custom table being packaged up wrapped up for furniture shipping

How to Ship Furniture

Furniture Packaging and Shipping

A major detail of custom furniture making that is often overlooked is shipping. I make pieces for clients all over the states and occasionally overseas. It very important after weeks of working on a piece of fine furniture that it arrives safely and undamaged to the client. There are lots of ways to wrap, box and ship furniture but I typically use 2 methods based on size to deliver my work. Make sure to watch this YouTube video of me wrapping and boxing up a custom side table.

The first step for me when shipping furniture is to measure and weigh the piece.

Pick a Company

The first step for me when shipping furniture is to measure and weigh the piece. If the item is under 25″ x 25″ x 48″ I typically will use Fed-Ex Ground. If the item is larger, or a significant weight, I will use a company called Plycon.

The important thing to keep in mind with this is that FedEx can be pretty rough with the package. So, you need to suspend the piece in the box and pad it quite well. I typically will buy new blankets to wrap up the piece before boxing and also use foam to help suspend the piece so that there is at least an inch or two of space all the way around the piece from the box. Don’t forget to add the insurance.

I typically will buy new blankets to wrap up the piece before boxing and also use foam to help suspend the piece so that there is at least an inch or two of space all the way around the piece from the box.

Use a Good Box

Anytime I am shipping furniture with FedEx, not only do I get insurance but I make sure that all the packing I am using is as high quality as the furniture. I use a double corrugated box from a company in Austin called Eco-Box. As with any trade, I am also amazed at the passion and expertise involved. These guys are super passionate about boxes and really know their stuff. I will never look at a cardboard box the same way again.

Use hard rigid cardboard to protect the edges and corners of the box.

White Glove Service

When shipping big pieces of furniture, like a dining room table or large cabinet, I will use a freight company called Plycon. I always use their white glove service to ensure the safe delivery of the furniture. This means that the piece does not get boxed up but instead is wrapped in blankets and carried by hand. They will come to my shop, wrap the piece, place it gently into the truck, and deliver it themselves. This is really nice for the client since they do not have the hassle of disassembling a crate or packing material. Plycon will also place the piece in its setting, unwrap it, and wipe it down. This can be a bit expensive and slow, but is the safest option for large items.

Video - How to Ship Furniture

Watch how I wrap and box up the Bloom side table.

See Video

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How to Run a Successful Furniture Company

How to Run a Successful Furniture Company

One of the most common emails I get on a regular basis is from other woodworkers looking for insight into starting their own woodworking business. Some are just starting out as beginner woodworkers, some are experienced craftsman looking to expand, some have great full-time jobs and want advice on how to quit and move into furniture making full-time. All are looking for the how to run a successful furniture business.

I wrote this article in hopes of sharing what helped me reach my goals and shed some light on a realistic understanding of starting a woodworking business. I by no means want to scare anyone away from woodworking but hope by reading and sharing this article, people will have a better grasp of all that goes into a successful woodworking business.

Many people ask about my own journey into furniture making as a guide for their own path, but keep in mind that like woodworking, there are many ways to be successful. If you want to find out more about how I got started you can watch this video or read this article. My recommendations will not work for everyone and are by no means the best way to do things. They are simply what I have found to work for me in my situation.

Keep in mind that like woodworking, there are many ways to be successful.

Philip Morley

Get Your Feet Wet

A woodworking company is made up of 2 major parts, making and selling. Both are essential for a company to be successful and both can be eased into. Start slow and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Get started making and selling things on a small scale. Maybe this is by making Christmas gifts for family members, selling at a local market or opening an Etsy store. Starting slow will help you gain insight into the process of sourcing materials, labor/time requirements, inventory and what products are popular and what is not and how to market yourself and products.  

Be Patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a furniture company. Many financial pitfalls can be avoided by acquiring tools over a longer period of time instead of buying them all at once. Every person’s situation is different but if you are patient, take your time and can bootstrap your business without taking on debt, I would highly recommend it. I definitely do not have the nicest and biggest shop but I own all my tools, my shop, and my property. I was able to accomplish this by going slow and starting with the bare necessities.

Success is Hard to Measure

You’ll be happier if you clearly define your own definition of success. This may mean only making enough money to cover your woodworking hobby’s expenses or this may mean operating a large furniture company with several employees.

For me, success means working near my family, keeping things small and maintaining creative control to build unique, one-of-a-kind fine furniture. I always fear that the hustle of trying to pay bills will cause me to compromise the craft.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

This is pretty straightforward… don’t quite your day job or career until you are sure that your business is viable. Furniture making can be volatile and the income can be unstable. Start woodworking nights and weekends, move to part-time and eventually full time. If you can start your business knowing that you won’t be financially stressed, you’ll be much happier.

Innovate Don’t Duplicate

I love Instagram and I love seeing what other woodworkers are making. Take the work of others as inspiration and a challenge. Unless you are building someone’s project as a learning experience, try to make the design your own. There is nothing wrong appropriating a good idea and making it your own. My good friend and mentor for seven years, Michael Colca,  had the honor of having Sam Maloof out to his shop for a woodworking conference. Maloof was asked, “What do you think of all the people that copy your chair almost identically?” (I don’t know that anyone can quite pull off an exact copy). His response was that it didn’t bother him one bit. He took it as a form of flattery. But he said that you weren’t doing yourself any favors as a designer by simply duplicating others. Let this be an opportunity to showcase your own personal style and design aesthetic.

Know Your Market

Do your research and learn your market. I often ask myself the question, “Should the market define what I make or should I define what the market should want?” The correct answer is somewhere in between and is different for every person. To find out, talk to friends and family to see what furniture they would buy. Go to an open house and see how it is staged. Read home, design or woodworking magazines to learn what is popular. Get creative!

Say No

Having a successful furniture business depends on having a steady flow of work. Occasionally, this flow can get backed up and you’ll have to decide on making compromises or saying no. Just be friendly, honest and be okay with saying no.

Do What You Are Good At… and Also Love

It is inevitable that at some point in time you’ll have to make something you don’t like. Don’t drive yourself crazy by making things you hate just because you are good at it or because the money is good. Woodworking should be fun, even if it is your job. Experiment to learn what you enjoy and what you are good at. If you love making cutting boards, then do that and make the best cutting boards out there.

Surround Yourself by People Better Than Yourself

It is important to build a community around yourself and your business in order to support you in the areas of weakness. I still have questions about furniture making and often drive up to my mentor’s shop to get advice (Michael Colca Furniture). My friend and neighbor Curtis designed my logos and assists me with all things branding (Neighborhood Studios). Another friend, Austin, helped me get the YouTube channel up and running and handles all my marketing. I couldn’t do this without them.

master carpenter with apprentice

Keep Learning

Nowadays, the resources for learning about woodworking are nearly endless. Between YouTube, magazines, books, Meetups, blogs, part-time and full-time classes, there are infinite ways to get started in woodworking and furniture making. This doesn’t just apply to beginners and is extremely important to professionals in growing their skillsets. Take time to learn the craft and its history. Educate yourself and try new things.

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The Dyslexic Furniture Maker

The Dyslexic Furniture Maker

by Philip Morley

I am dyslexic. . . . Some people view dyslexia as an inconvenience. They imagine simply switching letters and writing numbers backwards. But for me, dyslexia is my life . . . something that constantly hovers around me affecting everything that I do. When I write a post or text, I panic that I have misspelled something or misused a word because I RELY on auto-correct. At the same time, I frequently misspell words so badly that even auto-correct won't pick them up. I am constantly anxious that people will pick up on these deficiencies. I explain that I am dyslexic but I can tell that people are surprised by what that actually means for me. I once had a conversation with a man as he related an encounter he had earlier that day. He ridiculed another man saying, "The guy was illiterate. .. . I mean in this day and age how does anyone reach adulthood without being able to read.??" I remember nodding absently thinking, "You have no idea." My biggest nightmare is being asked to read in front of others. My wife sometimes checks my texts and e-mails for me because sometimes misspelling key words can be unfortunate. Once, I invited a friend over through a text to help work on my deck. My wife burst out laughing when she checked the text because I had mistakenly written, "Can you come work on my dick."  It is inescapably a part of who I am and something I constantly struggle with.

Being from England carries the additional expectation of some sort of innate erudite intelligence. Fortunately, even my accent gives away a more humble beginning. Once people get to know me, they realize that the excuse of "We say it that way in England" is more of a joke. It is certainly true for words like "vitamin" "aluminum" "maths" and "tomato." Honestly, sometimes I cannot remember how a word is pronounced where. But for me it is just another tactic to save what face I can. . . .to laugh off my inner humiliation if at all possible.

Now, I have improved considerably since my school days thanks to many people. My wife has always encouraged me. I received considerable help from the public library. In Florida, a learning specialist worked with me once a week for a year and a half (special shout out to Sarah Karlo). :) I have also learned as many coping mechanisms as I can. But I still PANIC whenever I fear that I am about to be made to feel stupid. Reading in front of people is my personal nightmare. Will someone ask me to read something? Will someone ask me to write something? Will someone notice that I mispronounced a word? And as everyone knows, PANIC is a great way to perform at your best.

Dyslexia is a part of my story. If I didn't have dyslexia. . . . if academics came easily to me. . . . (and if I am being completely honest with myself). . . .I certainly may have chosen a more lucrative career.  But I do love what I do.  My brain definitely seems to be wired differently but I think there is a gift in that. When I started studying carpentry and joinery it came naturally. Furniture making seemed to make sense to my brain. It was something that I was able to excel at for the first time and I was not going to let go of that. I did not become a furniture maker because it seemed  like a romantic career. I became a furniture maker because I was good at it. . . . and for me that was a new feeling. I wanted to excel because I never had before. Working hard actually led to tangible results. So, in many ways for me furniture making is not just a career but a saving grace.

man staring a a piece of custom furniture

Educating the Fool

Educating the Fool

by Philip Morley

For some reason, I emerged from childhood (and I think others did too) thinking that if you don't feel like an expert at something then you probably shouldn't do it. You should feel competent in your profession. You should feel. . . well. . .  like an expert. Yet, I know I still have my moments of thinking. . . .Am I really good at this?? I have come to learn that many people feel this way in many different professions. I am always surprised how many people feel like they are not yet quite grown up and simply playing at it. (This is where you agree with me wholeheartedly!)  But in furniture making, where the product of your work is very visible, standards of perfection can be REALLY concrete. Maybe that is why many furniture makers have (at least) a touch of perfectionism in them. But this mind set and perfectionism in general can be crippling if you are not careful. You may fail to try new things then you often fail to move forward. I never feel like I achieve the perfection that I am seeking. Some days, I berate myself, question myself and consider throwing in the towel. . . . . and beating my creation into small imperfect pieces. But then I realize that this is the only thing I am good at and I have to move forward. So, most of the time, I try to use it as a challenge. . . . a goal I know I can never quite attain but one that keeps me moving forward none-the-less.
Because, as we all have been told, mistakes teach us. But if mistakes make such great teachers, why do we dread them so much? I suspect it is because mistakes do not always seem like the kind encouraging teachers that the statement implies but rather harsh teachers that rely primarily on shaming to get their message across. :)
Below is just one example. :) I was about seventeen when I made this. Although I didn't know it at the time, this piece taught me a big lesson in wood movement among other things. :) For some, this probably sticks out to you straight away. But if not, take a look at the door panel. There is a huge gap between the panel and the frame. I assure you that was not by design and was not there when the piece was originally built. This piece taught me in a way that I will always remember, that I need to be conscious of wood movement and make sure not to build with wet wood!


Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Experience is a dear teacher but fools will learn from no other." Yep! I theoretically knew about wood movement, but this piece REALLY convinced me. Beyond wood movement, I think that I also learned to pay more attention to what my mentors said. Surprisingly enough, when I was younger I was sure that I knew better.. . . Okay sometimes, I still do. :) Having never had a problem with wood movement, I assumed I never would.:) Of course, while mistakes are inevitable, some (many even many) can avoided by simply listening to the advice of those who have been there before. More on mentors later. :)

The other benefit of mistakes is that you learn how to fix them. Yes, some mistakes are WAY too big to fix. There have been several heartbreaking pieces that ended up feeding a fire. There is fine line between deciding when to throw in the towel or try to move forward. Most of the time, however, the mistake can be fixed. The cool thing about furniture making is that in fixing in the mistakes, you learn new techniques and brainstorm new ideas that can applied in ANY situation not just trying to correct a problem. Sometimes, you have to go back a step or two but you learn from it and move on. In this pursuit of perfection mistakes are inevitable. I have learned you can either allow the mistakes to stop you cold or understand that mistakes will be made and you will learn from them. A friend once told me that if you feel totally comfortable in your profession then you are probably doing the wrong thing. As I take risks, make mistakes, and try to move forward, I take comfort in this conclusion. I may be really uncomfortable at times as a furniture maker, but I am definitely in the right profession. :P