Chapter 1 - SO you want to be an IKEA Hacker? And make money on it? Ok, here is my advice.
At the end of my Maker Festival presentation, at the end of the Q&A a young man - about 25 years old - approached me and he said that he wants to do what I do. He wants to be an IKEA Hacker. I gave him couple of pointers within the short time that I had to vacate the room for next presentation - BUT I SAID - 'Check out my blog soon - I will post a HOW TO!'
Chapter 2 - This is it - how to become a professional IKEA Hacker.
This here advice is aimed at young people, simply because they have the time allotted in their lives to become proficient at it - plus they have better eyesight; you would be saddened to know that greatest desire to become a woodworker can be ruined with poor eyesight.***
When you become proficient at what you do for a living, then you can start making some serious money. The time and money commitment required to learn a trade is fairly steep in my opinion - it takes about 5 years. Challenge is that there is no 'school for it' - there is no school for 'Ikea Haclers' and it is very much individual driven. BUT, rest assure that the future of craft, skilled labour is, in my opinion, one of individuals running their own show. Running your own show allows you total, and absolute control of your life - professional and personal.
If you are like me, then you are always on the clock.
If you love what you do; if you are passionate about the product that you are putting out; if you are keen on 'pushing the envelope' and want to make your mark on the world then you have to make this your life. Sounds too much? Consider this: I am Netflix and chilling at 10pm and an e-mail comes in - somebody saw my work somewhere and they are intrigued, they e-mail me - it's a lead. It's another opportunity to realize your vision, another opportunity to create something beautiful - I immediately reply - I usually reply to a request within 15 min, pretty much up to 1am in the morning.
This is called customer relations management - you have to become proficient at it. You want to stand out from a crowd of about 100 of other businesses that are vying for the same job - quick replies ensure that the customer is hooked. These days modern devices allow for almost instantaneous connection - seize that opportunity. That is what will differentiate you from the 'old crowd' - you are young, hip and dynamic - you are the new generation of tradespeople.
STAY IN SCHOOL - today, anyone can graduate with a BA in anything* propelled by the bottomless pit of government backed student loans. I am stunned! Stunned, when I read how much debt people acquire in order to be plunged into a large pool of well qualified, passionate candidates with limited options of employment. I share a personal story - my grandma's [who is still alive] grew up in the 60's, worked in the administration of a medium size city in Poland, and was completely enamoured with 'engineers' - men wearing clean white, stiffly starched collars and dark ties with large rimmed glasses, who had access to 'at work bars' [heee heee heee]. They were a source of authority, people listened to them and addressed them as 'thank you sir', 'will do that sir', 'coming right up sir'. It has been her biggest dream that her grand children [and now great-grand children] be in a 'white collar' positions - dictating others what to do.
Oh how the times have changed. Good quality education with excellent prospects is still very much in demand, but a simple BA does nothing, NOTHING for you! Even when it comes to engineering, being aggressive helps.
Vocational schools on the other hand offer solid foundation of practical skills - hands on skills that large commercial operators will require, AND, most importantly will be willing to pay top dollar to retain their top talent. If you are considering serious income than you should be looking at trades that will land you working on large government projects, publicly supported institutional expansions. It will be a seamless transition form school to a paid apprenticeship.
Good trade programs will introduce you to range of software required to do your job well, that you potential employers are using. I personally heard on the CBC radio of two young women who went to trade school, who later realized that there is software niche to be filled and they designed an app that is used on mobile devices to manage projects across southern Ontario - trades can be hi-tech too - be open to new opportunities, seek them out, be pro-active, you may not end up banging nails every day for 10 hours, although in the beginning you might.
Chapter 2 Stay in school - DO YOU LIKE WOODWORKING?
IKEA Hacking is 3 things - Carpentry, Cabinetmaking and Furniture Making. If you must go to school then chose a cabinetmaking course. Cabinet making is a 'accurately close' to IKEA Hacking - I would not call IKEA furniture, furniture grade** See, I am a furniture maker - I love designing and building furniture; the only that is holding me back is the money - I can build you anything your heart desire. Cabinetmaking in modern wood shops has evolved - it is very much automated - when you get an order to bang out 120 kitchens, most of the cutting and joinery is automated - just look at the pricing on a SEKTION box. You will quickly realize that hacking IKEA is more efficient - meaning you can shift the dollar to the DESIGN, of which I will talk more too later; that's where you want to shine. Study well, graduate with high marks get an apprenticeship in a commercial setting - union jobs pay more and are steady.
You know another advantage of working in a commercial setting? Projects change often and vary in size - knowing how to build a kitchen is great; executing essentially the same solid wood table is exciting - but you want variety. I worked in a commercial shop - I did acres of laminates [that's how I fell in love /w P-lam, as it is spec'ed out] - but also did large built-ins for exotic places; glued up solid wood benches for banks; made up some super-fine glass doors for some private-corporate box at a large sports stadium. I learned how to build and hang up frames for some pretty heavy-ass commercial doors!
Working in commercial setting will let you experience and work on projects small, medium, medium large, large and gigantic. You will never know what drawing your foreman will give you as your next project. You will get to experience building projects by people light years ahead of you in the profession. You will be like me - 'Ah....that's the size to use on this scale.' Or - 'that's a reasonable choice for this structural member' - I have many mentors, and I have thanked them all personally for guiding my professional development.
That's the advantage! Don't get stuck in super-fine shop that crafts its products for ages, that cuts its dovetails by the foot, that bookmatches every product - there is no market for woodworking like this - sorry to be harsh. There can only be one Krenov or Wendell Castle - and you know what, au contraire what you might believe, you are not it - or - like, the chances that you are it are like winning the PowerBall or 6/49 - you know what I mean. It is better that you strip yourself of any romantic notions - because otherwise people will take advantage of your eagerness and good will.
Now get your hands on IKEA products - start with installations first. Where I come from IKEA installers charge $100 per box - more for installations of kitchen islands. But there are hundreds of Billy bookcase purchasers that detest the assembly of that unit on Monday, after they purchased it in Sunday. Put in an add and start pricing yourself - let the market price you - if you can do more then you can start charging more.
You will quickly realize how limiting the IKEA installation systems are. IKEA limits the installation systems for a reason - remember, they are designing this thing for masses, most of whom lack the experience, and occasionally can be quite litigious [especially in America]. The installation systems are accessible - that is the key - there is more people with less money, than there are people with more money.
Now here comes you, with a good understanding of how to build boxes - that's right, they are just boxes. You can cut them down, you can add to them - a creative person will see a myriad ways of quickly generating nice design based on a clients inspirational photos.
To be continued.
*this is not a criticism. In a UBI society - which I firmly believe is coming; capitalist snake eating its own tail in annual 4% efficiency - this will not be an issue at all. People will be most productive, and will want to contribute to society via their passion for labour. People will literally work 24/7 if they see a large, grander meaning in their work. The greatest gift that anyone can give or do, is the fact that they had meaningful contribution to humanity - 'You, kind sir or a gentle lady or whomever, have made this world a better place of others. We, the Society thank you.'
**no diss here. They are really amazing at automation - so cutting and edging panels; rapid work with solid wood - I purchase IKEA kitchen slabs from AS-IS on an impulse - I just can't pass up opportunity to buy a nice slab for 20 bucks people! I CAN'T PASS IT UP! IT'S JUST 20 BUCKS! sorry for yelling.