Watched Orange County Choppers last night. I know, it is reality tv and you never know the whole story. I know the dad started making ornamental iron in his garage or something.
Is there anythign someone can do in his own shop part time starting out that would be some income? Even if you had to buy some equipment? I always hear people doing this starting out then turnign it into a business.
I ask myself that all the time. Then browsing ebay, I see people selling all sorts of custom machined stuff, things I'd never have thought of. I have a good track record for coming up with a great idea, then doing nothing with it. Then seeing someone else take that great idea and turn it into a successful product.
Couple years ago I set out with a friend to start making custom motorcycle parts. We settled on carbon fiber shift links for Harleys. Initially they were actually bonded to machined barrels on the ends, but the bonding process turned out to be a pain in the ass in production. So I redesigned to use an aluminum core rod that the rod ends thread into and the CF tube is now just for looks. Nobody advertises Harley parts touting light weight as a feature... lol.
Anyway, we got into the J&P catalog just in time for the economy to take a shit. We're sitting on thousands of dollars worth of inventory, and have jack all for sales. Everyone that sees the link in person is highly impressed with how well made they are. But that has not translated into sales. Point being, making a great product is only part of the equation. You have to be able to reach your target market and advertise effectively there. Mike and I are good at design and making stuff. We apparently suck at marketing...
I personally have never seen anyone who is able to successfully make money (after adjusting for costs of electricity, raw material, tooling etc) in a garage, making stuff in their free time. Not that it is not possible at all, just rare.
I would like to try to make money with CNC, if I can, by making some replacement parts that I could produce within my capability. If I fail at this, too bad.
To stryped, you would be better off getting a second job.
You reached me. My wife still has her Harley. (I sold all of mine in favor of a Kawi Vulcan) She loves doodads and expensive custom parts. We just aren't buying much right now.
I think for a garage machinist or metal worker they need to come up with tons of different small make to order type parts and only keep a couple of each on the shelf. Or learn to make something you can use to make something else. Then make a good relationship with a production shop that is slow (Better yet a couple so they can't make you dependent on them and gouge you, and never tell them who your clients are), and if you get a big order for one part contract them to make it for you.
if you start as a hobby, there are many things that you can produce competitively. Once you build a reputation with some community, you can parlay that into additional work - it won't make you rich but it will pay for the tools.
That's one way, but makes it harder to do it profitably. Gotta be able to set up and run parts very quickly to do small lots and make money. Much of the 'custom' stuff I see on ebay, I'm sure is being made either in China, or a small garage shop that is not concerned with making a real profit. Then there are products that are well made here in the USA and priced accordingly, perhaps on ebay for test marketing purposes or getting some exposure. (and yeah, we tried ebay with less than stellar results)
I'm a full time shop out of my garage. Intended from the start 14 years ago to stay small. That has benefits and drawbacks. Trying to find some niche products to make is a strategy to try and fill in empty time slots with something productive. The motorcycle parts was an attempt to develop a full on full time venture, but we're sure rethinking that...
I grow apples and strawberries. market through our on site roadside market with some wholesale. I worked as a corporate slave 15 years to make it happen. My wife put in 22 years.
Like nearly all businesses, the profits are slim. If you do most the work and manage well, you can make a living.
Everyone seems to think the critical decision is deciding what to sell. I disagree. Pick something you like and are willing to work hard at - you'll find a way to make a profit if you're a good business manager.
I personally think that if OCC was a stand alone motorcycle shop, they would have a tough time. Some of the machinery they have is way out of the reach of someone doing that type work, and a lot of that is provided by the manufacturers and advertisers. If you've ever run a shop, you recognize the gobs of down time, waiting on 3rd parties, and just screw ups that have to be done over.
I personally see Paulie and Numb Nut Son doing work and just tacking things together with blobs of MIG weld, and not even a hood. Then I see the tacked article handed off to a real TIG welder who does all the magic. If some of the stuff Paulie and Numb Nut Son were to go to the painter, it would look like crap. There's a lot of hours to get stuff geometrically straight so that part A fits through part B and C in a straight line. They make it look like zip, zap, done.
There is a ton of side work that is not shown that takes place to get the bike out the door, and those costs are never addressed.
Do the math on a bike shop, and figure the man hours it it takes to do one of those bikes. I see the money in the marketing and T shirts and hats and endorsements, and the bikes as just a fufu thing and a reason for a show.
This would not happen in a real shop. Math and reality would take over.
Look at that Jessie James or whatever the heck his name was. He had a cute hottie wife that was making big bux, and he couldn't even take care of that. Building high speed garbage trucks. Doing projects even a demented metalworker wouldn't take on. Where's the market on those? Who's going to buy them except a Hollywood reality show? I personally have no interest (yawn) in those "buildoff" competitions where the result is something that is useless and couldn't even be licensed. So what if it has 2 million horsepower and goes almost as fast as the speed of light.
Back to reality.
Side jobs. Market niche in a market where people have disposable income. Buy/resell, as Iggy mentioned. Repair in a market where people are trying to keep stuff running rather than replace.
Make serious money? No. Not unless you get lucky, or some cable channel picks you up. You seriously think those American Pickers are getting rich? On some days, they barely make expenses.
I'm sure they are making money, and now there is a line of goods available. How long will it be hot? I see that Deadliest Catch guys are advertising on Geico. At least they have moved on from that f'ing gecko thing.
The pickers are a couple of regular guys, and that comes through in their show. The slice of Americana also comes through. But they do drive a Mercedes all over the country, have a warehouse and overhead, have an employee, and they both have to clear about ten thousand a month to live a reasonable lifestyle.
They're coming to my town, a friend has been recruited to help steer them toward some interesting collectors. Yeah, while maybe they used to just drive around cold, these days it appears they try to get things set up in advance...
Might get a chance to meet them, be interesting to see what they're like in real life. Just so long as they don't show up at my place and try any picking... lol.
I just bought some of the tooling from Nicholson Performance which made at least two pistol related tools. I didn't ask the owner whether he made a decent living primarily from those two, but he's selling his shop and moving south where the cost of living is lower and the weather warmer than PA. Apparently he's getting out of the machining business entirely. His shop was all manual. No CNC. He doesn't look like the usual retirment age, so my assumption is that it's difficult to earn a living in a small home shop.
I don't want a new career when I retire from my daytime job, but I've wondered if I could use my shop to make a few bucks to support my hobby.
Not to hijack the thread, but what was interesting was talking to him about import tooling. Most of his was imported and he talked about buying on price in the beginning and being disappointed by the quality. He learned that there were good quality and low quality imports. Much of his stuff was from Enco, MHC Industrial, MSC, and Grizzly. The lathe and mill were both from Grizzly and he was satisfied with their performance although he did replace the lathe bearings with Timken bearings. Both machines are currently available on the Lancaster or Harrisburg Craigslist, I forget which. I think his prices are a little on the high side for the machines because he hasn't been following the used machine prices, but they may drop in time.
stryped wrote in news:05a886e1-9e56-47d1-b7ee- firstname.lastname@example.org:
A friend of mine was a free-lance custom machinist that worked out of his home shop. He passed away about a year ago, unfortunately.
His secret was that he got hooked up with some orthopedic surgeons. There's all sorts of FDA headaches if you make hardware that goes INTO and STAYS in the body, but they need tools to precisely cut ends of bone, drill holes, etc. It's all stainless steel, and they pay big bucks for custom made stuff. They would tell him "we need a tool that does THIS", and he'd work with them on a design and fabricate them. Heck, one of his big money makers was just an array of stainless steel hammers in different weights. He also made stainless steel "nails". They were used to hold drilling & cutting jigs onto the ends of broken bones. This was in Boston, and presumably these were doctors from a research hospital developing new techniques. I suspect he got additional customers when the word got around about the tools he helped develop.
Not sure how he got linked up with them, but he'd barely make a nickle on a lot of his simple repair jobs for folks in town. Any time his bank account was running low, he'd crank out a batch of hammers for the orthopedic crowd. It certainly didn't hurt that the guy was a real artist. He used to teach silversmithing at one of the local art museums. The hammers were works of art themselves, with a bead blast finish, and knurled oval tubular handles. I assumed he knurled them & then "ovalized" them in a press before welding them onto the heads.
Making money in a home shop with any sort of production work is probably really tough unless you have CNC. His trick was doing custom work that big shops won't touch, and the design aspect made it a lot more interesting. Having customers with deep pockets helps too. Most folks can't afford to pay a decent wage for high quality custom work.
There are also a lot of customs gunsmiths around the country, but there are legal hassles involved, and a lot of it requires specialized knowledge above & beyond just running a mill & lathe.