Over the past few months I’ve been building up some commissions for furniture. I’m picky over the type of pieces that I’d like to build and since I’m not looking to be building furniture full time (been there, done that) I feel I’m right to be choosy and go with pieces that really interest me. It’s a nice luxury to have, but as I completed my the last Workhorse workbench last week, I realised I’d forgotten how wonderful it’s been to be building for other woodworkers.
Making benches for woodworkers brings it’s own pressures; for the first time ever the customer understands how it goes together, and technically speaking everything has to be perfect; you know that they’re looking for a gap in your dovetails. Most other customers don’t give a crap if it’s dovetailed at all, or even if it’s handmade.
Selling furniture on a sales point of it being ‘hand made’ isn’t an easy feat. Firstly because the way it’s made isn’t usually what adds value from the customer’s perspective, and secondly because any value that is perceived in the term ‘hand made’ is watered down by larger companies using it to describe items which have seen little more than a bit of glue scraped off by hand.
Building by hand is the only way that I enjoy to build and so the satisfaction makes the challenge worthwhile, perhaps even interesting. But I’m certainly going to miss working for customers who understand the difference between a top that’s flattened by plane rather than one just stuck through a sanding machine, and knowing that that difference gets appreciated.
Now if I know anything about selling furniture it’s understanding that you are all part of the experience for your customers. There’s a saying that sex sells, but we can’t really go there with furniture, so you should use the next best thing – a nice waistcoat.