My husband and I are looking to begin our custom moulding business. We are in the process of purchasing about 10k of equipment, 2 718 wood masters + dual dust collection and we already have all of the other equipment needed. We plan on keeping our full time jobs until he's able to make this a viable business. We live near Seattle and have a lot of older homes that are being able renovated and I am hoping to be able to make many connections with contractors as I am a field claims adjuster for a large insurance company. I am pretty versed in business ONLY in terms of reading from books... I need advise from real people that have done this before. I have read EVERY single possible blog, forum, comments etc. the good the bad and the ugly on opening a Moulding business.
I am prepared for times to be hard, hence why this is part time. My only concern at this point is our business is recouping the money for he machines... obviously I want to make a profit but I am prepared to give it my all and make this a long term family business.
MY FIRST QUESTION IS:
How do you figure your pricing? I will be setting up excel sheets so that I can just go to the type of wood and enter the LF and bam... pricing... but I need to know how to get there... how long do the knives last? I need to be able to figure the percentage of maintenance/knife cost/machine cost to figure into each LF. For example if a knife costs me $100 per knife and it lasts me 1000lf I need to account for 10% of the price..
I realize waste will be different for each project and I'll learn that over time...
Please know that we are looking to do specialty projects... archs, coffers, very detailed mouldings, short runs etc.
Main woods, pine, poplar, cedar, maple and others... I am still trying to find some good mills to get finished lumber from... looking on Craigslist for some deals too..
Next question is... how do YOU approach the advertising portion? Do you just call a contractor? I feel like they may be too busy to care? I'm not worried about being able to create quality im worried about actually selling it! No negative "you can't do it" needed.... we have made the decision to start this business. We need words of wisdom from successful people, words or caution on things to look out for, be careful of etc...
The most recent post I have seen is from 2011! The economy has changed in the last ~6 years and I want to know what's up now!
Just to put things in perspective. When I opened our business and had success I was able to pay for the initial equipment reasonably quickly. I was also not able to draw a paycheck working full time, harder than I ever had in my life for 3 years. If you are lucky enough to grow the growth will eat the profits.
A woodmaster is not exactly a commercial machine. It is slow and limited in what it can do. The people in the market that make moldings are generally old companies that are established and very competent. They will be hard to compete with.
I would get a molding sample of a historic molding and get it priced out by your potential competition. You could see how they bill and see if your plan is financially feasible. Keep in mind the price you get will likely be retail not wholesale which you would be selling at. I would also find a cabinet shop and try and establish a relationship with them. You could get some idea of what molding goes for in your market and see if there is already a local short run supplier.
Find a local industrial equipment supplier. They can be a very valuable source of information. They know all the players in the market. They can direct you to lumber sources and help you with equipment and general knowledge.
A scary question you asked was how long knives last. You know they can be sharpened correct?
You need to find a knife maker / sharpener. In the beginning I assume you would sub that work out. As you progress you would need sharpening equipment. Good used sharpening equipment will cost more than the two molders combined.
Your goal to do short run moldings is a good one but how much work is there that you can capture? Is there a conflict of interest looking for work using your existing job as a conduit? You could lose your job.
Finally you mention dust collection, making molding generates a significant amount of shavings. Not a garbage bag but dumpsters full. Do you have a dust collector with enough chip storage capacity so you don't have to empty it every 20 minutes?
I don't mean to discourage you but the internet will not give you all the answers.
I too do not want to be only negative. But as 'helping hand' stated. The wood master is not going to produce the type of quality a contractor is going to be looking for.
The only way a small outfit starting up like your self can begin to understand your pricing is to estimate a job.
"Ok this customer wants 200 LF of a casing....I need to order x amount of wood. It will take me x amount of hours to set up, mill and machine this wood. It will take me x amount of time to clean up the shavings and wrap the products up."
You will need to know what your time is worth...what your overheads are.
I am on the east coast. All of the companies supplying mouldings are also the suppliers of the lumber. They have their costs zeroed in to pennies.
I believe your new company could work...I know you are going to struggle for longer than you may expect. But as someone trying to help you....I am more worried about your knowledge/ experience. I can tell you right now that even for starting out....a woodmaster is the wrong machine .
Advertising , drive around the construction sites....hand out samples and business cards. If you are able to come across as if you know what your talking about, you will very quickly be given jobs to bid.
Do you know CAD? How are you going to draw your profiles so that your knife supplier can cut the knives for you? Yes you can send them a sample piece...but this takes time and costs money.
I truly wish you the best of luck....but honestly feel from the information supplied in your post that you are not ready for this endeavor.
FYI. I am a 12,000 sq. ft. shop. We have heavy duty machinery and 5 head moulders. Architects and builders come to us frequently for short runs of custom mouldings. But we cannot compete with the big boys. We take on the job and either break even or at a loss in hopes we will get some of the bigger millwork on their projects....kitchens...doors radius work...etc.
Only thing I'd add is looking into sourcing your lumber s4s. As mentioned, processing rough stock generates a ton of chips and is time consuming. If you don't have a lot of experience, good machinery and adequate dust collection, the additional cost of buying dimensioned lumber can be cheaper than processing rough stock yourself.
These are pretty much entry level machines that are priced under $10K well outfitted with knives and accessories.
I would strongly suggest that you take time to attend a real professional contractor's or woodworkers show to see the kinds of machines the mid sized and big shops use, to find vendors to supply your fledgling business and to perhaps make connections with others who are either in the short run molding business or are your potential customers.
One of the big shows is Design and Construction Week in Orlando Jan 10-12 and another coming up next year is AWFS in Las Vegas in July.
Here are links:
Fin ally, I would talk with a few contractors about where they get moldings to match the older home renovation market you are considering entering. Every major sized city has at least one or two suppliers who specialize in moldings for that exact thing. As other have said, those suppliers have their costs screwed down to the penny and will be very tough to beat on price. You will need to deliver superior service and excellent quality to have a shot at taking some of their business away.
What made you choose this type of business?
How much experience does he have?
I understand the pricing questions, but the practical knowledge of the type of business you are asking are scary to me.
I operate in your market area. I can think of ten related businesses that could be money making operations so much quicker and have a better chance of success than this one.
However, If your committed to this and there is no talking it out of you then you need to understand what your margins will be. I've been in your market for 13 years. Our standard fare is doing million and multi million dollars homes. Once in that timeframe I have had the need of something custom run like this, but it had to be done on a CNC machine. You are likely to be dealing with short runs and one off projects- in other words you have to be the people that everyone knows they need to call as you will have to pull from A LOT of architects, designers, cabinetmakers and contractors. You initial and continuing marketing budget will be ten times what your machine costs will be to even have a chance at keeping the doors open a year. And if you suceed at actually doing that, a truly tall order, you will have to pull off nearly operational perfection and efficiency in order to make money.
If you want to know the top three wood related jobs our area needs I will be happy to tell you but I'm afraid if you keep with this you are in for heartache.
I really appreciate all of the information from everyone. I am not the knowledge base on the subject, only the business side. My husband is the handy one. We are not set on this because we are new to entrepreneurship and we are looking for something my husband can learn & create an awesome business for him to build over the years. We are mid 20's.
I would love to know what other suggestions you have to make a good marketable business from home!
I have attached my business email to my posting name for this one post instead of my burner email. Feel free to click on it and send me an email. I'd be happy to help your husband and yourself as much as possible with any insight you are welcome to have, whether you use or not.
11/24 #10: Updated information on moulding/tri ...
While a woodmaster might not be a truly industrial machine i can speak from experience that they are a great company to work with. I have had one of their 50" drum sanders for 12 years and it has been nothing but reliable for the volume we put through it. It produces a good finish for what it is. Im sure their moulders are of similar quality, they stand behind their product and have a great warranty. They also make large dust collectors that are reasonably priced. I would suggest meeting with some owners who have these moulders and see what they have to say. It may be just what you are looking for... Or not. You will need to get in touch with a good knife making/sharpening service. Longevity of knives will depned on many factors such as wood species, feed rates, depth of cut, and quality of steel used for making the knives ect... For curved mouldings you would probably want a Williams and Hussey (sp?) moulder. If you dont have extra hands or heavy machinery ordering your lumber s4s will save a lot of pre milling and chip collection. I can not speak for the business aspect of this however
11/28 #11: Updated information on moulding/tri ...
If you are a claims adjuster then you already know the main players in your market. Talk to them about what they expect and what they are not getting. Asking them for help in starting your business does two things. It gives you an idea of where you need to steer the ship and tells your potential customers that there is a new game in town.
You should join your chamber of commerce and go to the mixers. Word of mouth is very powerful. In fact word of mouth is where all my customers have come from.
Do not over think things. Business is simple.
The price is already set when you enter an existing market. Do you want to copy others and fail and succeed when they do or do you want to be different?
If you want to be different, the only choice is to be better or cheaper.
All your decisions should be how can it get done faster or cheaper.
When I started my own business I worked for pennies or free and constantly asked myself, “How in the *@*# are other people making a living at this?” I made more good decisions then bad and now I average $265 per hour.
Questions like how many lineal feet are you getting from your blades is silly until you know what you are getting. And then it is only good as a comparison but still does not tell you what you should get.
Once you are up and running you will know if you want to get more or less time from your blades. My planner is sharpened for hardwood and I bought new gears to get more lineal feet between blade changes. My jointer also has new gears but I increased the speed on it to get a higher feed rate. That meant less time between blade changes. Less time at the jointer and more time at the planner were the profitable choices for me. Once you are up and running you will know what costs you more, time or money, and you will be able to make choices that benefit your bottom line.
Having another source of income allows you to make more mistakes then someone that needs to make it work before the money runs out. Just jump in. If the water is too cold get out fast and try a different pond.
Good luck and don’t get discouraged from a few bad decisions. We have all made many getting to where we are.
12/27 #13: Updated information on moulding/tri ...
We produce short runs of moldings, mostly for the remodel contractors but also for designers and architectural work. Very little for private people. No problem with private people, just that they can't find us easily. Pricing is based on the one time cost of molder setup, our normal shop rate for the molding operation based on our expected rate of production. Material cost will be based 50% utilization with the more common species. Exotics usually have a poorer utilization. Sharpening life is pretty irrelevant in the short run business. You won't run enough of any particular pattern to wear out knives. What you will find is that you will pick up nicks from mineral streaks, dirt in end cracks, tamp metal etc. requiring you to stop the run and re-sharpen the knives.
Equipment: The Woodmaster machines are not really molders any more than a Williams & Hussey is. Feed rates are slow, depth of cut very limited, process only one surface at a time, lack good feed works and hold downs/chip breakers, etc. All the limitations can be solved with lots of skilled labor. But that isn't a business model I'd want. We run a 5 head molder, tilt shaper, profile grinder, arch molding shaper, SL rip saw and all the usual woodworking equipment with 30+ years of experience. It still isn't easy.
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