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

featured blue image of blog post about furniture business

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.

hands typing on a computer

What Must One Sacrifice to the Altar of Technology?

What Must One Sacrifice to the Altar of Technology?

by Philip Morley

Okay. . . . as you know I am a furniture maker. I am NOT a marketing expert, a webmaster, a photographer, or a businessman. I have spent years learning how wood works, how to select wood grain for aesthetics, what joinery is most effective, how to be innovative with tools to achieve a unique and spectacular piece, how to design and build tables, chairs, and other furniture to be both beautiful and structurally sound, how to sand a piece delicately to achieve a soft flawless feel, how to finish a piece so that the natural beauty of the wood is brought out and highlighted without any blemish in the finish itself. I am the type of craftsman who will lose money on a project because I thought of a way to make it better, more unique, and add a detail that makes the piece even greater simply because I LOVE the challenge. I love my craft. My heart is in it and I simply cannot help doing the best that I can with every piece. I should be able to allow my pieces to speak for themselves. . . Right??

But I find myself struggling at the bottom of a technological well, screaming at the very top of my SEO voice, only to find that voice entirely lost in the easily overpowering expanse of information and feeling as completely insignificant and voiceless as a droplet of water. I have put my information on Etsy, Houzz, Custommade, etc. In every system, I lack the knowledge of how to push myself forward most effectively. I know that my listings come up buried under the mounds of those much more technologically savvy than myself (whose craftsmanship is not necessarily as advanced as my own). Am I the best furniture maker in the world? No. But I believe that I do have a significant gift, I KNOW that I have worked very hard to develop it. I would like to believe that my time would be better spent developing it further rather than sacrificing precious time to securing my delicate internet presence. Will the Google gods recognize this puny sacrifice as significant enough to grant my right to exist?

However, my frustration is that if I want to survive, I MUST spend my time screaming into the void and making my voice as loud as I can. Because in the end it doesn't matter how talented I am, how much time I spend agonizing over the details of a piece, how much attention I give to the joinery of piece to make sure that it is held together with a strength developed over thousands of generations of furniture makers. What matters is. . . .  can I yell louder than next guy. Have I sacrificed enough time and money to the gods of technology? Have I screamed loudly enough? Should I even try?