Selling Wood Whisperer Designs for Profit

Article - August 21, 2014

donotcopySomeone asked me recently what my policies were concerning people building my projects and designs for profit. In most cases, my policy is “Have at it!” My personal mission is to teach woodworking and share the love of the craft. That includes encouraging people to build the projects I design. Once you start building quality furniture, it won’t take long before that first commission rolls in from a family-member, a friend, or a neighbor. So if you can support your hobby by building something I designed, that’s just awesome!

So what about the next stage? Let’s say you are a professional woodworker and you have an e-commerce site or Etsy store and you want to offer one of my designs as a regular item. Guess what? I still don’t mind! This is all part of my desire to spread the love of furniture-building and I consider it a win-win situation. Furthermore, my designs are not all that unique and I am heavily-influenced by the woodworking I see on a daily basis. Most things I make are either conscious or subconscious iterations of numerous other things, combined or modified into a form I find pleasing. So being excessively over-protective of such creations feels a bit overzealous to me. Ultimately, you selling those pieces has absolutely no impact on the business that puts Goldfish in my son’s mouth.

But there is one favor I ask and it’s really just a simple professional courtesy: give credit. If you’re building an exact copy of my Gadget Station, put something like “Original Design from” at the end of the description. It isn’t hard to do and you don’t wind up looking like a turd. The truth is, all I can do is make the request. I would never pursue a legal battle and I wouldn’t have much ground to stand on if I did. The woodworking community is very small and if you post a copy of something online it won’t take long before someone sees it and calls you out. So do yourself a favor and give credit where it’s due.

dogon-bed-01Here’s an example of something that came across my inbox today: Etsy Custom Bed Listing. You might recognize that bed as the Dogon Platform Bed I built for a client last year. If James can actually get $8500 for that bed (I only charged $5000), all the power to him. But you’ll notice that the description makes no mention of who designed the piece. I have since emailed the seller and requested that he add a line to the description. If he doesn’t respond, so be it.

*UPDATE*It looks like James updated the page to include attribution. I want to be very clear that I had no intention of villainizing James in any way and I truly hope he can sell the bed. Because I have never made an official public statement about my policies on this sort of thing, I was using this Etsy post as an example to help illustrate my point. Credit to James for responding quickly and making the change!

Please keep in mind that these are just MY policies. Not every woodworker out there is so willing to let you build their designs for profit (legal realities aside). So do your homework before you sell and when in doubt, ask! If you’re interested in reading up on the ethical and legal issues involved in reproducing someone else’s designs for profit, check out these helpful articles:

Is Copying Furniture Legal? – Fine Woodworking
Imitation Could Be Illegal – Popular Woodworking
Is OK to Sell Furniture Based on FWW Articles? – Fine Woodworking