Pricing for One-of-a-Kind Pieces from woodweb.com
It's a question that comes up in woodworking: how much do you charge for something that you make? This discussion provides some insight into how a few professional woodworkers think about the issue. Here's how the discussion started. - Editor
"I recently had a request for a cafe style table. The client purchased a maple burl slab for the top and I am to make the base. I was just wondering what some others would charge for a similar piece." - J. K.
And here are some responses, including breakdowns. - Editor
"Like any project that has labor and materials. Materials are minimal on this one. Labor -- layout or engineering, the time spent figuring out how to build it. Then all the millwork steps to prepare the blanks, cut the shapes, any templates. Then assemble and finish detailing (putty and sand). Then finishing, plus a PITA factor (pain-in-the-a** factor) of 25 percent to 30 percent on a quirky job like this. You will spend around 10 hours building this thing and want to charge around $1,000.00. Your customer will no doubt think it's too expensive and find something else." - Stanley S.
"$650. 8 to 9 hours labor plus materials. What's so hard about taking 10 seconds to give the guy a guesstimate? You spend more time explaining why you can't make a guess than actually making a guess." - David A.
"$500-1,000.00 All depends on your overhead, and how much you want to pay yourself. Design is certainly interesting. Make sure the slab was dried well. I would still consider adding some more support under the top to keep it flat. Remember they probably won't be looking at it while sitting on the floor, very often." - Mike
The original poster did come back with the price he offered the client. - Editor
"I really appreciate the responses. I ended up charging $1,500 plus. I consider the table more of a piece of art than a ordinary table. Yet to hear a response. Will keep posted." - J. K.
That prompted a response from another forum member who thought it was underpriced. - Editor
"Wow, you guys work cheap. No wonder I'm not getting as many jobs as I was before, the competition is just trying to keep the doors open. How about charging a reasonable hourly rate that actually pays overhead. I built an almost identical piece with a clients slab and charged $3,500, which didn't seem like enough at the time. Surfacing the slab, designing the base, finishing both, visiting the client, all in 10 hours, really? Maybe I work really slow, but I doubt it. When we all start charging what things should actually cost, maybe we will all be better off." - Bob
And the original poster responded to that. - Editor
"I'm glad someone is charging more than me. I was really surprised that some people stated that this design should only take 8 to 10 hours. I always thought I worked fast. Well, I'm happy to say that the client gave me the go-ahead and is happy with the price. Maybe this will encourage others to boost their prices." - J.K.
Mission Style vs. ? from Woodweb.com
In this discussion, a customer asked a woodworker to make a "Mission" style project out of a wood other than quartersawn oak. Is that heresy, or is it an individual design decision? - Editor
I am being asked to build a Mission style sideboard/server and, after showing my wood samples, the customer has picked ribbon-stripe mahogany instead of quartersawn oak (although I was pushing the oak). My concern is it's just not true to the piece. It's going in a place to be seen by a large number of members. Any thoughts? Suggestions?" - Rick
Some thought that it didn't matter, as long as it was what the customer wanted. - Editor
"Don't worry about it. Build what the customer wants and just take the 'Mission' label off the piece.
You will be building a ribbon mahogany sideboard in the Mission style.
No one but you will think twice about it." - Kerry F.
"Remember the person that signs the front of the check is in charge. Our job is to make what they want, the color they want, but the construction and technical aspects are our job -- that's why they came to you as a professional." - D.B.
"I would follow the others advice and go ahead with the project. I mess around with different styles of furniture and mix woods that would not normally be considered correct. It used to get my dander up when asked to step outside of what I considered proper, but over time I relaxed my attitude quite a bit, and now I find these types of projects to be much more enjoyable. I am writing this from my personal desk that follows the Shaker design, but has legs and rails made from mahogany and a top that is a salvaged black walnut bar top. While a pine, oak or different wood would have probably been more appropriate in my area, this desk is one of my favorite pieces. You may want to also consider what the new piece will do for your portfolio when you can show pictures of a furniture piece in different woods to future customers." - Mitch S.
Others' opinion was "it could have been worse." - Editor
"Just be glad it's not knotty alder! Then you'd really have something to gripe about..." - Dean
"Be glad that you were not asked to make it in maple and dye/stain it blue, or other misuse of wood." - Walt T.
"Customers want what they want. Serve them, hope the check clears. I turned a bowl out of elm, and it was gorgeous -- heartwood, sapwood, beautiful grain and figure. Guy buys it, comes back a week later, wants to know if I can stain it. I was going to suggest that I use his blood - that would stain it real good - but instead I was diplomatic and urged him to really look at what it was (as in, you bought it, idiot, now ignore what your wife is telling you) and appreciate it for what it shows of the tree's life. Meh, what are you going to do - make stuff, earn some money, move along." - D.
And still others thought it boiled down to a woodworker's own philosophy and business plan. - Editor
"It's the old 'sell what you make vs. make what you sell' discussion. If you want to focus on authentic Mission design, then do not show other woods or offer to step away from the core activity. You didn't see George Nakashima doing Federalist tables. If you want to be pure custom and do whatever, be ready to paint burl veneers, dye maple blue and worse." - David S.