If someone asked me (a 13yr old) to build a bookcase, how much would you
I would think you charge on a per job rate, or is it hourly?
Say the materials cost £15 and it took 5 hrs, how much would you charge.
I am not going to start charging, as I am putting it down to experience,
just getting them to pay materials, but just wondering!
IMHO, the answer is "whatever the market will bear". How long it takes you
doesn't enter into the price, AFAIC. You can use that to decide whether
it's worth your time to do it, but shouldn't have an impact on the price.
So, it comes down to what would a handcrafted bookcase made of similar
materials and of a similar quality go for on the open market?
Inarguably Tom Plamann is a very sucessful woodworker who obviously has a
good grasp on pricing woodworking projects. Here's what he said on abpw
about pricing and "how long it takes" with regard to his awesome stairway
"I figured the price so that if it takes twice as long to make as I think it
will, I still make something on it."
Interestingly, at Tom's level "time" is likely his biggest "cost" factor,
not materials, so the cost of the materials-multiplier-method mentioned
earlier in this thread wouldn't even get you in the ballpark like it might
for the rest of us weekly wooddorkers.
Nonetheless, time is money, and inarguably part of the "cost" of a project,
and at least one _very_ successful woodworker gives us a brief insight into
how he figures that price.
BTW, anyone who hasn't been to abpw to see the "prototype" ... "go and be
Here is my "general guidelines" for pricing.
Cost of materials + 20% for handling, example 10 bf oak @ 3.00/bd ft $30.00 X 1.2 = $36.00 USD
Time in shop X hourly rate for example 3 hours @ 40 USD/hr = $120 USD
Then I add the two together = $156 for my wholesale price and I double this
for my retail price = $312 USD.
You will get all sorts of suggestions about rent, cost of tools etc. but for
me this system will get you started.
Radial Arm Saw Forum: http://forums.delphiforums.com/woodbutcher/start
How much do you want to earn? Is the customer willing to pay that?
Very simplified, it is material cost plus labor. So lets step through it a
Material cost is the cost of wood, of course. You must also factor in glue,
screws, dowells, and things you may already have on hand. You may use only
a portion of a bottle, but it is still a cost you paid. Experience often
tells you how much to factor in. You must also account for waste. You can't
ask the customer for extra if you screw up a piece and have to buy more
wood, but yoiu will damage some. An allowance is usually factored on all
jobs, even those where there is no waste due to your error.
Labor will vary. For a business, you must pay either yourself or your worker
a wage per hour. Since you are a beginning woodworker, you will earn less
per hour. Work it backward. A bookcase is frth $100. Of that, $30 is
material, $70 is labor and it takes a skilled experienced craftsman 5 hours.
That works out to $14 per hour. Since you are new at this, it may take you
10 hours to complete the project. Your customer may only be willing to pay
that same $70, so you can only earn $7 per hour. In a business, you must
also factor in time to go get the wood, insurance cost, unilities, sales
commissions, supplies, taxes and many other little items
1. Know your bottom price based on your own determination. This can vary
depending circumstances. Sometimes it pays to do something that will lead
to other things.
2. Know what you want to get for the job, again based on what it's worth to
3. Most importantly, never underestimate what someone is willing to pay.
Before you answer the question,"how much do you charge?" Ask,"what are you
willing to pay?" Followed with," let me get back to you with a price."
Figure out what you think it's worth to you, knowing how it's made,
then double that. It's really bad business practice to start with a
low price- face it, you're not going to compete with WalMart
price-wise, so you may as well go for snob appeal. If you can't sell
what you've got at the price you've set, it's always easier to drop
the price than it is to raise it- and you've got the added advantage
of being able to mark it "xx% off" so people think they're getting a
Most people undervalue their work. People go nuts for anything
handmade- go check out some Amish furniture stores if you doubt that!
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam
A lady was browsing in a craftsman's shop when she saw a side chair she
"How much is the chair?" she asked.
"Oh, about $200", the carpenter said, scratching his head.
"That's great!", the woman replied. "What would you charge for a set of
"Well, lessee", the carpenter thought some more. "That would be about
"Three thousand! But eight times $200 is only $1600!"
"Well... that's right, but the first one was fun!"
If you don't want to starve, you charge hourly, and you choose work
where you can do this.
Installing junk MDF shelves pays better than veneering and french
polishing. The reason is simple - one of them is done "on site" and
the client sees you there, sees you working for a few hours, then pays
you for your _time_ at a reasonable rate. Skilled benchwork however
is unseen, and unseen work isn't valuable. Spend a couple of days
making a table and their first response is "It's just like the one I
saw for £25 in Ikea".
I was recently offered a job by a local kitchen fitting company -
fairly well known, reasonably high-end. They saw some work I'd done
with inch thick solid oak tops - low budget, but we had the materials
for free and it was a good piece of work. Then the guy offered me the
same as the rest of his crew - £6/hour. I politely pointed out that
shelf stacking in Lidl's supermarket was paying £7, and I'm proud to
say I chased him from the workshop with something sharp.
There's a saying in the craft market of "three times materials" as a
rough rule of thumb. Now obviously this is crazy - woodturning might
begin with green local timber for free and just your skill, some
simple jewellery work might be an hour setting a £500 stone into a
£100 factory-made ring mount. But it's not bad when you can't think
of anything better.
As a comparison figure, try asking a plumber or electrician how much
to change a tap. Even allowing for the callout / workshop difference,
you will get a huge hourly rate from them. Why should woodworking be
any less ?
Unless it's tiny, your materials are more than £15 too. Don't forget
the finishes (and the rest of the tin that you waste), the consumables
(glasspaper) and the electricity of heating. Ikea's cheapest bookcase
is something like £45, and that's just chipboard (I have several, as I
can't buy timber for that little)
If you want to lose money on the job, charge 3x the material cost.
ie. is it for a family member where profit doesn't matter?
If you want to break even on the job, charge 4x the material cost.
ie. is it for a friend that asked you to build it as a favor?
If you want to make a living doing the job, charge 5x the material cost.
ie. is it for a customer?
In the case of a 13 yr old, perhaps ask them to help
and don't charge them anything...maybe it will stir
their inner woodworker.
Sam Berlyn wrote:
Even when charging 3X the material cost somebody always comes along and
I just have to say to myself..."they are getting what they are paying for"
but it sure makes it difficult to earn a living as a wood dorker.
This is why I shake my head wondering after reading all of these responses
of cost-based pricing if anyone has been exposed to manufacturing. Prior to
embarking on my current career of playing with computers, I worked for 7
years as a design engineer for a manufacturing company in a highly
competitive marketplace. I can tell you that the whole concept of pricing
your product based on your costs is wrong. The only consideration (as
you're seeing) when pricing your product is what the the market bears. As I
said in an earlier post in this thread, the only way that relates to your
cost is that after subtracting your costs from that price, are you willing
to work for that much money? Using a 3X or 5X rule of thumb is OK when
you're either unsure of the market or no market has been established, but
once you get some market experience, it's pretty meaningless.
I agree. I did say that when I charged an amount equivalent to the 3x
material cost I often get underbid and they customer gets what they pay for.
I can't count the number of times I've been called back to fix the work of
the lower bidder. At this point I charge t/m to fix the job with a 50%
estimate up front. All of my work is referrel but even with that I'm
usually not the chosen contractor but often the one that fixes the work
The guy that stated that 3x material cost will result in losing money is
still correct in the market I'm in (and most any other market) and I'm not
willing to work for that little. It doesn't pay the bills. The past 15
years has seen labor costs drop (Phx, AZ), material prices rise and
competition escalate but quality is gone. Unfortunately the economy has
become one of disposable products and quality seems to be much less
important than cost (i.e., electronics/other from China).
Guess this is why I'm currently working two jobs......to pay the bills.
I can't disagree with any of that. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's
tough fighting the system. The only thing you can do is be flexible and be
willing to walk away from it if it (at least as a money-maker) becomes
And I could give many examples of when it's wrong. I wasn't responding to
your post anyway. But I see lots of other posts talking about starting at
figuring out your material cost plus some cost of labor to arrive at a
Well, it doesn't much matter what you (or I) think. In a capitalist
economy, that's the way it works. The market doesn't give a damn about how
much your costs are, so there isn't any point in using that as a starting
point to arrive at price. If you want to enlighten us on why that is wrong,
The market will determine the selling price, but if you don't know your
costs, you can be in big trouble very fast. I've seen big companies sell
products at what the market demands and they no longer exist. If you know
your costs, know that selling price is less than cost, you find a new
product before it is too late. The market price for some items my company
makes has been driven down very low. We decided to no longer participate.
Our largest competitor (in that market) had a big grin as they gobbled up
most of the business. Two weeks ago they closed the doors. Suddenly, the
market does care about our costs and is willing to pay more.
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