It's been a few months since the last update. During this time, I've been incredibly busy. Since mid-March, I've picked up woodworking and this has taken up all of my free time and then some. It's been really fun, and I've built about a dozen pieces so far. They've mostly been kotatsu tables, though I've also made a box, an end table and a few go boards with legs.
It all started during the freak snow storm in February. I was huddled in my bed when I remembered that I've always been interested in owning a kotatsu table. So, I started looking for them online. I was disappointed by the choices available. Mostly I felt the price was high for what you get. Also, I wanted the table to be square and large. It occurred to me that I could probably build one for cheaper, using better materials than the particle board stuff these tables were made of. And this is how the journey began. This was my original design.
Then reality hit. After buying the tools I needed, and being constrained by the dimensions of commonly available lumber, I ended up with this.
It's a yard in length by a yard in depth. The height is around 14 to 16 inches. All the cuts are made using a table saw and a router, avoiding some expensive, specialized equipment. As a whole, I think I've engineered a pretty good solution that is classy enough to be desirable while being easy enough to mass produce by hand.
So, I made 8 kotatsu tables based on this design, with minor tweaks and improvements with each iteration. Originally, the joints were flush with the legs, but they proved to be too weak with not enough material to prevent part of the joint from shearing off. The first three tables exhibit this weakness, which I address in subsequent tables by having the joints protrude slightly. It's a different look that isn't bad at all. The first table was 3.5ft by 3.5ft. The second table was 4ft by 4ft. This was the largest one I would make before settling down to 3ft by 3ft for the rest of the tables. Finally, thus far, all the tables have been prone to wobble. I've been researching ways to address this issue with the next iteration.
In terms of cost, by the time the dust had settled, I had spent $4k making the 8 kotatsu tables and a dinner table. Using cost averaging, the cost per table was around $600. As a desperate attempt to recoup some of those costs, I listed a kotatsu table for sale on Etsy. I was surprised and delighted when someone bought it, but that was when I hit another roadblock: getting the table to where it needed to go was an expensive challenge on its own. I listed the table for $400. Even with the addition of $200 for shipping, this was still $100 less than how much the shipping cost in the end. Subtracting the packaging materials and raw material, the profit was around $100, not including the labor. I'll need to sell a lot more tables before I'm able to recoup the capital expense I initially invested. Though, I am trying to lower the shipping costs - even making my own cardboard shipping boxes if I have to.
Thus far, this venture has not been lucrative. However, the experience has been fun, educational, and worth it.