What It's About
A firefighter carves out a lucrative side hustle... with a chainsaw.
Words of Wisdom
Lots of people won’t get into woodworking or a similar niche because of how much the tools can cost. But if you’re willing to get one second-hand, you can get it at one-tenth the price. This is often still better than a cheap and low-quality tool that you buy new. As Cameron says, “buy nice or buy twice.”
Woodworking is the skill of making things from wood and can involve the making of decorations, furniture, and houses. In the days of Ancient Egypt and Ancient China, woodworking was so vital that you could say it helped build those civilizations. Today, woodwork continues to be of interest to many as a specialized craft.
Notes from Chris
As the leader of a helitack wildfire-fighting team, Cameron Vilcsak spends a lot of time near the Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta. During periods where there is heavy rainfall or high humidity, wildfires are significantly less common and his team takes the opportunity to train. Training includes a lot of chainsaw work, and it was during one of these training sessions that Cameron decided to save two of the biggest logs his team had cut for an idea he had. Most of the logs were usually left to rot or used for team campfires, so he figured that there was nothing to lose. His idea was chainsaw carving. Think of it like wood-carving … just with a chainsaw instead of a pocketknife. Growing up, Cameron had spent weekends camping with his family and whittling small wooden figurines. This taught him how to use various carving tools and gave him the basic skills he needed. Naturally, the difference is that he would be using bigger tools and materials this time, which he was also comfortable with as well since he used them all the time in firefighting. In fact, he says that using a chainsaw is easier than the usual micro-carving because it’s machine powered and you get greater room for error when using a bigger log. On his first attempt, Cameron managed to carve a bear standing on its hind legs. This got the attention of everyone at the fire base where he worked, and he received requests from his colleagues to share his techniques. That was the moment when he realized that he was creating something of value and that woodworking could amount to more than just a hobby. The next week, Cameron carved a replica of an Easter Island Moai statue which he shared on his Instagram profile. After seeing it there, one of his friends asked if he could put it on display in the front window of his store, along with the bear. A whole series of fortunate events quickly followed. He received a call from the city’s art director who had noticed the two pieces of work and wanted to display them at the upcoming arts festival. Cameron readily agreed, and the very night of the festival, he received an offer of $800 for the two woodcarvings. Later that week, he was featured in the local paper. With all the attention, he knew he was on to something. He began spending his free time on Reddit, YouTube, and in Facebook Groups learning more about his new craft. Today, he averages about $1,000 a month from his side hustle, Mountain Fire Woodworks, all without any initial startup costs. As his projects have gotten more complicated, however, Cameron has invested in his equipment, spending almost up to $1,500 on high-quality tools. Cameron’s next project is to build a 1,500 square foot log cabin. He plans to document the entire process and upload it to his YouTube channel, which he hopes will inspire others to take up woodworking as well. If you’re not into chainsaw woodworking, not to worry: you can carve out another side hustle that is just as well suited to your talents.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Mountain Fire Woodworks: If you're interested in learning more about this cutting side hustle, head on over to Cameron's website and head on over to his Instagram page to see some of his work!
- YouTube | Mountain Fire Woodworks: If you think you'd like to try your hand at woodworking, Cameron has some videos on his YouTube channel that might help you find your first product
- New Dad Starts Woodworking Hustle While Infant Son Naps: An ad executive and new dad pursues a creative outlet, making handcrafted ladders during his son’s naptimes
- High School Teacher Turns Woodworking Hobby Into a 5-Figure Side Hustle: A high-school teacher turns his love for woodworking and business into lessons for his students, making a solid second income along the way
- High School Student Earns $20,000 Making Wooden Bow Ties: When a young woodworker receives a wooden bow tie as a gift, he’s unimpressed. After making his own, he earns $20,000 while going to high school full-time
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