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So.....Covid? Election? Combination Thereof?

10/29/20       
David R Sochar Member

Our business has slacked to where we have only a week or two's work out in front, down from 8-12-16 weeks as the usual for the last 15 years.

The phone is not ringing. I feel I don't even know who, if anyone, is building these days.
Woodweb is so quiet, I think I just saw a tumbleweed roll across the screen.

Is this Covid? Is it the quiet before the Election? People cleaning their guns instead of working wood?

Any shops shuttered due to Covid? Temporary or permanent?

10/29/20       #2: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Karl E Brogger  Member

Website: http://www.sogncabinets.com

2018, killed it.
2019, started out well tapered off to complete BS by the end of the year. Hardly anything on the schedule.
2020 has slowly gotten better for us, but we're still not crushing it. I've picked up a couple more builders is the only reason we're still running.

2020, I've been pooping my pants the entire time. Things are way too unstable. It seems some guys are swamped, some are bored. It's super flaky.

So much of it comes down to geography, demographics and what you build.

10/29/20       #3: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Anonymous

Sorry not what you want to hear but...

We are at all time sales records, with two months below last year month vs month we are going to have our largest year ever. People around us are
taking their Starbucks, vacation, commute, lunch money and doing work around the house. I am not on Woodweb because I am too busy. I think others are in the same spot.

Closet guy down the block is slammed can't hire more people but he wants to. I talked to a national cabinet door company and several national kitchen cabinet companies and they are very busy at or close to capacity.

Not sure why you are slow David, it must be problem within your sales geography. You may want to analyze that and try and get work outside that area.

Hopefully what we are experiencing is more normal for everyone's sake.

10/29/20       #4: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Matt Calnen

I think itís geography. People in my neck of the woods are all slammed. Building materials are through the roof and no one is slow. We are booked through next summer. I see a lot of people leaving the cities and are headed for the nicer rural areas. There is one summer community of cottages that the association is having to kick people out so they can winterize. I think the urban utopia craze is not as cool when your stacked up cordwood on top of one another and a pandemic hits.

10/29/20       #5: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Jim Member

DFW area here. Best year ever. I am actually sad that I'm approaching the age where I won't be able to do this anymore. It's been a great ride.

10/29/20       #6: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
TonyF

David Sochar:

I wonder if the attrition of woodworking shops due to the economic factors and the pandemic have just made for fewer people in this line of work, and by association, fewer people on this forum.

Pre-election slumps are pretty common, as some people wait to see if "their guy" gets elected, and if so, then all is well with the world and things return to "normal". But I also know people who have a bad week if their favorite football team loses, so maybe this is a similar kind of angst for your clients.

Perhaps it is just me, my experiences, and my personality type, but I am usually skeptical of shop owners who tell the world how busy they are, or how much money they are making, as I generally keep those things to myself.

In 1980, I worked for a shop that liked to have a "job board", posting the jobs under construction and their relative progress. Things got so slow that the owner, who always liked to tell everyone how much work he had, put a job on the board that he was bidding but had not yet secured. It was the only job on the board, with other jobs not listed being "irons in the fire". Things eventually picked up, and the board had actual jobs after that, but it was slow going for a couple of months.

In this current environment, I am at a loss to explain why anyone would be spending money on home improvement, as the uncertainty of so many things might be made a little easier with the money, or lack of debt, that was not put towards an unnecessary expenditure like millwork.

Perhaps I am just old and in the way, as the song says.
TonyF

10/29/20       #7: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
pat s gilbert

Anyone hazard a guess at the average age of their final customer?

Occam's razor would indicate the slow economy is from the covid

10/29/20       #8: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
pat s gilbert

I also wonder about styles moving away from wood.

I also wonder about what tool people use to shop for woodwork/cabinets.

Quicktrim mentioned this guy, besides the fact that he appears to be superman, his Instagram site is very captivating

10/29/20       #9: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
pat s gilbert

Whoops

Spencer Lewis instagram

Spencer Lewis

10/29/20       #10: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
mike

central pa.- we are inundated with work. bath remodels and kitchen cabinets but i don't take it for granted

10/29/20       #11: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
rich c.

Sorry to hear that David. Around here the hospitals are getting as full as the bars. My best friend made the change a couple years ago to traveling to art shows to make his woodworking living. He made a hell of a living, until....... If he hadn't found a patron to keep him busy this year, he would have had to change careers. He's cut out to do that sort of thing with the right attitude. I probably would have been in the garage with the car running. My Dad was a farmer. He had to hold his breath every year till the crops were in the bins. Watched him walking fields kicking dirt clods in droughts. We had to slaughter all the hogs on our farm one year from disease. I guess I learned from him.

10/30/20       #12: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Hen Bob Member

North Suburbs of Chicago, Schedule is full for the next few months. But skeptical what next year will bring, I'm defiantly keeping all debt low as possible.

Pat - our age range is mid 30's- mid 60's for residential.

10/30/20       #13: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
james e mcgrew

Geez I am Impressed by the Honesty ... I am just like all the rest. We were doing well on medical and Boom, caught some private schools and a virtual bar (High tec Indor Golf) and an Office building. BIG gap thru Now and moving with some new federal, a few restraunts and some county jobs. Decided not to risk jobs at the top of scale and go into 2008-2012 mode and go safe over sorry..... Thanks Guys not sure I have enjoyed in such a strange way readinf a WW thread.

Hang in there We are doing what few can do

10/30/20       #14: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Harold Pomeroy

Historic restoration is doing OK. Museum funding has a long arc, compared to commercial building.Residential historic restoration is doing well. People are fixing up their second homes, because they are spending more time there, and see them as safe havens in this storm. In rural New England, people are booking projects to get work done on summer houses before warm weather hits.

This environment favors low overhead, low capitalization, small businesses with no debt and few employees.

10/30/20       #15: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Mark B Member

Im in the geographic location/type of work camp with regards to how an area is doing. Medical here is still busy but for us being a small shop a lot of them are far too large to go for (250K in cabs alone and up). Small stuff is slowing quite a bit but agree with the other comment that at least in this area election years seem to turn this time of year into a ghost town.

On the residential side it seems small remodels are busy but we dont get too involved because in this area big boxes are king. If you arent willing to get down in the muck with them your only residential prospects are multi million dollar homes (that are still being fed by the big boxes but there are some scraps to pick up). Unfortunately in our area those homes are 2-4 hours away on average.

This area has nearly zero demand for large scale residential from small local custom shops (sub 10 employees). Its all factory cabs, plastic corners, etc.

We have a couple health care jobs that went on stand down back in March that are just filtering in a few more on bid but not a tremendous amount stacked up out into the first of the year.

Back in Feb. when this all hit I started the hunker because the 2016 election was pretty quiet and I feared this one would be the same. Were lucky to have plenty of work through the covid and the healthcare going on stand down actually wound up a bit beneficial in that it stretched some work out into the fall.

10/30/20       #16: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Paul Downs

I have probably the least Covid-friendly product on the forum - conference tables - and our business is down about 20% from last year, but has not gone down farther than that. Even with everyone working from home. I think we've been hurt as much by low oil prices as anything else.

I've been in business a long time and have a perception that the month before a national election is always slow. Not sure I could prove cause and effect though.

10/30/20       #17: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
David R Sochar Member

I am hoping the pre-election instability is one reason for the slow down. I feel like I don't know the builders around my locality anymore. I may need to just go out and shake hands - whoops - can't do that! Touch elbows, I meant to say.

I used to brag that since 1990 when I started watching closely, my area has remained strong in building. No real ups and downs like some areas. We did not get the 25% annual appreciation some areas saw, but we also did not get the dizzying drops those areas also saw. Then the Crash came - in 2008 for us. That changed everything. Deflated the opinion I had that we were recession-proof.

Immediately after the Crash, we were busy, but then we were at 1/5 the capacity we had been. $1.2M to $250K. We did do $310K in 2019, for record production for 3,000 man hours/year.

I have a website (first in 10 years!) coming online in a few days, and my book is at 90% and talking to publishers. Either of those tools should help - both should be dynamite! Realistically, it will be a few months before any kick from such elements could be seen. I'm not holding my breath.

Cynicism is stronger than confidence today. Used to be the saying was "What a difference a day makes" when there was no work and in one or two days, the phone would ring and after all the calls, we'd be busy for months or more.

I am also trying to get out. I have the business sold, but not signed over until Covid is controlled or gone. At age 70, my passion is fading almost as rapidly as my physical strength. While I still love the work - more than ever, actually - I have lost the drive to find lease space, pull everything together to make a new shop, and push the whole thing into existence. But S4S a batch of lumber? I'd love to......

And....I miss the good conversations we used to see on Woodweb. Even the contentious exchanges were enlightening. It could be that we all know everything now, and it is the end of Knowledge. What we don't know is just a google away, so we don't need the considered advice and experience of that grizzled old guy at the end of the bar. Or in Woodweb.


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10/30/20       #18: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Mark B Member

I know Ive said it before, and I know there are exceptions to every rule and finding a niche or aggressively pounding at production/lean, and so on,... but Im only 53 and been in the trades since 16-17 and in my eyes (not complaining for my notion of the old days) the market especially in modest areas, just doesnt support the custom shops any longer. Things have simply changed and Ive worked hard to change with it but clearly not hard enough. Im not the self deprecating, 20 "look at me" instagram, facebook, twitter, posts a day, YouTube channel, on and on. Youv'e got to be in peoples face every minute now especially in the residential/direct sales to owners world.

It use to be that along with building and building cabinetry and woodwork, establishing a reputation, people, customers, past customers, would source you out for work, and odd piece, a gift, a batch of corporate gifts,.. people simply dont shop for nearly anything that way anymore and it extends right up to large residential and commercial work. Even on the commercial end in our area all too often build-outs are populated by a bunch of DIY or some buddy working after his day job in his garage or when his wife is at work and he's suppose to be doing the Mr. Mom.

Now those job that seemed to trickle through the door, you have to go out and actively court. And for my shop, on the commercial side, you can bust your hump for your contractors all you want and save them time, money, headache, and it doesnt matter because all the work is awarded on competitive bid so you can be the guy they want to work with all you want but if your not the low bidder it is what it is.

Im glad I dont do a lot of direct sales (either residential or commercial) because courting that work with the social medial world now is (to me) brutal. That said, the steady stream people like James have developed give you hope but they seem pretty tough in todays market and the ever growing "maker" *gag* thing is perpetually looming.

I check this place multiple times a day mainly for the complete appreciation of all the knowledge an information thats been shared to me here. I was always the odd kid at the family gathering that would hover around the grandparents acting like I'd never heard the stories they'd told a thousand times that everyone else was sick of hearing just to hear them another time or two. The stuff I learned hanging around 70 year old retired machinists and toolmakers when I was 14, 15, 16, and thankfully when I was older is what made me who I am.

Today, a young kid never shows up at the shop door even if I tack a help wanted card at the local store. Even with close to $100k tied up in CNC and support equipment (forget about the rest of it) sitting on the floor. When I was young I'd have killed a man just to be able to hang around in a shop like mine and be a nuisance asking a million questions never expecting a single cent. Now... pffft. Even pulling from the local HS vocational program doesnt pan out.

Times have changed but theyve changed for everyone for time and eternity.

10/30/20       #19: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Scott

Like James I appreciate everyoneís honesty, I live in Western Canada where the whole economy revolves around oil, needless to say oil is in the tank so the economy is there as well. I would say there are lots of residential renovations happening and a fair bit of new residential construction happing, there are still lots of wealthy people around. I have noticed quite a few shops have shut down, still a lot left though.
We donít have an election here and oil doesnít look to rebound anytime soon so interesting times ahead.
As for wood web I still love the good conversations and the good advice.
I still havenít mastered building cabinet doors or glue ups of solid wood and wood turning, so will take as much advice from you guys as you can give. I have no clue how to successfully build a solid wood front door for my house, so could use advice for that as well?
Stay safe and stay positive. No matter how bad things get there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

10/31/20       #20: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
WS

2020 will be our best year of 20 years in business. Currently booked through 2021. Turning down a couple custom homes a week as a two man shop.

I too expect weakness going forward and have for some time. I do not want the weakness to hurt us so we are going the other direction. We expect payment in full upfront. No exceptions.

We are sound financially. Most General Contractors and home owners are not. They are highly leveraged and living the American Dream on the monthly installment payment plan. Even those that are financially sound can get mightily attached to their already agreed to pay amount for already built cabinetry when things get more than a little rocky.

As a side note, I have noticed that people are sorting those they hire more to align with their political side. If you are outspoken about your ideology those on the other side are less inclined to send their money your way no matter how talented you are. Both at the contractor and direct to consumer level I have seen this, sometimes even overtly but often beating around the bush questions. I mention this because the OP past comments on his location and his political beliefs may be playing into what he is seeing.

Lastly, woodweb. Ah, yes many found memories but the censorship has driven away the best posters. I really don't care anymore. When Tim passed and he only gets a dozen posts for a guy who spent hundreds or maybe thousands of hours here passing on knowledge and yes, arguing politics, well it's like life in that stop caring about what people think when you realize how little they actually think about you. Every single poster over the years I have enjoyed but also who has passed on the most woodworking knowledge would make the top ten most censored list here. I click over once a week to make sure there is no new technology in hardware or finishes, or perhaps a trend, that I am missing. And when I do try to pass along knowledge the posts are barely read and you can tell because the posters ask the same questions or ask for info you gave them already...sad. You'd think a guy that can profit half a million in a two man shop in a year could help some folks out, but no, I'm an idiot apparently!

Hope things pick up for the OP and you can enjoy retirement beyond that.

10/31/20       #21: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
james e mcgrew  Member

Website: mcgrewwoodwork.com

I have done reasonably well in all relationships and subjects when i remember the wise words a commander of the sixth fleet told me, i had to make life and safety decisions of Children of gold bar officers who could crush me in rank for any reason, so i needed some guidance. Cdmr 6 Fleet Ops (My Boss) told me if you follow this I will back up what ever you do. 1st Diplomacy 2nd Tact 3rd firmness and only in that order.

when politics become hard statements and not an exchange of ideas then I like "Censordhip just cut it off. I manage a private Forum with thousands of memebers trying to learn small amd mid size CNC machines, Letting the chatter stray from the subject at hand will be the death of a Forum, Woodweb does what i think is a pretty doggone good job at this.

10/31/20       #22: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Kevin Basto

Well, David I always look forward to seeing your name pop up on the WW, you are one of few with real the old skool knowledge, beats guys on here lately asking about what epoxy to use for the river table their building...morons! As for me, this has be an unexpectedly busy time the last few months, in Ontario, Canada even with the plandemic and all, a few days off would be nice!

11/1/20       #23: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Scott

Kevin
What is wrong with asking what kind of epoxy someone is using to build a river table?
I have never used epoxy for this reason and I have no plans in the future to, but there are companies who do this everyday, to me it is no different than asking someone like Dave what adhesive he recommends for glueing up a particular species of wood. I agree with you if it is a weekend warrior, diy guy.
There is a company in my area called Black Forest wood that sells tables all over, some have I believe $20000 worth of epoxy in them. If I was selling a table for that amount I would like to share issues with other subject matter experts.

11/1/20       #24: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
D Brown

David, Your work is much more specialized and since for the most part I don't think you do much in the way of case work the current demand may be for more standard cabinet work. Perhaps diversify your offerings. It has always been said the election years are not great but the new normal breaks all known barriers. Hang in there.

11/1/20       #25: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Mark B Member

Oh no... the dreaded epoxy river table yet again weaves it way in everywhere.... Its like the scourge of the decade in the wood world.

11/1/20       #26: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Jeff

I have noticed a couple projects on the internet that I didnít mind with epoxy rivers. I just wish I would have been the first one to come up with it, a few folks have gotten rich on that idea.
Last time I was in Hawaii we went up to the north end of the big island and there is a shop there that sells wood turned bowls, the price tag on some of them made me blink a few times, I imagine there are tourists that snap them up on a regular basis. Another great idea.
I can make a melamine box as good as anyone else on the planet, sad thing is most people can build one so no great profit deals on them. So sad.

11/1/20       #27: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Harold Pomeroy

Political divisions are causing friction with customers and contractors. I just factor it into the Problem Customer Surcharge. On the other hand, I have taken a hit doing jobs not worth doing for people that I like.

11/2/20       #28: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Alan F.

We had about 2 Million in work cancelled or moved to next year. We had a slow January and February and were just ramping up when we and all our jobs were shutdown.
We got back to work in late May and most of our jobs opened in June.

Sales should be off about 5% when we were expecting an increase.

There was an editorial in the WSJ that brought up the point that Biden supports a Federal $15 HR minimum wage.

It also brought up that congress may repeal Taft Hartley which would eliminate right to work laws in 27 states to help unions in non-right-to-work states.

Depending on how minimum wage is phased in it may affect shops that are in lower wage states that pay employees below that and are bidding into next year.

Congress raised it to $15 starting in 2027 but its possible that it may be moved forward.

Maybe a statement on bids that XYZ company bids are based on a shop rate of $per hour over Federal minimum wage, should the federal minimum wage raise before this project starts or during this project we would need an additional $x per hour depending on when and how it is phased in.

A-

11/4/20       #29: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Kevin Dunphy

Website: http://www.kdunphy.com

Its sad that a employee at a cabinet shop is being compared to min wage worker [I thought there was skill involved]
If the large company or Walmart of the world are left alone to call a fair wage you know the rest .

11/4/20       #30: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Karl E Brogger  Member

Website: http://www.sogncabinets.com

I didn't actually know what minimum wage is in my state. I had to Google it, $9.86/hr.

One of my nephews is probably going to come sniffing around for a summer job next year. He ain't starting at or above minimum wage. I'll be paying him less until he becomes worth more. The good news is, he's sharp and is driven, so he won't be getting a sub par wage for very long. I don't see him pursuing a white collar life, so best to get the cause and effect of productivity and compensation drilled into his still forming 16 year old brain.

11/4/20       #31: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Alan F.

Kevin, wages follow min mage somewhat.
As an example if Min wage in a state is $8 and those workers get a raise to $15 then $15 per hour cabinet makers will want a raise to $22-$24 or more depending on how other local costs increase

A-

11/8/20       #32: So.....Covid? Election? Combination ...
Joe Fernandez

Website: http://www.jmfbuild.com

We are currently looking for fine woodworkers to help on a cedar siding job in Florham Park NJ, highly qualified woodworkers need to apply, all cuts need to be accurate, we are installing with inside and outside miters so the tolerances are with hairline accuracy. No joking!

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