Career Changing into Wooden Boat Restoration?

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by catalyst45, Feb 12, 2015.

  1. catalyst45
    Joined: Feb 2015
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    catalyst45 New Member

    I am toying with the idea of pursuing wooden boat restoration as a third career. I'd like to get some perspective from those in the community who have made such or a move with success or not.

    I am 36 and currently work in an unrelated field (secondary education) and have minimal woodworking experience. I am considering the IYRS program in Newport to get my hands-on experience, industry connections.

    Unlike some career changers I haven't banked a lot of money in my life and need to be reasonably sure this would be worth my while and investment (tuition is approx 40k). I would need to at least be in the 50-60k/yr neighborhood to save for a house, my kid's college, etc

    Has anyone gone through one of these vocational programs mid-life? If so, what have been your experiences, financial and otherwise?
     
  2. Canracer
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    Canracer Senior Member

    If I was changing careers, I'd go to my local community college and talk to the people there. They can tell you who will be hiring in the future and where the demand will be. Community college is the best place to start and it might cost 4,000 (ten times less then what you are considering.)
     
  3. SaugatuckWB
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    SaugatuckWB Junior Member

    I quit a secondary teaching job 3 years ago to build boats and would never go back. I went from a steady $65k to a highly variable $20-40K each year, but all the stress is gone and I'll still get a pension if and when I'm 60 yo. Although I like wood, I'm increasingly doing aluminum work because that's where the $ is around here right now unless you want to do old Chris Crafts, but I don't have the patience for that.

    If you are on the east coast there is probably more wooden boat work. I don't know about making $60k. Not to start out for sure. There is a boat building school in Michigan (Great Lakes Boat Building School : http://www.glbbs.org/ ) that is about $22k for two years. Its got a good reputation around here.

    I think you'd have to decide that you were going to take a pay cut and be happy, and weigh that against your goals of home ownership, kids college, etc.
     
  4. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Restoration requires a lot more experience than new construction. You need to know many construction methods from different eras and regions around the world. Also, it may take years to build a reputation in a small market. If 50-60K is your expectation, calculate at least ten years before attaining that goal. Also, at least for a few years, you should work with shipwrights to learn the trade. Travelling helps a lot because you get in contact with a larger variety of methods.
     
  5. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    What Gonzo said . . .

    Restoration requires you know all aspects of the build, repair, rejuvenation and restoration processes, plus a keen idea of the various markets, business savvy and a bucket load of luck. Simply put, your first half a dozen "restorations" will be a net lose, even with decades of industry experience. After you've taken enough "baths", you'll learn which projects to select, what type of clients to work with, where and how to source materials, vendors, etc. and you can begin to manage the bleeding to a marginally profitable existence.
     
  6. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Catalyst; The other respondents have laid it out pretty well. There are a lot of other variables including location, seasonal climate, and economic status of the general location. There is more money spread around in Monte Carlo than there is in Mobile Alabama for example. (Disclaimer; I am not demeaning Mobile.)

    The bottom line is................NO. If you are not already a highly skilled craftsman then look elsewhere. As an educator you already have some college credentials. For the forty grand that you mentioned, you can probably get a degree in Accounting or some other profession where the money is.
     
  7. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    This industry is discretionary funds dependent, pretty much like a hooker. If you have the money laying around with nothing else to do with it, you'll do something with it, but it's also the very first thing to go away when the economy takes a dump. So, just like a hooker, in bad economic times both the marine and extra entertainment sectors are hard hit. Simply put the first thing to go in bad times, is discretionary fund expenditures, as there's nothing about yachts, in general that is mandatory for getting along in life, so approach your new career path just like any business savvy hooker and don't quit your day job.
     
  8. pashbe1
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    pashbe1 Junior Member

    Hey Catalyst,

    building and restoring wooden boats was my first/second career. I miss it dearly, yet would not go back to it for anything. I am still working in the marine industry but my income is steady and sure, offers benefits, and is about 3x what I was making while building and restoring. This career is more of a hobby, in that you need to be able to afford to do it.
     
  9. HandMan
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    HandMan Junior Member

    Is building small craft (dinghies, runabouts, etc.) something one could do in a basement or garage as a source of supplemental income or would it be more accurately considered a "rich man's hobby?"
     
  10. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    It is more of a hobby. Not to say you can't pay for the materials and a bit on top. However, the market is small for the amount of people trying to get into it. Sometimes you can get lucky and become "in vogue" so customers will want to buy your boats. Usually, it takes a long time to build a reputation.
     
  11. HandMan
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    HandMan Junior Member

    Thanks Gonzo. That is kinda what I thought. I have never actually built a boat (there isn't enough water here for that) but I will be moving to a coastal town in the future, so there will be some opportunity to turn the drawings and offsets of Mr. Wm. H. Hand, Jr. into real boats.
     
  12. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    I know a fellow who had a high level civil service job but also liked building boats. So he started building boats for others in evenings and on weekends. The boats were plywood and designed by a well known and respected designer. He advertised, exhibited occasionally, and claimed to be making a profit. His customers were happy. Then he retired and after a year or so decided he wanted to do other things than build boats for others.
     
  13. HandMan
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    HandMan Junior Member

    Customers can be very demanding. If I was retired, not sure I would be able to tolerate them either. LOL
    Would be interesting to find out what faciitated the change.
     
  14. upchurchmr
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    upchurchmr Senior Member

    Handman,

    I thought I would develop building kayaks into a retirement job.
    Others suggestions that there really is a very small market appears to be true, especially in DFW.

    You really need to be outstanding as a craftsman, in the right market, and lucky to succeed. Oh, and very knowledgeable about boats. Perhaps I just missed out a little on all three :D

    But, there is plenty of water now - as you know!!!
     

  15. HandMan
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    HandMan Junior Member

    Pleanty of water...possibly, but the wrong kind and in the wrong places. LOL. There is only one naturally occurring lake in a state the size of New England.
    Too bad they want to put a toll road down the middle of the new Trinity river bed. (More laughing out loud)
    I doubt I will ever make money building boats. Once you rely on an activity for sustenance it becomes work....and I'm not a big fan of work.
     
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