The agony, the agony, some more agony and the ecstasy #3: Estimate

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Blog entry by 404 - Not Found posted 02-22-2013 11:55 AM 1507 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Design Part 3 of The agony, the agony, some more agony and the ecstasy series Part 4: White Smoke »

The drawings are submitted, I give it time, a watched pot never boils.
Finally there’s something other than tool promotions in my inbox ”Have just taken a look at these now – LOVE the second style in particular and love the configuration of drawers/hanging space inside.”

YES! This is encouraging. The way we left it after the meeting was I would provide drawings for this project, see how they felt about it and then work out a price, too many variables otherwise. I wouldn’t normally do it this way, but in this instance it made sense.

Now they want to know how much it’s going to cost. It’s so much easier to work out a price when you’re looking at a drawing, you can see how many pieces are going to come out of a plank, how many panels, shelves, tops, bottoms out of a sheet. Hinges, knobs, drawer runners, rails. They all add up. Make a list, grab the telephone. Find out who’s got what and how much they are charging.

It looks like there’s 14 cu ft of sapele in this job – that’s 168 bd ft. Whether that’s a lot or not isn’t important, according to the drawing, that’s what it needs. But I don’t just want any old sapele. I don’t want the orangey crap, it needs to be the right colour to match the veneered sheets that are going into it. I have the telephone conversation with my local Timber Suppliers, they have it in 4/4, 8/4, 12/4 and 16/6 – he assures me that it’s dark apart from the 2”, which is more orangey than the inch. €44 + Vat a cube, that’s $4.51 a bd ft in American money.

If only Brooks hadn’t shut down, a builders merchant that carried hardwoods for a lot less, just up the road… I make another telephone call, only thing is, this place is another 40 miles away, let’s see if any savings can justify the extra time getting there and diesel. The guy I’m talking to assures me that it’s all dark and gives me the trade rate of €30.38 + Vat per cube, or $3.11 a bd ft. It’s a no brainer – for the sake of another hour and half in the van and a tenners worth of diesel, I can save €235/$310. That’s only the solid, I nearly fall off the chair after I get thru speaking to the clowns at one place about the bevelled mirrors. I spend about an hour on the phone, it’s worth it though. By going here and going there, I can bring the cost of materials down to around €2250 – 3000 of your American dollars – there’s leeway in that in case of negotiations.

By now, my spreadsheet is filling up. One blank space stares out at me. Labour. This is an unknown quantity. I mentioned earlier that this is an old Estate House. Huge, magnificent. I have a problem with people who base the cost of a job on the perceived wealth of the clients. It’s tempting to bump the cost up, but I resist. If this job comes to fruition, I will be glad of the the work. I also appreciate that this has come from a client I respect, I’m also thinking that it would be good to be in there, for future work, and there could well be a lot of that.
Back to labour. Still an unknown quantity. It comes down to working out how much can be done in a day, the doors, the drawers, carcases, crown, finishing, fitting. It’s going to take this long to do if the Gods are smiling, at this much an hour, I add in a field for sundries/workshop/diesel and click autosum.

Compose another email, hit send. It’s out of my hands now…

The title of the next instalment will either be ‘Failure to launch’ or ‘Materials’, and I don’t know when it’s coming.

4 comments so far

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2498 days

#1 posted 02-22-2013 12:13 PM

I never change my prices based on appearances. Some people live in grand houses, have expensive cars but are living paycheck to paycheck with debt up to their necks. Ask your client about her clients, has she sized them up? Are they the kind of people who tend to haggle? I use labor charge a a cushion, I raise it about 30% in case they want to negotiate, this way I can “lower” my hourly rate. If they don’t haggle then I buy them an expensive gift at the end of the job.

Best of luck, crossing my fingers from across the pond… :-)

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View chrisstef's profile


17423 posts in 3029 days

#2 posted 02-22-2013 01:25 PM

Good luck Renners and ill share a little somethin ive learned along the way when putting pricing together. No matter the clients monetary stature its always best to “graze, not gorge”. And as my old man says, “I dont want your last nickel, i want your next nickel.”

Hope it pans out for you.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2383 days

#3 posted 02-22-2013 01:31 PM

As always, great blog Renners! For a hobbyist it is a real treat to get to look into the process that someone who does this for a living goes through.

It’s very interesting because I think we (maybe just me) have one picture of the life of a self employed woodworker, and it may be that it is truly something different.

It helps that your writing style is excellent as well. Looking forward to the next one!

-- Steve

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2992 days

#4 posted 02-22-2013 02:49 PM

Thanks for your kind words. Chrisstef, your father is a wise man.

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