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Advice needed for one-person shop aka "small potatoes"

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by ScottC, Oct 11, 2016.

  1. ScottC

    ScottC Grumbler in Training


    I'm well on my way in my second career/semi-retirement profession in a one-person woodworking shop. I primarily offer custom furniture and built-ins, but I have done picture framing, matting, and mounting over the years and I'm getting more requests from customers.

    I have made custom mouldings in the past, usually in hardwoods or softwoods, and either stained or painted and finished. I would like to offer manufactured mouldings but the problem I'm running into is that most customers don't know what they want until they see it, which is very reasonable.

    I have only identified one website that I can order moulding in lengths as small as 3 feet, one at a time, that I can have delivered to my home shop. That is fine, and I like the website and was ready to place an order. However, yesterday, I found that they no longer offer discounts on bulk samples. Previously, you could mix and match, and the more samples ordered, the lower the cost. They now are charging $6.50 for corner samples or .75 for 2" chips. They don't offer sets of samples except for mat board, so I will also have to blindly pick moulding samples based on what I like and what I think others will like. I do not have the storage or capital to buy and hold multiple full boxes of mouldings.

    So, my questions are: Can anyone recommend another site or company that I should look into? If they are located in the Houston area and I can do pick-ups, even better.

    Or, should I bite the bullet and swallow that cost as a part of doing business for my low volume? Is $6.50 reasonable? I know they have to account for their costs, so that is an acceptable answer, IMO.

    The bottom line is that I enjoy framing and would like to offer it to customers. I think I can fill a niche as we are located in a new master planned community that is East of I-45 and North of Houston. There is not a framing shop or even a big box on this side of the interstate.

    I immensely enjoy this site and have learned a lot just by reading the threads. I will appreciate any constructive feedback. Thanks in advance.
    prospero likes this.
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  2. framestudio

    framestudio CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    Most wholesale picture framing companies give frame samples away for free, but they want to see a return. Meaning they want to see orders placed. It's been awhile since I had to pay for a moulding sample. Only you can decide if it's worth the investment for samples. Start with 6-12 samples and see how it goes.
  3. Ylva

    Ylva SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Hard to answer. When I opened shop, samples were free and most of them continue to be free when they add to their lines. Not all moulding suppliers will ship to home based framers. You might have a large distributor in the area who might be willing to ship and provide samples. I am not in that part of the country, so wouldn't know.

    Is the $6.50 per line of samples? How many samples total are you talking about and what is total cost for you? You could ask if the cost could be set off against future orders. Some suppliers will allow that.
  4. DVieau2

    DVieau2 PFG, Picture Framing God

    Here's my suggestion.

    I'll bet every rep for every distributor knows someone who is going out of business.

    Most of those corner samples are headed for the dumpster.

    Contact the reps and see what they can do.

    phatgamera and David Waldmann like this.
  5. prospero

    prospero SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    If you have the kit and the skill to mill profiles then why not expand your finishing expertise and
    don't bother with factory moulding.

    If you buy in finished moulding then you are always going to have a lot of cash tied up in offcuts
    and stuff lying about for years waiting for a job. There will always be some mouldings that are in the
    'bread and butter' category. Useful for a lot of different jobs but not worth making by hand. My advice
    would be to buy in small amounts or core stock for everyday jobs and anything more exotic create it yourself.
    You can make your own samples of these and impress upon the customer that they can be any finish they like.

    I almost never buy finished moulding nowadays. All my chevrons are hand-finished. I think of them as 'examples'
    rather than 'samples'. It does throw some customers off sometimes when I explain that they can have any finish
    applied to any moulding. The chevrons are there to stimulate their imagination. The variations are practically infinite.
    I've also found that showing them too may choices just confuses them. I tend to try and get a handle of what they like
    and then do my own thing.
    And I always say that if they don't like the result I'll change it. Never had anyone take me up on my kind offer. :D

    Another thing is that factory mouldings take a lot of keeping track of. Batch variations. Discontinued. Out of stock.

    I'm a one-man band so I know the problems. o_O
  6. ScottC

    ScottC Grumbler in Training

    Thanks for the replies! I was very busy the past week, but in a good way.

    I think I'm definitely in a "beggars can't be choosers" situation, and I'm going to just have to bite the bullet, at least for now. Luckily, with my 2 most recent jobs, I was able to order 2 samples for a new job at the time I order my sticks for the current job.

    Their samples are $6.50 per corner, which adds up quickly. I did order some 75 cent chips as well.

    Prospero, I have made a lot of my own moulding. I have a full woodworking shop including several routers and a router table. Bit sets can be expensive, so I try to stick to mouldings that I can make with a lot of the basic bits I use, combined with my table saw. I also have a good selection of hardwood samples with different stains and finishes. Where I run into issues are these 2 jobs, where one is a gold bamboo, and the other will likely be an ornate silver, neither of which I could make in my shop.

    Thanks again for the inputs. I have found this forum to be a wealth of knowledge and I learn something new every time I visit.
  7. prospero

    prospero SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    When I first started I built up gradually. I bought small quantities of maybe half a dozen mouldings and having made frames I used
    short bits to make a chevron. Then I bought some more and did the same. When I had my old shop I had maybe 600+ samples on the wall.
    I also had drawers and boxes full of short bits which suppliers would generally provide gratis. Not as good as a chevron, but better than
    looking at pictures in a book. Mouldings are notoriously hard to photograph and a customer will quickly become confused looking though
    a moulding catalogue.

    Since those days I have moved away from the concept of showing people samples. I just try to get a handle on what they want and do my
    own thing, with the proviso that if they don't like the finished frame I'll do it again. Never had a kickback. :D

    On biggish jobs I will sometimes make up a corner for approval before launching into the job proper. If they don't like it I have another sample
    to decorate the wall.

    Here's one I made recently....


  8. Artistic Framer

    Artistic Framer CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    Scott - I've known framers who "get known" for their joinery, and people seek them out for "that look". Maybe your time and effort might be better used to carving out (sorry about the pun) YOUR niche. Spline joins? "Rustic" reclaimed barnwood? Craftsman lap joins? As a woodworker, you've got a lot of possibilities/advantages to differentiate yourself from the average frameshop. I'm not saying your direction of stocking someone elses mouldings is wrong, but you may already have a brand to build on, and why dilute it with someone elses stuff?
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