I actually looked into this with someone that was thinking it was time
to do it. He has money, is a great businessman with two companies
going now. He clicked on the idea when he found out what was needed to
outfit a shop according to our local "experts".
The space wasn't a problem, but getting the sufficient electrical
service was, as was getting it wired correctly. The necessary A/C for
today's woodworker was enormous, as was the cost of designing and
implementing a good DC system. No hoses on the floor to trip over in a
Found out a couple of distributors will sell direct if you are buying
three table saws, three drill presses, two industrial dust collectors,
a floor model board planer, a couple of jointers, 6 "high school" type
maple topped work tables with lockers underneath for peronal stuff,
about 40 sturdy metal stools for the tables, a couple of stationery
sanders, a couple of medium sized lathes, a couple of mini lathes,
about $3500 worth of clamps (don't snort... it isn't that many!), a
finishing booth with the correct VOC evacuation equipment, and on and
on and on. Came out to about $350,000 for all of it, including space
prep, tools, freight and shipping, and some incidentals.
Still didn't scare my buddy off.
Here's what did.
I took him to Woodcraft where they have a lot of his setup for
teaching, but not for walk in rentals, where they would need more of
everything in our local Woodcraft shop.
We talked to the franchise owner and the manager(s) which I know well.
(I have my next class to teach there scheduled for Dec. 1st) They
gave him the skinny: it is hard to fill a class with 5 -6 openings for
an all day class with a qualified instructor for a $150 fee which would
allow them to use pretty much all the tools. We talked about just
renting shop time, and our local Woodcraft never found that alone to be
profitable. They had to go to "classroom" format for insurance
purposes so that their carriers could be assured that a someone from
Woodcraft would be present at all times.
After that, I took him to our woodturning club, where we have some
fantastic turners. Everyone was enthusiastic, and we have thrown the
idea around of getting a really nice "club lathe" that would turn
something larger than most folks can on their lathes. No one in the
club wanted to spend the club money on it, even if it meant they could
schedule time on it and use it FREE. He was horrified. Everyone was
enthusiastic in lip service, but when the rubber met the road they
simply weren't that committed.
Then I told him that I had invited some of my old friends over to work
in my shop whenever they wanted, just bring the doughnuts or BBQ,
depending on what time and what day you come. In twenty two years of
having this shop... no takers. I have had folks come over with stuff
for me to fix while they watched and drank coffee, but no one has ever
come over and started a project from scratch and completed it. Not
even something little. He was seeing that attendance and interest
don't seem work out the same in the WW world.
The capper was the insurance. We found a carrier that could get us
going for a $25K up front premium, and depending on shop hours and
number of folks using equipment they would assess the second premium in
six months. For talking points, their rep said that we should plan on
about a $30K premium to cover instructors, overseers, and students.
Instructors would need formal training certification from a school,
college, or something that they could show the insurance guys that they
were qualified to operate and instuct on the machines in the shop.
They would not allow an experienced woodworker to baby sit. Qualified
In our investigations, we took my favorite corporate atty to lunch to
run this by him. He laughed his ass off at the idea of a signed,
notarized waiver protecting anyone from being sued. Literally laughed.
All the plaintiff has to do he said, was prove negligence of some
sort, or neglect of any type.
His example: An idiot cuts a cord on a tool and doesn't want to pay
for it so he quietly shuts the machine off and goes to work on
something else. No one sees it
since it is at the end of the rental day. So the next day, bright and
early someone walks to that machine and turns it on and shocks the crap
out of himself. Whose fault is it? Well, yours of course. You didn't
check out each machine for readiness before the start of the business
A person is using a miter saw to cut small pieces. He wants to save on
wood, so he is cutting one that is really small, and he launches the
small piece into the guy working across the shop, giving him a ding
that requires a few stitches. Whose fault is that? Well yours of
course. You probably didn't tell the saw operator that it was unsafe
to cut small pieces of unsupported wood with a 10 amp saw. Even if you
managed to get this out in your miter saw speech, did he remember it?
Was he clear on this point? Did he understand what the ramifications
were if he actually did that? Would he admit it if it meant he had
And did the guy that got dinged know he was at risk from other users?
Did he know he was exposing himself to dangerous situations at the
hands of others? Did you explain to him when he signed up that he
might get hurt due to someone else's misuse or even an honest mistake
when using some of the tools?
As a contractor, I am used to this. Guys sue thinking that if they
win, and for them it is like hitting the lottery if they do. He was
not used to this and was on another track altogether. He was thinking
a group of like minded individuals could get together, talk, share tips
and techniques and work on their projects in harmony and fellowship.
He figured he wouldn't get it all right up front, but he would work on
improvement every day the doors were open.
And all the rivers would run with chocolate, and the trees were made
from candy canes.
As it was, he was literally nauseous, and couldn't get his near
disaster out of his mind.
It was my idea to meet with the attorney as he didn't feel it was
necessary. He felt like he just barely dodged a bullet. And in this
hugely sue-happy, "it wasn't my fault someone has to pay" society, he
If you have an old shop rental organization that is set up and working
and is grandfathered in on some insurance, you are very lucky. I would
love something like that around here, but there is nothing like it.
And at the cost of starting something like that from scratch without a
track record for insurers to look at, I doubt there ever will.