View Full Version : Income opportunities OT

02-02-2009, 10:39 AM
It is interesting to see the little niches of income opportunity people find to supplement their hobby. The old adage “build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door” came to mind recently when I needed a sparrow trap. An online search revealed several birding groups favored that one trap. Another instance in our Good Sam RV there is a guy that now lives in a condo and keeps his wood working equipment in a rental stall next to his RV. He makes the Joker game boards. It is surprising how many he sells at approximately $50. When the Fire Ants mover in this area several years ago a guy started casting bronze into their mound then cleaning it and selling as art. Several years ago there was a guy that advertised in the HSM. He sold 2” X 72” belt sanders or the castings for you to make your own. If something happened to my shop that would be one of the first items to be replaced. It would be hard to live without it now. I find these both interesting and inspiring. Several years ago I ordered some gunsmith fixtures from LaBounty. His comment when I told him that I was in Texas was that there must be an amateur gunsmith behind ever cactus in Texas based on how many of these he had shipped down here.

tony ennis
02-02-2009, 11:12 AM
There are a lot of opportunities like that. You just have to be willing to work for not much per hour. If you're supplementing your income, however, such things are ideal.

It is terribly difficult to make a wage working with your hands.

Liger Zero
02-02-2009, 11:32 AM
Some ideas, these make me money on the side.

I make custom fittings for a hydronic-heating outfit, turned out of PEX and PVC materials.

In the same vein, I make fittings for The World's Most Bitter Plumber.... that's what it says on his card.

Lately I've been raking it in making widgets for the various "robot leagues" around here. A shaft here, a small mounting plate there... Finally found something the Sherline is good at. :D

Various plastic bits and baubles for the Role Playing Game community. One thing in demand is custom game-pieces for the tabletop community, now that I can make balls-on-shafts these have become popular.

Along the same lines there is a subset of the Role-Playing-Game market, the tabletop war-gamers. Some of them make intricate molds by hand and cast ships, tanks, spacecraft, airplanes and whatnot... My buddy has been sending me some of his more flash-tastic creations for a quick trip through the mill for cleaning... I also drill holes in the bottom of some of these creations for display stands.

I learned how to bore and create internal cavities, this led to making some filter units for a winery and my big "recurring customer" Crazy Fishtank Lady. We make a line of ammonia-removing supplementary filters for those aquarium enthusiasts that are into catfish.

I make "security pins" out of steel for a maker of mid-level letter-sorting-and-postage-applying machines. These are turned to size and length and drilled on both ends... you expand them into the casing with a press and it leaves a helluva witness mark if you try to remove them. The critical part is the wall-thickness on the ends. :) I stole this contract from a former employer. Well, not really. I just happen to be "good" at making the pins... zero rejects over a six month period... and when I was downsized due to my age I contacted the customer and told him I could continue to make his pins at home on my lathe "if he wanted."


Now for the secret: Just let people know you have equipment and tell them that you charge a small fee for your work.

I also network through church, many members of our church have ideas of their own, as in "if I could get this made" or they know people who need stuff.

Also, former employers are a gold-mine of potential customers. All is fair in love and employment, no better way to "get back" at a ****ty employer than taking a contract away. :D

Plus, I advertise via LiveJournal and business cards hung at various diners, eating establishments, bars and "business directories" at town and village halls.

There is work out there if you want it. You have to go get it though, very rarely will the "big money" just wander into your shop uninvited.

brian Rupnow
02-02-2009, 11:39 AM
There are a lot of opportunities to make really good money to supplement an income from a "real" job, but ---There is not enough money in them to make it your full time job. Back in the 1970's when I was trying to raise a family and pay a mortgage on a draftsmans salary, I was only making about $400 a week. I was doing body repairs and painting cars at nights and on the weekends in my little attached garage, and clearing $200 a week after expenses. Of course, everyone said--why not give up engineering and paint cars full time. What they didn't realize was that if I had done that, I would have had to go "Legal", rent a proper shop with proper ventilation, install all kinds of safety related items, pay business tax---and on and on --and on. And the most money I could have made would still have been less than $600 a week, and would have had to compete with a dozen already well established professional paintshops.

02-02-2009, 11:45 AM
Yeah....and now, you'd be starving like the rest of the automotive industry, Brian.

02-02-2009, 11:52 AM
I retired from FoMoCo (toolmaker) at age 51. Big mistake on my part. I quickly became bored with fishing. I set up my shop in the back 1/3 of my pole barn, and put a sign out front advertising my machine shop. I also advertise in the local "shopper paper".
In this part of the country, (N.W. Missouri) most of my customers are local farmers. I usually get busy in the Spring, and late Fall. That is when my customers are in the fields, and they are breaking stuff. I have learned that when they need something fixed or replaced, they want it "yesterday".

One of the strangest jobs I have had was repairing a water pump pulley for a 1930's french made bulldozer. The pulley had worked its way loose and had chewed up the mounting hole. The fella needed it right away, as his bulldozer was sitting out in the woods broke down, and he wanted to get it out of there before the rifle deer season opened up. He was afraid some damn fool would use it for target practice. He was very grateful that he had the part back in his hands the following day. He told a lot of his buddies about the quick repair, and the word of mouth has definitely helped my business. I have made quite a few replacement shafts for combines, and various other pieces of farm equipment that are very old, and sometimes impossible to find parts for.

I don't make a lot of money, but the revenue from the business usually pays for my own projects, and of course the tax breaks are pretty good.

If you want to make a little extra money, a "one man shop" is a good way to do it.

brian Rupnow
02-02-2009, 11:53 AM
Yeah....and now, you'd be starving like the rest of the automotive industry, Brian.

True---but right now in the middle of this horrible economy everybody is so terrified of spending any money that there isn't a whole lot of prototype machine and automation development happening either. Only good thing is I'm older now, everything I have is paid for, and my wife has a high paying government job!!!:D :D

Frank Ford
02-02-2009, 11:54 AM
It is terribly difficult to make a wage working with your hands.

Indeed it is, what with all the difficulties of self-employment. I'm starting my fortieth year, and some of them have been extraordinarily rough going.

But, I'm still at it, and still working six or seven days a week, if you count the home shop stuff I do for money. Because my home shop is supposed to be for fun time, any "paying" jobs I take on I insist that I make real professional rate. Stuff I do for pals is free.

Currently I make and sell (through distributors) four little tools:

A Fret Filling Jig (http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts.asp?CategoryName=Fretting&NameProdHeader=Fret+Tang+Removal+Tool) Lots of operations on this one, so it's a bit too expensive. They do sell regularly, though.

Two Modified Pliers (http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts.asp?CategoryName=Fretting&NameProdHeader=Fret+Tang+Expander%2C+Fret+Tang+Com pressor) Made entirely with my 1x42 belt sander, these things are a real money maker. Sold hundreds.

JACK the GRIPPER (http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts.asp?CategoryName=Specialty+Tools&NameProdHeader=Jack+the+Gripper) Only a year old, I think Jack is likely to be the winner. He's useful for anyone with an electric guitar. I'm pretty much fixtured to the hilt for this product, and it takes me a taste under seven and a half minutes (I'm VERY good a timing my work) to make and assemble the jack gripper and wrench, working in batches of 250-500. In that time I manage to knurl, turn, heat treat, mill, drill, debur - all good exercises, you know.

Liger Zero
02-02-2009, 12:08 PM
Depending on what I'm working on I bring in about $250 extra after expenses. Now that I have a grinder here "in house" I don't have to pay someone to sharpen/make bits for me.

02-02-2009, 12:56 PM
Right now, I am making the machined extruder parts kits for the Reprap (http://www.reprap.org) project. I saw somebody mention the Reprap, on this site, and checked it out. I immediately noticed that they need some machined parts so I offered to make parts kits. After buying some extra tooling, making some fixtures, and working out a few other details with the more experienced Reprap people (i.e. The plans on the website are out-of-date.), I started making parts kits and selling them. After the first batch of orders, I am selling about one kit a week.



02-02-2009, 01:22 PM
excellent thread in the shop owners forum on practical machinist, our own Torker posted there also http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/showthread.php?t=170955

02-02-2009, 05:16 PM
I make custom fittings for a hydronic-heating outfit, turned out of PEX and PVC materials.

In the same vein, I make fittings for The World's Most Bitter Plumber.... that's what it says on his card.

That's really interesting. I guess I just assumed that most any fitting they might need is out there someplace. I'm not a plumber or heating guy, but I've done lots of that work and worked with/for such folks quite a bit over the years. I've never seen one of them even imagine that they could get a custom fitting.

Maybe I only know the unimaginative guys. Just curious what sort of fittings these guys come to you for. Would you care to show an example or two, if you can with out revealing any "trade secrets"?

Another great thread, BTW.


02-02-2009, 05:21 PM
If you get around any radio controlled car or airplane enthusiasts, you will find that they always need specialty items. THe gas car guys are always needing stuff to mount engines, couple unlike shafts and make fixtures for things. My son could keep me busy 20 hours a week with his "little car" projects. :D