General Question

pallen123's avatar

What's a reasonably lucrative craft?

Asked by pallen123 (1514points) October 15th, 2009

By craft, I mean something I can specialize in making with my hands, and spend the next few years learning and apprenticing. Something that could be reasonably lucrative if I’m successful. I spent my childhood working with lathes, table saw, drill press, and other woodworking tools. I loved it, and now I’m thinking I’d love to find some kind of craft to specialize in, for example violin-making. It doesn’t have to be wood. Now, I realize learning to build violins is a lifelong pursuit and only a select few can make a living at it, but I’m willing to think boldly. I’m looking for suggestions. Anyone have ideas? Instruments? Instrument stands? Lamps? Chairs? Talismans? Cutting boards? Jewelry? Knives? Picture frames? Spice grinders?

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22 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

What is your passion? What drives you to waken in the morning, jump to your feet and want to get a move on? Whatever that is, that’s the thing you should be crafting.

pallen123's avatar

How about collector watch fixing and and trading?

dpworkin's avatar




Cloth Maker





Candle maker

ubersiren's avatar

Ever considered massage therapy? I know it’s probably not exactly what you’re looking for, but you can make decent money and you get instant gratification when you’ve made someone happy. You definitely use your hands (and elbows and knees and feet if you want) and the beauty of it is that there are hundreds of modalities of massage to explore so you don’t have to be bored fed up with any one thing.

rooeytoo's avatar

Since you are already into wood, maybe you should try power carving. I do it and love it. It is faster (and dirtier) than conventional carving but you can achieve some amazing creations quickly. Combined with cabinet making skills, you can create one of a kind pieces of furniture for a good price.

EmpressPixie's avatar

You could talk to Harp about making harps.

laureth's avatar

If you can make a premium product and get it to the right (rich) people, they may pay well for whatever you make. The key is to find something you have the patience to do well at, and the potential customers with more money than they know what to do with.

I wish I had a dollar for every time people said, “Oh, I can make that myself! Teach me how!” or “Hey, I can buy that at Wal*Mart for ten bucks.” People are used to paying low prices for crap made overseas, and aren’t used to paying a living wage for handmade stuff from here. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s like trying to be a professional author. You have to be really, really good and a little famous to make it “lucrative.”

One more thing. If you take something you love doing for the soul of it, and turn it into your job, it might have a different feeling to it once “want to” becomes “have to.”

I spin yarn. I spin good yarn. And yet, 99% of the time, people are unwilling to pay me what it cost for the wool, let alone my labor. I knit, but people seem to think that a sweater from handspun that took a year of my life to make is worth something close to US$50. When they ask me what it would cost to make them one, and I say $500—$1000, not one person has ever taken me up on it.

(One of my mistakes was starting with the hippie market. I mean, who better to buy handmade stuff, right? They can’t afford it. Trust me.)

All that said, I wish you bold good luck. I don’t mean to scare you off of the idea of making things for a living, but you should know that it’s pretty hard to make it. In other words, keep the day job. ;)

wundayatta's avatar

Whatever you do, it should be something that really engrosses you. Are you drawn to anything, now? Furniture making?

You mention violin making, but unless you’re a musician, you have a pretty big handicap. You need to know what musicians want from their instruments in order to be able to make a good one. Do you play an instrument?

You can make many different kinds of instruments besides violins. Guitars, lutes, recorders, drums, dijeridus, you name it. But if you’re not drawn to music, I’m not sure you’d do well with it.

In any case, I’d do something that calls me. So is there anything like that? If not, I’d apprentice in a lot of different places until something started to feel right.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I have two ideas that I’ve looked into myself.

Gourds – Gourds come in many shapes and sizes. The amount of craft you can do with them varies drastically. It requires artistic ability but not overly so and craftsmanship because you have to cut the gourds and polish them etc.. It does not cost a lot to start out and when finished they are so beautiful. They are also useful thus lucrative. Also it could be a life-long craft as there are so many different skills to learn if you choose to learn them, you could do it without the skills but as you said sometimes the fun is starting basic and then adding more skills on.

(if you do become interested I know of a couple supply websites that are really good, the above links are just to show you what they could look like)

Basket Weaving – Weaving is a skill that is lucrative. Hand-woven baskets sell for quite a bit of money. And weaving is something that is quite versatile. It is also something that is done with your hands. And the more you do it the more your skill develops and the better you get. There are also many different weaving methods.

I’ve done the basics of both crafts and enjoyed them.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I know a guy who repairs guitars for a living. Well, he’s retired from some other job, and does guitar repair work on the side. It’s a lucrative biz, but there is a lot to the work that some people don’t realize, like it takes time to do the job right. Anyone who can refurbish a guitar in a month is taking shortcuts.

ru2bz46's avatar

I stumbled into making fine jewelry. It’s a very satisfying craft, and potentially very lucrative as well, depending on your choice of materials. My first wife designed some fantastic pieces, and it was my job to make them three-dimensional. I loved it!

Samurai's avatar

Sword smith of katanas and other swords, if you get good I might buy one for cheap, or you could sell it for a lot of money.

Jeruba's avatar

In hard times, objects and accessories associated with spiritual practices, magic, and the occult seem to do well. You might want to visit a couple of shops that sell incense, candles, meditation supplies, books of Eastern spiritual traditions, and so on—shops like this one in Mountain View, California—and see what craft items you can think of that might fit into or expand their inventory.

Zen's avatar

Anything to do with the lucrative arms building race, particularly Nuclear Physics. I hear Ahmendinejad pays well for this craft.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Zen, he already buys that shit from the Russians and Jill St. Jong in North Korea.

Harp's avatar

I’ve had some experience in instrument building (harps duh). I do it not as a way of making money, really, but because building instruments is one of the last refuges of consummate craftsmanship in our culture. While all the other crap in our lives gets more removed from the human hand, there’s still an understanding that instruments come from craftsmen, not factories. The relationship between a musician and her instrument is intimate enough that they’re willing to invest the kind of money that near perfection costs. You get to work with gorgeous and incredibly expensive woods and push your skills to the limit.

You have to have to be something of an obsessive perfectionist to enjoy and succeed in instrument building, though. The market is full of examples of superlative craftsmanship, so mediocre instruments suffer badly by comparison. If the idea of working for days to get a finish just right turns you off, then it’s not for you. You also need a strong intuitive, if not academic, understanding of physics.

Building guitars and bowed instruments is different from building harps. Most instruments already have an established optimum design. Virtually all modern violins are knock-offs of Strads. Building these instruments comes down to trying for a perfect execution of those well-established standards. Harps, on the other hand, are still very much evolving, and no one design has achieved the status of being the optimum way of making a harp. That’s exciting, because the door is wide open for experimentation. All harpmakers are out there messing with very different ways of doing stuff, and every now and then someone hits on a really nice idea.

As for the “lucrative” part, I don’t know. Maybe it could be, with enough effort. Personally, I wouldn’t want to calculate how much I make on an hourly basis with harps. Yes, the buyer pays a lot of money, but each harp represents a good four months (at least) of virtually all my spare time. I’m not concerned enough with efficiency and I spend too much time relishing the process. Better not to count, in my case.

If I were to actually try to make a living at it and I lived in an area with enough harp teachers to provide a market, I think I’d build a stable of solid, good-sounding harps from modest materials that I’d rent out to harp students. Because of the cost of a good harp, most beginners will want to rent until they become dedicated enough to buy. Then you’d have a good chance of getting their orders for a nice custom harp down the road.

Jeruba's avatar

@Harp, a bit off topic, but can you say anything about a harp guitar? I never heard of one until I saw this Andy McKee video last week and dug around until I found out what he was playing.

Harp's avatar

@Jeruba I don’t have any personal experience with them, but they’re essentially a contemporary version of some of the bigger lute styles, like the tor-bor, that have courses of unfretted strings off the fingerboard. They not only extend the tonal range of the instrument, but they also provide passive sympathetic responses to other plucked strings, which lends a kind of “amphitheater” acoustic to the instrument.

YARNLADY's avatar

Handmade wooden children’s toys are all the rage right now, with the lead paint scare, people are turning away from the cheap imported junk.

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