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Thread: Dying for business

  1. #1

    Dying for business

    Maybe its a mid-life crisis that has been delayed too long, or maybe its a great idea. I am not sure either way but my father has got me mixed up in a business venture that is...well...kind of creepy. He wants to build caskets.

    I was as shocked as you when I heard the idea, and I was not to thrilled. But then I realized maybe its a good business venture to get into. Its not like there is a lot of competition. Either way he toured a nearby Casket Making Facility that closed down in 1995. Its owner is now 85 years old and is really looking to sell. Not the factory, but everything in the factory.

    I have not yet seen the place but my father said the the tooling in there is old. In fact the way he described a "radial Arm saw" it sounded like it was an old swing saw. I am not sure, but that is what it sounded like. He asked me in any case if I thought buying these old tools were a good idea. Its a hard question because I do not know the price, but it seems to me if they were running when the plant shut down, then they should be good. I know they were maintained, because I know the guy that maintained the sewing machines that lined the caskets. My thinking is this, if he does buy the tooling, at least he will have ALL the machines that made the caskets in a production setting. They may be old, but he could replace the outdated machines with more modern ones as business increases. What do you guys think about buying old tools for a new business?

    As I said, I am not thrilled at making such a grief stricken wooden project, but my dad has selling power. He has got an order to make a bunch of these caskets already and the contractor that is putting the addition on my house has his crew make them for my dad on rainy days.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  2. #2
    "Pitty the man who dies with a dream in his heart"

    If this is yours dads dream, then help him pursue it.

    WoodWorking, Crappie Fishing, Colts, Life is good!

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis S Johnson View Post

    As I said, I am not thrilled at making such a grief stricken wooden project, but my dad has selling power. He has got an order to make a bunch of these caskets already
    I don't know about the tools but it seems to me that ninety percent of the battle is already won.

  4. #4
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    i would say that if your dad already has orders and is subbing them out that he well on his way to a healthy business venture..one other thing to look at the customers will never complain dry humor,, you can defiantly get character in making them.. like matt mentioned the paybacks are good considering what they go for... around these parts. i also say to stay with the old tooling,its experienced and ready for their next job.
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  5. #5
    Travis

    I don't know anything about making caskets, but several years ago I spent a lot of time in the funeral business as part of a consulting project (That is TOO Long a topic for any forum!).

    One of the things I was struck by concerning many of the people I met was the fact that they are very caring. Yes, the circumstances are emotionally loaded, but...... you are helping someone during a time of need. It is part of the circle of life, and sure, there are deep emotions, but your skills can meet a very important need.

    I wouldn't go into this business (or any other business) if your head isn't there, but I would urge you to take a deeper view of the whole picture -- visiting with a funeral director may help you make a decision.

    Hey, it's just a pine box! Opps, that's Shaz's line!

    Keep us posted!

    Jay

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis S Johnson View Post
    ....I know they were maintained, because I know the guy that maintained the sewing machines that lined the caskets. ............They may be old, but he could replace the outdated machines with more modern ones as business increases. What do you guys think about buying old tools for a new business?
    Putting the business aside, whats wrong with old tools? Many of the old tools do just as good a job as a new one. Take table saws for example. What has changed in 50 years that makes an old one obsolete? A good fence yes, but your just spinning a blade. Guarding might be improved but since it was a business that may have been addressed anyway.

    Sure a swing saw is old school. But if it is not dangerous and it works why replace it?? The real question is can replacing an old one either improve the quality, productivity or save money? I bet in most cases the answer is no.

    Not just because I like old machines, but if they do the job and are safe why should age matter? You said they were well maintained. There are lot of old boat yards out there turning out boats with 50+ year old machines. And some of the old tools just can't be replaced with the ones made today. I dare say the majority of new machines will not be around in 50-75 years. Somehow I don't expect to see people collecting Grizzly or some other import tool and restoring them.
    God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
    the good fortune to run into the ones I do,
    and the eyesight to tell the difference.


    Kudzu Craft Lightweight Skin on frame Kayaks.
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Horton View Post
    Putting the business aside, whats wrong with old tools? Many of the old tools do just as good a job as a new one. Take table saws for example. What has changed in 50 years that makes an old one obsolete? A good fence yes, but your just spinning a blade. Guarding might be improved but since it was a business that may have been addressed anyway.

    Sure a swing saw is old school. But if it is not dangerous and it works why replace it?? The real question is can replacing an old one either improve the quality, productivity or save money? I bet in most cases the answer is no.

    Not just because I like old machines, but if they do the job and are safe why should age matter? You said they were well maintained. There are lot of old boat yards out there turning out boats with 50+ year old machines. And some of the old tools just can't be replaced with the ones made today. I dare say the majority of new machines will not be around in 50-75 years. Somehow I don't expect to see people collecting Grizzly or some other import tool and restoring them.
    Oh you do not how true you are my friend. The average tool age in my shop is 52 years old, but of course my 1865 jointer brings down the curve :-).

    Its funny you should mention boatyards because where I work they had this big planner that clawed out shavings for years. It had babbitt bearings that were going, so finally they decided it was time to replace it. They put it out for bid for us workers (highest bidder got the planer kind of thing), then replaced it with a new machine. That brandname will remain nameless because right out of the box the new planer had creep. As boards were being planed, the height would drop because of vibration. Now we make 15 million dollar yachts, the carpenters measure boards coming off the planer with dial calipers and the the thousandth of an inch, creep is NOT good. They finally got a replacement for the replacement, but it does go to show that newer is not always better.

    As for the other responses, I found them to be very encouraging.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  8. #8
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    Travis, a casket is a product. OTOH, if the idea bothers you, a different product might be in order. Historically, caskets were locally made in small factories. If you do decide to resume manufacturing them, a small production of high quality (and high priced) ones could be a good business. As others have said, just because the tools are old doesn't mean they aren't good. If business warrants, you can update as the need, and finances, arise. Or, you can do the Warren Buffett thing. Buy the business, build up a clientèle with a promising future and sell at a big profit. Then you can buy all the spanking new tools you want and do something else.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  9. #9
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    I'm not sure how to phrase my thoughts on this, which is why I haven't replied earlier. From a manufacturing standpoint, I think it would be a good choice. Like Frank said, it is just another product. IMO, caskets are not made for their occupants, they are made for family and friends and to comply with local burial laws. Family and friends is who you would making these for and are the ones who will pay for a finely crafted casket to send their loved ones to their just reward. In light of that you would be providing a certain amount of comfort to the family, albeit it at a price! An added benefit in that type of business is your client base is always increasing! I say go for it if you have a good opportunity!

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