View Full Version : The First Customer

11-15-2005, 11:09 PM
We had the joy today of taking our first order for a project for the Shopbot. Nothing exotic -- a small v-carved sign for a sign company here in town. I was introduced to them through a mutual friend.

I'd be curious to hear from others: Who was your first customer, how did they find out about you, and what was the job?

11-16-2005, 09:11 AM
Our first was a lady who needed a tv cab.
it had spirals on either side.
So I got the bot with the indexer and turned them in keyboard control mode.

Brady Watson
11-16-2005, 11:41 AM
My 1st paying customer was a designer that wanted me to make them a 4X8' table out of MDF...one that was suitable for covering the entire table in bronze mirror! Everything was dadoed or rabbeted and fit together perfectly, just like my rendering in Rhino. It was the 1st time that I built an assembly in CAD and it materialized in the physical world on spec!

When I delievered it, the designer, the glass guy and the customer (had to be 'glassed' on site) kept walking around the table (just MDF mind you) because they had never seen anything like it that snapped together perfectly...I thought that something was majorly wrong by the way they were gawking at it!


11-16-2005, 11:47 AM
My first "real" customer was a simple entertainment center. I used the shopbot to cut the casework out, run dados and adjustable shelf pin holes.

11-16-2005, 12:54 PM
My first 'paying' job was for my mothers church group. Cutting about 20 nativity scenes out of 3/4" pine. Man, looking back on it, those parts were so rough. Those poor ladies probably spent hours sanding the edges. Learned a lot since then (that was a year ago), I dare say the parts would come out much better today.


11-16-2005, 02:55 PM
I cut an acrylic logo for the buisness that sold me this control PC for my tool about one year ago... I provided the material, vectorized from raster file... bid way to low for this first job!

11-16-2005, 04:05 PM
I cut a stencil out of 0.092" polycarbonate as one of my first projects. It was a simple job and only got paid $20. I worked probably 10 hours on getting the first one cut right and probably blew $15 worth of material. $0.50/hr. Woohoo! I immediately got another order from someone who saw the first one and made $18 net for about 30 minutes worth of work. I'll be doing more of these as they are quite profitable and relatively simple to draw up.

I cut several lithophanes out of 1/4" corian. Since these were mostly for me to practice on, I only charged $50 and ran my machine for 7 hours. I cut several more for practice and gifts. I'm working to get more orders at better prices.

I'm in the process of helping someone build a subwoofer out of sonotube concrete form tubes. I'm cutting the endcaps out of MDF and stand for it. I'm also cutting a top out of edge joined hardwood. Again, this a friend/family project so I won't make much, but I might start putting together kits for these after he and I work out the design bugs.

I cut several rubber band gatlin guns. I only do these for friends as they are more labor intensive to assemble than I can reasonably charge for. I get $20/ea. The material cost is about $5-7. It cuts in about 15 minutes, and I have to hand finish the dowels (another 15 minutes), sand off machine marks, and glue them up (easily 15 minute). I'm working at making this faster and easier to do, but I don't think I want to do this as production. Its good practice though for how to run efficient production.

I've made simple v-carved signs for friends for material cost (or free as gifts). I'm suprised that I'm starting to see follow-on work from friends of the people I made freebie signs for. I plan to visit some camping parks to offer signs as it seems like campers like to hang signs with their names on them and where they are from. I can visit on friday and have simple signs produced by Sunday. It'll keep my machine and me busy during the summer I'm sure.

Most of my work has been in my own home. My wife found a seesaw in a catalog ($150 there). I took some measurements from the catalog picture and made a duplicate for about $30 in materials. I made a key holder for our keys (simple pine). Lots of other stuff.

Its all been word of mouth, but I'm working on building real business contacts. Since right now, this is mostly a hobby, I'm willing to work slowly. I have an old PR32, but I figure once I get rolling, I'll purchase a faster machine and have plenty of projects already "coded" that I can produce with relatively minor changes. I hope to hit the ground running that way. (Thank god for shopbot code compatibility...it will also give me a prototyping machine to use while my "production" machine is in use). I do feel for the guys who blew $20K and have to make money on day 1.


11-16-2005, 09:42 PM
First real paying job was a 3/4" birch plywood uderlayment for a granite surface bar top. The customer was a subcontractor for Mountaneer Gaming center. A casino in West Virginia. The challenge was that the bar was approximately 41' long and had a 38' radious. Took 6 sheets of plywood but the beatiful part was that I supplied the granite maker the dxf drawings of the underlayment so that he could design around the seams. He was very happy about that. I was paid $700 for about 4 hours of work and they supplied the material. Cost me 2 straight cutters and 1 floppy disc. They even delivered and picked up the material. Sure wish they could all be like that.


11-17-2005, 10:59 AM
I purchased the machine used 2 years ago with 60 hrs on it and a spindle. Better yet it came with an order. The part was made in 1/2" Baltic Birch and had been quoted at $1.20/ ea. I picked up the machine, struggled with everything in a very tiny space hauling 5'X5' sheets into and onto the PRT120 in a 14'X22' shop with space heaters in the winter. Made several thousand units and completing the order,they paid for my material & training, I increased the price and it went away. The parts were used in automobile arm rests between seats of Mini Cooper autos by an aftermarket supplier. We quickly realized pricing the work right is key and haven't looked back since. Now we only make things that are profitable. Its now a full time effort as I have left the day job 35 year career in electronics 9 months ago but every day is a adventure and if we're not careful this will work just fine and maybe we'll even get a vacation soon. Best of luck to all and thanks for the other stories.
Its no longer such a great challenge to make it, more to keep the orders coming in but they are out there for the taking.