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Davek0974
10-10-2014, 10:43 AM
I am trying to increase the size of my home micro business by adding a few new items and ideas etc. I make garden ironwork, house name plaques and so on.

Since building my small CNC plasma table, my ideas have got bigger and better and I have made some lovely work on it.

This got me to looking at my pricing, currently just going on stock costs and pulling the rest out of the air as I go along.

I have a spreadsheet that works out pricing for plasma stuff based on material+50%, number of pierces and distance cut but when trying to find sensible numbers to fill it in with I also sent a sample file out to a couple of pro shops for a quote to see where I stand.

The first one to return was for less than I could get the steel sheet for alone, before any cutting or finishing etc, the second was even lower by a large amount:confused:.

I can not get full sheets of steel, too big, too heavy so I get them cut to fit my machine which is a 1/8 sheet size or longer with indexing.

How do you find your prices stack up against others?

Am I doing something wrong or just looking in the wrong area??

Any tips?

Thanks




For your information, a sheet of 625x625mm 4mm HRS I pay £27ea inc vat and delivery to me if I order 8 pieces, the quotes for the part I sent were £24 ea and £17 ea - both including the plasma cutting and delivery, this makes my price about double the rate, which might explain why i am not overloaded with orders;)

I had a chat with the steel stockholders and even if I ordered 50 625x625mm sheets, it would only drop to £18.70ea and would take me years to use up.

loose nut
10-10-2014, 10:52 AM
Yours is a common problem. My friend did similar work, garden decor etc. and finally went out of business because stores where selling the same type of goods cheaper then he could buy the steel he used. It all comes down to large scale production quantity costs (China these days) vs small lot buying. You can't compete with that. The only way to survive is to make goods that are not available elsewhere or do high quality work, that Joe average can't afford, that will draw high end customers . Become a artist working in metal.

Old Hat
10-10-2014, 10:59 AM
Can't speak for other areas, but around here in Milwaukee we have out-fits that help each other
and others that would jump on any opportunity to destroy all competician.

Among the guys with the white hats, are a few that will use each/other's resources and strong points
to advantage, like shared buy~ing, or storing a portion of an order, in exchange for say
high~end cad-cam pathing etc. etc.

The secret is to make and nurture as many good connections as you can in your transactions.
I've even worked in a small tool & mold shop that traded personel as needed on difficult molds,
or machine-time, or the other outfit has a much better dock, facillitating a better trucking situation.

Perhaps you can find a white-hat opperation that has a need, you can bolster up,
in exchage for help with your challenges. Incredibly valuable and rewarding relationships
can grow out of these things.
Phil

DR
10-10-2014, 11:27 AM
A friend does similar work as the OP. He has the same problems of larger shops eating him up on pricing. There's really no way a home built plasma can compete with industrial grade machines and the larger shops buying power.

What he did as a solution was to not compete at the same level as the big guys. He added other services like bending, machining, welding, etc, etc. In other words, follow on process services the bigger shops didn't offer to their customers.

Toolguy
10-10-2014, 01:46 PM
What I did was to find a niche or 2 that aren't too crowded and market to that group. My main business is making prototypes of new inventions. I also make production tooling for other local shops and have developed my own line of shooting accessories for those who shoot in competitions. A good field is sports or hobbies. One company is now doing well making paintball guns and equipment. Some are making model engines and other models for sale.

Find something you can do well that has a large group of other people involved and sell to them.

Paul Alciatore
10-10-2014, 01:51 PM
I have to agree with loose nut. In a small shop you can NOT compete with large shops/companies or the Chinese. The biggies have a railroad siding which was paid for 50 years ago and they get materials by the box car or flat car full. Forget wholesale prices, they get factory prices and they probably beat the heck out of the factory for the privilege of supplying them. It is surprising how much leverage you can have if you buy millions of dollars of anything each year. And they have the equipment to handle it and to cut it into smaller pieces ECONOMICALLY. It is all in their favor.

As loose nut says, you need to make something that is NOT AVAILABLE elsewhere or that is significantly higher quality or has snob appeal. Smaller market, but it can be yours, not theirs. If you do develop a product that interests the biggies, then be prepared to lose the business when they get geared up to make it. And move on to the next product because legal actions are too expensive to worry about. I look for products that are somewhat limited so the biggies are not tempted to copy them.

Forget patents unless it is a billion dollar item as they have lawyers on staff and you have shallow pockets. They will wear you down.

RussZHC
10-10-2014, 02:03 PM
What loose nut and Paul said, regardless how nice it is or that it is hand made (and so each one is one of one, to some degree) something like your wall brackets are going to be like or very similar to...10 000s but you could make a version that is very much more complex or special for each individual but then the concern becomes how large a market is that going to be where you are at or how far afield can you go looking to get more clients?

The guy I get most of my steel from dabbles with custom stuff since there are periods of each month that are "down", one of his more recent projects was a trap door for a custom built home owner who wanted access to a lower level but did not want a traditional set of stairs, I guess from a safety/legal standpoint, this trap door had to be a certain way, size, load carrying etc. etc. it turned out well but, more to your question, how many of those are there going to be? He has also made very elaborate features of a water garden, but again, that is one of one. Great if you have time to spend looking and working with those one off clients, great from an artistic and design stand point but very time consuming, hourly rates often end up pretty low...

Locally there was a period of history where a lot of homes had wrought iron work of some sort, fencing, gates, light posts that sort of thing but who builds like that anymore? If someone here wanted to do that, I suspect they would have to get nearly 100% of all that sort of work each and every year since so few want that expense anymore. A homeowner wanting a big fancy driveway gate here is very unlikely to find someone whose business that is but is going to have to spend time trying to coerce a welding shop to take on the task (and likely loose money) or leave it to the home builder who will then have to do the same thing (lots of money to find someone who is maybe capable but more, willing)

Davek0974
10-10-2014, 02:46 PM
Thanks all, some excellent suggestions as expected :)

Ok, so forgetting about what the "big boys" can do, what I need is a good pricing model or strategy for plasma work. As I said, I have a spreadsheet that works out pricing for plasma stuff based on material+50%, number of pierces and distance cut but is that a "sensible" model?

Should you charge markup on materials or use a higher price for the actual cuts and only cost on materials? Or do it all at cost then add a markup on the whole sum?

I like the idea of charging as per the spreadsheet as that seems to make some sense but could be a bit too heavy?

So it's basically some suggestions on pricing models I guess?


Btw, over the pond, how much would you pay for a full sheet of 4mm HRS (2500x1250mm) just for interest.

elf
10-10-2014, 03:12 PM
It sounds like 50% is a magic number (It's just made up). What you need to do is create an accurate accounting of your costs, including time, material, % of mortgage costs, insurance, depreciation, etc.

ironmonger
10-10-2014, 03:47 PM
At a blacksmith conference a number of years ago, the question came up on how much to charge.

The smith that was putting on the Q&A session told us this:

"You first off have to deicide how much money you want to earn in a year. Add all your expenses, not only business related, because when you are self employed there is little distinction between personal expenses and business cost.
Figure all your insurance, your phone bills, internet access, car payments, food... everything.

When you arrive at that number, divide it by 1000, which is likely the number of available yearly hours you will have available for production in a one man shop. That will be the minimum that you can charge per hour to survive. Donít forget to figure your taxes in there..."

As this will be a figure that is likely to be much higher than the cost that items can be purchased for at mass marketers, you will need to cultivate clients that want the hand made items that you can produce.

In the case of blacksmiths for instance, we have work that primarily falls into three classes, Traditional, using only hand powered or turn of the century processes, traditional appearing, in which modern methods are used but they are cunningly disguised, and fabrication, in which no effort is made to conceal the construction method. There is nor inherent difference in value except in the eye of the purchaser. The ethical part is not to miss-represent your work. The high end stuff is what people pay more for.

You have the ability to act quickly on requests for custom work and you may find this is the only type of market that is going to be profitable in the long run. As Black Forest has said " It's easy to become a millionaire, start with 10 million dollars and start a business."

You can mark up the material, but the metal cost is usually going to be a small part of the final cost in crafty type stuff, so even doubling the cost will not have much impact.

The price of the plate you mentioned works out to about 440 dollars at out 'Metal mart' type store

paul

Rosco-P
10-10-2014, 04:20 PM
Even big businesses go under when they fail to account for all costs. Could be some of your local competition are doing exactly that or they are getting a huge break on materials and passing that along, just to get the business. It may seem like a simple answer to say, "Stick to unique products and the type of service a big company can't or won't offer.", but that's part of being a niche business.

Black Forest
10-10-2014, 05:12 PM
deleted

BigSpike
10-10-2014, 06:37 PM
What do the "pro shops" near you do? Not do?
What is their lead time?
What are they charging for the design work if a customer walks in with a pencil sketch?
If a "pro shop" quotes the work you are doing at less than your costs for materials, consider having them do it for you. Value add to that work by grinding, deburring or such.
Think out of the box, talk to farmers, mechanics, builders, hobby machinists & welders in your area. Take a variety of examples to car boot sales. Once stimulated by the availability, many people have an idea they want to make. Very few have the ability to cut out the parts from large thick sheets of metal.
Partner up with a hobby machinist in producing some sort of kit.

The key is to know the per inch cost to operate, maintain and replace the equipment. Including computers, software, ventilation, heating & cooling, transportation, insurance, taxes, etc. Your labor for fabrication is keyed to the per inch costs. This includes traverse times, loading & unloading, pre & post processing. Design work is more difficult to quantify. How quickly can you turn a pencil sketch into G-code? Is your software adequate, comparable to pro shops; or is it cumbersome, slow, lacking features? What about client consultation?

Be sure to print up some contact cards. Your number on a napkin or scrap of paper is too quickly lost. I had one woman call me almost 5 years after I gave her my card.

service, added value, accessibility; those are the keys

Mtw fdu
10-10-2014, 06:57 PM
Dave

I wok for myself doing pretty much what you do...small ornamental ironwork. In addition to that I also do welding and machining and when I get my plasma up and running (which will not be all that long - maybe a week at tops) I will use that as well.

I spoke to a place where I use to work and asked them what are there pricing details and it was surprising cheap. However, the work I do and the people I cater for are the low income people that can't really afford the qualified people to do stuff. In other words if a bigger machine shop said no to someone who wants a small part welded or machined (in which the setting up time is longer than the job itself) they probably refused to do it. I do the quick welds, make a small part by machining and I do not charge any setting up time. I pretty much make a price at the time of the job. For example, I could do say a 1 weld job for 3 different people but the price would never be the same. In addition to this, extremely low income people and people who are pensioners I do not charge labour at all. If someone wanted a 1 or 2 weld job I would do it and not charge them at all. When I do this I do have a very long customer list who keep coming back time after time and the people who pay what I ask have no questions at all with my pricing. In addition to this, 1 person may come back 3 or 4 times with a quick welding job and that too would never be the same price as the previous time. Everyone I cater for are very happy with the service I provide. I could even do small jobs all day long and make some good money, and other times do the same and make not much at all. In the end it all "evens" out at the end of the day.

Word has got out about what I do and with the "word of mouth" thing I have got going has been really good for me. I do however have a "normal" job which I work in a winery for the vintage season which for me take up about 8 months of the year. The other time I work for myself (even when I am doing vintage work) and it keeps me in front financially when the work is not there.

Hope this helps in some way.

Mtw fdu.

boslab
10-10-2014, 07:38 PM
I think I might have the solution, plasma cutting isn't expensive neither is laser or water jet, therein lies the problem, selling the service won't make any money, period.
However selling a product that includes any of the above will, as was once told doing some work for a firm making combs and dog leads ( diverse!) if you don't make something you won't make nothing.
You need a product, a physical entity you can sell, just selling cutting won't cut it (pun is painfully apparent )
Think of a product, then make it, whether it needs plasma cutting or not is irrelevant, having the ability to do so is useful, but not vital, it's like having a trowel, what can I build?, the answer is anything.
Last pile of metal I sold was builders profiles, easy to make, just 40 mm tube some turnbuckles and bingo as it were.
Another batch to do time permitting, retooling after burglary takes a bit of effort, avoid farm gates! You will never be able to make them cheaper than they are available, but saddle racks are good, I found they sell better in stainless!
Mark

mike4
10-10-2014, 08:21 PM
625 mm x 625 mm,is not very big and as you have a plasma cutter , make the torch detachable , buy 1/2 of a sheet of steel and cut it up yourself , the savings would amaze you , the pieces would then be able to be stored inside off the floor and used as required.

I do similar with bar and flat stock , sometimes buying other shops left overs from big jobs when short pieces are all that I need to machine a single part to replace something that is no longer made by the OEM.

You will end up with a lot of short lengths which you will be able to incorporate into projects for customers .

If you want to really build your business , you will need to sell your products , get yourself to craft fairs , boot sales as has been suggested , as unless you already have a lot of connections them your potential customers wont know that you exist and have no idea of what you could make for them.

Most businesses when starting are a gamble and you will only get out of it what you put in , unfortunately many people dont know how to push themselves into working at building their business , there are a lot of people who thing that once you have a business name the money will just roll through the door into your bank account , its usually the other way for quite a few years .

Michael

Kenlew
10-10-2014, 09:07 PM
I would calculate no# of plaques/sheet & divide sheet cost across plaques. Then determine machine time per plaque and assign cost/plaque. Calculate total overhead costs per year and divide by estimated no# of plaques/year. Add material cost+ machining cost + overhead cost to determine your true total cost. Make sure and capture everything. Take your total cost and add profit to determine selling cost. Review shipping costs as many overlook the cost of packaging & shipping.

vpt
10-10-2014, 09:52 PM
I promote most of my work as "Custom work" which means it can't be had anywhere else to my customers. Every piece is unique for that customer (usually something involving their name).

Mtw fdu
10-10-2014, 11:58 PM
I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I also do automotive engineering. I started off doing panel work and then when my workshop filled up with too many tools and actually less working space I decided to change to the small plates etc for brackets and mounts. Hence now the reason for a plasma table which will be good when you need 20 things exactly the same no matter what vehicle they will be on.

The plasma will also be good when I do the odd large production run of parts needed.

Mtw fdu.

Davek0974
10-11-2014, 05:38 AM
Thanks all, some hard-hitting and informative stuff there.

The torch is detachable but having checked the difference in a flat sheet compared to my cut sheets, the charge for shearing it is pretty minimal, not worth the aggro of shifting and storing big stuff.

Yes it is/was a home hobby that I run as a micro business, I pay tax when needed, NI contributions as I'm over the exempt limit, I have a family member that is an accountant who does my tax returns so it's more than a hobby.

I am not looking to punt for commercial work etc, what I am trying to do is build up a small catalogue of stuff that I can make as and when needed simply to supplement the income and also because I enjoy beating the crap out of metal, whether it's by hand or a plasma cutter or hacksaw. Having the plasma table has increased what I can do to being limited by my imagination which is good.

It's the pricing structure I need, and there are suggestions here that should help me out now, need to sit down with a calculator and see what each job really costs to make and go from there..

One day it might overtake the day job, it's certainly more fun, but even if it never does, it's another weapon in my armoury in case the day job goes.

Old Hat
10-11-2014, 07:25 AM
One day it might overtake the day job, it's certainly more fun, but even if it never does,
it's another weapon in my armoury in case the day job goes.
+1

What a Cool way to look at it!

John Stevenson
10-11-2014, 07:44 AM
One day it might overtake the day job, it's certainly more fun, but even if it never does, it's another weapon in my armoury in case the day job goes.

This is exactly how my small business started.
I was running a hobby shop alongside the truck business and when we decided to pull the plug on the truck business because lease hire was killing us it was an easy step to crank it up a notch and take up the slack.

Not saying it was all easy sailing, we had a spell where mortgage rates hit 15% in the UK and that made for 'interesting' times.

Very early on I realised that there was no way I could compete with the big boys so specialised from day 3. Built some small interesting machines that no one else wanted at the price I could do them because of low overheads.
What you have to do is to come up with a product, make it and flood the market, then move on when others step in. Forget patents, the thru put isn't great enough to feed bottom feeders.

I also used to make unique gear for Gert to sell on Ebay and she did well out of that. Since she died earlier this year that has been frozen but I have plans to take a helper on board to resurrect this.

In the interim I have come up with about another 10 lines that will sell well in limited quantities but these are relatively high value items so worth it. My helper also has some ideas and products.

In the meanwhile the emergency repair business is doing well, very well in fact. Since trying to downsize on work and customers it's made me realise just how much a niche market this is. One good point though on this work is it has a local base so anyone doing what I do 40 miles away is never a threat.

I have come to the conclusion that it's last dinosaur standing.




One day it might overtake the day job, it's certainly more fun, but even if it never does, it's another weapon in my armoury in case the day job goes.

In my case after seeing how illness laid up Gert for a long while but with her business plan as long as she had someone to do the running for her she was able to carry on.
I also have a plan to carry on even if I finish up in a wheelchair. Even if I can't make the parts and work the machines I still have the knowledge and knowledge is valuable. You never give up, things move on.

When I first started up commercially about 75% of my work was for the local woodworking industry, today it probably 5%.
Then the laser sub contract work took over and again this must have been 75% but once the new lasers came out that could pierce and put small holes in as opposed to drilling that work went literally overnight. Now the laser work accounts for 0%
Then ink machines took over, again flooded the market and they no longer exist but other companies filled the void.

Never be frightened of change but always have an idea in the wings.

Currently the Chinese account for probably 40% of my work on R&D, soon I know this will die but I will move on again, the idea's are already there.

RussZHC
10-11-2014, 08:02 AM
Based on the "unique" product idea, one detail you may want to consider in your pricing model, is when do you farm stuff out? and then, as previously posted by others, add value to it.

What I mean is there will be a minimum charge so you are not out of pocket (cutting that single odd piece with the plasma say) but if you get an order that is time sensitive which you may not be able to meet by yourself or such a large order the volume overwhelms, the pricing will be different.

I guess part of what I am trying to say is there is "unique" as in each one is individual (names spring to mind) or there is "unique" as in a special product no one else provides/makes but which could sell well in multiple numbers.

Rosco-P
10-11-2014, 09:45 AM
Sir John, where do jobs like producing change gear sets for obsolete lathes (Myford?), fall into this? In the general timeline I mean.

loose nut
10-11-2014, 11:55 AM
The best piece of advise, that I have heard, about running a small custom work company, no matter what it is, is to never sell a product or do a job that looses you money. You gain nothing and loose ever time. If someone asks you to lower your price to a point where it is uneconomical to do the job because he can get it cheaper somewhere else, then tell them to go get it there. Making something to sell, at a lose, is the same. Why do the work if you are going to loose on the deal.

John Stevenson
10-11-2014, 11:56 AM
Rosco,
Hopefully I am slowly stocking up and will reopen Gerts old web site around Christmas time or late January [ January is busy for me, away for a week or so and tax and VAT month ] even February.
I had decided to steer clear of Ebay because of rising fees, now around 20% here and the fact the buyer can make any excuse [ and they do ] to claw money back and you have hardly any redress.

The Myford change gears are a unique classic example as I only do 4 gears, 21 tooth which on the ML7 are the metric transposition gears, 20 T which are standard but being the smallest standard gear they get some wear and being at 14 1/2 degree pressure angle they do wear bad. The ones I do are still 20 teeth but cut on a 21 tooth blank so you get a fatter stronger tooth but which still runs with the standard gears.
Last two are 33 and 34T which when either is used as a driver on the gearbox equipped lathe allows you to do metric gears without the expensive and time wasting original Myford conversion set.

All the others can easily be bought second-hand or cheap crappy Indian imports so I am fighting a loosing battle.

Just in the process of completing a stack, 100 off, Bridgeport double life draw bars which should last about 3 years.

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 01:09 PM
You can make money at home doing CNC stuff. But you have to be a little more creative then making things which are already commodities. The challenge you face is not how to make an item cost less than something equivalent at home depot, its how to offer something that cant be gotten at home depot.

Rosco-P
10-11-2014, 01:19 PM
You can make money at home doing CNC stuff. But you have to be a little more creative then making things which are already commodities. The challenge you face is not how to make an item cost less than something equivalent at home depot, its how to offer something that cant be gotten at home depot.

What product(s) are you going to produce using your CNC lathe and tilting rotary table?


.........something that cant be gotten at home depot.

That's an ever growing list. Try going in and asking for a stripper bolt. Even though they have owned Crown Bolt, one of the larger manufacturers and importers of fasteners for some time, their in-stock hardware selection continues to dwindle.

Davek0974
10-11-2014, 01:26 PM
You can make money at home doing CNC stuff. But you have to be a little more creative then making things which are already commodities. The challenge you face is not how to make an item cost less than something equivalent at home depot, its how to offer something that cant be gotten at home depot.

That's the plan, even if not totally unique, items that are different from the usual versions - better looking, more useful etc

No way to compete with stores, learnt that years ago.;)

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 01:31 PM
What product(s) are you going to produce using your CNC lathe and tilting rotary table?

The lathe is TOTALLY unknown as far as what I could make with it, but then again, so was the mill when I bought it. I figure the lathe is a reasonable investment since I apparently can figure out how to make money with machinery. A dangerous kind of thinking because I am essentially authorizing myself to buy any machinery I want lol.

The rotary table has some more immediate uses. There are some parts I could make for my existing customer base that could be made much simpler by using the rotary table..things that are essentially symmetrical with undercuts and the need for holes or bosses at odd angles or on the periphery of curved surfaces.

A major goal would be to use it to simplify setups for my existing products. Things which require 5 or 6 manual setup changes in a vise might be done totally on the rotary table using just its angle verniers. Or possibly even totally unattened with CNC.

Heres what I would suggest as far as finding a niche that you can both incorporate into your existing 9 to 5 life and also make money at home, with the explicit intent to replace your income with your new business.

Have one more hobby BESIDES machining. Shouldn't be to hard for a man. Pick anything that has mechanical parts. Automotive, radio control, guns, etc..

I'll give you some examples:

Automotive: Lots of cars out there which arent that popular have very little aftermarket support. Yes, your Mustanges, Corvettes, etc.. have TONS of aftermarket support. That doesn't mean you cant compete and make money there too, but I digress. So pick something that has cult following (pretty much every car ever made does, no matter how horrible or obscure). Then see what kinds of things that group of people are whining about or kludging together on their own, and thats your product. Its a limited customer base, yes, but its enough to make some money on, and people who drive the underdogs basically flip out and adore you for bringing them USA made aftermarket stuff that replaces their home-depot jury rigged solutions.

Guns: The sky is the limit here. There are so many things you can make for guns and charge outrageous amounts for. Frames come to mind. Pick a handgun frame and make it out of steel, aluminum, whatever material is desireable. Sell a $15 piece of aluminum for $900 in a group buy of 20. If you dont believe me, check out the gun forums with all their group buys.

Radio control: I'm not really into this..its just an example. Lots of opportunity here for machined bad-a$$ versions of parts.

Or heck, how about machining: That Atlas lathe I've been working on...change gear sets go for $100+?? Umm...set up your 3 axis CNC to pump out change gears in delrin all day and throw them up on ebay for $55 a full set. Or make some other part for these old beat up machines.

Theres tons of opportunities. Just make stuff people are bit&&ing or whining about..thats the stuff they want, will get excited about, and pay for.

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 01:36 PM
Let me put it this way..

Why do people with machining as a hobby inevitably start making stuff like signs, garden stuff, etc...?

Its because thats what they see when they go to the store that looks like something they could make.

So the idea here, is that you get ONE MORE perspective, besides your everday trip to home depot.

Another "view" as to "things" that you could make...and what I'm saying is that another hobby with lots of mechanical stuff is perfect for that. You get neck deep into it you will SURELY find stuff you want that isn't the price you want, isnt the style/material you want...and hey then you notice OTHER people want it too.....and YOU"RE a machinist!

Rosco-P
10-11-2014, 02:12 PM
Sorry, really meant, "What product(s) are you going to produce using your CNC milling machine and tilting rotary table?"

And the answerer isn't the same as above. How about a little specificity?

John Stevenson
10-11-2014, 02:37 PM
You have to look for niche markets, but don't expect someone to tell you what they are.

Whilst Ebay is bad from one point of view because everyone is racing to the bottom, one example is signs. Someone buys a cheap engraver and sees what's for sale and thinks I can make this for 100% profit because I can use the scrap from work. Straight away everyone else is stuffed because they can't get free material.

However Ebay isn't in just one country and believe it or not but there are things sold in say the States for example that can't be had over in the UK. So anyone making them in the UK has a niche market.

That's all I am prepared to say, now do your homework.

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 03:19 PM
You have to look for niche markets, but don't expect someone to tell you what they are.

Whilst Ebay is bad from one point of view because everyone is racing to the bottom, one example is signs. Someone buys a cheap engraver and sees what's for sale and thinks I can make this for 100% profit because I can use the scrap from work. Straight away everyone else is stuffed because they can't get free material.

However Ebay isn't in just one country and believe it or not but there are things sold in say the States for example that can't be had over in the UK. So anyone making them in the UK has a niche market.

That's all I am prepared to say, now do your homework.

IMO its really not about knowing the secret niches. Once you start selling something the secret is over anyways and anyone can copy you. The main obstacles for a home-machinist to make a worthwhile profit, are, IMO, taking the initiative, the ability to execute, and enough available time do work on whatever it is. If you are locked into a 9 to 5 and pretty much out of energy when you get home, its alot harder to undertake a new venture. If you have no support from your family thats a huge block too. But if you are retired, and have nothing to lose, you've got no excuse :)

In case you older gents don't know, one of the easiest and simplest way to finance stuff like this is forming a "group buy" on a discussion forum, where people pony up a deposit and you make it clear you need XX number of orders to make it happen. This sort of thing goes on on all kinds of forums everyday and is well known. Thats how you avoid throwing money into a product which may or may not sell. You already have the orders before you spend dollar one on material/tools.

Lets say you came up with a quick change gear box for Atlas lathes for $150 (or whatever would be an exciting price). You make say $50 on each one. You go on a machining forum which allows group buys, post your thread with pics of the prototype and say you have a group buy going on and you need 25 orders, with a 50% deposit. The deposits come in, you start manufacturing, now you are making money. I've done it several times and its one of the greatest things about the 21st century. Instantaneous, world wide exposure to your home-made product.

Davek0974
10-11-2014, 04:18 PM
Yes group buy is great. A year ago I bought a small 3d printer kit, it was ok but two parts were not made well and lowered its ability a lot. Other users on the forum also noticed this an I offered to get the parts made from aluminium, got them priced up for laser cutting as they were detailed work.

Group buy from the forum members paid for the first order and left enough profit for the next order and on it went. Naturally I was very pleased with this to say the least, before long I had them on 3d printer sites and ebay worldwide.

I made enough from these two parts to buy a new hypertherm plasma cutter, build the CNC table and paid for my original 3d printer. Now I am still supplying one of the parts but I can now cut them myself on my CNC and that got the cost even lower, the other part can only be made by laser cut and is not needed anymore as there is a new model printer out now, the one I still make is only needed in much smaller qtys now.

So yes group buys are great and when you catch the market at the right point it's fantastic, but its damn hard to hit that point. Just need to find the next niche.

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 04:23 PM
Yes group buy is great. A year ago I bought a small 3d printer kit, it was ok but two parts were not made well and lowered its ability a lot. Other users on the forum also noticed this an I offered to get the parts made from aluminium, got them priced up for laser cutting as they were detailed work.

Group buy from the forum members paid for the first order and left enough profit for the next order and on it went. Naturally I was very pleased with this to say the least, before long I had them on 3d printer sites and ebay worldwide.

I made enough from these two parts to buy a new hypertherm plasma cutter, build the CNC table and paid for my original 3d printer. Now I am still supplying one of the parts but I can now cut them myself on my CNC and that got the cost even lower, the other part can only be made by laser cut and is not needed anymore as there is a new model printer out now, the one I still make is only needed in much smaller qtys now.

So yes group buys are great and when you catch the market at the right point it's fantastic, but its damn hard to hit that point. Just need to find the next niche.

Thats awesome!!! Any chance you can post a link to the group buy thread so people can see what that sort of process looks like?

Ries
10-11-2014, 04:34 PM
I think you need to move upmarket- and that means learning more. Unfortunately, pretty much any fifteen year old in a high school shop class can make brackets like yours after an hour's instruction.
There is a rich tradition and history of metalwork, going back thousands of years.
You need to study.
Those brackets are servicable, sure- but they are, as an old mentor of mine would say, "beat on with the ugly stick" compared to what they COULD be.

I have been making a living making things from metal for decades now, and the first thing I learned is you need to be better than the competition. I used to compete against guys in LA who owned a stick welder and a pickup truck. There is no way I could compete on price, so I had to compete on quality.
And that means really studying what is out there, how the pros do it, and how to get better, myself. Some of which is practice, some of which is better tools, some of which is reading books, going to museums, joining groups (like BABA, for example) and watching how real pros do it.

In terms of pricing, I have found that, for me, with my expenses, the absolute starting point is five times materials. Anything less, and I am giving away time and money. And, if there is much skill and handwork in it, it can easily go higher, sometimes much higher.

I know this sounds harsh, and I am not trying to tell you that you are no good- simply that you could be much better, and you will make more money, and have more fun, if you make higher quality stuff. Never look back- they might be gaining on you, as Satchel Paige once said.

lwalker
10-11-2014, 04:47 PM
IMO its really not about knowing the secret niches. Once you start selling something the secret is over anyways and anyone can copy you. The main obstacles for a home-machinist to make a worthwhile profit, are, IMO, taking the initiative, the ability to execute, and enough available time do work on whatever it is. If you are locked into a 9 to 5 and pretty much out of energy when you get home, its alot harder to undertake a new venture.

Actually, I think Sir John nailed it perfectly. It is about finding a niche, but niches aren't secret. You went pretty far in explaining just why he's right: Most people wouldn't start a business even if it didn't require getting off the couch. Once I found a niche, the last thing I'd be worried about is competition. The ones who are motivated are already looking or found their own niche, the rest won't do anything.

You want a small business idea? High quality knobs and fittings for DIY audio guys. There are many people who like to build their own high end audio gear. They're great at electronics but don't have the tools or know how to do good metal enclosures and panels. I realized a long time ago that if I had a big enough lathe, I could make money making brass or titanium knobs and selector switches and selling into that market.

There. I just put a viable idea out onto the internet. If I could measure it, I'd bet that I could come back a year later and no one reading this post would have bothered to run with it.

-Lyndon

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 04:54 PM
Actually, I think Sir John nailed it perfectly. It is about finding a niche, but niches aren't secret. You went pretty far in explaining just why he's right: Most people wouldn't start a business even if it didn't require getting off the couch. Once I found a niche, the last thing I'd be worried about is competition. The ones who are motivated are already looking or found their own niche, the rest won't do anything.

You want a small business idea? High quality knobs and fittings for DIY audio guys. There are many people who like to build their own high end audio gear. They're great at electronics but don't have the tools or know how to do good metal enclosures and panels. I realized a long time ago that if I had a big enough lathe, I could make money making brass or titanium knobs and selector switches and selling into that market.

There. I just put a viable idea out onto the internet. If I could measure it, I'd bet that I could come back a year later and no one reading this post would have bothered to run with it.

-Lyndon

LOL..and to prove your point, watch how many people take that idea and make it a reality...ZERO...even if they have all the machinery and skills 40 feet away in their garage..but you'll hear plenty of talk of patents, idea stealing, getting ripped off, lol...."hey I have this idea, I'm not sure if we can talk about it safely though..(turns up stereo real loud, brings you in dark closet in basement)..ok (whispers) I think we are safe now..." hahah

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 04:55 PM
LOL..and to prove your point, watch how many people take that idea and make it a reality...ZERO...even if they have all the machinery and skills 40 feet away in their garage..but you'll hear plenty of talk of patents, idea stealing, getting ripped off, lol...."hey I have this idea, I'm not sure if we can talk about it safely though..(turns up stereo real loud, brings you in dark closet in basement)..ok (whispers) I think we are safe now..." hahah


And also, that does seem like a great home machinist product, the knobs that is. I would imagine you wouldnt need much of a machine at all to do that...a small CNC mill or perhaps even a manual mill with a rotary table

boslab
10-11-2014, 05:02 PM
Small plasma, metal bashing skills, how about armour, aka plate armour!, sounds silly but there appears to be a demand for the stuff, I don't understand why anyone would want to dress up in it but they do
Mark

Norman Bain
10-11-2014, 05:17 PM
Davek0974 ... please accept my ramblings below in the genuine sprit in which I offer it.

I had a look at the links from the OP's homepage. Clearly the OP is well known in some circles as a provider of "something". Things like the steam engine sold show genuine capability and add to reputation.

For me I found the web pages confusing. I had to try HARD to go find the "real" product offerings from OP's homepage. Once I got to the business link I found it short on detail.

The hanging basket bracket listings are a case in point. There was only one picture and one measurement for each. A purchaser wants to know all the detail. There should be height, width and (for sure) the hole spacing and hole size.

WRT the bolts etc: There was not for me an explanation of the reason (differentiator) that would encourage me to purchase these from the OP.

For costing guidance I proffer that a costing model of fixed markup on steel consumed will not work unless all the parts are same size/weight. That is, making something like a washer will consume little steel and the fixed markup approach will attach little cost ... you will get the job. On the other hand if user asks you to supply a girder beam with a couple of fancy lugs on it ... you will NOT get the job.

My initial thought is to supply the steel at cost. Yes; without markup ... be sure to include the total cut-area (material) consumed.

Applying consumables to the products correctly is important. That costing will not flow on a "weight of material" basis. I think you are trying to address this by keeping histories of lengths of cut etc etc. ... keep at this.

Overall (till there is higher volume) the business sells hours ... that is it sells your hours. To each unit sold there is a quantity of time consumed ... cost that and you will be well on the way.

Cheers,
Norman

Rosco-P
10-11-2014, 06:25 PM
As said in other replies, product descriptions on your website could be a little more detailed. The house brackets, how much weight will they hold? The fire-pit looks interesting, how does it come apart? Is there a way of restricting air admitted from the bottom? Why not show an image of it in use, or a link to a Youtube video showing assembly and prepping it for a fire? Nothing about the presentation of items on your web pages jumps out and say BUY ME!

The sale of "ME hardware" says, I'm into making shelf toys and dust catchers. Separate that stuff on to a different domain and consider adding taps, tap and clearance drills that correspond to the machine screws. I can tell you first hand, been there, done that for the model railroad enthusiasts. Had access to any fastener, any quantity, finish, size, head, no markup over company cost. Packing 20 brass screws (or nuts, washers, etc.) into a bag stapled shut with a header card gets old fast. Mail order was a pain in the ass, even with minimum orders. Independant hobby shops? Forget about it.

doctordoctor
10-11-2014, 06:35 PM
If you are selling home and garden stuff, you need to get a network of people excited and talking about what you are selling. Your sales are going to be word of mouth based.

Are there any street faires in your town? Maybe you could rent a booth and have some awesome looking samples. Or give a few away to people you know will have lots of visitors that will ask about your stuff. Buzz and people talking is what you want. You have to improve your visibility. Nobody browses websites and buys home and garden stuff from locals..that sort of thing is all word of mouth. People need to see it.

John Stevenson
10-11-2014, 08:52 PM
IMO its really not about knowing the secret niches. Once you start selling something the secret is over anyways and anyone can copy you.

That is true but there is a time difference between what's on sale now and in stock and waiting for someone to get started to copy your goods.

Also remember if it's a unique niche market the first 50 ? sales will be top price because they are gasping for them. By the time your competitor has got on the scene he's selling to the tyre kickers.

This is why you flood the market and walk away to the next product, rinse and repeat. Often times you can even revisit your own product 4 or 5 years down the line and make a second killing. I am doing just that at the moment with some motorcycle parts for the simple reason I found some castings of a part I used to make 15 years ago that I didn't realise I still had.
Don't know how prices compare but 15 years ago I was getting £35 each, at present time these are no longer available and good examples fetch about £120 to £200 on Ebay because we all know prices fluctuate but the clincher is, whenever one comes up it always sells.

Davek0974
10-12-2014, 04:01 AM
Excellent stuff, thanks.

First an apology, my web site is crap, if anyone went through davekearley.co.uk then that was a private site thrown together many years ago that just sits on the 'net now. The main site is ddmetalproducts.co.uk and unfortunately is not too much better, a little tidier maybe.

I have been trying to find a decent software package that I can use, the davekearley site was done in DreamWeaver and I lost all the code for it on a failed laptop years ago. The ddmetalproducts one was done on free Mac software but that has been killed by Apple now. Almost all web design software is chargeable monthly now and that is where I currently walk - at present my income is sporadic and I will not have anything that requires regular monthly payments tied to the hobby/business. This may sound foolish but it helps me sleep at night.

I fully realise that the data on the site is thin at best and I am also working towards making samples of my products to hang in my garden and get new photographs of etc and also do a destruction test to get max recommended weights and so on, this is underway now.

The nuts and bolts were an idea I had when I was building the steam engines, I had to buy bulk fittings to get the quality I wanted and would never use them all myself so I thought why not? Offer them up at fixed price bags which were still profitable and way less than hardware stores, you can't even buy a black screw or bolt here, they are all galvanised crap.

They sold well for a while and made enough to pay for all the bolts I purchased etc.

As I said, the website is crap, it has no SEO at all as Apple killed that off for me by altering the software some time ago. I am not a web designer and have little flair for that sort of thing, but the site does get some sales and also some contacts coming in still. Most of my stuff is sold via eBay which we all know is expensive and getting worse but when it comes to coverage or bang-for-buck it's hard to beat it. I can't sell on Amazon as the products need EAN barcodes and this costs regular payments again.

I have lots of ideas but mostly in the head or scribbled down in a pad, getting these ideas into a saleable and producible product is hard but I'm trying. I have no other CNC machinery, it's all vintage manual stuff so I am very wary of moving to any product that requires machining repeatably, good for a one-off steam engine but not good for production.

As I said, I am working towards better pictures and more info, I do have a video of the fire pit in use and it works well, I have also tested it by having a way too big fire in it and it did no harm. It does not need air control as wood burns best with the air from the top, it will happily burn right down to ash if left. I am putting together an assembly sheet with step by step pictures and I can link to that when it's done.

When the samples are made up, I could also look to a market stall as we do have a weekly market in our town, we also have farmers markets too, I need to find stall prices though.

Thanks for the help so far and don't worry about being blunt, no good being a softy out there;)

Mike Burch
10-12-2014, 04:04 AM
Many years ago a mate of mine had a one-man engineering business. He did so much work for one initially well-paying customer that he had no time to broaden his customer base, with the inevitable result. By the time he woke up to the fact that his sole customer was now screwing him, all his other customers had found alternative suppliers, and he went out of business. It was very sad – he was a lovely chap but not a great businessman.
So if I may presume to offer a little advice it would be to have as broad a customer base as you can sensibly service.

RussZHC
10-12-2014, 07:09 AM
Just an opinion of course but

market stall as we do have a weekly market in our town, we also have farmers markets too
this maybe your key, I'd spend the next few times the markets are open just wandering and eavesdropping/listening. It goes to the suggestion of being involved in another hobby...what do the farmers want/need and what do their customers want/need that you can supply. As well I strongly suspect there will be some sellers as well as customers where you are that go to other similar fixtures in other somewhat nearby towns...word will get out.

Baz
10-12-2014, 08:22 AM
In the past few months I have bought tools from 5 closing down one man machine shops in Stevenage, Aylesbury, Luton (2) and Watford. If there are any machinists left in Herts perhaps you could team up with complinentary capabilities to provide a wider product range. My sister in the girly crafts field belongs to a sort of cooperative mixing their skills and doing collective promotion. Helps at the craft fairs to not have to run the stand all alone.
A friend just got some brass bits laser cut from the well known UK model engineering laser cutter service to save himself the trouble of profile milling. How does your plasma compare or is only suitable for eg 6in traction engine spokes rather than 2in?
Doctor D was right in saying your product range just looks like what is in the shops (it's B&Q in the UK chaps). As his Lordship suggested you could try and find something available in the 'States or Oz that is missing here. (however I recently went round Bunnings and could only find half a dozen things not in B&Q)

Davek0974
10-12-2014, 09:04 AM
Going by the laser cut three and six inch spokes I have used, it would easily cut those for two inch models up to six inch. If I had it then I would have certainly cut my own spokes on it. I did cut a fire hole door plate and doors in 1/4" plate and it came out every bit as good as laser cut ones and way easier than hand cutting them. These were in steel, not tried brass on it yet.

I mentioned it on the steam forum I frequent but apart from one RFQ nothing happened.

I find that although very attractive and interesting, a lot of the state-side metal art is very that - state-side. I can't see many sales of buffalo, ranch, shooting or baseball related art stuff over here :) I do search quite a lot now for ideas etc, the scrap book is getting fuller but I need to move some of those ideas into reality.

John Stevenson
10-12-2014, 09:10 AM
Baz,
I think Dave has to do a complete product where the cost of material and cutting is absorbed by the total product.
Because he can't buy in bulk, handle in bulk or have high speed machines like lasers his basic product [ material and cutting ] is going to be far higher. Also with laser cutting, as plasma the cost is material x distance travelled but the new lasers can cut faster and I have found that prices can actually fall every 2 years or so as different firms get better machines.

I use a flange on some jobs, it's actually for a type 23 stepper motor, I don't mind saying what it is. very simple, in 6mm steel 56mm square with rounded corners and a 48mm hole in the middle.
When I first started doing these I paid 39p each in bulk, gradually this increased to 50p because of material costs but has now reduced and settled down to 32p per flange.

I have just looked up a sheet of 6mm steel on metals4u and a 1000 x 1000 sheet of 6mm is £97.92 this will allow you to get 17 x 17 parts so 289 pieces divided into £97.92 works out to 34 pence each, part only and no allowance for the actual cutting or consumables.

So if Dave was selling to me he'd have no chance but if he made the finished product, where the profit is, would he have funds to tie up material for 500 units which is the cost break even point and that not just the flanges and the marketing to sell these at a low rate of say 20 per month ?

Davek0974
10-12-2014, 09:29 AM
Baz,
I think Dave has to do a complete product where the cost of material and cutting is absorbed by the total product.
Because he can't buy in bulk, handle in bulk or have high speed machines like lasers his basic product [ material and cutting ] is going to be far higher.

Yes, I think you are correct, that was why I am trying to find baseline prices for an estimating sheet so I can price up ideas and see how the final product price falls. It's no good just pulling prices from the ether only to start selling and later find out that each sale is in fact a loss because I forgot to factor in machine time or plasma tips or some such.

There's a lot of good stuff in this thread so far.

loose nut
10-12-2014, 09:44 AM
L."hey I have this idea, I'm not sure if we can talk about it safely though..(turns up stereo real loud, brings you in dark closet in basement)..ok (whispers) I think we are safe now..." hahah

Use the "Get Smart" cone of silence. Oh wait a minute you can't, the CIA has it. It's in their museum.

Seriously!!!!!!!

tmarks11
10-12-2014, 09:57 AM
The main site is ddmetalproducts.co.uk and unfortunately is not too much better, a little tidier maybe.
Don't sell yourself short. Looks good to me. Not fancy, but than I don't like fancy websites with animated graphics, and probably neither does the customer who wants to by wrought iron brackets. Your prices look fair to me.

You mention "custom brackets". Is there anything you have made as a custom bracket that looks completely out of the ordinary? Maybe with initials or a name worked into it? If so, you might post some pictures of that on your website as an example of custom work.

With the skills you have in building steam machinery, think if there is some isolated steam components that would be worth marketing to hobbyists that is challenging for someone with limited machinery to build? I think you should try to capitalize on that. You already obviously have the credentials, with 2 full-size steam engines and 3 books written about that. Maybe think about a partial kit to build a small scale model of "little sampson". That is the sort of thing where material cost is NOT the driving force for the product pricing; it is the craftsmanship and knowledge that people pay for.

Toolguy
10-12-2014, 12:37 PM
Dave-

What I do is invent products that are value added by what is done with the material and the functionality they provide. That takes the material cost out of the equation. For example, I have a special front sight for pistols that costs $525.00USD. It is more than some complete guns. It is 3/8" wide, 5/8" long and .300" tall. Made of O-1 tool steel, the materials are around $3.00USD. So far I have sold over 2 dozen of these.

I am getting aluminum extrusions made that will sell for $850.00USD for an 8-3/8" long piece, once they are made into a product.

I don't talk about this stuff much because I don't want to be advertising on this forum out of respect for George. Also it is unlikely anyone on the forum is doing the type of shooting that would require these products. I only mention it now in the most general terms to try to help Dave and others who may be trying to do the same.

lwalker
10-12-2014, 12:41 PM
Dave, a lot of people are using WordPress to make web sites. It began basically as a blogging platform, but it is very frequently used to make full on sites.
WordPress itself is free, but you do need to find a host that offers PHP hosting (pretty much all of them do at this point, and it's cheap!). Follow the "5-minute install" instructions, and your site will be up and running very quickly. The really good thing is that because it's so popular, there are lots of people who know how to use it and help (free or paid) is easy to find online.

I think for a non-web developer person it's probably the easiest way to get a web site up these days.

doctordoctor
10-12-2014, 12:44 PM
Dave-

What I do is invent products that are value added by what is done with the material and the functionality they provide. That takes the material cost out of the equation. For example, I have a special front sight for pistols that costs $525.00USD. It is more than some complete guns. It is 3/8" wide, 5/8" long and .300" tall. Made of O-1 tool steel, the materials are around $3.00USD. So far I have sold over 2 dozen of these.

I am getting aluminum extrusions made that will sell for $850.00USD for an 8-3/8" long piece, once they are made into a product.

I don't talk about this stuff much because I don't want to be advertising on this forum out of respect for George. Also it is unlikely anyone on the forum is doing the type of shooting that would require these products. I only mention it now in the most general terms to try to help Dave and others who may be trying to do the same.

This is EXACTLY the kind of thing I'm talking about guys...there are tons of these "niches" if you want to call them that..really they are just businesses like any other.

Combine machining + another hobby and now you have a perspective for new products..(Im not saying what you do is just a hobby Toolguy, I'm speaking generically)

Davek0974
10-12-2014, 01:01 PM
Nice.:)

I did look at Wordpress, my host has it for free and ready to go. What I didnt realise was that it needs a new domain for it, I thought I'd try it on my existing domain but as soon as press the try now button it wipes out any existing stuff and takes over with the new site. Took me a while to get my site back up.

So without buying a new domain name for it, I can't see how I can test it, nothing is easy ;) it needs a php server and MySQL database to run so can't easily setup at home to test and develop a site.

It did look useful though and also created sites that were mobile friendly. I'll do some research on it.

Toolguy
10-12-2014, 01:22 PM
The shooting part is a hobby. I compete in high level pistol matches and come up with special equipment to get higher scores. The shooting products are a result of the people I shoot with and compete against wanting the same for themselves. I don't care if they get the same gear as I will still win by having a higher skill level (or not). At any rate, I am still a winner either way, because I have helped a fellow shooter and made some money too.

My main business is making prototypes of new inventions (another niche) and making production tooling for local shops ( another niche). Last week I designed and built a force gage to test the strength of some plastic parts that a local mold shop makes and welds together. The plastic welded assembly had to hold up to 50 Newtons of force. As it turns out, they will hold over 200 Newtons.

The point of all this is to show others on the forum how to leverage whatever skills you have to provide a source of income. Look around. What equipment do you already have? What skills can you bring to the table? Who wants what you can produce? The answers to these questions can be difficult to find, but rewarding when you do.

Best Regards to All - Warren

doctordoctor
10-12-2014, 01:26 PM
The shooting part is a hobby. I compete in high level pistol matches and come up with special equipment to get higher scores. The shooting products are a result of the people I shoot with and compete against wanting the same for themselves. I don't care if they get the same gear as I will still win by having a higher skill level (or not). At any rate, I am still a winner either way, because I have helped a fellow shooter and made some money too.

My main business is making prototypes of new inventions (another niche) and making production tooling for local shops ( another niche). Last week I designed and built a force gage to test the strength of some plastic parts that a local mold shop makes and welds together. The plastic welded assembly had to hold up to 50 Newtons of force. As it turns out, they will hold over 200 Newtons.

The point of all this is to show others on the forum how to leverage whatever skills you have to provide a source of income. Look around. What equipment do you already have? What skills can you bring to the table? Who wants what you can produce? The answers to these questions can be difficult to find, but rewarding when you do.

Best Regards to All - Warren

Great words and advice!

Not to change the subject, but is the welding you are talking about welding two injection molded pieces together?

I have a very small injection molding machine, and I'm limited by its maximum 20 ton clamp pressure and injection pressure of maybe 10kpsi max. I've wondered if it would somehow be possible to make much larger parts by injecting the smaller parts then joining them somehow, without the joint strength suffering too much, especially if its fiber reinforced. How do they weld them together?

Toolguy
10-12-2014, 02:09 PM
I don't know how they are welding them, probably either ultrasonic or heating them. There is a lot of information on welding plastic on YouTube and other sources. You have a potential gold mine with that injection molding machine, just need to find the right parts to put through it. I may have parts that need molded at some time in the future, I will PM you if something comes up.

doctordoctor
10-12-2014, 02:16 PM
I don't know how they are welding them, probably either ultrasonic or heating them. There is a lot of information on welding plastic on YouTube and other sources. You have a potential gold mine with that injection molding machine, just need to find the right parts to put through it. I may have parts that need molded at some time in the future, I will PM you if something comes up.

Yes..if there is machine in my shop that literally keeps my up at night, terrified that I haven't exploited it fully, its the injection molder.

Just to continue hijacking this thread, heres some pics of what I've made on it:

http://i242.photobucket.com/albums/ff197/acannell/photobucket-13007-1385535055033_zps872833f5.jpg (http://s242.photobucket.com/user/acannell/media/photobucket-13007-1385535055033_zps872833f5.jpg.html)

http://i242.photobucket.com/albums/ff197/acannell/photobucket-13711-1384982856368_zps87d787cc.jpg (http://s242.photobucket.com/user/acannell/media/photobucket-13711-1384982856368_zps87d787cc.jpg.html)

http://i242.photobucket.com/albums/ff197/acannell/photobucket-1039-1384916749432_zpsad1b75ce.jpg (http://s242.photobucket.com/user/acannell/media/photobucket-1039-1384916749432_zpsad1b75ce.jpg.html)

Baz
10-12-2014, 02:21 PM
By way of illustration of niches there is a company on our industrial estate that makes film props sometimes. We found out when they started lining up a whale skeleton in the car park to photograph it. I dropped in on them and they showed me around. They were CNCing 'sextants' from solid brass blocks - doesn't need to work for a film - and marine chronometers with no 'works'. The office walls were lined with spaceship interior panels and an airlock door. Would be a fun place to work I think.
When I worked for a defence contractor development costs were controlled by the MoD formula. Materials were cost x 1.4 I think but labour was actual cost of salaries x 1.8. (reduced from x 2.2 that it had been at the end of the cost plus days) That 1.8 factor had to cover premises, heating and maintenance, 24x7 guards, top of the range test equipment, holidays, and profit. If profit went above a threshold clawback was invoked.

doctordoctor
10-12-2014, 02:22 PM
only takes about 3 minutes per piece to inject in ABS

buy ABS resin off ebay...cost in material per piece is about $0.50

http://i242.photobucket.com/albums/ff197/acannell/20141012_111937_zpsjb9jewj3.jpg (http://s242.photobucket.com/user/acannell/media/20141012_111937_zpsjb9jewj3.jpg.html)

http://i242.photobucket.com/albums/ff197/acannell/20141012_111944_zpshdmu6z4u.jpg (http://s242.photobucket.com/user/acannell/media/20141012_111944_zpshdmu6z4u.jpg.html)

http://i242.photobucket.com/albums/ff197/acannell/20141012_111926_zpsegbqc22d.jpg (http://s242.photobucket.com/user/acannell/media/20141012_111926_zpsegbqc22d.jpg.html)

M_C
10-12-2014, 02:34 PM
So without buying a new domain name for it, I can't see how I can test it, nothing is easy ;) it needs a php server and MySQL database to run so can't easily setup at home to test and develop a site.


Xampp or WampServer.
I personally still use Wamp as it's what I've always used, however Xampp does seem to be mentioned/recommended more now.
Both create a local apache webserver with PHP and MySQL enabled, so you can do as much testing on your computer as you like.


As for the original topic. I'm one of those with plenty ideas, but a full time job limits getting them to production (and actually creating a functioning website!)
My current product range consists of one core item, however it's a reasonable steady earner, and has more than paid for the machines that produce it. I have one new product near ready for production, but it's finding time to iron out the wrinkles in the production process.

I'm at the point where I need more machines to acheive what I'd like to, however to get to that point I need to finish another couple projects and make some money that will allow me to get/build those machines, however I need time to make the money.

On the plus side I have 5 weeks leave to use before April, however there's a major new contract starting at my full time job shortly, so using it is going to be a problem unless they manange to magic new staff up from somewhere :/

BigSpike
10-12-2014, 03:12 PM
Nice.:)

So without buying a new domain name for it, I can't see how I can test it, nothing is easy ;) it needs a php server and MySQL database to run so can't easily setup at home to test and develop a site.



You have a domain, just create a folder on the webserver to install the new website to. I like Joomla for it's ease of use and the many free components that are available. No software to buy, fully PHP based with a large community for support. Joomla is easy to move from a subfolder to the root. Requiring only a couple of edits. Lots of info in the Joomla forum.

Without knowing how your hosting is configured, I can't offer much more. If you don't own the domain, i.e. if it was included in a hosting package, then I suggest buying a new domain thru GoDaddy or similar where "you" own the domain name & can move it anywhere you like. Start with a link on the old domain to the new one & then abandon the old one after 6 months or so. Sooner or later you will be able to buy the old one at the normal rate. It took me 4 years to reclaim a short domain name that I lost in a divorce.

If you "own" the domain name and your hosting does not allow for creating a subfolder & installing wordpress or Joomla then move to a new hosting company. If your host is your domain provider, then you would change the nameservers after you setup the new website.

Hope this helps, feel free to ask if you need more info.

Davek0974
10-12-2014, 03:25 PM
Thanks, yes I own the domains, both davekearley.co.uk and ddmetalproducts.co.uk, they are both hosted on the same ISP - 1&1.com

I tried a sub folder but Wordpress only wanted to install into the root folder.

I'll have a look at Joomla.

BigSpike
10-12-2014, 04:03 PM
Joomla can be downloaded, unpacked & uploaded via FTP. Then you navigate to the installation and go thru the setup steps, then delete the installation folder to secure it.

wierdscience
10-12-2014, 06:37 PM
Something for thought.

Places that do single operations such as laser cutting firms should be thought of as process industries akin to gravel mining.Get two or three located in a given area and the prices fall to cost+material and a few % profit.If company A can do the job a few pennies cheaper than company B,then Company B will get the lion share of the work assuming all things are equal.So basically if they aren't producing a finished product or a sub assembly of a finished product they aren't manufacturing anything.

In that situation cost of materials will make or break them so they shop around constantly looking for a better,cheaper,more reliable supplier.Once that's done it falls to volume.

Your best bet is a finished product that you can retail.If not that then offering your cutting services for a fee is another venue billing it as a "small volumes and one offs cutter."

Materials prices here vary sharply based on volume.At work we pay $85 for a 4x8(1220 x 2440) sheet of 11 gauge sheet(3mm) or $.53/per pound.

That price is constant no matter how many sheets we buy,until it reaches truckload quantities at which point the price per pound drops like a rock to $.35/ per pound delivered(40,000lbs or more).

There are few sizes we deal with that require 40k pounds of anything,so going back to Old Hat's post we work with several other shops and buy split loads.The mill doesn't care of they make three deliveries or just one,so long as we buy full truckloads.

Another option for small time startups is your local scrappers.Over the years we have bought quite a lot of cast off new drops from the local scrap dealers for $.10-.015 per pound.Odd shapes and sizes,but the same material we would pay new price for.Unless you have defined material spec requirements surplus material can be a gold mine.

Kenlew
10-12-2014, 10:46 PM
I agree that finding hobby-related niches is a good strategy. I have a business that I've termed my "hobby business" because it isn't my main source of income, it's another hobby. Like you, I work it at night and on weekends. I tend to supply a wide variety of hobbyists. I sell restoration parts for wooden machinist chests, which are used by a wide range of hobbyists - from shooters to RC controlled planes to knife collectors. If possible, find a product line that affords you the opportunity to be "the expert". Many people want more than the widget - they want to learn about they are using it for.

Davek0974
10-13-2014, 02:15 PM
I agree a finished product is what I'm after, I'm trying to build a small catalogue of items that I can market myself.

It may sound counter productive but I don't really want masses of orders - I still have the day job remember. I'm looking for the Middle ground - steady sales but not overloaded, unless of course I can see a long-term prospect that deserves serious readjustment of my working focus.

I've got a lot of info to digest in this thread so far, thanks.