The only thing that is more satisfying than successfully turning a project that looks decent is woodturning projects that sell.
It’s quite a milestone to reach a point where you finish a project and the end result looks pretty damn good. It makes you really reflect on how far you’ve come, comparing what your first finished workpiece looked like compared to what they consistently look like now. It is a night and day difference.
It is significantly more reassuring of your skill set when a person wants to purchase what you’ve made.
Sure, being able to make a living off of creating things is fun, but that first purchase means more than any other purchase thereafter.
Of course, finding what people WANT to buy is a bit of an obstacle. Whether you’re wanting to create something from scratch, or modify current things that are being sold (furniture, decor, etc.), you’ll need to know two very important things:
- What sells
- Where to find people that want what you make
Woodturning Projects That Sell
As a long time carpenter, finding what to make can be more difficult than creating it. Luckily, there are a number of solutions that will help you come up with your own ideas, if need be. But first, here are some woodturning projects that sell:
Bowls & Kitchen Supplies
Bowls are hugely popular for woodturning, and many times are the first project that most people take on. By extension, if it used in the kitchen, chances are you can turn it (except for pots and pans of course) and sell it.
Bowls, and kitchen supplies in general, are one of the easiest categories of woodturning projects to modify and make unique. The process to turning a bowl is essentially the same across the board, and once you become accustom to that process you’re able to play around with it.
Here are some other easily customizable kitchen supplies that sell well:
- utensils (stirring, ladles, spoons, etc.)
- salt & pepper shakers
- cutting boards
- pot handles
A bit unorthodox to the avid woodturner, but quite valuable to wine connoisseurs. It won’t be all made from wood (just the handle top) since it needs a rubber fitting to run flush with the bottle, but still cheap to make nonetheless.
If you look at our solutions to coming up with your own woodturning ideas below, you’ll see that this idea appeals to wine hobbyists (making products for hobbyists is a great way to find a market to sell to).
Pots & Vases
I would argue this doubles not only as appealing to hobbyists (pant enthusiasts), but also presents a solution to an issue (the solution being someone needing to put their plants in something).
Pots and vases are a little more difficult to make than a traditional bowl is. Vases are taller, more narrow, and bottleneck, so navigating how to do that with woodturning might be challenging. Pots are wider, deeper, and require a generously sized workpiece in order to make it, which can be equally as difficult.
Turning wooden pipes requires a bit more familiarity with the craft than more projects, but with a little time and experience it can be done. The great thing about hand crafting these pieces is that they don’t require much wood to make, and they sell for quite the return.
The main obstacles you’ll face with making them is hollowing them out. Depending on how complex the shape is, it could be a really tedious task, but well worth it in my opinion.
Another category of woodturning projects that sell are chess pieces. It does take time to create the whole set, and you’ll need enough wood to make them all, but hobbyists love to go all out on beautifully designed boards.
Each piece doesn’t take much time to do, but the amount of pieces that are needed to complete a full set does take up time. However, they sell for a good amount of money.
Collectables cover a wide range of interests and demands. Movies and books draw a lot of attention to the world that they create for their audience, and, to an extent, it becomes part of our identity. So immersing ourselves in that world is reassuring of our passion for that story.
One great example of this product category is Star Wars. A widely known story with a fan base that spreads across the entire globe. The amount of objects you could create to feed fans’ appetite for Star War’s collectables alone has huge earning potential. From light sabers and figures to epoxy resin wood turned X-wing crash site, this is the type of thing that fans love to see.
Besides bowls, turning pens is the most popular beginner workpiece that even the veterans do to this day. They are much similar to bowls in that you can easily customize them to make them uniquely yours, as long as you are familiar with the basics.
Wands are turned as often as pens and bowls are, they are super simple to do, and don’t take a lot of time to complete them. While you could cater to a certain fan base that collects wands, wands have pretty much created their own fan base anyways. The amount of modifications turners can incorporate with a wand workpiece is truly incredible. Even today I’ll see projects that utilize techniques I never thought to try, but glad I know now.
Coming up with your own ideas
Part of finding woodturning projects that sell well is being able to develop your own ideas. The task alone seems daunting: where do you start, what would people buy to begin with, how do you know what people would want, etc. Here’s some solutions that will ease your mind, and put you in a direction to just start.
Feel free to try different things. Don’t just stick to one of these methods, everybody has their own success story, but not everyone succeeds in the same fashion.
- Solve a customer issue point: Find an issue people have with either an existing product, or solve a current problem. Furniture is important to have because it helps fill the need of an existing issue that everyone deals with: where will I sleep, where do I sit, what do I eat at, etc. The same mentality can be applied across a broad spectrum of categories. Finding an issue that you can solve with a woodturning project will certainly take some researching, but there are plenty out there.
- Appeal to hobbyists: Hobbyists are hyper aware of specific categories of products. Running with the furniture example, there are certain types of furniture that interior design hobbyists are in love with. Often times furniture is sectioned into the period of time that they are either created, or the design of the furniture appeals to a specific style. The same can be applied many other potential projects that appeal to hobbyists.
- Make unique workpieces: This helps if you create something from your own personal passion. Instead of worrying about whether people want to buy what you’re making and letting that influence your own decisions, just create something that you genuinely love to make. Often times that passion translates through your work. Instead of putting something together for the sake of selling it, people want and will recognize the details in a project, making all the more valuable.
- Jump early on trends: Trends should not be confused with a fad. A fad is based solely on novelty, and will quickly fade. A trend is something that fulfills an established need, but in a different way. This is much more concrete, and will last much longer. An example of this would be record players. Although obsolete, they are very much in demand and will be for years to come.
Where to sell your product
Where to sell your product is much more simple to explain than what to sell, so I will go over that first.
In a nutshell, you want people to find your product. If people can’t find your product, then people aren’t buying it either. There are a number of ways you can sell your product.
1. Social Media
Never underestimate the support of close friends, and family, especially when it comes to starting your own products. Most will likely be pretty supportive of your leap of faith, admire it even, and will contribute however they can.
By extension, this also means that they will tell people close to them as well.
Facebook is probably the best way to tell as many people as possible about your business, both whom you know and don’t know. Even if your own peers are hesitant or even unable to contribute to the cause, older relatives are more often inclined to support you chasing your aspirations. In fact, 72% of internet users ages 50-64 use Facebook, and 62% for those 65 or older!
Not only does it have a much wider demographic, but Facebook groups are a good way to gain exposure. Crafty Fever has a huge list of etsy facebook groups that are made for helping people sell their products on Etsy. Otherwise, I would recommend using local buy/sell Facebook group marketplaces to list your products.
The last thing, and the most costly, is utilizing Facebook Ads. It does require up front cost to create the ads, but, with a little bit of knowledge, it can be done. I felt pretty confident after reading Shopify’s guide to advertising on Facebook that has a whole step-by-step tutorial on how to target people that want what you are selling, and a video to go along with it. Incredibly informative, highly recommend.
Instagram is one of the best ways to make word of mouth easier. Create an account for your business and fill the account information with different ways to get in contact with you, what you offer, and where they can purchase your product(s) (either directly sending you payment, product listing page, etc.)
Once you have that setup, fill the page with high quality pictures of what you have made, and/or what you are offering. The two can be intermingled to not only show what you are currently offering, but also display what you’re capable of doing. You don’t necessarily need a great camera to make a good photo, but I would spend some time making sure your product looks flawless.
Check out WordStream’s product photography tips for taking better photos.
The word of mouth method of selling something can, and should, be used in conjunction with setting up a Shopify or Etsy store. Displaying your product listings online so you can easily refer people to a buy page is a lot easily than mitigating that process through messages.
Shopify is a point of sale (POS) application that allows you to create product listing for your business. While not as popular, selling hand made items is certainly a viable option with the platform. It’s the best option for starting an ecommerce site because it doesn’t require much management on your part. Using their templates and plugins is much easier to navigate than learning to code.
Shopify is easier if you are using it in conjunction with the “Word of mouth” method. It requires you to direct people you know (via social media) to your Shopify page, instead of being a marketplace for them to find your product.
The Shopify website made a great tutorial for newcomers on how to list products with their platform.
Esty is an online marketplace for people to shop through various categories of products, similarly to Amazon. It is most widely known for their unique products, both hand made and manufactured.
In fact, the top 2 product categories that sell on Etsy are:
- Crafts and Supplies
- Handmade Items
The great thing about using Etsy is you don’t need a following of people to purchase what you offer, though it helps to build exposure once you have made your product listing. The way the website is set up encourages people to find new and related items, which is perfect if you don’t have the means to get views yourself.
Getting views on Esty isn’t all that easy though. If you only have a couple product listings, then you’ll want to keep making things, otherwise how else will they find you?
If you feel like you do quality work, then make more, and show it. Finding what things are trending is really important for driving clicks. Receiving custom work is the end goal here, but it doesn’t generate the initial views that is required for that to happen.