I recently purchased a new Wood-Mizer LT10 for use in preparing lumber to build our own timber frame home. I have my eye on the Woodmaster 718 with the Pro Pack. I would like to go into business making solid wood mouldings. I am curious as to how I might get started after I purchase the 718. How do I go about getting clients? How do I go about getting the logs to mill into lumber?
I plan on making my own dehumidifier kilns to dry my wood once cut. I will then use the Woodmaster gang rip feature to make the blanks, then mill them into mouldings and hardwood flooring. I live in an area with a lot of mesquite available. I would like to specialize in mesquite hardwood floors. But I would also be interested in manufacturing other types of moulding.
I have not had much time to play with my mill since I purchased it in February. I would like to get everything ready for production this summer so that I can start working on my off days in the fall.
I have always wanted to go into business for myself. There are a lot of unknowns, though. My dad was an entrepreneur. We knew a lot of difficult times. Money was always scarce except once in a while he would have a very good year. Because of this, I have a healthy fear. How can I make this a success? I love wood and I believe I have an aesthetic eye. I want to make an outstanding product that will sell itself.
I have thought about approaching land clearing companies and offering to be a dump site for them for logs they clear away. Would this work? I own 26 acres that they could dump on. I have tried this with a tree service, but the logs are all too short to do much with. Thanks for any input you might give. I want to do this for my family, especially for my son.
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor L:
Nice to have enthusiasm, but I think you are going to have a very hard time of it. I grew up in a construction company that took out lots of trees. They are pushed over with a Cat, which causes most of them to develop internal shear defects. They also will be covered in dirt that will trash your band mill blades. If you have a debarker, that will help the dirt, but not the damage to the log.
The WoodMaster is a hobby machine, very slow and lacks the capability to produce molding in a commercial manner. A basic rip saw has 15hp, more on the serious commercial ones. A basic molder has 5 heads. The 1st head cuts a reference surface on the bottom, the right head helps straighten the board and molds that side, the left head brings the molding to width and shapes that side, the top head does the thicknessing and molding, the last bottom shaves off the bed lubricant and cuts the backout.
Iíve got a 5 head Weinig; if I had it to do again I would get the 6 head, two tops. The first to rough cut the molding and the second to do a fine finish. Our top head only has 20hp, not enough for some of the moldings even at the slowest feed speed. To do custom moldings you will also need a profile grinder. I know you can buy ready to use knives but what happens when you are in the middle of a run and pick up a nasty nick from something in the wood?
Your adventure could be an interesting hobby but approach it as such and save yourself from that canít-win feeling.
We started running our own shutter parts on a small Powermatic moulder years ago. Worst decision I ever made. Within days of setting it up, I realized it could not meet our needs. For the money I paid employees to stand there and wait for the moulding to crawl out of the machine at 16' p.m., I could have paid for a much nicer piece of equipment. Then to get the material in the shape we needed, we had to sand 75% of what we made. Another huge chunk of payroll and time lost. It got to the point I started to count my losses by the number of feet run through the moulder.
We later got a Weinig and profile grinder - what a breath of fresh air. There is absolutely no comparison between the two machines if you are going to run a production operation. To be fair, the Powermatic was a good little machine and fun to use. It lasted for years and made us a lot of mouldings, it just was not a good fit for a business that needed 10,000 feet of moulding run every few days.
If I became more of a retail operation in that way, but still beat the big box prices, kept it as a paying hobby initially, have fun with it, get to learn the business a little more, and perhaps branch out to installations, would that be more of a viable alternative to manufacturing in a production setup?
I think this is more the kind of work I was after anyway. A cottage business that would fill in the gaps of the large moulding companies. Short runs to trim a house out or a few houses at a time. I can always offer lumber as well.
I was hoping to create more of a finished product to sell with the lumber I will be creating. I will have machined it more, so the wood should be worth more. If it is good quality, shouldn't there be a market for it?
We have purchased mesquite for entry doors from a Wood-Mizer mill in Texas. This man kiln dries the mesquite and will cut to rough sizes needed for doors. He gets top dollar for premium wood. I think it is a great door wood and easy to work except dealing with the short lengths and high cost.
You admit you don't know anything about wood or the industry. You think you can beat box store prices. And you think you can have good quality mouldings from a hobby machine. I don't know everything, but I am quite sure that is all a pretty tall order.
Moulding is about so much more than putting a profile on a stick of wood. I have the fortune of being in the finishing business also, so I am familiar with what it takes to make a sanded, stain ready moulding, and it aint happening on a Woodmaster. Everyone thinks their mouldings are great, but I have seen a lot of junk out of $500,000 Weinigs and some super products out of way less expensive machines. So much depends on tooling, hook angles, feed rates, moisture content, many setup variables, and sometimes even what kind of mood the wood is in that day.
Again, don't want to be a party pooper - I once had the same ideas - but they were proven wrong very fast, and I am near a million in equipment later, still trying to improve.
We have a local guy that does small runs of curved mouldings and he is the go-to guy for a lot of local builders. Also the bigger companies start out with knife fees, and setup charges of several hundred dollars that make ordering 60' of moulding impractical in a lot of cases. Also you can do woods that are not commonly available. One of the reasons I am thinking of buying a small moulder is some of my orders require 100-200 of a certain profile. If I call and get prices for my main supplier to run it, he either wants to run several thousand feet or apply special charges. I understand why he does this, but the project can not pay for those fees. If you are making special runs, you may be able to offset some of those fees and land some orders, if you are not so focused on profit as you are on learning. After you accumulate some different knife profiles, you will be able to reuse them for many different customers. You can always split the knife fee with the customer, and keep the knife for later use. Building a library of knives won't be cheap. You may want to price out a few custom knives just for practice to see what you will be getting into, if you go in that direction.
Plus as someone mentioned earlier, consider buying ready to use lumber when you start moulding. Trying to learn to dry wood and prepare it while also learning the moulder can be a killer. Plus the time frame for the drying may not work with the moulding part. Think of running a restaurant and growing your own food that will be cooked for your customers, and you can better picture what I am saying.
About pricing, you can't beat the big box prices! You can offer alternatives at higher prices. Try the green thing, local tree lumber, recycled, etc. People will pay a premium to have their egos stroked!
I've got two good molder men; they didn't get to that level in a short time! Your tooling will end up costing you as much as your molder. Given that, I'd buy a used "real" molder to start so you can keep your tooling if you move up to a better machine. We've got over 700 sets of knives for our Weinig. We still custom grind new knives every week. Long ago I started making moldings with a heavy shaper, power feed and hand ground knives. I actually made money at it! Remodelers were my customers; still are.
I have no experience with mesquite wood, and I buy my lumber already sawn.
Several other people told me at first that I need a large Weinig or Leadermac expensive multihead machine. I worked on a Weinig before and it is a great machine, but dollar-for-dollar I feel that the Woodmaster is a better investment unless you are making thousands of feet per run of the same profile.
I've heard of folks who get their machine from the factory and don't have to tweak it, and then there are others who seem to get a brand new machine that needs some TLC because it is out of balance, motor is on crooked, etc.
I wouldn't even consider a profile grinder at this point (maybe later on). A good one is a big expense and there is a big learning curve to do it properly. The supplier I use can get me custom knives overnight most times and two days in the worst case scenario.
Never assume that an outstanding product will sell itself. No matter how good it is, either you or your son will have to play the role of salesman. At least at first until you build a word-of-mouth reputation. This takes time, so maybe you should ease into it part time as opposed to starting from scratch and depending on it for your next meal.
Word-of-mouth is the best advertising, but don't depend just on it. It takes time. Figure out your target market (ex: your county and the next county). Then advertise in the local paper, bulletin boards, bargain papers, etc.
I really like the Baker product, but it is three-phase. The Logosol might work as an upgrade from the Woodmaster. Interesting options.
I think I agree with your assessment more and more as I investigate real moulders and the other equipment that will be needed to make a business out of this interest of mine. And the thought has stuck with me over all these months. I feel that moulding and flooring is really what I would like to manufacture.
My main concern is price. Even for the small used real moulders, I'm looking at over $10,000 and closer to $15k. What is the feasibility of using a heavy duty shaper to start with at about 5k?
Another problem I see is power. The options I see are 3 phase, which I could get, but is very expensive to install and the electric company said they want to see me use 6kw a month for them to sell me 3 phase. What about 3 phase inverters? Do they work? And the other option is to buy a single phase machine. Are they too underpowered to do the job?
I am currently using my sawmill and a table saw and hand power tools to create a deck replacing my front porch. It is quite a task, as I am custom cutting each board. The deck is starting to come alive though, and it is magnificent. I am using 1 inch thick mesquite. I see your point about tearout. I have experienced that now. Another problem I am seeing is dealing with rot. It is hard to get boards long enough and straight enough and rot free to do much with. Although the end result will be the most beautiful thing I have ever created. It truly is an amazing wood. But honestly, I do not see myself doing this for someone else. I think I'll let others do installation. So this has been a valuable experience for me.
Again, thanks for your earlier comments. They are making more and more sense to me every day. I just worry about where to get startup capital. In addition, I am still building my shop, so until that is done, I have no place to put equipment. This is a time of research and trying to find a practical solution using the fewest machines and smallest floor space possible to create a viable company.