Labor of love

Those of us who have chosen to make woodworking our profession are, for the most part, no different than any other business owners. We have to concern ourselves with the requirements of running the business, making sure we can meet our payroll and cover the utilities, and that there is sufficient cash in the bank to keep the work flow going until the next “infusion”.

It becomes pretty easy to lose touch with the things that motivated us to get into this line of work in the first place. Few of the people I have talked to over the years, who have chosen some form of woodworking as their livelihood, cite the “usual reasons” for going into business. They rarely talk about the financial gain or high profit margins, of “going public” or incorporating. Instead, they talk about the need to make things, to create, and in some cases to make art. To make something purely to satisfy your love of the process of making and ideally for someone you love.

But the pressures of running business are real and the need to make ends meet can often outweigh the visions of one of a kind art pieces or fine custom work. Often we just need to get a job in the shop. And with these demands on us, it’s all too easy to lose touch with our original motivations. So, every now and then, I try to go into the shop and just make something for no reason other than that I wanted to make it. It does not have to be a large or impressive piece. Just something that is being done for love and not for money. Just to keep myself in touch with why I wanted to do this when I grew up.



  • Amen to that!

    Woodworking is a bit like preaching; both are professions generally entered into not for the promise of riches or fame but for love of the work and the hope of sharing that passion with others. However, if one is not careful, the mechanics of making ends meet can cause you to turn the original effort into a money making machine as you lose sight of the original goal.

    It takes an attitude such as yours to remain “centered”. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Brian Burns says:

    Hello David and Doug,

    I make classical guitars, nominally for a living, and we have all kinds of jokes about how difficult it is to make money at it. I do it for the love of the craft, and in spite of the financial consequences.

    A sideline that has worked very well for me is teaching guitarmaking one-on-one. Unlike class teaching, there is very little preparation involved. My shop must all be in working order, When the student arrives we work on his stuff, and when he leaves I go back to working on my stuff. It is every bit as satisfying as my own guitarmaking, and brings in real dollars per hour.

    It would seem to me that there are lots of people that would be willing to pay well to learn most anything you are good at, even just how to do the fundamentals well. All of the feedback I get is that it’s the one-on-one experience that is the key.

    Details at


    Brian Burns

  • David says:

    Is there room in this business (cabinetmaking) to do or have both? I do this job for the “love of making stuff” But wonder if one can make more than just a basic living (Barely

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