What Is It Worth?

RalphBagnallIt has happened to all of us at one time or another. If you work wood long enough, someone; maybe a  relative, possibly a friend, or even a coworker will admire your work and ask what you would charge them to make a . . . (fill in the blank)

At first, when this used to happen to me, I gave it great thought, compiled a list of materials, and did time studies to figure out exactly what to charge. The results were virtually always the same: “That much? I can buy . . . (fill in similar item here) at . . . (fill in discount store here) for only. . . ” You get the picture.

For a very few people, the idea of a hand made item, built with craftsmanship and quality, out of fine materials, has great value. But only a very few. Most people will never appreciate that the mahogany alone for the nightstand they admire costs much more than the completed one made of pressed board from china. And how do you explain that although this is a hobby that you enjoy, your time is still valuable?

I make my living building beautiful and useful things from wood. I have learned to explain all of this to clients, but for some reason, I’ve never been able to convince friends and relatives who ask me how much. And I’ve given up trying. These days, if I decide to build something for a friend or family member, I’ll do it as a gift. Sometimes, if they have seen me working enough, they may offer to buy materials, and that fine, but essentially, presenting something as a gift gives me the pleasure of making someone I care about happy, and allows them to ascribe whatever value they see fit.

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