How to earn $1000 in six weeks building birdhouses - Part 1
by Rick Brentlinger
(Pace, FL, USA)
This is a DIY article I originally wrote about ten years ago for Backwoods Home magazine. It has received wide circulation online and was also published in a self-reliance anthology. I built the pictured birdhouses from pallet wood.
If I can show you how to manufacture birdhouses and other cool stuff anywhere in the country and if I show you how to find the raw materials for free
, would you be interested? If so, here is a business plan that works. Have you seen those weathered wooden pallets stacked behind grocery stores, piled beside feed stores or next to the dumpster in your local lumber yard? Those pallets, your initiative, and the information that follows could mean money in your pocket for years to come.
Pallets are often available free for the asking. Many businesses are glad to get rid of them so they don’t have to pay to haul them away. There are two kinds of pallets—reusable and throw away. The reusable pallets are often made of oak, poplar, and occasionally maple. If there is a big stack of them, some stores will give these away free too. But the ones I like best are the throw away pallets made of pine, oak, or poplar wood.First, locate a stack of pallets
and ask if you can help the business owner by hauling them off for free. Always get permission before you take pallets. When you have a pickup load, stack them neatly near your workshop or at the side of your garage and you’re ready to begin.
I use a electric circular saw to dismantle the pallets, cutting the wood off the stringers and stacking it in a dry place. The 2 x 4 stringers can be cut in half and burned in your woodstove. The wood you’ve cut off the stringers is where the real money is.
Pallet wood is naturally weathered and looks like old barn siding. I use it to make simple rustic birdhouses and bird feeders which I sell at flea markets or wholesale to garden centers around Pensacola. I get $10 to $30 each, sometimes more, for these birdhouses. The retailer usually resells them at double my price.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not a woodworker” or “I don’t have any power equipment.” The truth is that anyone can learn to make a nice birdhouse in just a few days of experimenting. Here are step by step instructions
to help you make the most amazing birdhouses.
Birdhouses are simple
A birdhouse is a simple structure with seven basic parts — two sides, a front and back, a bottom and two pieces for the roof. And you don’t necessarily need power equipment to cut the wood. It can be done with a handsaw if that’s all you have to begin with. Once you’ve made some money selling your handmade rustic birdhouses, you can think about buying some power equipment to make the work go faster.
I use a circular saw to do the initial cutting and a Delta 12-inch bandsaw for the rest of the cuts. I can cut up enough pallets in one morning to make 40 or 50 birdhouses or feeders. Once the pallets are cut up and I have the wood stacked in my shop, I can make 4 or 5 birdhouses a day (less than 8 hours). That adds up to a minimum of $40 - $120 a day for pleasant work in the privacy of my own shop (or garage or patio), with no boss breathing down my neck.
Once you have a bunch of birdhouses ready to sell, load them on the truck and head for the local garden centers. Carry several of your best birdhouses with you and smile as you ask, “How many do you need?” Some buyers will want you to put them in the shop on consignment, something I always refuse to do. I prefer payment up front since I know I have a good product that people want.
Where to sell birdhouses?
Birdhouses and bird feeders sell great at hardware stores, garden centers, larger grocery stores, craft stores, feed stores, farm stand, vegetable stands, farmers markets and antique stores. I sold a number of my rustic birdhouses in my booths at antique malls around Pensacola, FL. The rustic pallet wood bird homes nicely complement antiques.
Some people do not want rustic birdhouses. For them, I make birdhouses or feeders from number one pine and fir, maple, oak, and even mahogany which I also get for free. In most areas there are cabinet shops and wood working shops which throw away scrap wood in the dumpster.
You can locate woodworking shops, cabinet shops, and other sources of free wood in the Yellow Pages or by asking around. I stop at these businesses and find the owner or manager. I explain that I putter around making birdhouses and ask permission to go through the dumpster for wood. I have never had anyone say no. They have to pay to have the dumpster emptied. If I carry off some of the wood, I’m saving them money.
Birdhouses support green living
Small pieces which the cabinet shop cannot use are perfect for birdhouses. A birdhouse business recycles material that would otherwise clog the landfill. And it provides income for us independent types who prefer not to work for someone else. An entrepreneurial guy or gal could make this a full-time business if you want to branch out into making other wood-craft items. Dumpster wood and pallet wood is also suitable for making shadow boxes, chicken or rabbit nesting boxes, book shelves and many other cool things.
If I want bigger pieces of wood from the pallets for building wood fences and chicken sheds, I use a Milwaukee Sawzall to cut the nails in the pallets so the pieces of wood are intact. By the way, I bought the Sawzall used but in like-new condition, at a pawn shop for $99. It makes short work of pallets and I have larger pieces of wood for bigger projects. I figure it this way: seven birdhouses at $15 each pays for the Sawzall.
Rustic pallet wood bird houses sell well at hardware stores, garden centers, craft and feed stores or at your local flea markets and antique malls. Rustic pallet wood bird houses also sell well at hardware stores, garden centers, craft and feed stores.
For a week or two of work gathering and taking apart pallets, you can accumulate enough wood to make 100 birdhouses. At four birdhouses a day for five weeks, you will have 100 birdhouses ready to sell for $10 to $30 each. That is a minimum $1000 in about six weeks. Enlist your partner or children and make it a family endeavor. If you are lucky enough to live in a tourist area, birdhouses are impulse buys that create vacation memories for years to come. They can also be sold at your roadside produce stand or through free ads on Craigslist. Jump to Part 2.Return to Entrepreneurs
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