.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

My Photo
Name:
Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Monday, December 06, 2010

Furniture Microenterprise

A personal email from Benjamin Darrington:

Inspired by your book The Homebrew Industrial Revolution, I've decided to try my hand at this backyard industry thing.

I've decided to go into the furniture business. Per the ideas in your book, I'm taking advantage of new technology (or newly cheap technology) to start very simple with very low up-front costs, little or no overhead, and close to zero stock and no licensing or bank loans.

I'm ordering a 2'x3' CNC router kit from this guy for $1,400. I think I can make cool, custom, coffee tables, benches, and shelves, that can compete on price with the mass-produced crap they sell at Ikea. For $15 in pine boards or salvaged materials, I should be able to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind coffee tables, emblazoned with highly-detailed old public domain woodcuts (or any image the customer wants). This sure as hell beats the hideous $40 MALM low-end particle board and plastic-veneer Ikea coffee table that you find in every dorm room and first apartment ever. I can even let my customers choose from a couple of different kinds of finish and leg design since I don't have to make the product until after they've actually ordered.

One idea I have is to sell my furniture at the local flea markets. With some pre-cut lumber and example pieces, I can churn out new articles for people while they watch. A CNC router is a pretty cool thing to watch if you've never seen one before. My customer gets an beautiful, inexpensive, piece of furniture and an interesting story, while supporting local, sustainable, industry.

Due to the nature of this sort of production, I can start small with a couple of simple items that I can market to local college students and hipsters (free delivery!). If they sell, I can move onto more elaborate and expensive items as my woodworking and artistic skills improve. The learning curve is shallow, and my risks are few. I can afford to botch some projects and turn out some dud products without breaking the bank or wasting massive amounts of materials. Eventually, I'd like to use digital camera shots from multiple angles, and the software that pieces them together, to make accurate reproductions of furniture and wood crafts that I find in museums or in the temples and palaces I visit in Asia and Europe. What a skilled craftsman, commissioned by an emperor, would have labored on for weeks or months, I should be able to reproduce quickly in my shop with minimum preparation and cost.

If things don't work out, I can pay for the router in a couple of months with extra money from my tutoring job, and I'm left with a cool craft toy that fits on a desktop. If I can make, say, $100 from the sale of a furniture set, I can pay for all of my capital machinery with less than 20 sales.

8 Comments:

OpenID tobarstep said...

This is inspiring for me as it is very close to what I'd like to do. I've given a bit of thought to the idea of furniture making with a CNC router. I also think kitchen cabinets would be a prime application for this. As he indicated, you can get sheets of plywood with hardwood veneers (what most quality cabinets are made of to begin with) and beat the socks off of MDF.

December 06, 2010 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've also been considering a garage business, and furniture making was my focus. I would love to correspond with Mr. Darrington as he makes his way through this process, as I am going to be making my way through it as well. I think it could be mutually beneficial to the both of us to learn from one another's mistakes. Now that I've seen its capabilities, I'm also considering the same router kit.

Kevin, I wonder if there is a way to forward my comment along to Mr. Darrington. If you are able to, I would greatly appreciate it.

He can contact me at esoteric2005@gmail.com

December 08, 2010 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is awesome and inspiring! Best of luck to Benjamin Darrington!

December 08, 2010 8:55 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I forwarded your comment, Anon 1.

December 08, 2010 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an experienced woodworker I have to say that while I applaud Mr. Darrington's enthusiasm I think there's a lot more to it than he knows; the devil is in the details. I've worked with CNC woodworking equipment. I can say that it is good for roughing out the basic shapes of pieces. It can save a lot of time, but that still leaves a lot of time for more precise work of joining and finishing. Joints like the mortise and tenon have complex profiles and high tolerances. Getting a good finish on a piece of furniture is a laborious process of sanding, staining and sealing as well. A lot to know about choosing wood too. The white-wood they call pine at the home improvement stores is very soft and not structurally strong enough for a lot of applications. A bit there to think about. Good luck. Keep us posted on your progress. -- Mit Spanner

December 10, 2010 8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am doing the same. However, a t-shirt thing...as if the world needs more. I was forced to liquidate my IRA to pay bills as I lost my 80K job, then a 50K job, and now slave for $9/hr. Irony. I used the remaining IRA money to start my 'revolution.'.

I built my own exposure unit to burn screens, which I purchase from a dealer. All the art, films, web/e-commerce is my handiwork. I should be on-line in a few weeks.

I tried like hell to find hemp and bamboo fiber (more eco-friendly) grown and spun in Canada at a minimum, but everyone I found ultimately gets hemp fabric from China. In turn, I settled with organic cotton from the Carolinas. The shirts are sewn in Anaheim, California, not far from the garage where I will print the shirts.

I didn't have to, but did sign up to pay my tax and get a business license. I felt as if I would rather pay the mafia than the state, but what is the state other than the mob? You should have seen the look on all the faces in a training class at the local "Board of Equalization" when I asked why I even have to pay tribute to the state as the Constitution makes no such claims, and I don't see what the state is giving me in return for the work I do (Not that I give a rats ass about the Constitution being that Lysander set me straight on that piece of paper). I got two answers from BOE personnel...well...this is the "Board of Equalization, and we are here to make sure ALL businesses do" have to suffer a tax burden in proportion to their size...it wouldn't be fair if some businesses did pay, while others didn't at all or didn't pay proportionally. The other response was..."well you just keep thinking that and you can let us know how your business is going from jail."

Anyway, I am having issues deciding what to charge. From what I see a lot of shirts (on the faux-free-market) are over-priced in my opinion. How do I get "the full product of my labor?" I have no one to "higgle" with, but myself. I'm not looking to "profit," just get paid for what I do. I think I've settled it, and as I have no employees, or rather equal owners at this time, I am the worker (with the exception of all those doing the work to grow and manufacture the shirts of course).

My other issues are: trademark/logo, and artwork copy...left? I am going more for art and message than logo art. I do believe in trademarks, and want to advertise, but don't think people should be my billboard. Anyway, its the art that concerns me. Slightly. I will be the first to show it, and others may 'steal' the ideas. Don't know that I care. I don't plan on any copyrights. I just don't want someone to turn around and tell me they did copyright my work and I can't produce what was originally mine. Not likely, but you never know.

December 19, 2010 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am doing the same. However, a t-shirt thing...as if the world needs more. I was forced to liquidate my IRA to pay bills as I lost my 80K job, then a 50K job, and now slave for $9/hr. Irony. I used the remaining IRA money to start my 'revolution.'.

I built my own exposure unit to burn screens, which I purchase from a dealer. All the art, films, web/e-commerce is my handiwork. I should be on-line in a few weeks.

I tried like hell to find hemp and bamboo fiber (more eco-friendly) grown and spun in Canada at a minimum, but everyone I found ultimately gets hemp fabric from China. In turn, I settled with organic cotton from the Carolinas. The shirts are sewn in Anaheim, California, not far from the garage where I will print the shirts.

continued below

December 19, 2010 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't have to, but did sign up to pay my tax and get a business license. I felt as if I would rather pay the mafia than the state, but what is the state other than the mob? You should have seen the look on all the faces in a training class at the local "Board of Equalization" when I asked why I even have to pay tribute to the state as the Constitution makes no such claims, and I don't see what the state is giving me in return for the work I do (Not that I give a rats ass about the Constitution being that Lysander set me straight on that piece of paper). I got two answers from BOE personnel...well...this is the "Board of Equalization, and we are here to make sure ALL businesses do" have to suffer a tax burden in proportion to their size...it wouldn't be fair if some businesses did pay, while others didn't at all or didn't pay proportionally. The other response was..."well you just keep thinking that and you can let us know how your business is going from jail."

Anyway, I am having issues deciding what to charge. From what I see a lot of shirts (on the faux-free-market) are over-priced in my opinion. How do I get "the full product of my labor?" I have no one to "higgle" with, but myself. I'm not looking to "profit," just get paid for what I do. I think I've settled it, and as I have no employees, or rather equal owners at this time, I am the worker (with the exception of all those doing the work to grow and manufacture the shirts of course).

My other issues are: trademark/logo, and artwork copy...left? I am going more for art and message than logo art. I do believe in trademarks, and want to advertise, but don't think people should be my billboard. Anyway, its the art that concerns me. Slightly. I will be the first to show it, and others may 'steal' the ideas. Don't know that I care. I don't plan on any copyrights. I just don't want someone to turn around and tell me they did copyright my work and I can't produce what was originally mine. Not likely, but you never know.

December 19, 2010 1:24 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home