When you take your car to the shop, they have
a basic book on what the repair costs, which
reflects how many hours it should take. So brakes
are X amount pretty much anywhere you go, except
when to you go the dealer.
Has anyone devised such a book for woodwork? About
how much it would cost someone for a bookcase, a
coffee table, &c?
When people ask, how much would it cost for you to make
an X, it would be a good reference.
Think for a minute what you are asking; if you are talking about
standard carcass construction cabinets, you can get software that does
it for you, including pricing out doors, drawer fronts, etc. For that
matter, go to HD for carcass style construction. It works for them
because they used standardized contruction methods, standardized
hardware, standardized dimensions, standardized materials, and
standardized finishing protocols.
Just in this group, I'll bet you if you gave 10 people a dimensioned
drawing of a bookcase, with no specs on wood for structure, the kind
of joints you want, what kind of glue to use and no assembly protocol,
etc., you would get 10 very different projects that would appear to be
the same, but stop at appearance.
Different techniques change the amount of time spent not only on
contruction, but on finishing. The variables are too many and the
differences are to vast to make a standard call on the prices.
I can easily do database analysis/development for $100 an hour, but
when I ask $20 for my woodworking that's too much. The truth is,
there's too much emotional attachment to everything I make out of
wood. Most furniture today is made from particle board and I can't
even buy the wood for less than the furniture piece. And then,
someone overseas works all day for $20 and carves elaborate
Wed, Oct 31, 2007, 12:23pm (EDT-1) firstname.lastname@example.org (samson) doth
<snip> Has anyone devised such a book for woodwork? <snip>
Too many variables to be viable.
It's not hard, if you get your mind right.
- Granny Weatherwax
AWI has a cost book.
It costs more to join AWI to find out what the book is about than what
a small shop makes in a month.
I got one.
I was a little disappointed.
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
I can't believe that successful businesses would still price like that.
There are far too many factors to trust any "rule of thumb" pricing schemes
it you want to be profitable and competitive. I've been involved with
pricing for many years (different industry) and the companies that used to
price that way are long gone. Some of our jobs are 2X, others are up to
Your first three words "depending on detail" are the most important part of
It may make life easier, but it isn't always realistic. Cost times
three is great for a fairly simple project, but, in fact, cost times
two almost never works, and cost times three can be tricky. Cost HAS
to include time, and more complex projects run well past the materials
cost times three area when you include time. Let's not forget little
things: mechanic's mark-up on parts (used to be 35%), current garage
charges for labor seem to range from $55 an hour up, mostly up (for
some reason Mercedes dealers charge much, much more for their
mechanics' work; I never knew metric wrenches were that much more
That is for repairs. Generally, when you build a project, you are not
repairing, so what you want is a final project cost, for which you
charge enough to make a decent living. Today, 20 bucks an hour isn't a
decent living in many areas (it's close to great here). There is an
awful lot that has to be covered, and too many of us fall for the
"times cost" bit with materials being cost. Not so. Shop expenses,
from tool amortization to electricity to light bulb replacement needs
to be considered, as do phone bills, computer costs and similar
budgetary fun items.
Actual cost of a project, without labor, is probably gong to run at
least 1-1/2 times what most of us have been figuring. At that point,
add your labor. A reminder: do NOT tell the customer how much you
charge per hour. This is not a repair. You are not giving estimates.
Do NOT charge 20 bucks an hour, either, unless you're in hobby mode.
Sit down and figure your labor costs plus your other costs. Add them.
Multiply by 1.15 to allow for waste (time, material, whatnot). Now,
figure how much profit you want, or need to make. Use a percentage:
15%, 20%, or, for high art work, 150% or more. Your choice. Tell the
Most will probably walk on by. You are usually just as well off
without that kind of customer: the particleboard junk at WalMart is
what they're using for a pricing guide. You can't match it. You don't
even WANT to match it. If your work is good enough, you'll make it.
We've got one guy near here who has been selling beautifully designed
and made furniture for years, training apprentices and so on, and, a
decade ago, Mike was getting $3,800 for a double bed. This is not a
one-off. It is limited production, from a guy with excellent training
and who does superb work. I don't know what his prices are today, but
bet on higher, not lower.
It is not an easy way to make a living, as Tom Watson will attest. He
has the skills, the training and made it for many years but finally
went where things were better, if not easier.
Thanks, Swing. I've got an "Oops" in my note: Mike is getting $2,800
for his canopy bed (canopy frame is nearly $600 extra). The spindle
bed works out differently, depending on what footboard is selected. He
used to apprentice four or five younger woodworkers each, provide room
and board, and train them for a year. I don't know if he still does,
but for anyone who wants to work in solid wood, almost all cherry with
walnut accents (drawer pulls, etc.), MT Maxwell might be a place to
consider. Most is power tool work, but the designs are really
superb...and the local scenery (Blue Ridge Mountains) is hard to beat.
Actually, it's unbeatable, IMO.
On Thu, 01 Nov 2007 12:08:18 +0000, Charlie Self wrote:
Now you're going to start a scenery war :-).
We're between the Cascade and the Cabinet mountains and not all that far
from British Columbia - I'll see your Blue Ridge and raise you a Cascade :-).
But you do have a much better local hardwood selection.
A hundred bucks might be too much for a coffee table or ten thousand
might be too little, depending on the design, materials, workmanship,
You _might_ be able to work up costs for specific tasks, like
"machine-cut dovetails" or "mortise straight leg for two aprons" but
even there there are going to be dependencies on the shop setup and
the quantity and the specifics of the design--you have both setup and
recurring costs and someone cutting dovetails on an Incra jig is going
to have a different setup charge and productivity rate from someone
using a Leigh for example even if the result is identical.
Then there are intangibles. If I were to make an exact copy of a
Maloof chair (assuming I could) I doubt that I could get a tenth what
he can get for it because he's established himself as an artist and
nobody's ever heard of me.
The bottom line is that furniture is worth what people will pay for
A secondary point: you're comparing a flat rate manual for auto
repairs with charges for the creation of furniture. Apples and donuts.
They're not even both fruits. If you need to make the comparison, get
the cost of parts for building a car, then figure the number of hours
needed for assembly (in the past, back when cars were a bit more
reasonably price--say $5,000 or so---I was told this figure would
range upwards from $27,000, just for the parts..1978? God knows,
today, with car rices hanging around the high 20s).
Even then...I recently shot photos of a Dodge Challenger R/T ('70,
none of this new stuff) for a magazine. The guy who rebuilt this
bought the body after the garage it was sitting next to burned out.
Talk about a mess. It was already pretty well rusted. The heat ruined
every plastic part on it. Using mostly used replacement parts, plus
his own labor and skills (and new pistons, rings, gaskets, etc.), he
dropped about 25K getting it to show ready status. He even did his own
painting: he's good, but not top notch, but a top notch painter for
vintage cars is going to charge about $8,000 a pop for a vehicle
that's mostly ready to shoot. I know another guy who put $100,000 in a
'53 Buick convertible, only to yank it from the restorer because of a
lack of progress...he's now doing the work in his spare time, which he
tends to lack, so the work is going even more slowly (but a lot more
You simply cannot use a flat rate manual for everything.
A better comparison might be a collision repair shop to a custom or race
car builder creating parts from scratch.
In one place they're bolting and/or welding mass-produced parts
together, maybe with a little shimming and filling, then finishing. The
other takes raw materials and creates the parts first.
In the scratch building arena, use a hood as the example. One part
might be a simple, relatively flat, race car hood, the other might be a
classic reproduction, with fair curves created by hand on an english
wheel. On a secondary note, the race car hood has to be "good enough"
to look good from a distance, the restoration part needs to look nice
under gloss black lacquer, viewed up close.
As to pricing as a multiple of material cost, both examples might use
the same amount of materials, but would command far different finished
Good points, Barry..
I'm a turner, mostly, but My guess is flat work has to at least as dependant on
what the wood used is...
If the "value" of the piece is based on a multiple of the material costs, all my
projects would/wood be done with VERY exotic wood... *g*
Please remove splinters before emailing
Hi, Mac. Good to see you over here, too.
Pricing woodturning is a totally different color of horse, and is
almost completely dependent on the popularity and recognition of the
turner. Woodturning seems to be priced more as an artist's works are
priced: some starve to death, and others prosper apparently with no
rhyme or reason. A wonderful 12" maple bowl from XXX will fetch $250
(or more!) if signed, but that same quality of bowl from YYY will be
looked at as a salad bowl and get about $60 at a show.
Everyone has their strong suit at the lathe, and that is usually the
type and style of turning piece they produce. I have seen wonderfully
talented people on the lathe that take 3X as long to do something as
the demonstrator I saw doing the same process a couple of months
earlier. So how do you price?
For lathe pricing, I take what I think >> I << should get per hour,
then after a few practice pieces, come up with and average time per
piece to determine the price, reflective of included materials. If I
cannot sell the pieces for my desired price, then I don't sell them.
They become gifts.
And I have found few that will pay for any kind of exotic wood work.
Pens, OK. But no one is going to pay a couple of hundred dollars for
an oil lamp just because it is made from Cocobolo. I can dye maple or
poplar to look like cherry and sell them all day long for $45 - $55,
but that Cocobolo lamp I would probably take to my grave. It is far
better to use your exotics as accents on your cheaper woods to enhance
In all the demos I have attended, all the discussions I have had with
different "recognized" turners, VERY few have ever thought they could
support themselves with turning alone. What a hill to climb
there... They all teach, get sponsors, demo, write articles and
shill different products to make it worthwhile as they could not
support themselves on selling turned pieces.
Price your stuff by the hourly rate you want, and see where you come
out. For me, that not only helped me determine >what< to turn as an
easy sale to pay for more turning "stuff" (damn that's an expensive
hobby) but to also make some extra cash.
Juuuuust my 0.02.
On Thu, 01 Nov 2007 11:13:53 -0700, " email@example.com"
The best advice that I got when I moved to Mexico (think new start) was to get
into the mind set of "artist".. I still have a hard time doing it, but I sort of
Everything in life is marketing, and "art" sells for much more than "hand made
in my shop"..
Another example of your salad bowl would be the 6" to 9" diameter bowls I
If they're "art" and will be displayed, they're worth up to $100 each... because
someone loves it and wants it..
If they're going to eat their cereal out if it every morning, I might be able to
sell it for the $10 - $15 that it cost me to make it..
I've also found that most people will pay more for "art" from an "expert" or
"dealer" than they will from the artist... Might be because if the artist is out
selling his stuff, they think "starving artist" or something?
I have a lady that sells some of my stuff for a commission and she can talk
about the "highly skilled artist" all day... If I said that, they'd laugh...
I guess perception really DOES become reality? lol
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