your feakin mind ??? and throw the switch on a machine that does the same thing <G> George

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<SNIP>
At the high end of custom furniture hand cut dovetails are almost a must. The reason so many of the hand cut dovetails are so thin is to distinguish them from being cut on a Leigh Jig. Someone paying big bucks doesn't want machine cut dovetails. The people who cut a lot of dovetails can do the extremely fast...and accurate.
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Yep. Sizzle versus steak.
Proving once again that a fool and his money....

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| Yep. Sizzle versus steak. | | Proving once again that a fool and his money....
I wonder if it's about bragging rights. Some people want to be able to say their exsquisite furniture is "entirely hand made."
--Jay
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Yuh think?
That has not been my experience.
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Nor mine ... mine is that those will pay the "big bucks" are the least likely to know the difference.
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 9/21/03
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;~) Yeah..!! I think the people that actually want every thing made out of wood and all joints "hand-cut" are the people that build their own furniture...;~)
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Probably the majority of hobbyist would do the same thing. Cut a dovetail by hand once. Just to say I did it. Turned out rather well but I won't do it again.

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On Sun, 16 Nov 2003 15:59:01 -0700, "George M. Kazaka"

On Mon, 17 Nov 2003 07:43:12 -0500, "George"

T'aint necessarily so, Georges.
The higher end of the market includes a higher percentage of more sophisticated buyers, some of whom are as interested in the 'who' and the 'how' of things as they are in the 'what.'
I've had them quote Pye's stuff about 'the workmanship of risk' at me while they were telling me that they wanted me to build something for them, not because I was cheaper (I wasn't), not because I'd get it done faster (I wouldn't), but simply because I would be the one doing the entire thing, from design through finishing and I would be using techniques and equipment that didn't remind them too much of the factory versions of same.
The term, 'hand made' takes a pretty good beating in the custom furnishings business. If a carving is roughed out by a CNC machine but every exposed surface is worked by hand with carving tools, is it 'hand made' or machine made?
There's a very tiny market for purely neander made stuff. However, there is a substantially bigger market for furnishings that are not strictly 'hand made' but are certainly not mass produced.
Is the hand cut dovetail any stronger than a well executed machine made dovetail? I don't think so and, with some of the skinny little pins I see out there, many of them are less strong.
That hand cut dovetail is an 'homage' to the traditions of the craft and is something that a customer will pull open to show a visitor to their home and say, "Those dovetails were cut by hand, can you believe it?"
And they are willing to pay for that pleasure.
God Bless their pea-pickin' hearts..(tef...rip)
Regards, Tom Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson
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Q.E.D.

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On Mon, 17 Nov 2003 11:22:07 -0500, "George"
Querulous Expert Disagrees?
But seriously folks: Yer Quod, I believe, was about economics.
I can hand dovetail a simple through dovetail drawer in half an hour.
Until I get beyond about six drawers I can't overcome the setup time for the Leigh Jig, nor can I deall with the chunking and tearout, which I don't get when cutting by hand.
So, Yer Demonstrandum is undemonstrated.
And Yer Erat moves into the column for Errata.
Regards, Tom Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson
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Not really, just about the sizzle being more important to some than the sirloin.
Sorry you missed it.
I've been turning Christmas ornaments today. They're hollow, because I like the virtuosity, and they fetch a higher price, not because they would be too heavy on an artificial tree. I agree - bless those rich folk. I couldn't afford my prices....
wrote:

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On Mon, 17 Nov 2003 14:45:45 -0500, "George"

I still am.

I chicken out when the daylight shows through. Prolly a lack of fortitude.

Me neither. Guess that's why my house looks like an Ikea showroom.
Every time I make something nice - some chucklehead buys it.
sigh . . .
Regards, Tom Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson
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I dunno that I can separate the sizzle from the steak. That is, the attributes of a particular project and the customer's views on them are all part of a continuum that makes it desirable. For myself, when I'm doing something commissioned, I do what meets the customer's requirements. If I exceed them, it's at my own volition. For my own personal stuff, the entire thing is of my own volition and so I do what I damn well please.
In one of my other professional venues, I work with musicians of all kinds of levels, and believe me - a great many have work-related toys that have nothing whatsoever to do with said toy's profitability and everything to do with what pleasure the tool/instrument/what-have-you gives the user in the course of his/her work.
The accomplished professional can do whatever it is the customer requires, and still keep the lights on.
O'Deen
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Great comparison...
Add, the Pro will use brads, finish nails and or pocket hole screws, when those fasteners can replace the clamp while the glue dries.
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Not by anyone doing quality work !!

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ah, I've seen professional cabinets with pocket hole screws! Where are you from??
dave
George M. Kazaka wrote:

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Also, the pro gets a tax write-off on tools and equipment, which makes it easier to tout high-end products here and elswhere.
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On Sun, 16 Nov 2003 18:51:16 -0600 (CST), snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (John) wrote:

You've never owned a business, have you?
#1 - there are no 100 cent dollars. For every deductible buck spent, the IRS returns 15-40 something percent of it, depending upon the individuals tax bracket..
#2 - low-end stuff neither lasts nor provides the quality in a pro environment.
#3 - "Real" pro and high-end stuff usually isn't even mentioned here, they don't sell it at Woodcraft (except maybe Lie-Neilson). Visit a local cabinet or millwork shop and you can see what truly "high-end" stuff looks like. You'll also notice that much of it will be quite old. Some of this stuff is so expensive or hard to get , even the pros have to buy used.
Barry
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