Have you always admired those folks who can take some wood and a few screws and create a masterpiece? Or maybe you’re looking to make a little extra cash without selling your soul in a multi-level marketing scheme?
We’ve invited professional woodworker and YouTuber Drew Short of Rock-n H Woodshop to share his woodworking tips for newbies. From the best woodworking tools starting out to some tips on how to price your work, Drew has all the answers you need to hear BEFORE you dive headfirst into that DIY project you’ve been researching! (Put those tools down now! You've gotta read this first.)
Drew didn’t start out with the goal of becoming a professional woodworker. He studied for four years to become an X-ray Technologist and balanced his career and woodworking side-gig until just three years ago when he decided to make Rock-n H Woodshop his full-time job. Drew’s transition from X-Ray Technologist to woodworker was 20+ years in the making. “I paid my dues beforehand to get to this point but now I’m enjoying life, just being a woodworker,” Drew says.
“I got into woodworking because of my dad. He actually did woodworking as a hobby, doing things for just the family and maybe some extended family. He kinda got me started in taking shop at school. Even though I didn’t really learn heavy skills in shop, it still got my feet wet, and dad taught me a few things as well as some TV personalities like The New Yankee Workshop’s Norm Abram.”
Drew started building projects for clients on a private basis while he was advancing in his career. “I grew my clientele from 2007 up until about three years ago, and during that time I amassed enough people that I was able to supplement the income that I was getting as an X-ray Technologist and made the transfer over to just woodworking.”
Those years that Drew balanced his career and woodworking were extremely busy. “I wasn’t just doing private work, but I was also a YouTube personality, creating how-to woodworking videos on the side. I was putting in a lot of hours.”
Drew enjoyed his hours in the workshop because the simple art of creating something was therapeutic after a stressful day at work. “Woodworking is a passion and back when I was working full-time it was a way of release. You know, coming home and just letting go of all of the problems. I was a manager so coming home and being able to build things out of nothing was a way to let all of that stress go. It was a very good way to decompress each day. I do it for the love of doing it.”
Since Drew has journeyed through the many stages of woodworking from a side-gig to a full-time profession, he has a lot of wisdom to share with those who are new to the skill.
For beginners, try not to do a technique that you’ve never done before on someone else’s project. Experiment with making something for yourself, and once you kinda get the hang of it and master it, then try it on somebody else’s project.
“I get this question a lot but it’s mainly from people who are wanting to become a full-time woodworker. The question I get is ‘I wish I would have known how to charge for my work.’ A lot of people don’t charge what they think they are worth. They try to price their work where they’re basically underselling themselves for the amount of time and hours that they are putting into this project, just so they can get the contract. Unfortunately, underselling yourself spreads like wildfire. You may get some work from it but unfortunately, you’re not going to make money from it because of all of the hours that you’re going to put in. Sustaining a business overhead and employees if you have them on a low income is very difficult to do and it won’t last very long because you’ll get frustrated and want to quit. So, always charge what you’re worth. If you’re going to put in the time and hours, then you’d better charge for it."
“A lot of hobby woodworkers tend to make double of what the cost of materials would be. So, if a client came to me and said “I want you to make this desk,” you figure out how much the materials are for that desk, usually doubling that price is what most hobby woodworkers do and then they just pocket that extra amount. When you are doing it for a living it’s a little different because you have so many things to factor in and by the time you’re done with that it’s quite a bit more. But, if you are a hobby woodworker and you have a job, one of the easiest ways to make money is just to figure out what it will cost you to make it if it was being made for yourself and then just double that cost.”
“If there’s one thing I could tell people, it’s ‘You are your own worst critic.’ Most of the clients that you come in contact with aren’t as picky as you are and if you overemphasize the overall appearance of a project and you’re like ‘I don’t like how that looks right there, I need to change that…’ it’s going to be like a pile of mud when you’re done. That’s when you have to weigh the time vs. the money. Most of the time, your client is going to love what you do because you’re bringing something to their home that they have always wanted. You’re bringing their vision to life. But, if you overindulge the persnickety little things that you want to fix, sometimes you might make it worse. So, if you have a real’ picky client I understand, but most of the time your clients are just going to love what you’re giving them.”
“Shortly after I married my wife in ‘06, her grandfather reached out and asked if I wanted to come to his shop and basically take anything that I wanted because he wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore. He ran a ranch called The Flying Rock-n H and that was the brand they used to brand their cows. In honor of him giving me the tools that helped get me started, I named the business, at that time, Rock-n H Primitive because I made a lot of rustic-style furniture, and then I changed it to Rock-n H Woodshop about two years after that. It has some history.
“The tool that I probably use the most is the table saw and it’s one of the tools that I took from his shop but it is the heart and soul of my shop. I use it for about 90% of the things that I make, mainly because I make jigs and fixtures that can go on that saw that help me use it for more than just what it was meant for.”
Drew shared that your essential tools depend on the size of the shop that you have. For the smaller workshop, you’ll want to find the following essentials.
“If you are very limited on space, a table saw might not be the best thing to have because it does take up quite a bit of real estate in a small shop. Maybe something like a circular saw would be a good investment.”
“A good set of drills includes a reeler drill and an impact driver. You can buy kits like that from Home Depot or Lowe’s.”
“I would probably say a little benchtop drill press might be handy to have because they make nice 90 degree holes that you can’t do with a drill.”
“A router will finish out all of your corners so you can make decorative edges.”
“If you have a bigger space, then definitely get a table saw. A contractor saw is probably the bare minimum to start with if you are wanting to make some higher-end furniture but you could get away with a job site saw if you can’t afford a contractor saw. But all of the tools I said before will play into that as well.
“Just keep those in your bucket list of items when you are looking for tools to buy.”
Drew is careful to remove his wedding ring before working on a project, ever since one eye-opening moment. “I have always worn a metal band in life and I’d always have to take it off in the shop after one experience. I actually caught my metal ring on a nail and it really yanked my finger bad. Ever since then I try not to wear a metal band at all whenever I’m woodworking.
"These Groove Rings are so lightweight and they actually break away under extreme stress like that,” Drew says. “I don’t fear wearing it around the workshop and I don’t take them off. Having it on just gives me a little more peace of mind that if I do get it caught on something, it’s not going to damage my finger.”
Drew also uses the Groove Life Watch Band and The Groove Belt!
“One of the big things about normal watch bands is it makes your wrist sweaty and sometimes you have to take a breather and take it off. But, because I’m the kind of person that rarely takes things like that off, having that band works real' well because I don’t get that sweaty feeling or moisture-under-it feeling. The belt is really good because it stays in place so if I’m having to squat down to work on a project driving nails or screws or lifting lumber up from the floor to my rack, it doesn’t affect the location of my pants!”
“I would say that beginners would try and buy too many tools right off the bat and spend more money than what they needed to spend because they think they have to buy new and they think they have to buy top of the line brand names and that is not necessarily the case. I get a lot of my things from 3rd-hand, marketplace-type places and work my way up to the more advanced tools. So, I’m not putting in a lot of money out of my own pocket just to get started. And you don’t need a whole lot of tools to get started."
“If you’re hoping to score an easy million bucks by uploading a few videos to YouTube, you’re probably going to be disappointed. “Unfortunately, relying on YouTube itself, you’re not going to make the kind of money you think you’re going to make unless you have millions of subscribers and millions of views on just about every video,” Drew says. “YouTube pays you by way of AdSense and AdSense correlates to how many views you get, how long they watch, where they watch from, do they click on the ads… so, there are a lot of things that go into making money off of YouTube but what I always tell people is if they are going to go into YouTube, do it for the love of doing it, of making the videos and spreading your knowledge because if you’re going into it thinking you’re going to be a millionaire overnight, you’re going to be sorely mistaken and get frustrated.”
“Personality plays a big part in YouTube because it is very subjective. People will watch it, not just for the information that you are handing out but also for the personality that you’re showing during the video. One of the things that I always take into consideration is the branding method. So I could be just any normal Joe Blow telling you how to make a bookcase but the thing that I use for branding is they call me the 'Boom Guy.’ After every video, I always pump my fist and do a boom in the camera. So, if they don’t know my name, they know me because I’m 'The Boom Guy.'"
Drew doesn’t just film woodworking videos. In fact, he has a joint account with his ten-year-old daughter Hannah that was first inspired by their mutual love of Harry Potter! They started the channel recently and already have 1,000 subscribers! If you’d like to see Hannah and Drew’s magical antics complete with special effects, check out their channel Ashes to Feathers here!
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