How I Survived in the Woodworking Business

by Curtis Whittington
Boerne, Texas

I've been making furniture for more than 25 years. For the past nine years it has been my only source of income. All my work is commissioned, so I rarely do any two pieces alike. This is a tough way to earn a living, and had I known from the beginning how tough it would be, I probably wouldn ot have begun doing it professionally.


Awhile back, I got tired of barely getting by, and decided to "hang it up." put on a coat and tie, and reenter the rat race. Fortunately, my closest friends convinced me that a last effort should be made. I was pursuaded that larger, more efficient machines should be purchased and "let's see what happens."

I attended the woodworking show in Charlotte, NC with buying a new sliding table saw in mind. I had no idea what else could be purchased, as there wasn't much I didn't already have.

In the first booth I stopped at, my good friend Ben Covington was demonstrating a machine that produced tenons with rounded edges. I watched this marvelous machine for a few minutes, then handed over my Visa card and said "I want one."

The Multi-Router was being introduced for the first time, and I became the proud owner of machine #4, along with every size tenon template.

I've bought a lot of things in my years as a woodworker, and too many times, I've been disappointed. It is not uncommon to go home and have to totally assemble a new machine because it has arrived in "KD" form, and find that I even have to re-machine parts to make them fit together and work properly.

That's not the case with the Multi-Router. Screw in three bolts that hold on the operating handles, install your router base and the stylus assembly, and you are ready for action within about 15 minutes. No hassle. There are NO adjustments to be made, and nothing to get out of alignment. After two years, I can still say this is the finest machine I have ever encountered in woodworking.


Now we get to the meat of this article. Several weeks after I got the Multi-Router, I walked into the shop at 8 AM. First thing to do that day was to mortise and tenon and glue a simple 48" x 22" cocktail tale. Four legs, four rails and a top. I had dimensioned the wood the day before, so I went straight to the Multi-Router to begin. Forty-five minutes later, I was finished mortising, tenoning and gluing, and was drinking a lesiurely cup of coffee. (The same operation now takes me 30 minutes.)

It was only then that it hit me what I had bought for myself. It had generally required 3-1/2 hours to do this operation in my shop using tablesaw, bandsaw and/or hansaw for the tenons, and then rasping over the edges. (I especially hated rasping over the edges). Mortises had been done using a jig and plunge router. (I also had a square chisel tenoner on a drillpress, but never really used it much).

80% Savings

By installing a Multi-Router, I had just eliminated 2-3/4 production hours from this job. I was almost in shock. This 80% time savings applies to all mortise and tenon work, as well as the many other Multi-Router uses. It will perform just about any kind of joinery used in furniture and cabinetmaking except half-blind dovetails.

All this has proven out over the past two years. I've always known that one-man shops had a problem turning out enough work fast enough to be profitable. And profitable to me means sufficient income for more than just getting by. Well, this past year I finally took a real vaccation (to Key West), I worked fewer Saturdays, and best of all, I have a much brighter attitude about my future in furniture making.

Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, I can promise you that a Multi-Router will make a great asset for your shop. A hobbyist can actually get weekend projects accomplished in a weekend, and the small professional shop owner will certainly make more profit while experiencing less stress. I even know of a large manufacturing plant that uses a Multi-Router to produce small-run parts, such as for prototypes, or to fill in when larger production machines are being repaired.

The range of work which the Multi-Router will handle is part of the reason for its versatility. In my shop, we've used the Multi-Router to produce joints on work ranging from one-inch-cube ring boxes for a local jewelry store (using 1/4" box joints) up to a mortise and tenon frame 15 ft x 5 ft x 6 ft for our furniture hauling trailer.


I now have an employee who enjoys using the Multi-Router. We will soon buy our second machine in order to produce a box I have designed to sell in local stores. My furniture designs have also benefited from having the Multi-Router. I can now designn and make furniture that would have been too expensive before because so many joints would have had to be cut by hand. This is true because the Multi-Router can do multiple-angle joinery as easily as it does straight joinery. Because of this, I am competitive in chairs again, also.


One last note. When you get your Multi-Router, don't charge it out at the same hourly rate as say your table saw. Because it saves so much time, charge for this and take advantage of it. For instance, my table job used to take 3-1/2 hours at say, $60 per hour for joinery, or $210.00. Charge $190 for the first hour, and charge a full hour. You are making the profit and saving the customer money too. And that's the bottom line - profit and saving.

Check out the JDS Multi-Router

Curtis Whittington makes furniture in Boerne, TX. He originally wrote this article for Wood News back in 1990. He says he still loves his Multi-Router, which after 20 years has still never needed adjustment, nor gotten out of alignment.

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