Description of Job
• Produce customized bookcases and shelving units to meet the needs of
• Adapt published plans for bookcases and shelving using a client’s specifications and choices of wood and stain.
Few interior architectural touches are more impressive than built-in or customized bookcases or shelving in a personal library, den, or family room. There’s
a big and obvious difference between a store-bought bookshelf and one that has
been built exactly to the specifications of a particular space.
A customized piece of furniture requires the ability to perform finishing work,
several steps beyond a stack of boards separated by cinder blocks. You’ll need to
be able to work with bevels, curves, and joints and add a high-quality stain and
finish or paint job.
Some jobs will require working with unusual and expensive types of wood,
which may call for unusual woodworking methods and can eat up profits very
quickly in the event of an error during construction.
Know the Territory
Make sure you understand the needs and wants of your customer. Show photos
of work you have completed, or use books of plans as examples.
Avoid taking the job based on the customer’s measurements; visit the home
or office to make certain that jobs you prepare in your workshop will fit properly
in the intended space.
There are many sources for plans and designs for woodworking, including
books and web sites. For large (and well-paid) jobs you can design your own
pieces or work with an architect.
If you will be working with unusual species of wood, get some samples from
a supplier and test assembly methods, stains, and finishes before you work on the
Some woodworkers prefer to leave the application of stain or paint to an
expert on those tasks; in that case, they can subcontract the completion of the job.
How to Get Started
Post flyers and ads at community centers, retail stores, and home decorating
stores. Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.
Make your services known to contractors and architects; you can pay them a
commission for work they refer your way, or they may hire you to do the work
and bill their clients directly.
Create a portfolio of work you have produced; it can also be displayed on a
You can also promote your services at craft and holiday fairs. Offer to teach
a class at a community school—to garner publicity and perhaps some clients.
You’ll need a full woodworking shop and enough space to work on large pieces.
You may be able to subcontract some of the work on components of the bookshelves to shops with specialized tools.
Other expenses include advertising and promotion.
You will need a truck to deliver completed items, or work with a trucking
company, as needed.
How Much to Charge
Charge a flat rate for completed bookcases and shelving based on your estimate
of the amount of time required and the cost of the materials. You can add fees for
painting or staining, plus the cost of delivery and installation.