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View Cozmo35's profile

Would you build me……

by Cozmo35
posted 12-28-2010 11:43 PM

35 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4217 days

#1 posted 12-28-2010 11:54 PM

My standard reply (delivered in a most good-natured way, of course) is something along the lines of:

“This is a hobby that I do for pleasure, so I only build things I want to build. Building things for someone else makes it too much like work.”

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3039 days

#2 posted 12-29-2010 12:02 AM

My Reply is something like “Paid in advance” “wood has a mind of its own” ” when its done its yours” Of course I will try to keep it to what is discussed, But , etc.etc

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2918 days

#3 posted 12-29-2010 12:10 AM

If you want to sell stuff to others other than what you already have made, you really need to set an hourly wage for yourself and count the hours it will take to make the project. You then need to add the cost of the materials on to that figure. You (and they) may be completely shocked at the price you come up with. I think that if you are just doing this occasionally for people, this should be enough to cover your base and make it worth your time to do something you like to do anyway. In knowing you from here at the forum, I don’t really think you want to make this your ‘business’ so these loose guidelines may be enough to do it for you.

If you find you are still getting too much work and don’t have time to do the projects you want to, then I would consider giving yourself an hourly wage increase.

If people balk at these prices, then you just have to walk away. Nothing will ruin a good hobby and take the pleasure out of scroll sawing and woodworking more than feeling trapped into doing something that you don’t feel you are getting enough money to do. You need to be firm right from the start and I think the people that really do appreciate and want your work will pay what you ask for without trying to negotiate you to a lower price.

Go into it with an attitude of knowing your own worth and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to those who don’t see it the same way you do.

I am sure that others will have additional advice, but I hope this helps you a little anyway.

Good luck! Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2982 days

#4 posted 12-29-2010 12:18 AM

Charlie’s answer is pretty much the response I give as well. There are only one or two that I would consider doing something for and she lives with me so I’d better in her case. LOL

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2879 days

#5 posted 12-29-2010 12:26 AM

For me it all depends on who is asking. If its a close friend or family I have no problem building for them. If its someone that I am not all that close with I will usually say yes but I tell them that they would have to give me some money for materials first. I have never had anyone follow through and give me the money to start making what ever it is that they want… I think people just think since we are into woodworking that we have an endless supply of free wood on hand… I wish..

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3008 days

#6 posted 12-29-2010 12:37 AM

You need to differentiate the people who are asking because they see an opportunity to save money (you will be taken advantage of regardless of their best intentions) vs. the people who are excited about having a custom woodworker at their disposal (people you may want to build for).

The people who think they’ll save money over buying a cheap piece of furniture at the store need to be educated on how much wood costs. That usually gets rid of them…

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View CampD's profile


1667 posts in 3484 days

#7 posted 12-29-2010 01:20 AM

X2 with Sheila’s comments.
X2 on Live4ever’s

-- Doug...

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3690 days

#8 posted 12-29-2010 01:23 AM

im all for wood costs alot and its yours when its finished and not before conversation oh and i will only take 50% cost upfront then they can fill their boots lol

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View GuyK's profile


356 posts in 4078 days

#9 posted 12-29-2010 01:42 AM

Charlie has the right idea. Most times people will say did you build that and I say yes. They immediately reply can you build one for me and I say I will put you on the list. What they don’t know is that, that list is so long now, it will out live me. ( wife adds something everyday and she moves to the front of the list ) . It is nice to know that people think that your work is good enough that they want one and are willing to pay for it. Sometimes though when you give them a price their eyes light up and you can see they are thinking “are you nuts”. I just laugh and go on having fun with my woodworking. I do sell enough to keep me in glue and sandpaper, but that is about it.

-- Guy Kroll

View Pop's profile


427 posts in 3945 days

#10 posted 12-29-2010 01:42 AM

There is an old woodworker’s story that goes somewhat like this. A guy is in Mexico and comes across a craftsman with a beautiful carved chair. ” How much” says the guy. “Fifty dollars” says the craftsman. On hearing this price the guys ask ” how much for eight chairs like this?” “Three hundred a piece” is the answer. “My gosh!” says the guy. “I thought you only wanted fifty bucks”. “Ah!” says the craftsman, “one is pleasure, eight are work”

Building what YOU want is fun. Building what THEY want is WORK! Charge accordingly.


-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View Loren's profile (online now)


10394 posts in 3646 days

#11 posted 12-29-2010 01:47 AM

While your mom might appreciate a gift a lot most people don’t much
value things they get for free. When you charge for your time or workmanship,
people will actually appreciate owning the thing more, so don’t be ashamed
to ask to be paid.

How you get compensated is up to you – you may want to barter or do some
other form of exchange.

Even in the cabinetmaking business where prospects are expecting to pay for
the work, many have champagne tastes on a beer budget. Start phrasing
the way you answer inquiries in a manner that says you expect and deserve to
be compensated for your work. If people are thinking they can save money
by having a custom builder reproduce a furniture piece that came out of a
factory, they are usually mistaken. Some high-end furniture is marked-up
quite a bit by the time it makes it into stores or catalogs however and you
may be able to copy such pieces, make a fair wage for your skills, and save
the client some money by eliminating middle-men, freight costs and even
substituting local woods.

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3097 days

#12 posted 12-29-2010 01:50 AM

All GREAT answers.
Build what you are interested in, not what becomes a disinterested project. Then sell it (or admire and keep it) because you loved doing it.
All the great masters painted what interested them. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, etc.

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3367 days

#13 posted 12-29-2010 02:01 AM

I build what I want to out of what wood I want it from. If they want it OK, If not, someone else will.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3479 days

#14 posted 12-29-2010 02:44 AM

I dont often do work for hire, but if someone asks me if I could build something for them and I have the time to do it, I will usually say sure, and this is what it will cost you. I try to give an accurate estimate, and I am not shy about asking what I think my time is worth, not to mention the materials. If they still want it, then I give them the anticipated completion date and then we go from there. My real job is a program manager, and I have come to hate time lines and due dates so I dont do too many woodworking projects for a paying customer because I feel they deserve a completion date and I need to stick to it. :-)

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Alexander's profile


193 posts in 3109 days

#15 posted 12-29-2010 02:58 AM

One time I stopped by a law office in need of an anwer to 3 questions. The office person gave me a cup of coffee and ask me to waite. The lawyer ask me to his office, I asked my 3 questions and he gave me 3 answers. A couple of days latter I got a bill for $35.00.

Remember it is up to you who you give your work to and who you will charge. As a craftsman you should be paid for your work. Sometimes the price will bring out just how much they want what you build.

Happy New Year

John, near Sugarloaf Mountain

-- John at Sugarloft Mountain........Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3785 days

#16 posted 12-29-2010 03:20 AM

With me, it is who is asking and what they want. For me, its mostly family. My first response is that it will be a while (they know I usually have several projects in the works). If that is okay with them, then I ask them for the size and a picture of what they want (i,e style, etc). More times than not, that’s as far as it goes. IF they do come up with that, then I tell them I will get back to them with the materials list and a rough cost estimate. That eliminates the free-loaders. For furniture items, if its something I think I would like to build, they will get it for material costs (to which they have always added what they could afford for my time and effort).

If its something I don’t want to build, I tell them I won’t have time do it.

For smaller items that are not overly expensive, etc, they usually end up getting them as gifts for a birthday, Christmas, etc.

I really dislike working under a time constraint, so no longer take on items with a deadline.

I have arrived at this system by letting my alligator mouth overload my hummingbird tail too many times, and learning from my regrets. I always try to live up to my word if its anyway possible, but as I get older, I am much more selective in what promises I make.

I also agree with papadan’s philosophy. I won’t spend my time and effort trying to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear materials to cut someone else’s costs. I won’t be happy with the result, odds are they won’t, and non-woodworkers normally have no clue (and therefore no appreciation) as to the work entailed. As he said, I have never had to throw away anything I have made.

Great statement, Dan!! Concise and meaningful on so many levels.


PS. Caveat: All the above gets disregarded when the request starts with “Grandpa, can you …...”

-- Go

View Pop's profile


427 posts in 3945 days

#17 posted 12-29-2010 04:30 AM

Boy Gofor, You really said everything when you said the magic word “Grandpa”. It works every time, And if you’re like me you love it.


-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3075 days

#18 posted 12-29-2010 04:41 AM

I feel your pain Mike… I am a mechanic by trade. Can you imagine how many old class mates, long lost family, so called friends I get phone calls from wanting “Something for Nothing” from me? I finally wised up a couple of years ago and made a rule. If I don’t tell you “I love you” on a regular basis all you get from me is a “Good Luck”. I have been taken advantage of so many times in the past I now have a very bad taste in my mouth when it comes to “Hook Me Up” kind of deals.

I carry my attitude towards this over into my woodwork. I will be the first one to step up if I see a worthy cause, but it has to be a good one…. A really good one. I am done with being taken advantage of.

Sorry you had some bad run In’s bud. It does suck….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View TJ65's profile


1378 posts in 3048 days

#19 posted 12-29-2010 04:57 AM

What a great set of answers to your question. I was just wondering the same thing, If you didn’t know before I think you do now!

-- Theresa,

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3272 days

#20 posted 12-29-2010 05:05 AM

the easiest most plain n simple way to tell someone: “You cant afford me” and if they have the guts to still go along with a request give them a hard price. If they go along with that price then its a project worth building.

-- M.K.

View againstthegrain's profile


117 posts in 3751 days

#21 posted 12-29-2010 05:28 AM

I’m in the same boat! I say “yes” to everyone, and don’t charge. Hence, I never get my projects done. I definitely need to change this. Thanks for the post!

-- Anchul - Warrensburg, MO: As a Pastor, I am just trying to get closer to Jesus. He was a woodworker too.

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3721 days

#22 posted 12-29-2010 05:39 AM

Too many times friends and relatives forget that there is a lot of time and effort involved in woodworking. A brother in-law wanted something for his wife so I made it for him. When time came to settle up, he stated to me: “That is too much. I can pay for the materials, but I can’t pay for your time.” I have never done anything for this bother in-law since then.

That answer has stuck with me all these years and I will make sure that anyone I make something for will have my time included in a price that I am giving. It is not up for debate if they can or cannot afford my time. They either pay what I am asking or the find someone to do it for them.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3721 days

#23 posted 12-29-2010 05:42 AM

If you’re interested in the project but doubt they are interested in paying for your time, just kindly tell them that you are available and that the project would start at $$ and with their choice of wood/details it can go up to $$$$. This gives them the option to “put up or shut-up”.

My canes are pricey, but they are one-of-a-kind and customized to the user, so they get a lot for their money. They can choose from domestic, non-figured woods for $$ or from a vast selection of woods, colors and figuring for $$$ – $$$$, so the choice is theirs. If they really want one they have an option, but they will have to pay me something for my time.

Unless they are giving you some form of free services, feeding you or paying your mortgage, you don’t owe them much else. So, here’s the options with a smile.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3159 days

#24 posted 12-29-2010 05:53 AM

I agree with what live4ever said.

In addition, ask them how much you should charge per hour. Then ask them to figure how many hours it might take you, and how much wood would cost for the project. Add it all up and ask them if this is near the ballpark of what they were expecting.

Love the ‘Grandpa’ comment. Can’t wait for that one. :)

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3540 days

#25 posted 12-29-2010 08:22 AM

The two best thing I ever did when it comes to running my business is

1) learned to say no.

2) raised my prices.

-- Childress Woodworks

View peteg's profile


4284 posts in 2821 days

#26 posted 12-29-2010 08:56 AM

Hey Cosmo, you’re just a young guy going by your photo, us “retiries” simply say,
“dont know how much time I have left to enjoy my wood working, but I am selfish as hell & going to keep it all to myself, flattered by the way that you asked me”

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3674 days

#27 posted 12-29-2010 09:03 AM

When you are asked for the “good buddy discount”, you could ask about the “good buddy bonus?” I have never had anybody offer it, but it tends to end the conversation. Like mechanics, electricians can work for free all they want; there is plenty of demand at that price ;-) I do a lot of pro bono adjustment for those obviously in need.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2959 days

#28 posted 12-29-2010 03:30 PM

I read through all the replies and agree with what is said. I have inquiries about building a custom fishing rod or repair. I don’t get much business as people are looking for custom work at a K-Mart price. If people think that our custom prices for fishing rods or furniture are high, they would be shocked at the mark-up the retailers are getting for off-the-shelf stuff. Don’t sell yourself short. Set a pricing schedule and stick with it. Ask yourself, What would be the minimum I would work for in a job? Use that as a yardstick for setting your pricing.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2775 days

#29 posted 12-29-2010 06:36 PM

I have a slightly different twist. When I am asked if something can be made, I ask them the normal series of questions – what kind of wood, how many drawers, what kind of finish, ... Then I ask them for a sketch – with dimensions. If they give me a sketch, I draw three variations in Autocad, print them and on each drawing, there is a price. If I want to make it, it is my fair calculation, if I don’t, it is twice as much.

I have found that if you hand someone a CAD drawing that is very professional, they get the idea that you really do mean business. It also helps in calculating materials. Every now and then I get get a comission for the double priced work – it may be work but I will upgrade a tool or two in the process.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3674 days

#30 posted 12-29-2010 08:52 PM

One of my target shooting friends in the contracting business told me to always add a new rifle into every bid ;-)) Cozmo35, if you don’t feel comfortable pricing “side jobs” for wages, you might consider cash out of pocket expenses plus a tool in every bid????

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View mpounders's profile


875 posts in 2894 days

#31 posted 12-29-2010 09:27 PM

All words of wisdom. I sell some of my stuff, I give some away, and I often do commissioned work. My price is generally less if it is something I did for fun and it has sat around for a while, and I’m tired of looking at it or I want some extra money! But people pay me well for my commissioned work, when I am building something that has to please a customer AND myself! We mutually agree on what and when it will be and I want 1/2 up front. I like carving for fun, but I also like the challenge of creating something that pleases both me and a customer.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View janice's profile


1117 posts in 3423 days

#32 posted 01-02-2011 05:12 PM

I know I’m alittle late on this post, and everyone has pretty much hit it on the nail.
I’m usually asked to build something and told they will pay me whatever I charge. I almost always just say I would love to but I just don’t have the time. Another thing I say is, I would love to but it scares me to build something for other people. It just depends on who it is. I don’t really don’t mind giving something as a gift but when asked to build a bathroom vanity for someone, it really does scare me, so I don’t.
I recently stained and varnished a cabinet for someone I know that bought it unfinished. Really didn’t want to do this, but I did. She said, she wouldn’t know where to begin. Not sure why she bought it unfinished if she didn’t think she could do this. I picked it up on a Friday night and had to be very careful not to bang it, scratch it or dent it getting it into my house. Worked on it all weekend and delievered it back to her on Monday. She wanted to give me $50.00, I said no. I really didn’t want to charge her. A week later I got a thank you card in the mail with a $50.00 gift card to Outback Steakhouse. She really did want to pay me. I should have taken the money. Once again, it does depends on who ask.

-- Janice

View Gator's profile


383 posts in 3674 days

#33 posted 01-04-2011 07:02 AM

Something you have to consider is the fact that even if they pay for all the material for a project, it is still costing you money to make it. Hydro, shop supplies, etc.. and this is not considering wear and tear on your tools or equipment, or even worse.. YOUR TIME.
Even if you do not turn the lights on in your shop for a month, it is still costing you money.. think about all you have invested in your tools, machines, material, etc that is in your shop.. sitting in the dark making you $0.00 .. now look at what that money could be making if it was invested at 8%.. wait.. it might be better if you don’t think about it…LOL

When it comes to charging for your work, most wood workers are working for less than Pesos per hour .. (Janice “worked all weekend” for $50.00 ) my heart goes out to the people who are busting their butts trying to raise a family in this business.

Lots of good comments here…


-- Master designer of precision sawdust and one of a kind slivers.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3674 days

#34 posted 01-04-2011 07:47 AM

Gator, tools in a shop are hard assets that have value is you know how to use them; they can create wealth. Their equivelant in a bank is loosing to inflation :-(( Better not think aobut 8%, it is too good to be true, Who is offering Bernie Madoff’s widow? :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Gator's profile


383 posts in 3674 days

#35 posted 01-04-2011 01:28 PM

Topmax .. My comment about the tools was meant to make the point that they cost you money to sit and do nothing, let alone build projects for free…

If your going for someone else’s wife.. pick Tiger’s .. 750 million could get you some very nice chisels…. LOL

Have fun..


-- Master designer of precision sawdust and one of a kind slivers.

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