Top Cities for Woodworkers and What to Consider When Moving
From construction to small-scale carpentry, you’ve probably come into contact with something (or someplace) that a woodworker has laid hands on. There’s no question that woodworkers are needed everywhere!
But are there specific places where a woodworker can really thrive? Or where building a successful woodworking business is a bit more effortless?
Turns out, yes! In this article, you’re going to learn about the top cities for woodworkers and woodworking businesses.
Specifically, we’ll talk about:
- Factors to consider when choosing a city for woodworking
- Top cities for woodworking
- How to find woodworking jobs near you
Let’s start with some general things to consider when you’re a woodworker looking to relocate.
What to Consider When Choosing a City for Woodworking
Moving involves considering many factors (too many to count here!), but when it comes to moving as a woodworker, we’ve got the most important factors down. If you’re going to relocate, think through the following things for your new location:
- Access to materials
- Access to education and community
- Customer base
- Local business laws
- Cost of living
Let’s briefly touch on each one.
Access to materials
Do some preliminary research on the location you’re considering. Does it have lumber mills or wood suppliers? Can you easily access supplies? If the closest lumberyard is two hours away, that’s going to make your life more difficult than it needs to be.
Access to education and community
One of the worst parts about moving to a new place is the feeling of isolation, especially if you don’t know anyone.
That’s why it’s important to research what kinds of woodworking communities are nearby. Are there groups on Facebook or Reddit?
Woodworking schools are a good sign that there is a community of woodworkers in the area as well. You want a community that will value your craft and where you’ll fit in. Plus, having other woodworkers nearby means you can use each other as a resource. It may even lead to business partnerships in the future!
A thriving business needs a solid customer base, so before you pick a new location for your woodworking business, consider the kinds of people living nearby.
Do you need an affluent customer base? Then, be sure that it actually exists before you move there. Do you need a growing community that will want custom cabinets or flooring? Then, check out the real estate market of that location.
Ask around on different forums to gauge how other woodworkers feel about that particular market. And head over to a local craft or farmer’s market to see what kinds of woodworking vendors are there and what kind of business they’re getting.
Local business laws
Different states have varying laws that affect how easy it is to start a business and what kind of licensure you might need. Depending on the kind of work you do (large-scale construction projects vs. smaller artisan work), you will probably need different licenses and permission.
Research the business laws of your particular location and make sure the process is something you’re willing to go through.
A little bit of competition is a great thing. It often incentivizes business owners to guarantee quality work. It also gives you the opportunity to stand out in a given niche.
However, too much competition means your new business might get overshadowed by long-standing community staples.
To make sure you hit the sweet spot, do some market research on the given area. A simple Google search of “woodworkers in x” might give you an idea of what already exists. Is there a niche you can fill? Or are other businesses’ reviews bad and you know you could bring quality work to a community?
Cost of living
Cost of living is always an important consideration when you’re moving, whether you’re a woodworker or not. However, moving always feels a bit riskier if you own (or want to own) a small business and need to build up a client base.
Take a careful look at your finances and be honest about what you can and can’t afford. Also, evaluate what kinds of financial risks you’re willing to take. Moving to a new place and building a new client base can take a while, so factor that in as well.
Like cost of living, climate is important for anyone who is considering a move. If you want warm weather, you definitely shouldn’t move to Minnesota, and if you want milder temperatures, a place like Arizona is probably the last place you want to be.
Woodworkers, however, have a special climate concern that most people wouldn’t consider. Because wood is a breathing and dynamic material, different climates will cause the wood to react differently. Often this means more swelling or more shrinkage.
If the wood isn’t stable when you work with it, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. And the climate of the location that you’re in may (or may not) make it harder for you to keep wood at a consistent moisture content. (If the wood is dry, but the climate is humid, the wood will absorb moisture and vice versa.)
Wherever you go, always check the moisture content of your wood and compare it with the equilibrium moisture content of its final destination. You can do this easily with a quality moisture meter, like the Orion® 950 pinless moisture meter.
Now that we’ve gone over all these considerations, let’s talk about some cities you may want to consider.
Top Cities for Woodworking
Without further ado, here’s our list of the top cities for woodworking:
- Seattle, Washington
- Portland, Oregon
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
- San Diego, California
- Denver, Colorado
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Austin, Texas
- Chicago, Illinois
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
With options all over the country and with many climates represented, you can take your pick! Let’s talk about each one and why we’ve chosen them.
Beneath the shadow of Mt. Rainier sits not only a metropolis of coffee lovers and hikers but also a thriving community of woodworkers.
Washington has long been known for its huge lumber industry, but the interest in wood doesn’t stop there. Seattle boasts a number of woodworking schools, including the Ebanista School of Fine Woodworking and IsGood Woodworks.
This means that there is an active woodworking community there. And it’s bolstered by the fact that Seattle has access to high-quality lumber suppliers nearby. Compton Lumber & Hardware, Limback Lumber, and Issaquah Cedar & Lumber are just a few (of many) examples.
Oh, Portland, your PNW air is infectious. Portland is a great place for a blossoming woodworking business, especially if you’re interested in the arts and crafts scene.
Portland’s DIY culture makes it so anyone can get started and feel seen in the community. It boasts a large number of maker spaces and woodshops, such as the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Highland Woodshop, and ADX.
A cool bonus is the big emphasis on sustainability in woodworking. If you care about the environment and how your work impacts it and you want to have a big community of craftspeople and carpenters, then Portland might be the place for you.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is essentially the Portland of the south. It also has a big emphasis on the arts and crafts community and has numerous arts and woodworking festivals to prove it. There are plenty from the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
Not to mention that it has numerous wood resources and many beautiful surrounding forests so that you can enjoy wood even while you’re not in your workshop.
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
If you’re surprised that the twin cities made the list, don’t be. Woodworking is the perfect activity to keep your hands busy during those long winter months.
St. Paul is the home of the American Association of Woodturners, meaning that it already has great infrastructure for people who love woodworking and want to use it to support themselves.
It also has numerous woodworking clubs and plenty of lumberyards with quality wood to choose from.
San Diego, California
California is one of the top states for opportunities to manufacture and produce furniture.1 In fact, it constantly comes out on top for its woodworking shops and businesses.2 And although California has plenty of great spots, San Diego is one of its best.
San Diego has a perfect climate, with very little variability, which will keep your wood stable all year long. There is also a large woodworking community with a wide range of interests and specialties.
Denver, Colorado is a great location for potential woodworking businesses. It has numerous woodworking schools and clubs and a local emphasis on reclaimed wood.
And don’t forget that Denver is within reach of many forests with a variety of wood species. This diversity is a great option for woodworkers looking to make artisan pieces.
Boston has a rich history of woodworking and furniture making, which means that it has great infrastructure for woodworkers, including many high-quality wood suppliers and tool shops. Mix that with a vibrant community of woodworkers, and you have a place that’s perfect for any woodworking business.
Austin is a growing city in general, which means that it’s an excellent place for a new business to take hold. Plus, populations that need fine wood pieces are also relocating to Austin, so consider that if that’s your specialty.
Like Portland, there is a big emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly woodworking practices. Plus, it offers access to high-quality wood supplies and a number of woodworking classes and clubs.
Chicago is home to the Chicago School of Woodworking, established in 2007. With several classes and great instructors, it’s an excellent place not only to do continued education but also to make connections and build your community.
In Chicago, you have all of the amenities of a larger city, including several woodworking guilds, lumberyards, and tool shops with quality equipment.
Pennsylvania has a strong woodworking tradition. Many excellent furniture crafters are based in Pennsylvania and are specifically connected to Amish communities. Because of this strong woodworking tradition, the community is dedicated to keeping the craft alive and offers lots of different woodworking classes and clubs!
Philadelphia, specifically, is home to the Wharton Esherick Museum, which showcases many of Wharton Esherick’s wooden sculptures. This intimate look at his art highlights the beauty and artful craftsmanship of woodworking.
You can find a lot of different woodworking classes and clubs there, too!
So, with all these woodworker-friendly cities in mind, how do you find work in them?
How to Find a Woodworking Job
There are a lot of great ways to find a woodworking job in any given location.
You can use job websites like Indeed, and you can reach out to community groups on Reddit or Facebook to see if there are any connections or jobs they can pass on.
But don’t forget that you can also start your own business. If you’re interested in doing so, check out our article on ways to build your woodworking business.
The Rest Is Up to You!
Now that you know the top cities for woodworking, you can use that information to start your dream business!
So do your research and learn more about each city’s unique qualities. There’s one out there that’s a perfect fit for your interests and needs.
No matter where you end up, equip yourself with the right tools for your work. Check out our collection of professional moisture meters and make your new woodworking business a huge success.
Wagner Meters is a family-owned American business that aims to provide solutions in moisture measurement technology that will enhance the quality and value of each customer’s project. With an almost 60-year legacy of innovation, Wagner continues to be a resource for both individual craftsmen and high-performance commercial endeavors.