Making Things as a Way to Make Money
By Steve Gillman - 2004 - 2013
Making things to sell doesn't have to involve learning difficult
skills. Sometimes it can start as nothing more than simple assembly
rather than true artistry or craftsmanship. You can become more
artistic as you work at this, of course. Here are some examples
of how to make some extra cash from things that you can make
I have friends who make and sell elaborate, expensive jewelry.
We are not as artistic (at least I am not), or our tastes aren't
as rich, but a decade ago my wife and I used to regularly make
and sell simple pendants at flea markets and craft shows. Our
jewelry often involved just tying a string to a pewter figurine.
There's probably more money to be made in the well-crafted, fancier
jewelry, but there is a market for all types.
One easy and interesting piece of jewelry to make is a coin
pendant. Many coin shops have a basket or bucket of foreign coins
that they sell for as little as 25 cents. You can look through
and pick out the shiniest and most unusual ones. Where we bought
our coins they were 10 cents each or three for 25 cents. Some
odd ones were square or triangular, while others just had great
designs. In any case, it you have a power drill, you just need
to drill a small hole in each. Attach a nice piece of string
and you have created a pendant that can sell for up to $5 (although
$2 will still make for a nice profit).
photo here is of a driftwood-and-seashell craft that my wife
bought for $10. They normally sell for more than that, but the
artist was a neighbor. She simply collects the shells on the
beaches around here (we currently live in southern Florida),
and glues them to pieces of driftwood or wood that is collected
from forests. The investment to get started in something like
this is time and a few dollars for glue and gas to get you to
the beach. You can wait until you sell a few pieces to friends
before risking the booth rental fee necessary to sell them at
an arts and crafts show.
Yes, it helps to have an artistic flair when doing this. On
the other hand, the primary thing that gets people buying these
is the wide variety of colorful seashells that they display,
so you could even start by simply gluing rows of various shells
to a nice piece of wood. Use a glue that can also be used to
coat the shells to make them shine more.
You can buy pewter wolves, dragons, turtles, lighthouses etc.,
from several companies online. Smaller pieces can be bought for
about 20 cents each. My wife used to put these on rocks, shells
(the mermaids) and glass gems using E-6000 glue (but there are
many different brands that will work). We sold them for $2 to
$10 each at craft shows and flea markets. The kids in particular
love the dragons on glass gems or agates.
Pewter Lighthouse on Rock
Find a friend who wants his property cleared of the weedy
young poplar trees. Bring a saw and knife and start cutting walking
sticks. When I was doing this I could make about forty walking
sticks in a day with the easy woods like poplar. I bought old
leather coats at thrift stores, cut them into strips and used
these pieces to put handgrips on the sticks after they had dried
for a few weeks. The addition of wood burned designs, feathers,
inset rocks, and other touches made for some pricier models,
but I had my best luck with the sticks that sold for under $15.
I sold my hiking sticks for up to $22 and wholesaled them
for as little as $4 for the very basic ones, but you can search
online right now and see that $70 and $80 prices are common for
some hand-carved staffs. My own venture took place about a decade
ago, when my wife and I sold our various creations at craft shows
and flea markets. I also wholesaled the walking sticks to buyers
who then sold them at pow-wows and gun-and-knife shows.
PVC Bow and Arrows
Cut a piece of half-inch plastic pipe to about 3 feet long,
put a slit in each end and put a piece of nylon twine on it.
It is now a bow. I know a man who used to sell these for $6 at
pow-wows and flea markets. He dresses them with colored tape
and includes one arrow made from a dowel and pointed pencil eraser.
I don't make things to sell any longer (unless you count my
books), but I do still like to create things from natural resources
from time to time. Just prior to leaving Colorado in 2012 I started
collecting sandstone pieces while out hiking. I ground them down
to make flat coasters for setting drinks on. I glued cheap felt
to the bottom. I'm not sure what they would sell for, but I imagine
that if someone used the right tools (I just ground them by hand
on a cement block), and lived near a good supply of sandstone
like I did, these could be made quickly and easily. They're attractive,
and the stone soaks up perspiration from the glass, so it doesn't
run over the edge and onto the table.
I'll include more ways to make money with crafts in the Unusual
Ways newsletter, so sign up now if you haven't already.