Woodworking Business Forum

You are not logged in. [ Login ] Why log in
(NOTE: Login is not required to post)

the business of wood slabs

Monty Wentzel Member

Website: http://www.wentzelwooddesigns.com

Just joined the forum because I read some responses to another question and you guys had informed answers.

I've been trying to build up my rustic furniture business with some good but mostly slow results. I'm in San Diego, but will likely be relocating to the south-east...wife has the real job.

I do tree slab coffee, kitchen and dining tables etc. Sold a couple to a store and got good reviews, but sales are super slow. The website does nothing for me, even with paid promotions with google.

We are just outside of San Diego in the country on a twisting road that some complain about.

I've done farmer markets and more artisan shows with few sales but lots of good comments, including ones suggesting our good prices.

Do others have slow sales?
Is living on a good/main road a must?
Do people want to build tables themselves (diy's) more than finished...I ask that because I get calls and sales for unfinished slabs more than finished tables.
It's a tough economy here like everywhere.
Since we get to move anywhere I was hoping for some advice, input and good old wisdom from other successful craftsmen.

Help me....


7/16/14       #3: the business of wood slabs ...

What do you want to make - furniture or money?

If people want to buy slabs, sell them slabs.

If people complain about your location, move, just not to the south east.

7/16/14       #4: the business of wood slabs ...
james mcgrew  Member

Website: http://mcgrewwoodwork.com

My Face book page has become a real winner for my Custom stuff. I have a personal and a business one.

7/16/14       #5: the business of wood slabs ...
Monty Wentzel Member

Nice work James...

7/16/14       #6: the business of wood slabs ...
Jim Member

I agree with Slabby. If people are asking for a certain product, that is a very good indicator of what people are willing to purchase. That is what it is all about. Making sales.

I have been down a road a certain direction with a product and customer input and sales had me move a different direction with it. Better than beating my head against the wall trying to sell people what they are not interested in. Now I sell the product on a regular basis, which means I make money off of the product.

Follow the money. If the money goes a different direction and you can follow it, DO IT!

As far as moving to the south-east, you will have to start your marketing all over again as you are in a completely new area. If you are selling slab furniture, you need to get into the high end art shows if you want to sell at shows. Farmers markets and such do not generate much, if any, income. Try contacting furniture gallerys, art gallerys and such to move your products.

7/16/14       #7: the business of wood slabs ...
Monty Wentzel Member

As far as starting over we never really got going here anyway. I lost a good well paying job in 2010 and have been attempting a number of things since then. Furniture is familiar to me, plus I am a contractor by trade.

Yes farmer markets are very poor and so are artisan markets too. It's not just my products, because the other vendors are suffering from very poor sales as well.

I'm in a winery show in a million dollar area and the vendors are lucky to make a hundred bucks.

Slab sales have some interest, but I'm not sure how much. I really wonder if being located in the heart of a larger community would make a substantial difference or just a minor difference.

I'm not even sure rustic/slab furniture is even popular enough to make it work. People love it, but sales speak differently.

I really want to work out of my home...so we've been looking at properties with existing barns, shops and out buildings.

Its been 4 years without a steady income and we can't stay in San Diego, that's why we are looking to the south east. Not my wish list but reality is in control of much of this and I haven't been able to change it.

Thanks for your input...

7/16/14       #8: the business of wood slabs ...
Alan F.

I just had a mid 5 figure table taken out of my casework and millwork contract and given to the furniture guy. His website shows from tree harvest to completion and promotes green. This table was about 5' x 13' for a coffee bar in a corporate office. Reclaimed lumber.

I think you need to focus on selling to designers that want green, reclaimed and or unusual.

I am sure there is money in the product as the other guy is getting paid more out of a different budget and has a slab they like.


7/16/14       #9: the business of wood slabs ...
Monty Wentzel Member

I like the idea of calling on designers, great idea. I can run with something like that, what great potential.

Thanks Alan.

7/16/14       #10: the business of wood slabs ...
Ken Whitson  Member

For custom furniture makers, the general rule-of-thumb is, "If you can make it through the first 5 years, then you have a (slim) chance to make it through the next five years." If you are getting calls for unfinished slabs, sell unfinished slabs, with finishing as an added option, Very few small businesses can truly dictate what their market will be. Slab tables probably appeal to only a small percentage of the table-buying public, so maybe you would want to offer a wider range of designs. You could still offer the benfits of solid wood over factory-made furniture, and you can add your own unique designs to the equation.

On another note, if you are open to a closely related, but slightly different, type of woodworking, you might consider furniture repair and refinishing as your base business, with furniture-making as your secondary offering. While location, location, location is always a factor, it seems that quality refinishers can thrive in either city or rural settings. It is hard work, and it does require a body of knowledge. However,the initial investment for equipment and supplies is not a huge amount of dollars. As with any endeavor, basic business principles still are paramount for success, but such a business is easy to grow.

7/16/14       #11: the business of wood slabs ...

Need to focus on offering a variety to the designers. We do woodworking and upholstered pieces and have been in business for over 33 years. I think we have done one slab table so the demand would never carry a high end business here.

7/16/14       #12: the business of wood slabs ...
Alan F.

This is the website of one of the companies I am aware of that focuses on the higher end of the market; they market tables well but are a small shop.

There are a couple other slab companies that focus on slabs for commercial and residential tables in the Bay Area.


Interior Dimensions Distinctive Woodwork

7/16/14       #13: the business of wood slabs ...
Monty Wentzel Member

We have expanded our product line a lot. Frankly when we were doing shows we didn't even bring the furniture. We had pictures and posters of them, but sold small wood décor/accessories for $20.00 to $100.00 and some exotic stuff was even more.

The bowl was wet to show grain before we put the finish on.

View higher quality, full size image (2560 X 1920)

View higher quality, full size image (2560 X 1920)

View higher quality, full size image (2560 X 1920)

7/18/14       #14: the business of wood slabs ...
Crafty Nancy

Do you sell on Etsy?

7/18/14       #15: the business of wood slabs ...
Monty Wentzel Member

I have read about Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, etc and for the time involved in shipping, fees associated with their services, time for packing, post office time and other misc. efforts we decided not to pursue them.

I have spoken to a number of people who have used Etsy and no one was happy with the profits after the original excitement wore off from making sales. I'm sure there are some success stories.


7/27/14       #16: the business of wood slabs ...
C J Struthers  Member

Website: http://www.sorraiastudios.com

Market to designers. They are the ones who spec and furnish every beautiful vacation home, office or higher end anything. You need to become their "guy"!

Be very careful to work only with the very best most successful designers and at first take the approach of developing a good professional relationship with one designer. Show him or her that you can deliver on every promise, on price and on time. Impress the heck out of them and you will be busy beyond your wildest imagination. If after some time you find one designer can't fill your production calendar then very selectively find one more designer and repeat the process. Be very mindful of keeping all aspects of your first relationship at the same or higher level when you add designer number 2 because you do not want to lose number 1 while bringing in number 2!

Go slowly, be methodical and always over deliver, be innovative and most importantly enjoy the process!


7/29/14       #18: the business of wood slabs ...
Evan Member

Website: http://www.near-west.com

I agree that you should pursue designers. Get your leads by browsing Houzz and find the ones that work in your style. Call them and make an appointment to take them to lunch, or just show up at their office. Maybe bring them a little something that you made, that they can keep. At the very least, you will learn a lot about what they do and don't sell.

Etsy is a waste of time, especially for larger items that are difficult to ship. People on Etsy are looking for bargains, and your competiton is working out of a chicken coop for $7/hour.

8/12/14       #19: the business of wood slabs ...
Jim Lewis

What people think of your product has to do with how you showcase it. If you sell it at flea markets, people will think it should be priced like secondhand furniture. Craft fairs are a step or three up, depending on how well juried and marketed they are. Doing them well takes a special talent for doing craft fairs well.

So does approaching designers. If you are that kind of person you will do well at it. If not, not so much. If the designers you approach already have someone doing what you do, or seldom have a call for it (and in the design business, it's their call) you won't get much work from them.

However, if you find the right person (one who likes you, has what you consider good taste, who sees what your work can do for a space) you will do well. Especially if you can help them grow and hit new customers.

Long story short, there is no magic answer. It depends a lot on finding the right approach for the way you work, then figuring out what the rules are for that type of sale.

11/14/15       #20: the business of wood slabs ...
Lamont Wentzel

It's been a while and I ended up getting a job . It's been over a year now and I still want to get a mill and try to make some slap furniture.

Now that I have a job I can kind of afford the mill without it being a big issue. Worst case scenario I buy it don't sell anything I can always sell the mill they retain their value fairly good so there won't be too much loss. At least with my own mill I'll be able to cut Specific to what I want and since my labor is basically free I'll be able to create some fairly good product and then we'll just have to see where it goes.

11/15/15       #21: the business of wood slabs ...
Jim Lewis  Member

Website: SpringwoodStudios.com

Monty— A lot of getting good money is about adding value. Sounds like you are doing this in two ways: by sawing your own, you add your judgement and make better selections; and by doing "special" pieces you take your work farther away from what just anybody can do.

It will be more fun and more profitable also. When you find your proper market you can go far. Great luck!

11/25/18       #22: the business of wood slabs ...
BrenLeaf Member

I had the same sentiment before. I love my making furniture but I felt that it doesn't love me back for it drain my money. I got sales but only a few. If it was my full time job then I'd be bankrupt now. Lucky I got help from some marketing friends , read a lot of blogs like https://goo.gl/1qNyn5 they help me get my work out there. Now it is my full time business.

  • Post a Response to this thread
  • notify me of responses to this topic
  • To receive email notification of additions to this forum thread,
    enter your name and email address, and then click the
    "Keep Me Posted" button below.

    Please Note: If you have posted a message or response,
    do not submit this request ... you are already signed up
    to receive notification!

    Your Name:
    E-Mail Address:
    Enter the correct numbers into the field below:

    Date of your Birth:

    Return to top of page

    Buy & Sell Exchanges | Forums | Galleries | Site Map

    FORUM GUIDELINES: Please review the guidelines below before posting at WOODWEB's Interactive Message Boards (return to top)

  • WOODWEB is a professional industrial woodworking site. Hobbyist and homeowner woodworking questions are inappropriate.
  • Messages should be kept reasonably short and on topic, relating to the focus of the forum. Responses should relate to the original question.
  • A valid email return address must be included with each message.
  • Advertising is inappropriate. The only exceptions are the Classified Ads Exchange, Machinery Exchange, Lumber Exchange, and Job Opportunities and Services Exchange. When posting listings in these areas, review the posting instructions carefully.
  • Subject lines may be edited for length and clarity.
  • "Cross posting" is not permitted. Choose the best forum for your question, and post your question at one forum only.
  • Messages requesting private responses will be removed - Forums are designed to provide information and assistance for all of our visitors. Private response requests are appropriate at WOODWEB's Exchanges and Job Opportunities and Services.
  • Messages that accuse businesses or individuals of alleged negative actions or behavior are inappropriate since WOODWEB is unable to verify or substantiate the claims.
  • Posts with the intent of soliciting answers to surveys are not appropriate. Contact WOODWEB for more information on initiating a survey.
  • Excessive forum participation by an individual upsets the balance of a healthy forum atmosphere. Individuals who excessively post responses containing marginal content will be considered repeat forum abusers.
  • Responses that initiate or support inappropriate and off-topic discussion of general politics detract from the professional woodworking focus of WOODWEB, and will be removed.
  • Participants are encouraged to use their real name when posting. Intentionally using another persons name is prohibited, and posts of this nature will be removed at WOODWEB's discretion.
  • Comments, questions, or criticisms regarding Forum policies should be directed to WOODWEB's Systems Administrator
    (return to top).

    Carefully review your message before clicking on the "Send Message" button - you will not be able to revise the message once it has been sent.

    You will be notified of responses to the message(s) you posted via email. Be sure to enter your email address correctly.

    WOODWEB's forums are a highly regarded resource for professional woodworkers. Messages and responses that are crafted in a professional and civil manner strengthen this resource. Messages that do not reflect a professional tone reduce the value of our forums.

    Messages are inappropriate when their content: is deemed libelous in nature or is based on rumor, fails to meet basic standards of decorum, contains blatant advertising or inappropriate emphasis on self promotion (return to top).

    Libel:   Posts which defame an individual or organization, or employ a tone which can be viewed as malicious in nature. Words, pictures, or cartoons which expose a person or organization to public hatred, shame, disgrace, or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion of a person or organization, are libelous.

    Improper Decorum:   Posts which are profane, inciting, disrespectful or uncivil in tone, or maliciously worded. This also includes the venting of unsubstantiated opinions. Such messages do little to illuminate a given topic, and often have the opposite effect. Constructive criticism is acceptable (return to top).

    Advertising:   The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not an advertising venue. Companies participating in a Forum discussion should provide specific answers to posted questions. WOODWEB suggests that businesses include an appropriately crafted signature in order to identify their company. A well meaning post that seems to be on-topic but contains a product reference may do your business more harm than good in the Forum environment. Forum users may perceive your references to specific products as unsolicited advertising (spam) and consciously avoid your web site or services. A well-crafted signature is an appropriate way to advertise your services that will not offend potential customers. Signatures should be limited to 4-6 lines, and may contain information that identifies the type of business you're in, your URL and email address (return to top).

    Repeated Forum Abuse: Forum participants who repeatedly fail to follow WOODWEB's Forum Guidelines may encounter difficulty when attempting to post messages.

    There are often situations when the original message asks for opinions: "What is the best widget for my type of shop?". To a certain extent, the person posting the message is responsible for including specific questions within the message. An open ended question (like the one above) invites responses that may read as sales pitches. WOODWEB suggests that companies responding to such a question provide detailed and substantive replies rather than responses that read as a one-sided product promotion. It has been WOODWEB's experience that substantive responses are held in higher regard by our readers (return to top).

    The staff of WOODWEB assume no responsibility for the accuracy, content, or outcome of any posting transmitted at WOODWEB's Message Boards. Participants should undertake the use of machinery, materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB's Message Boards after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages it deems inappropriate. (return to top)

  • Forum Posting Help
    Your Name The name you enter in this field will be the name that appears with your post or response (return to form).
    Your Website Personal or business website links must point to the author's website. Inappropriate links will be removed without notice, and at WOODWEB's sole discretion. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
    E-Mail Address Your e-mail address will not be publicly viewable. Forum participants will be able to contact you using a contact link (included with your post) that is substituted for your actual address. You must include a valid email address in this field. (return to form)
    Subject Subject may be edited for length and clarity. Subject lines should provide an indication of the content of your post. (return to form)
    Thread Related Link and Image Guidelines Thread Related Links posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should point to locations that provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related Link that directs visitors to an area with inappropriate content will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
    Thread Related File Uploads Thread Related Files posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. Video Files: acceptable video formats are: .MOV .AVI .WMV .MPEG .MPG .MP4 (Image Upload Tips)   If you encounter any difficulty when uploading video files, E-mail WOODWEB for assistance. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related File that contains inappropriate content will be removed, and uploaded files that are not directly related to the message thread will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links, files, or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)