For my part it is not FEstool who showed me that, but the carpenter who rent me a part of his shop. HE bougth a CNC (approx 200K€), an edgeband gluer (100+ K€) and a digital table saw (25K€) with a table that roll on 3m05 which is the length of a panel here... And it is just amazing to see how fast he and his two employee can makes furnitures. He has also a bunch of software to roughly design then export each boxes to an cut optimser and to the software which communicate with the CNC. It is realy far from the stuff I see on the US blogosphere.
This carpenter order his panels by one hunderd unit to get a better price. I was impressed at first, but I've already made three project with more than 30 panels, and I'm self employed only since october 2009.
Realy? So our market are very very different, it is amazing. I had the chance to work as a project manager for a really big carpentry company which make office furniture and office "wall". So I could have a good view of the supplier market in my country. And there are tens of HUGE supplier (in a realy small country) who can offer several tens of different colors, structures, etc... for veneer, melamine, laminate. When I go to show the possibilities to a customer I have to bring a huge bag of samples with at least 150 different finish, and I only bring two brand among the 5 or 6 I could offer.
For the veneer, I know at least 5 supplier who can supply more or less any kind of veneered panels. Obviously not all as quickly. But I cant count on "in stock" oak, beech, and walnut. And I'll have to wait two or three weeks for the rest. They can glue this on any kind of panels, from 4 mm to 60mm thick, standard, ligth, heavy, waterresistant, fireresistant, low formaldehyde, etc etc.
Ho and just to reassure you, we do pay more for black melamine too. It's just that they produce millions of square meter of white one, so the white are always cheaper. The black is usualy not twice the price, but it can be the case for some sort of structure / finish.
I guess nobody can compete with Ikea. (look the price of one kitchen boxe with five drawer, finished, hardware included, drawer face included. it is something like 120, 150€ for this price, excluding taxes, I can buy four drawer hardware and cry )
On the other side I think here there is not a diffference between "people who go to Ikea" and "people who don't". A lot of people does both. (And some have no choice obviously). In every works I did, there was some Ikea furniture not so far. The customer choosed to save some money on some stuff, and spend more on some other.
About the disapearance of small shop, it is clearly true in belgium too, but not completly. If you're ready to comply with the reality of the market and to make what can be sold, there is still a lot of work to do. But it is clear that if you dream of the good old time of hand made carpentry and do not want to come close to a MDF board... you risk to spend a lot of time sharpening your tools, and less actualy working for money On the other side I know two colleague who are quiet "plain wood snob", and they solved the problem working almost only in structural carpentry (car port, timber frame, stairs...). at first it was hard, but after one or two year, it realy started and they have a planning as full as mine.
So if I understrand you well, it means that most of the guys on the blogosphere make a living in being on the blogosphere more than in selling their works? Like our dear Marc? I always wondered. (maybe I am too curious?)