Home Business Idea #2: Start a Woodworking Shop

I heard on the radio today that the official unemployment rate for last month was up to 6%, a five-year high. Since the government typically lies fudges the numbers on such things, the actual percentage is, undoubtedly, even higher. So I guess a series of essays on part-time home businesses is timely.


In my previous essay I presented you with an offbeat but viable small business idea that would not require a large initial investment to get started. All it takes is a dose of humility, some basic tools, easy-to-learn mechanics, and the chutzpah to get things started.

Seeing as I’m a Deliberate Agrarian, you might be surprised that I didn’t highlight an agrarian enterprise as a part-time business—something like raising chickens or hogs or growing stuff to sell at the farmer’s market. Well, those can all be fine sideline enterprises. Fact is, I used to have a dandy little business growing garlic and adding value to it by transforming it into Herrick’s Homegrown Stiffneck Garlic Powder. This year will be the first year in many years that I am not selling my garlic powder. That’s because I lost use of my neighbor’s land to grow garlic on. They up and moved to Seattle, and we miss them.

Though I have 1.5 acres of land, most of it is woods and gully. The remaining space, for my house, workshop, garden, and some lawn, is really quite small. I dare say there are a lot of suburban lots with more growing space on them than I have. But we make remarkably good use of the land that we have.

Which always seems to bring me to the advice I give to others who dream of an agrarian lifestyle and lament that they don’t have enough land to farm to some scale: "Just do the best you can, where you are, with what you have, as the Lord leads you, and be content in that.”

You can, of course, still work and plan and save and dream of having more land some day or, most importantly, getting out of the urban centers to a more rural locality. Even more important, though, is to not let the dream be an idol. And you also don’t want the dream to be so grand, so ideal, so perfectly dreamy, that it is unattainable and you never make any progress at all. It’s a step-by-step thing.

That said, I am really not in much of a position to pursue food-based agrarian enterprises at this time. Besides, I’m of the mind that, sad to say, making enough money to support a family in agriculture is not easily nor often done, especially on a small scale. And big-scale agriculture is certainly not possible or desirable for me.

Bearing all of that in mind, my goal as a Deliberate Agrarian is not to make a living as a farmer. It is, rather, to maintain a simplified and productive lifestyle, centered around a rural home, and a home-based business, dependent on the land and my local community as much as possible, instead of the supermarkets and malls and the whole industrial system.

I speak often of Christian agrarianism, saying that it is the clear Biblical imperative for god’s people. But I am not advocating farming as the only way to achieve this objective. Adam was, after all, not a farmer. He was a gardener. And it was God who showed him how to garden, not how to farm.

So I am looking to create and sustain a peculiar, antithetical, rural lifestyle. Doing this demands diligence, determination, and denial. It also demands a reasonable cash flow, which finally brings me around to the subject of another possible home business.

If you have read this blog long, you have read my essays titled, Yeoman Furniture & My New Wood box, and Yeoman Furniture, Part 2 (Waste Not, Want Not). Both essays show and tell of a simple, practical, attractive style of solid-wood furniture that can easily be made using very basic woodworking tools and skills.

If I didn’t have so many irons in the fire, I would pursue making this kind of furniture as a part-time business. I may yet, regardless of the other irons. The craft suits me, and I believe there is a market for this kind of thing.

I am planning to soon make a Yeoman-style bathroom sink vanity for our bathroom (desperately in need of remodeling) and, hopefully, a Yeoman-style pie cabinet (with punched-tin door panels) to use as a pantry cabinet in the kitchen. Speaking of kitchens, if I ever put another kitchen in my home, it will be outfitted with homemade, yeoman-style, freestanding furniture/cabinetry. Not built-in cabinets and countertops like found in virtually every other kitchen in America (a few hundred of them installed by me in past years). I will bring antithesis into the kitchen too!

My someday-goal is to make a yeoman-style blanket chest (hope chest) with hand cut dovetail joinery in the corners. A believe a line of “signature” blanket chests by a local craftsman could provide steady part-time income for a home business anywhere in the country.

I once knew an older guy named Maurey Babcock (now deceased) who was a retired trim carpenter. Maurey lived in a trailer in one of the local trailer parks. He bought a pre-made, wood-frame shed with a gambrel roof and put it next to his trailer. It was not big, but it was big enough for him to run a busy little woodworking business. He had some basic hand tools and small-scale shop tools. The lumberyard delivered pine boards as he needed them because he didn’t have a truck. Let me tell you—the guy was busy all the time making shelves and picture frames and bookcases and what not for folks all over town. Marlene had him make a toy box for us.

You don’t need a big workshop with a lot of expensive equipment to make some part-time (and potentially full time) income with woodworking. Just start small and basic, come up with some practical, signature products and go from there.

A couple years ago when we came "this close" to buying the old Grange hall in our town (I blogged about it), I had it in my mind that, among other things, the building would make an excellent wood shop and place to market my yeoman furniture. But I didn’t want to put my home up for collateral to buy the place. So it didn’t happen. And I just put the idea on the backburner.

Okay, so there you have another moneymaking idea. Maybe it suits you. Maybe it doesn’t. But it gives you food for thought. Perhaps there is a kernel of an idea that you can plant in your own soil and grow. Or, maybe, Home Business Idea #3 (coming up next) will be something you can better relate to......


This essay is part of a series on home business ideas. CLICK HERE to go to an index of all essays in the series.