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Thread: Direction to help my sons on a Homeschooling project

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Wasilla Alaska

    Question Direction to help my sons on a Homeschooling project


    I am a software architect for an international company and a woodworking dummy.

    My boys whom we home school want to setup a woodworking business. To be clear the goal here is NOT to create a new multi-billion dollar company but instead a real world lesson on running a business, profit, liabilities, material, customer service etc.

    What I was hoping to get from this group was some direction on what to study up on, learn, consider etc. I'm not asking anyone to do their homework just point our noses in the right direction so to that end I have laid our thought process to this point.

    1. Simple projects are what we will sell. Customized coasters, cutting boards, picture frames, fresh milk carriers, etc.

    2. Material...where would we get our supply from? It seems Lowes or Home Depot etc. wouldn't really be the right choice. I found these guys online but figured others here would have valuable input as well. I was thinking...perhaps incorrectly...that we would be able to source our material shaped and just customize, finish and ship. For example we would be able to source 20 different wood cutting boards in the raw. Custom engrave (see tools below) then finish and ship...? Also we live in Alaska so shipping material in then back out is a concern for cost.

    3. Equipment...I was thinking something like this for the major shop component but again figured you would know of other great tool options as well.

      Perhaps somethings for burning or branding wood as well as engraving...???

    4. Online shop...I got that one covered...1 out of 4 (25%) isn't it? My thought process was to allow a customization shop. Let the person pick the "raw" cutting board, choose canned text or enter custom text to be burned or engraved, choose a decorative pattern, choose a finish, give them a finished product preview, and then checkout. I was also thinking to personalize it by having the boys include a note and or a picture of them with the customer's product as it is being worked.

    The pictures are of the kids (most of them) and their projects. I included a few from our "backyard" (not literally) as we live in Alaska. Luke is the oldest boy and he is camera shy but he has built the milk crates and does a great job. He is very meticulous.

    ...again the idea here is to learn business, customer service, customer loyalty etc. I realize that in a large scale some of this may not be very feasible.
    THANK YOU so very much for sharing your expertise with us.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Howdy John,

    You might want to update your profile to indicate what part of Alaska you're in (I hear its a large state ) to help find resources.

    I'm sure you'll get opinions as varied as the beams of light from the sun here (and most of them will be pretty much equally valid) so take this all in with that in mind.

    While the techie in me embraces your idea of a CNC machine, the practical side of me says that its a fairly large investment for what may well be somewhat of a passing fancy. Personally I think I'd head for a bit more of a "fundamentals" approach both from a cost perspective as well as a life skills perspective.

    A techning philosophy you might want to check out is the "Sloyd School" which is an old method of teaching hand crafts:

    The tooling and schooling approach as well as material availability _may_ require some re-thinking the products you want to produce. The picture frames seem plausible, but you might have trouble obtaining good material for some things like cutting boards (cedar is attractive but a bit soft - re-bill it as a "cheese board" maybe ). Since its all a learning experience the actual product likely doesn't matter all that much as long as its interesting, not to dangerous, and forwards the learning experience.

    You might also want to look at some other types of projects that incorporate locally available materials more like (for example) shrink pots: which are pretty easy to make and can be made from ~many~ kinds of trees (I think birch is likely the "best" where you're at, but cedar would be interesting to try).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Yorktown, Virginia
    John, Welcome to the family...glad you found us. Certainly no expert in creating a business, but I did live in Alaska for a number of years. Where are you located? If you are in the Mat-Su valley, I recall seeing some pretty big birch. I bet there's someone cutting those into lumber, which I would try to find before buying something shipped in. You might even find a local source for glued up boards. Using local resources will make your product more attractive to buyers, both local and long distance. Most of the custom cutting boards I've seen have been laser engraved as opposed to being carved on a CNC router like the X-carve, but you could certainly combine both. Think a board carved in the shape of a salmon, halibut, or moose horn adorned with lasered and personalized details. Cribbage boards? Coat racks? Lots of stuff, if you put your mind to it. Maybe slabs of spruce burl, slices of driftwood, incorporate some Alaskan soapstone into a cheese board? Just some thoughts to ponder

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Wasilla Alaska
    Updated my profile...I love the ideas and feedback. Yes the CNC may be my techie desire influence. Expanding on Ted's ideas. I wonder how popular a Salmon shaped picture frame for your Alaska fishing pictures....or a techie version where we inlay a digital frame and they can load their Alaska trip pictures...again..Thank You so much!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Welcome to the forum John. Though it's not as fun as woodworking, I'd probably start with the business basics, start a formal business plan. Start documenting what you know, make notes of what you don't, and learn those things and update it. Make sure what you're planning makes sense on paper. It should include your costs (tools, materials, finishes, advertising, shipping, etc.), what your products will be, what you expect to sell those for. Doesn't have to be all book work. You'll need to make some prototypes and see how you can assembly line things to cut costs, do some experimenting.

    I'm sure Charlie Plesums will chime in soon, but take a look around his page, he's taken the time to document his thoughts on setting up a woodworking business along with a lot of other great info.

    Charlie's site:
    Last edited by Darren Wright; 07-22-2015 at 06:17 PM.

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Hi John, and welcome aboard.

    Just as a point of clarification, pretty much all of the custom cutting boards and coasters in the Google image searches you posted were done with a laser engraver, not a CNC routing machine. The laser is what creates the burnt look on the wood. That said, custom laser engraving can be a profitable business, given good marketing and a suitably large customer base. The equipment to get started is pretty pricey, though. Epilogue is one of the leading makers of the equipment.

    For some ideas of what can be done with a laser, have a look at this site. This is the work of one of our members (and a friend to a lot of us), Pete Simmons.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    The goal is to experience a real world lesson on running a business, profit, liabilities, material, customer service, etc.

    First, I am impressed that your youngsters look so young to be thinking about a business. Congratulations on getting started so early.

    Every business starts with a plan. Google business plans and pull out the major items; market study, budgeting, financing, product, production, and distribution. Probably in that order.

    What do you see your market to be? Where do you find your market? How will be in constant touch with them? What do you think they will buy?

    Start a budget. What is the price point of your market? How are costs covered in that price point? Marketing, materials, production, delivery, miscellaneous overhead (insurance, utilities, postage, gas and vehicle expenses, taxes, etc.), labor, and last but not least, profit. Profit needs to cover ROI, future investment, maintenance of capital tooling, and profit (that which is left over). Even if it is only pennies for each item, record it, so everyone see how everything and everyone gets paid. It ain’t magic.

    Where is the initial money coming from and at what cost (interest)? How are interim (before you sell the first item) costs going to be paid? Will your accounting system be accrual or cost based?

    What kind of a product do you think you can see your chosen market buy at the price you think they will pay?

    Then how do you make it and what will you need to make it? How will you make multiples of your product? How much inventory will you have at any one time? How will your distribution be handled? USPS, UPS, FedX, etc?

    That is a fair start. Now there are no right or wrong answers. There are only answers that work for you. Not to deal with any of these items insures failure of the business. To get a more clear picture, download a copy of Schedule C from the IRS. That will point out areas in which you are required to keep records and probably open your eyes to the capitalistic system.

    On the other hand, if what you had in mind is to encourage your youngsters to be entrepreneurial and have fun, keep your business local. Keep the numbers easy to understand and track.

    If what you want is a family opportunity to play with new toys and maybe make a buck or three, be upfront with your kids and ‘hire’ them as employees, but show them there is more to making something and getting money in return. That will be a real good life lesson and you might find yourself raising a CEO or three!

    Its all good.

    (taught woodworking as a business for several years)
    Last edited by Carol Reed; 07-22-2015 at 08:08 PM.

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    Well, up until I read Carol's reply, I knew just what I wanted to tell you. Carol said it all.

    No matter how deep you intend to go with this I would write a simple business plan. A business plan is the thing that lets you line up all of your marbles, nothing will work well without that plan. AND that plan is a great big teaching experience. Even if you did nothing but write that plan, when grown up, your kids would be way ahead of most people who start a small business.

    I think it is fantastic that you are doing this. I feel horrible that I did not do this with my kids.

    As my youngest son, Glenn, says, "Google is your friend dad." Ask it questions. It is amazing what you can learn about almost anything.

    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.

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