Farmhouse Table w_Buffet #1: The Concept

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Blog entry by Smitty_Cabinetshop posted 04-14-2015 10:56 PM 1786 reads 2 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Farmhouse Table w_Buffet series Part 2: Legs for the Table »

In the not-too-distant past, a young lady and her new husband spotted a ‘farm house table’ project on Pinterest and thought about building it for their new house. A family member recommended me as someone who might be interested in completing the project for them.

It’s the first thing I’ve ever quoted and been paid to make in my shop. Going through the estimating process was introspective, in a way; deciding how long it would take to build vs. actual, billable time was something I’d never considered before in a project. It also meant dividing the tasks into chunks that could be estimated and tracked. An hourly rate had to be set, and materials estimate were needed. And while that was being pulled together, the anxiety of possibly not getting the work set in as well. I asked a few questions, pondered life as a for-profit wood butcher and decided to move towards accepting the challenge. All while internally questioning my own ability to make the piece.

At the end of the process, I was happy with the quote sent forward; there were hours to do all portions of the work in a productive way (I wasn’t going to bill for learning curve or set-up time, for example). By counting actual, working hours and not setup time, ‘thinking,’ and trial and error, the actuals data I’d collect during the build would be valid and reusable for like-tasks in subsequent bids. I also placed a small adder percentage on materials to cover shopping, taxes, etc. Finally, I made it a fixed price offer; even if it took longer (and I somewhat expected it would, being my first time out of the gate) no more would be charged.

Before the quote was sent, however, I was asked to include a second piece: a buffet table built to match the farmhouse table in overall design and style.

I agreed, updated the quote and sent it for the client to consider. When the ‘half down’ check arrived, the clock started ticking! I’ll capture some of the work for this blog series, and hopefully it’ll turn out alright. Thanks for looking!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

17 comments so far

View theoldfart's profile


7935 posts in 1872 days

#1 posted 04-14-2015 11:37 PM

What, your not done yet? :-) I’m watching this series, my first compensated project is in the pipeline.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Handtooler's profile


1359 posts in 1553 days

#2 posted 04-15-2015 12:04 AM

I’m also quite interested in how well your projects turn out and if the quotes are in the ball park as to what you really want to profit beside experience. Will you require and tools you don’t already possess? I’ll be watching the build.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View Don W's profile

Don W

17877 posts in 1988 days

#3 posted 04-15-2015 12:17 AM

Good for you Smitty. You’ll either make a little pocket change or learn a few things. Estimating is pretty easy in theory. In reality its what makes or breaks a business. Tracking the progress is the second most important task IMHO.

Plus, we’ll get to follow. Win-win

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Mean_Dean's profile


4939 posts in 2568 days

#4 posted 04-15-2015 12:48 AM

I’m definitely looking forward to this blog!

-- Dean

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

3229 posts in 1655 days

#5 posted 04-15-2015 01:38 AM

...and I’m still watching the clock over your shoulder!

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL There are three types of people...those who are good at math and those who aren't.

View Pat3's profile


104 posts in 1300 days

#6 posted 04-15-2015 03:22 AM

Good luck, will be following along with anticipation.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13570 posts in 2039 days

#7 posted 04-15-2015 04:16 AM

Kevin, no, I’m not done yet. :-) But when I am, you’ll be the third one to know…

Don’t need any additional tooling than what I have, Russell. And I’m into the build a little ways now and the estimates are holding pretty solid so far.

For Don and Dan, I really feel the oversight! Seriously! So the way I’m going to think of hours vs estimate is this: would I do a second, exact order for the same estimated hours? We’ll see.

And thanks, Dean and Pat, for checking in! It’s going to be different from what I’ve done to this point, for sure.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View CFrye's profile


8575 posts in 1260 days

#8 posted 04-15-2015 09:37 AM

Following along here, as well, Smitty. I’m rooting for you!

-- God bless, Candy

View canadianchips's profile


2310 posts in 2418 days

#9 posted 04-15-2015 11:07 AM

You will br fine.
When I do estimates for 1st time work I try to be fair.
First I make sure material cost is covere, that is quite simple.
Labor is the struggle, I estimate enough time to complete the job if everything goes well, when it takes longer because of some unforseen issue I usually eat the loss. TIME is only time, I want the customer to be very satisfied, so if it takes me longer than normal to do a GOOD job I will. (Example: 2 extra hours out of my time at night is not the end of the world to have a satisfied customer)
I usually try to quote a price and STICK to it, nothing worse in my mind than being pennied to death AFTER someone is finished.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13570 posts in 2039 days

#10 posted 04-15-2015 12:51 PM

Chips, that’s a terrific approach that is my own, I just didn’t put it into words as well as you have. Thanks! And I appreciate the support, Candy!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View terryR's profile


6230 posts in 1729 days

#11 posted 04-15-2015 01:53 PM

I certainly hope you make a lil profit, Smitty! I cannot imagine trying to estimate labor costs, since I sell my little projects months after being built. I hope this will lead to a steady inflow of commissioned pieces!

BTW, how do you keep up with time? An actual timer in the shop? Or just writing down figures after each session? I used to own a shop timer for keeping up with time, but it died after being thrown 40 feet against a steel wall in a moment of frustration. :(

Do you find yourself using power tools more since the build is being timed, or are ya using vintage hand tools as always?

Love the progress shots I’ve seen thus far! Best of luck!!!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13570 posts in 2039 days

#12 posted 04-15-2015 02:48 PM

No change in the way I build things just because it’s ‘timed,’ mostly because each step has already been done in another project or another and is practiced/familiar. To record time spent is a reflection the next morning on what I got done and how much time it took. Take last night, for example.

- Went over to the shop around 6:30, left the shop at 10:30
- Worked on one element of the build, got done what I wanted
- I figure two hours of work.


Well, I took a couple pictures for the Epic Thread, check LJs a few times, did some sharpening, moved a few bench tools around, talked with my wife when she came over, etc. etc. So the time actually working can fairly be set at the two hour mark.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View AnthonyReed's profile


8579 posts in 1861 days

#13 posted 04-15-2015 02:50 PM

Great questions Terry.

Thanks for sharing this with us Smitty.

-- ~Tony

View Tim's profile


3031 posts in 1382 days

#14 posted 04-15-2015 05:26 PM

Good for you Smitty, thanks for sharing also. I saw the progress in the furniture maker’s forum and it’s looking very good.

View putty's profile


972 posts in 1027 days

#15 posted 04-15-2015 07:09 PM

Nice Smitty, are you going to turn the legs?
Cant wait to see all the different vintage tools you use.

-- Putty

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