I live in mid-Tennessee and build picnic tables from pressure treated
lumber as well as roll-back porch swings. These are not from kits. The
tables, built with carriage bolts and rounded on the ends, take me about
3 to 4 hours to build. Material costs are aprox. $12 per foot (a 6' $70, an 8' = $95). A swing is a whole other matter as they take me 2
days to build. I rip my own slats, plain the edges, router them with a
roundover bit, (25 slats per swing) and hand sand them. The seat and
back ribs, the arms and supports are cut by hand with a jigsaw, routered
and sanded. 12 hours on maiking the parts and 4 hours on assemly. I
use screws (76 screws for a 4' and over 100 for a 5') instead of nailing
with nailgun, which means predrilling. I sell the swings ready to hang,
complete with 20' of chain. My cost on the swings is roughly $40 each.
Friends come by and tell me I'm selling them too cheap, customers come
by and haggle to get them cheaper. These are quality handcrafted
products, made to last. I work by myelf, I'm not a factory. Is there a
pricing guide for these things? Any help in laying down a good price
would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance, ~Cor
You already have done most of the required research!
You seem to know the materials cost and your hours, now just figure out
what you'd expect to earn per hour and add that on. Try minimum wage
first then go for something more reasonable like double or triple M.W.
Are you building these as a source of income or more just for the
pleasure of working? If building for enjoyment you can consider the
enjoyment factor as part of your hourly compensation.
Given that you make many of these you probably already prepare your
materials in batch which should help reduce the number of hours you
charge for, if not, then you might consider doing batch operations to
help hold down costs and boost your profits.
Also don't forget to figure in tooling, router bits and saw blades don't
Also might help to know where you sold them. In a shop? Front yard sign?
Do you pay overhead? By newspaper ads? But I was thinking that after the
people who see your products buy a table and chair, what do you have to
FWIW, here in Houston a wooden porch swing will run between $150 - 250,
depending upon where you buy. Some are cypress and the workmanship is
generally "fair" at best ... the average price is probably closer to the
higher end of the above.
For $40 for in materials, I'd try to get an absolute minimum $200 for the
finished swing ... and that's on the low side.
There should be one deciding factor in pricing your product, and that is
"what the market will bear". Probably a good place to start would be some
market research in your area to see what similar products sell for.
Factoring in their quality relative to yours should give you a ballpark in
which to work. Then you just have to decide if you're willing to work for
the amount of money left over after you take out your raw material costs,
consumables (like sandpaper), and wear and tear on your tools and tooling
and taxes (heh). I would not be swayed or even dismayed by haggling. Many
customers feel the need to haggle, which is certainly their right to do.
You also have the right to stick with your price.
OMG!! I'm in shock. I'd say my table prices seem reasonable, a 6' for
$160, an 8' for $180, but my swing prices... I've been giving them away
at $100 for a 4' and $125 for a 5'. I'm stunned, all that work and I
end up with so little to show for it. I purchased an old store many
years ago which I converted to a shop. I sell everything right out
front, very low overhead. As much as is possible I make parts in
batches to reduce my time spent. I am trying to make a living out of
this as I've always been comfortable working with wood. The swings I
build out of sassafrass wood from a mill, well, I put way too many hours
into them. I do a better than "fair" job on them as I'm a stickler for
perfection, so I guess I'll have to accept personal satisfaction as part
of my reward. Unfortunately the bank does not accept personal
satisfaction as a form of payment, lol. I'm going to try to sell the
swings at $200 and hope I don't go hungry waiting for a perspective
buyer. I don't have the best tools so I'm kinda restricted to making
picnic and patio furniture. Honestly, at this point, I'm ready for a
change. I need to make some products that have a far greater profit
margin. At times I earn less than $3 an hour. I've considered going
into boat building. I want something that is stable, market wise, as
what I sell now is too seasonal and my sales seem to be feast or famine,
all too often, famine. Any suggestions? I'm willing to try anything
(but get a job). Major thanks to those who responded, very eye opening
Time to branch out. Wood magazine had a garden bench a few issues back.
Not hard to do and looks nice. I built one out of mahogany deck material.
Next look into simple pine furnishings. Jelly cabinets, pie safes, All can
be made with dimensional lumber and straightforward designs. Look into
Christmas decorations also. Seasonable, but profitable.
As for the haggling, don't. "Sorry, but my price is firm unless you can get
me a discount with the electric company." (or the grocery store, gas
Next is doll furniture. The 18" dolls are most popular. Table and chairs,
cradles, beds, all sell fairly well. I have photos of this stuff if you'd
like them for ideas.
IIRC Tom Gauldin of Jakes Chair fame commented his son made several
chairs and set them at the curb and sold them quickly about the time
he was waiting for the fall semester at college to start. A small
specialty store about 15 miles away has difficulties getting her
supplier of Adirondack chairs to fill all of the orders she gets for
them. I declined the contact offer as production is the LAST thing
I'm looking for. Made a redwood planter for wife and ended up making
The most important thing is how much money goes in your pocket, not how
much you sell for. You can sell swings for $125, but you need to reduce
your costs and your labor significantly.
Try to buy lumber in amounts significant enough to get the price below
what you pay now, likewise with your screws, router bits, saw blades,
Find out if the mill will cut the slats, yes they will charge more, but
you will save labor and can produce faster. If you had to hire a helper
to build the swings it would cost you $150-200 per swing based on the 16
hrs you are spending on each swing. That is too many hours. Long ago I
worked in a factory where I had to screw down wooden boards and I was
only allowed a few minutes for about 50 screws. You won't be able to
work that fast, but you can probably pick up the pace.
You may want to step back and evaluate if you are 'overengineering' your
You may not realize it but you already have a job, you are your own
employee. Spend more time on managing the business: sales, developing
new products, sales, cost control, sales, quality control, sales, vendor
relations and hire some helpers to do the grunt work.
On Mon, 13 Sep 2004 12:40:57 -0500, email@example.com (the ~Cor) wrote:
Yes. At those prices, you are indeed giving them away. Stop that. :)
I'm really brutal when it comes to pricing. I would charge what _I_
think they're worth, (based on time and materials, etc.), and if I
couldn't sell them at that price, _I would quit making them._ Period.
You asked for suggestions on something else to make for (more) profit.
Although what I'm going to suggest is highly seasonal, you'll make so
much profit on it that you'll be able to have some money until you
figure out your next step.
So don't laugh.
I told you not to laugh. Stop that.
Although I don't have the personality necessary to go into
"production" work, if I did, I would start NOW to produce the plywood
parts necessary to make those stupid plywood-cutout reindeer that you
see in people's yards every Chrismas season. The profit is huge.
You've got plywood and some paint in materials and they sell for very
big bucks. If you'll take the time to make a master template and get
a pattern bit for your router, you can churn out sets in no time and I
_promise_ you'll have people lined up to give you their money from
Thanksgiving on. Paint a set up real nice and park them in front of
your shop. People will be begging for them.
One fella I know sells _one_ reindeer ror $80 a pop. Sells out his
entire production every year. I've not asked him what he gets for his
angels, santas, snowmen, etc., but if you want a sleigh-with-santa and
4 or 5 reindeer in your yard this Christmas you're handing over
_several_ hundred dollars. Let me repeat this: He _sells_out._
Frankly, I don't get the attraction, but then again, I'm not a
pukey-duck kind of guy. But the neighborhoods in my area, (central
NC), are full of reindeer, snowmen, and every other seasonal
pukey-duck thing you can make look like yard art during the Christmas
Ahh, the chill is back in the air and the fond memories of
raging bonfires warm the soul. Boys, it's time for hunting
down and d*str*y*ng those pukey ducklings in local yards to
make warm and many those new memories this Fall and Winter.
Head on out!
(P.S: Natty, Mere, Bent, etc.: "Boys" means YOU, too. Join us.)
The ancient and curious thing called religion, as it shows itself in the
modern world, is often so overladen with excrescences and irrelevancies
You already have a good handle on your hard costs but you should also factor
in a cost for tools, blades, bits, electricity, etc..
How much do you want to earn? $15/hr? $30/hr? $50/hr? What are other
similarly constructed items selling for in your area? If you're selling to a
mostly local market then your prices depend to a large degree on the economy
of your area.
I would also look at expanding your sales channels if you have the
inventory. Try approaching local garden centers, home centers ( Not the
Borgs), hardware stores, or roadside resturants ( give them sample table
with your costs on them), county fairs. Also, make sure you highlight the
quality of the materials and workmanship. Most importantly don't forget to
Display " Made in USA".
Well, selling is an art all unto itself. The psychology of buyers is
amazing to me at times.
Example: it is sometimes easier to sell something at a higher price than
a lower one. My experience is more in a service trade, but if you come
in low or "bargain" priced, you have to beat yourself against everyone
who is trying to get a foot in the door, isn't very good, is doing it as
a semi-pro or hobby, or whatever. Give a perception of quality and the
A second experience, managing a used camera equipment department taught
me how obsessed most people are with a "deal." Ninety percent of
customers asked for one. The same item priced at $100 dollars would sit,
but marked at $120 and discounted $20 for the customer sold quickly.
Don't ask me to explain it. Eventually, every non-minor item was priced
$20 over what I wanted to sell it.
The constant stream of salespeople asking "what can you do for Joe" got
the same response. Twenty bucks.
At one point outside management was brought in, the spif for the
salespeople was eliminated, older salespeople were fired to bring in
someone at a lower salary, my hours were cut by 2 to bring under the
level needed for health benefits, along with all the etcetera nasty
stuff that goes with the rest.
At the same time, attitudes of salespeople and myself slid lower and the
"twenty bucks" became sort of an inside joke. Sometimes I would say it
in a way that went along with a plaid sport coat and an old unlit cigar,
"tell you what, for my friend [who I never met], tuh-WENnnnnnnnnny
It didn't matter. So I don't know what the situation is with your store
front, but if you mark things up slightly or perhaps take out the chain
or something else and then have that as a bonus for the hagglers or even
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