View Full Version : Is your shop for fun or profit?

08-23-2010, 01:54 AM
I just spent nearly my entire weekend in the shop finishing up a hot job for a customer.
What started out as my little hobby shop to entertain myself and make some doo-dads, has taken on a life of it's own.
It's turned itself into a business, right before my eyes.
I started out a year ago making 1 part here, 2 parts there.... then it snowballed.
Now I'm getting orders of: 15 of these, 20 of those, 10 of those, 12 more of that, and so-and-so.
90% of my time in the little 'hobby' shop, is now purely for profit.
Any of you guys in the same boat?
Or are you still enjoying the freedom of playing with your toys?

08-23-2010, 07:18 AM
Same thing for me... But after my 8hours regular job, I sometime get tired!!


08-23-2010, 10:51 AM
I'd love to make a little money on the side by making things people are looking for but at the same time I don't want to turn something I have fun doing into something that I have to do every night. I hve felt the same about my photography. People keep telling me to sell my nature shots and I won't because I want it stay something that is fun for me to do, not something that I have to do.

Part of me would be really proud to have people want the things I make though. Once I get into making stuff instead of improving/adding to the machines we will see where it takes me.

08-23-2010, 11:04 AM
I sell stuff out of the shop and would like to do more. I think it adds to the fun, personally. I just have to find some more unique things I could make in what spare time is available.

Same with our photography - we sell our racing pics and it for sure does not take away any of the fun. Shooting has paid for over $4000 in equipment. Shot over 12,000 pics last year. Shots and sales are way down this year as the economy has really hurt grass roots drag racing. Picture sales are practically zero, actually.

08-23-2010, 11:48 AM
my shop was put together just for hobby use, but i have started making some things that i sell and i do custom stuff for people every once in a while. I usually enjoy doing the small stuff like that and it helps pay for new tools and more materials to make more stuff.

Herm Williams
08-23-2010, 12:11 PM
I limit myself, if it is a challenge then I might spend more time but I limit myself to three or four hours a day. I don't watch tv since it has gone to talking heads or should I say empty heads that can only read a propter.
I generly have four or five little jobs in process.
as my friend says, "its great to do what you enjoy and get paid for it".

08-23-2010, 12:32 PM
Fun only. And a heck of a lot of that I might add. :D

Steve Seebold
08-23-2010, 12:43 PM
I retired 3 years ago and now I have 2 Dyna-Mite 2400's in my garage that I started out using for my hobbies.

I race remote control gas boats and I make all my own running gear. When I make one for me, I make 25 more to sell. I support the hobby that way.

Word has gotten out that I have small machines and now some of my old customers have found me.

I call myself MidDay Machining. I never start before 11:00 AM and I'm always finished by 5:00 PM. If you can live with that, I'll do your work, if not, oh well.

I have a 37 inch TV with a DVD player in the garage that I also use as a computer monitor ( I like my Law & Order reruns). I will NEVER take a job at 4:00 PM that you need at 8:00 AM. And if I have a good movie, I don't much done.

I use my machines mostly for hobby use, but I have one customer who has a job that I get to run 4 to 5 times a year and I actually make pretty good money on it.

I don't look for work, it just seems to find me. All of my neighbors know I have the machines, but I tell them my rate it $75.00 an hour.

08-23-2010, 12:48 PM
Profit and as a means to an end,usually resulting in more profit.Mucho enjoyment having a streamlined shop.So even if some project isn't a payin gig it sure is nice to get it in and out as quickly/efficiently as possible.When things slow down we pick an area where shop may be lacking and work on that aspect.Or if theres a pc of equip "taking up space",it'll get rehabbed asap and put to work.Constantly working on "flow",even if a pc just got moved.......if it works better because of whatever reason down the line a bit,it'll get relocated.BW

08-23-2010, 12:59 PM
fun, but it has paid for itself and sustains itself; making the odd item, buying and selling, etc....no real money is involved as in a living, but its actually kind of fun, like a bit of a game, seeing if can trade up and earn enough to build the shop's capabilities without throwing cash at it. Even my recent servo package purchase, which was up there with the most money I've ever spent at one time, came from an paypal account made of stuff I've ebayed. Gives me domestic virtue, "its not costing any money" :D

Your Old Dog
08-23-2010, 01:22 PM
Mine is for fun but so far I am only having a blast! If I knew what I was doing or could hold .1" I might be a candidate for a machinist :D

Video Man
08-23-2010, 01:25 PM
My shop is just for fun --- my little suburban town has a bee in it's bonnet about zoning and permits. They busted a little old lady for giving piano lessons in her house for running an unlicensed business....have "code compliance" cars crusing all over...like living in a 3rd world dictatorship....:mad:

Frank Ford
08-23-2010, 02:04 PM
Jeez, I've always been self-employed, and it's been a right smart while since I lost the distinction between "on-the-job" and "off."

My idea of having fun in my shop is making tools, parts, and gizmos, along with making tools to make tools, parts and gizmos - all in support of my main interest at work, namely stringed instrument restoration. Retirement will come when I can't stand at the bench any more.

Some friends and relatives think I'm basically nutz. They are, of course, correct.

Hey, here's my latest "product" I sell for $$ - some steel horseshoe magnets for reproductions of the classic 1930 Rickenbacher pickup as used on this great old Bakelite steel guitar:


I make the horseshoes for Jason Lollar in Washington, who makes the pickups:


Fun stuff - you bet!

08-23-2010, 02:15 PM
LOL...mine better be for fun, 'cause it sure doesn't earn a profit. I do make some items to keep my regular business equipment running.

Mad Scientist
08-23-2010, 02:38 PM
I use my shop for both fun and profit.

My shop is just for fun --- my little suburban town has a bee in it's bonnet about zoning and permits.

In situations like this, one just needs to be creative. Like gee officer I'm not being paid to teach they are just using my piano to "practice". Of course donation to help keep the piano in tune will be accepted. :)

Bob D.
08-23-2010, 03:09 PM
For me, it's strictly fun. But on occasion I will help out a friend when they need a little part made for some obscure project or other. If I don't have the necessary tooling, it's on them to furnish it... I never charge a friend for a job, hey- friends help each other, right? And so far (knock wood) no one has ever tried to take advantage...

One buddy flies RC helicopters and frequently asked me to make a rather simple part. It would entail a week or 2 turnaround because of our conflicting schedules. No joy for either of us, so I bought him a cheapo $50 tabletop drill press and taught him to do it himself. We're both happier now. His last project requires some tooling I don't have and he cheerfully bought it for me ($275!).

08-23-2010, 03:26 PM
it's always been for profit for fun. If that makes sense. Originally it was making parts to sell, to upgrade the shop to what I wanted. Unfortunately, what I wanted has grown.

With that comes vacations where I spend my time designing fixtures, or drawing up plans, or web site programming. Frankly, it blows.

Thankfully, in my "freetime" I have a paying job. I am a veterinary technician. I really enjoy my job, so it gives me the emotional satisfaction, and it doesn't feel like work. Then i can come home to "work".

oil mac
08-23-2010, 07:35 PM
It is said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" The same may be said of all the nice or intresting things we make in our home shops, Some guys get a lot of fun making things as a buisiness or a part time occupation, others dont make anything for hire or reward, Me i am now in the latter catagory, dont do anything for profit, In fact dont do anything for anyone else nowadays, except for on the rare occasions one very good friend who is a model engineer, and the favour is reciprocal,
Used to get hassled to death with people wanting "home jobs" It is the easiest thing in the world to tell them you dont do anything for anyone else nowadays, After the first one is sent packing with a flea in his ear It becomes second nature to continue "The dissapointing game:eek:
Sadly the same went for my local model engineering club some 20 years ago, I carried out some nice work for them, and the appreciation was zilch, plus certain persons griping, Sorry can live without them
To sum up at my age now, the first priority is getting through my own projects, But if doing work as a little buisiness venture is somebody elses forte, and they get fun, more power to their elbow, Having fun, that is what it is all about
What after all that diatribe i am sorting something for my church at present, Broken my cardinal rule:eek: :confused:

Liger Zero
08-23-2010, 08:57 PM
Profit. But when it stops being fun it's time to sell and retire.

08-23-2010, 09:05 PM
Strictly fun.

I've accepted compensation for a job once in 25 years.

Lotsa toys though...

08-23-2010, 09:17 PM
I mostly just do my own stuff, but like most of you some stuff finds it's way to me from time to time. For me I am usually returning or doing a favor or just helping out someone who really needs help. Occasionally get a few bucks that I buy a tool or something with.

A story:
A couple of years ago, I dropped my van off at the local repair place to get an inspection sticker. While I was there one of the mechanics ran out, showed me a couple of parts, and asked if I could make him a couple of metal bushings to fit those parts, which were from some motorcycle he was building. So I walked home, measured up the parts, found some odd steel stock I had and turned up two bushings. Simple. After a while, I walked back to the garage, gave the parts to the mechanic. He was thrilled and most appreciative. Went out back, got my van and then went into the office to pay for my sticker. Went up to the counter, and the owner gave me my paperwork and told me that the mechanic guy had paid for my sticker. Very nice, though unexpected. Got home and told my wife. She smiled and said: "Wow, you fill up your garage with 10,000 dollars worth of stuff and you scored a $29.00 sticker. Shrewd operator you are!!"

She was only kidding, and generally appreciates my "stuff", but boy she can throw a zinger when she is of a mind to.

08-23-2010, 09:41 PM
I've done jobs at cost-plus for my company or folks I'm helping on a consulting basis in the high-tech sector, generally because doing the job myself represents an opportunity to learn some new stuff on the way to getting something done that will make my life easier at work.

On a few occasions, I've provided services for compensation which includes margin above material & tooling costs -- but it's WAY less than the rates I charge for my time professionally, so I won't be switching careers anytime soon.

That said, I would love to get into rebuilding and restoring heavy-duty mills and lathes, and from there progress to designing and installing modern controls on such gear. I think a Cincinnati #2 vertical with a 3-axis DRO and a non-intrusive CNC option would be freaking awesome, for example.


08-23-2010, 09:41 PM
My shop is for fun and profit. When I'm working on a project, I'm having fun...but, at the same time, it's keeping me busy so I don't go spending my hard earned cash on something stupid.

08-23-2010, 10:12 PM
I've only been at this about a year or so, stricktly for fun but I find myself doing simple jobs for friends. It's nice to be able to help a buddy from time to time.

08-23-2010, 10:20 PM
I made some live steam train car wheels and axles for 1" scale that I sold on ebay for 25$ simply because I thought they were junk. The buyer thought my machining was excellent... Go figure.

08-23-2010, 10:41 PM
my shop is for both fun and profit ,

08-23-2010, 10:46 PM
She smiled and said: "Wow, you fill up your garage with 10,000 dollars worth of stuff and you scored a $29.00 sticker. Shrewd operator you are!!"
Are our wives related? :confused:

08-23-2010, 11:03 PM
Fun - trying to turn a profit would take some of the fun out of it for me.

08-23-2010, 11:13 PM
The odd nick nack once and awhile pays for more tooling does that count?

I'm not being greedy am I?:D

08-23-2010, 11:14 PM
Now I'm getting orders of: 15 of these, 20 of those, 10 of those, 12 more of that, and so-and-so.
90% of my time in the little 'hobby' shop, is now purely for profit.
Any of you guys in the same boat?
Or are you still enjoying the freedom of playing with your toys?

Just remember,if your getting every job you bid,your bidding too cheap;)

08-24-2010, 12:17 AM
99% of what i do is for me. for fun. because i can. i will do a job for a friend if the "for hire" shops are closed for the weekend. i have turned a few welded up shafts to fit a bearing until they could get a replacement ordered on monday but generally i wont do deadlines. i bought these machines for fun and someone breathing down my neck is no fun.

08-24-2010, 12:20 AM
Mostly for fun.
But the nickel and dime jobs do help pay for more tooling.
More tooling means more fun. :D

08-24-2010, 01:14 AM
Even though it's for my business, I get so much enjoyment out of it. So I guess that it's really for fun.....and profit. I'm one of the lucky ones who loves their work.

08-24-2010, 02:11 AM
My shop is for fun, I make cool things for guys who need trick stuff but otherwise I make toys and fun stuff.

this thread would be a good one to have a poll.

08-24-2010, 02:32 AM
Neither. Mine is a learning center.

08-24-2010, 02:32 AM

Sometime I get "paid" in beer and cookies...;)

08-24-2010, 03:12 AM
Fun... never profit, though "saving money" by doing it myself is sometimes trotted out as justification. See Honey, I can fix the Neon without having to even buy parts :) --- just because the amount I've invested in the shop could probably buy a new Beemer doesn't really count, does it?

I've actually been grooming the wife lately... it's not a shop, it's a collection. Some people collect stamps, I know this one guy that collects petrified shark's teeth... I collect tools. At least I have the possibility of maybe someday doing something practical with my tools... that's more than the shark-tooth guy can say. Besides, collecting drill bits and carbide is more manly than, say, a Starwars figurine collection. At least I can drill a hole when I want to, after I decide which one of the 26 different hole-drilling tools to use :)

Put another way, there's 2 guys I know. One is the kind of guy that has a little toolbox with a few bits of junk. He does whatever his wife tells him... renovates the he$$ out of everywhere they ever lived. Borrows, rents, or makes due without the tooling he needs for that job. The other guy is like me, or what I aspire to be (well, he's dead now, I'll hold off on that bit as long as I can)... Anyway, he has/had walls full of tools in his shop, died with 5 different routers, 2 lathes, mill, 3 drillpresses, on and on and on. Everything perfectly organised in custom cabinets. As his son put it, everything has it's place and EVERY place has it's thing. A full basement and a garage just packed. When he had a boat, it had inlaid floors and custom cabinets. But, the guy couldn't lay a tile floor if his life depended on it. His wife gave up asking because the guy couldn't do anything around the house. But, man that shop was beautiful. Smart guy. Of those two guys... I know which I'd rather be. My shop is useless, but fun.

And, if my wife persists on arguing about it, I still have my backup justification... my shop is a money-sink so that I can't afford to drink.

08-24-2010, 04:44 AM
My shop, or STUDIO as i like to call it, is mostly for fun.

I can't say I have never made a dime from my tools, but mostly I just have it in my blood and can't seem to get it out. Not that I am trying.

I did tool and die for 28 years. Retired 4 years ago and started to miss making chips.

I had bought a few machines before I retired but after I retired, I had the time to make things come together. Tool things up.

Now, I will do a job as more of a favor than for pay.

I did some work on a bike rack/hitch assembly that a hitch shop screwed up an left my friends bicycles laying in the street.

My friends girlfriend commented that she thought I could make pretty good money if I did this stuff for a business.

I told her I didn't want to be tied down to deadlines and schedules unless I need to.

Right now I don't need to.


Weston Bye
08-24-2010, 07:18 AM
I write a regular column in Digital Machinist. The proceeds from that work pays for all the shop expenses, buys minor machinery, and a little goes into the bank. I try to run a frugal shop. The regular nature of the column and fixed deadlines means that I get to set aside time for the shop and avoid certain tedious social engagements. Although most of my shop time is taken for preparation of articles for the magazine, I do other projects as well. Fun or profit? Both!