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Is it possible to make a living scroll sawing?

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  • Is it possible to make a living scroll sawing?

    I feel very curious about this, since I have read here that some people get a good income with this activity, but how many are making a living based only on scroll saw? And when I say scroll sawing I mean just that, not selling tools, patterns and other things, only finished projects.

    Is it possible to compete with the extremely cheap products produced in China and other countries by extremely underpaid workers?

    In my case I just design patterns and make prototypes in my spare time as a hobby, just because I like it. I get no real money out of this.
    http://www.finescrollsaw.com

  • #2
    Sawing for fun or profit

    There's another thread somewhere on the board here that discusses your question. I know several bird and waterfowl carvers making a fine living with their art ....but no scrollers. If you subscribe to SSW magazine look on page 54 of the spring issue. Looks like that fellow has done it!! If I tried to make a living from my work on the saw where I live I'd have to eat scrap wood 'cause I certainly couldn't afford food.
    If it don't fit, don't force it....get a bigger hammer!!

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    • #3
      Hi Pedro

      I'm strictly a hobbyist and I've never tried to be a professional. Sorry to be of no help .

      Gill
      There is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the conviction that it is readily adopted.
      (Schopenhauer, Die Kunst Recht zu Behalten)

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      • #4
        Hi Neal, could not find in the 2004 and the 2005 spring issue. Did I overlook it or is it someplace else. I don't care what others say but in my opinion it is not possible for one person making a living. Even if the wife helps, you have to pay her a wage, at least $ 10.00/hr. That is slave labor Just kidding. Some say they can make a living but they have employees or have home cutters on commission helping. Like Neal was saying about eating "to eat scrap wood 'cause I certainly couldn't afford food." How about health, home, work, car insurance? Home and car payments? Overhead, like wood and other supplies? Replacing equipment? If anyone tells me that they make a living, I like to see a W-4.

        Mike M
        SD Mike

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        • #5
          If it's the article I'm thinking of, it wasn't totally clear that that's what the article was about -- although the teaser line on the cover was about making money scroll-sawing. It showed a guy who got a big commission to design and execute a lot of architectural fretwork for a liquor store (oh, all right, wine merchant) and for the merchant's home, that kept him busy and paid for over a year. While that's a great opportunity and he does gorgeous work, you have to hustle to get the next job and one like that isn't going to come up just every time you need it. The article certainly wasn't about making a living repetitively cutting patterns.

          As for repetitive pattern work, it's not really low-wage competition, it's technology that makes that a cheap commodity. A laser machine can bang them out like printing a newspaper. As Mike rightly has it, the most important tool any craftsperson can have is a spouse who's got a full-time job, with insurance.

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          • #6
            Pedro

            Here is the link to the forum on that question on this site. It was talked about and there seems to think it is possible. I feel it is not. You can make a good side income but to do it full time and support a family no way.Pricing your Work
            John T.

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            • #7
              There are a few very talented people who make good money selling intricate scroll saw jigsaw puzzles, primarily over the internet. Check out my good friend Mark Cappitella at www.mgcpuzzles.com. He and I started making puzzles about the same time, some 14 years ago. I decided I didn't want to sell mine, but he went into business and has been quite successful - and supporting his family

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              • #8
                Puzzles

                Originally posted by Carter Johnson
                There are a few very talented people who make good money selling intricate scroll saw jigsaw puzzles, primarily over the internet. Check out my good friend Mark Cappitella at www.mgcpuzzles.com. He and I started making puzzles about the same time, some 14 years ago. I decided I didn't want to sell mine, but he went into business and has been quite successful - and supporting his family
                Where do you all find or how do you make patterns for the puzzles? Do you put a finish over the puzzle before cutting it?

                Curious...

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                • #9
                  If you mean "pattern" in the traditional sense of a scroll saw pattern, there is none. No one I know who cuts jigsaw puzzles to sell them uses any kind of pattern. We cut one piece at a time, each individually shaped. In my case. I am a line cutter. I cut along the lines of the images in the picture.

                  Now, if you mean by the word "pattern" the picture itself, my friends who cut for a living have licensing arrangements with artists. Me? I buy calendars and use those pictures. They are a good size and the heavier weight means they mount easier.

                  I spray my picture before I cut it into pieces with any "triple-Thick Glaze" available at any craft store. Krylon makes one. Other puzzle makers use different coatings and waxes.

                  For other sites, try www.jardinpuzzles.com and www.justduckypuzzles.com. I met with these and other puzzle-cutting folks in New England last fall. They charge anywhere from $1.00 to $2.00 or more per puzzle piece. I came home from the meeting and called my insurance agent because I realized I had over $50k worth of puzzles in my basement!

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                  • #10
                    As an aside, I got an e-mail a little while back from Brad McFarland. It seems that his work is generating a lot of interest; he no sooner finished the work for the Mays when other people were banging on his door to commission him. I guess it's like anything else--Find a market and fill it!


                    Bob Duncan
                    www.GrobetUSA.com

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                    • #11
                      Once again a long winded reply.

                      Pedrofret:

                      I have no expertise, nor have I sold anything, and I maybe I should be quiet, but I would like to add my humble opinion.

                      As I recall, you live in, or near, Madrid, Spain. I can only talk about USA. Here we have a common expression called the 80:20 rule. In short, in any artistic endeavor, 80% of the profits are earned by 20% of the artist. And sometimes you hear about the second part that claims that 50% of the profits are earned by 10% of the artist.

                      Most of the followers of this forum do not harvest our own wood, make our own varnish, and so forth. What we do, therefore, is add value to raw stock. Consider your own investment of time into what you make. This time is what you add to your product. You must calculate the return of this time investment as selling price minus your cost for raw materials, cost of machine tools spread out over time, and cost of expendable "cutting edge". Then you must subtract the cost of advertisement, sales, shipping and so forth which in our case usually is the cost of time, money, and effort to attend a craft fair.

                      This Time Investment as value added to your product is your taxable earnings. Suggestions by experts suggest that something like 10% should be set aside for business growth (computer programs, exotic wood stock, pattern books, learning curve experimentation on new techniques, and so forth.)

                      So now with all the above, calculate the how much money you need to add to your products on a per hour calculation. Then the big question, can the price you will be able to sell your product for earn that per hour level? Don't forget your competition under cutting your price.

                      For example (YMMV):
                      Stock preparation= 10 minutes
                      (Purchase, rough cut, pre-cut sanding, stacking, and so forth.)
                      Cutting = 20 minutes
                      Sanding = 15 minutes
                      Finishing = 15 minutes ( 3 coats @ 5 minutes each)

                      So before you even travel to the craft show you have 1 hour invested in the product.

                      The product you sell, will it bring a value added profit to reflect a livable wage for that 1 hour of your time? Probably not. Therefore looking at the time investment, if you stack cut 4 copies, that 20 minutes is spread out over 4 items, and can be eqated to 5 minutes of cutting time per item.

                      There are other ways to reduce the time investment, which gets away from craft work and into production. That is another thread.

                      So back to the 80:20 rule. Some artist add value much greater than the mere time investment they put into their product. This super extra value added is something that the paying customer accepts and pays for. This could be unique design of product, one-of-a-kind phenomenon, or artist name recognition, and so forth.

                      Therefore, IMHO, you can go the production route to earning a living or you need to invent a super extra value added price to your product. If I knew how to add it to my work, I would. I haven't been able to do it, and I may never be able to add super extra value to my work. Best of luck to you.

                      Phil

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                      • #12
                        Phil just enlightened you with some stats and I will have to take his word on them because it looks like he is either an accountant or has done a study on this. But one other thing I will add on my behave is if I were to make this a full time job I would get bored and then my product will show it. I need this as an outlet to get away from any thing else I do. I think you need a hobby to do this. Of course I guess you can take up golf but to me this is the hobby I cherish and it is my relief. So I guess I will stand corrected and I guess if you put your mind to anything you can make a go of it. But to find that niche, Good Luck!!
                        John T.

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                        • #13
                          The thought of just selling enough to buy more wood is enough for me. Therapy to ease my reality is what scrolling gives me.
                          Todd

                          Hawk G4, Dremel 1800

                          Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

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                          • #14
                            The question is it possable to make a living on just scrollsawing.

                            I have made lots of things with fretwork and intarsia. I have made some money with my craft, but Im coming to realize that Ill never get rich off this.

                            This year I have made $840, in Jan, $820, in Feb, $880 in March, and so far $520 in April. I only work at it part time.

                            My trouble is I get so overwhelmed with projects, and Im only one man. It starts to turn into a job rather than a hobby.

                            The money isnt constant. I can go months without making anything. Then it pisses me off when I have to track down money after I have delivered a custom project. Sometimes I get short deadlines, where I have to bust out something fantastic in only 2 day's time.

                            Most of the projects I have been making are for my unit. Im in the Air force, and work part time doing custom scrollsaw work for my squadron for extra cash. I take some of the squadron patches from the base and make them into unique intarsia.

                            Intarsia is still fairly new to my area. Alot of people havent seen it before. Not many people are doing it, so I try to make that my advantage. But sometimes its a dis advantage. I can only take on so many jobs. At times I have gotten so overwhelmed with projects that I cant stand to go into my shop. This is where I have to turn people down. I cant get myself stressed out too much.

                            Ill never get rich off scroll sawwork. But I like the creative side that the scroll saw has helped me tap into. I get new ideas each day. After seeing that artical of the guy doing Intarsia Doors in the latest SSW magizine, I was really inspired. Id like to try doing one of these for my house. Then check on the market value and see if I can make some extra money. But again I know Id never get rich on this. I can only make so many.

                            Happy Scrolling.
                            Randy Anderson
                            www.randyswoods.com
                            Last edited by imascrollman; 04-06-2005, 10:30 PM.
                            Randy Anderson
                            Intarsia Artist
                            Email: [email protected]
                            Website: www.randys-creative-woodworking.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Randy

                              I find if I am doing the amount of work you are talking about it gets like work and it becomes non enjoyable. But I have learned to say the word NO even though it may hurt both parties involved but you just can't do it. I have a customer waiting for some pieces for close to 1 year now. It is just I am too busy and this is a hobby. The key I think to making money in this artform is to be able to stack cut and make jigs to mass produce things. I always felt though this takes away a little of the personal touch but it can be done and would help if a spouse can help.
                              John T.

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