All Replies on Buy or build.

  • Advertise with us
View gpastor's profile

Buy or build.

by gpastor
posted 04-22-2013 03:35 AM

1 2 next »
62 replies

62 replies so far

View Joshuah's profile


152 posts in 2717 days

#1 posted 04-22-2013 03:55 AM

I find that there is soon a tipping point when you have to start saying no to quite a bit of projects. I think that the most annoying phrase for me to hear is,”hey, I saw this in the store and it was really expensive, and was thinking you could build it for cheaper.” Drives me iINSANE!!

I now tell people. If you see the one that you like in the store. If you want me to build the same think, but better quality and better materials…be prepared to pay at least double…sounds like a lot, but do the math. A dresser like that, the materials alone probably range in the 200-300 dollars.

-- -Joshuah

View RogerInColorado's profile


321 posts in 1978 days

#2 posted 04-22-2013 04:14 AM

Many people have no concept of what material costs. I once had a guy ask me to look at building an office suite for his home. When I gave him sort of a rough estimate, he told me what he thought he wanted to pay. His price was about what I had estimated to be the cost of the rough sawn lumber I would need to buy to make what he wanted.

I’m a hobbyist. What I learned from that experience was when someone inquires about building them something, I ask what they think their budget is. The answer has always saved me a lot of sketches and arithmetic. I can just say that as a hobbyist I can’t buy material for the same price as the people who do it for a living and that is probably where they need to look.

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1979 days

#3 posted 04-22-2013 04:16 AM

You could build it with exactly what that is built with, aka MDF, plywood, and cheap soft wood. However that doesn’t factor in time and labor. However I’m currently building a coffee table for a good friend for only the cost of materials but that serves a dual purpose. I’m building somethingfor a good friend and adding a new piece to my portfolio.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2600 days

#4 posted 04-22-2013 04:48 AM

@ $250 a linear foot you’re around $1000.00

@ $15.00 an inch you’re at $630.00

Some where in between you should be, especially if they want it painted
and or finished.

The kirkland cab uses no metal drawer guides and is “Crafted of wood composite”
meaning who knows what.

If it’s painted I’d use MDO and maybe poplar for the face frame, etc.

Good luck with your decision.

View Woodknack's profile


11773 posts in 2404 days

#5 posted 04-22-2013 05:06 AM

It would be pretty simple to build but what will eat up your time is the drawers then by the time you buy the hardware, for $300 you’ll be working for less than minimum wage.

-- Rick M,

View Tony_S's profile


871 posts in 3106 days

#6 posted 04-22-2013 10:09 AM

It all depends on how much you think your time is worth, labor…drawings…material cost…hardware…finishing…travel…blah blah…adds up fast.
What if you screw up? Minor mistakes can sometimes be pretty costly.

If someone asked me to build that cabinet for $300 bucks…the first coarse of action would be to help them clean the coffee off that I just spit all over them.
Second coarse of action would be for them to spit coffee all over ME when I told them $1000.

Unfortunately, the average Joe has NO clue, nor really cares, what mass (read made in china) production is all about.
That cabinet was manufactured, then shipped across the world, long hauled to a warehouse, distributed, then shipped to final destination(customer) for $270 bucks. Everyone made money.
I’d be surprised if the manufacturer of that cabinet sold it for more than $40-50 bucks.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View kdc68's profile


2657 posts in 2300 days

#7 posted 04-22-2013 11:19 AM

I’ve been in your shoes. Totally agree with posts above. It’s being caught between a rock and a hard place when a “friend” asks you to build a piece (handcrafted)that they have seen sold (mass produced). Provide them a bill of materials of everything. Provide sources of your materials. Give them a fair estimate of your time/labor. Present this so your “friend” can see how easily things add up and exceed the mass produced cost. Maybe by doing this, your “friend” can get a sense of what a handcrafted piece will cost and prevent awkward feelings. Explain the flaws and cheaply done construction detail on the mass produced piece, compare that will the better methods that you can provide, and that your piece will last a lifetime….good luck

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View bondogaposis's profile


4758 posts in 2375 days

#8 posted 04-22-2013 01:33 PM

It is made of “wood composite”, in other words particle board crap that will fall apart in 2 weeks. Tell your friend you will make him one of actual wood for $800. I’d use poplar if he wants it painted. If he thinks that is too high them let him walk. You can’t really compete in price for particle board made in China crap. However if he wants handcrafted that will last a lifetime, he has to be willing to pay more because he is getting more, a lot more.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#9 posted 04-22-2013 01:51 PM

Don’t try and compete with Walmart and Ikea type furniture,you will spend as much or more for the materials and hardware as they are asking for there low end so called furniture. You might take the approach of telling them you can build a quality piece for $650 plus material and hardware. More times than not they go with the cheep furniture .

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#10 posted 04-22-2013 02:18 PM

A lot of the stuff I see out there for up to $1,000 have laminate over MDF but mostly LDF (Low density).

What I tell people – and this holds true more than it should – if you want something that will last up to five years, go with the regular stores. If you want something that will last for many years and even be passed down for generations, this is your price. My price is usually about 4 times of that of the main stores – and with the prices of wood and real ply wood lately, I am looking at this carefully.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2874 days

#11 posted 04-22-2013 02:49 PM

The key issue here is your self respect. Keep that in front of you.

There is nothing in this discussion that is more important than your keeping your self respect.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View bbasiaga's profile


1234 posts in 2019 days

#12 posted 04-22-2013 02:58 PM

A friend of mine i used to work with was an excellent wood worker. He never built anything for anyone. Almost never anyway. His standard line was that he only built special things – stuff you can’t buy, customs – and therefore could not be cheaper than store bought. He was happy to talk to people about true custom projects, but they knew the cost was going to be appropriately higher than showroom because of it.

Now that I’m getting more in to the hobby, I see why. I am building two endtables. They cost me $200 in materials (total for both). They are exactly what I want and unique, but I’d have to get $200 apiece for them at least to make it worth my while. There are a lot of nice showroom pieces for less than that.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#13 posted 04-22-2013 03:19 PM

Tell him that if he respected you as a friend, he wouldn’t expect you to work for a dime per hour. If he doesn’t understand what he’s asking, then you should explain it to him…some people don’t realize how long these things take and how expensive they can be.

Otherwise, if he wants Ikea, then he should buy the one in the picture and put it on a pedestal, or something.

If you need the money, then take the job…but I would hope that your time is more valuable to you than that.

On the other hand, if you have time to build it as a gift, then do so with a glad heart. I gift my time quite often for people I care about.

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#14 posted 04-22-2013 03:30 PM

BTW, you could make it from construction lumber. It’d still cost between $50 to $100 in materials and hardware…and that’s not including the finish. That leaves $200 in profit. If you could build it in 8 hours, it’d be worth it. I’d say 40 hours is more accurate…probably more…and yes, most of that time will be spent on the doors and drawers.

If I built furniture as a business, I wouldn’t charge less than $1000. But since people don’t like spending so much money on things like this, it’s a moot point. You have to match your clientele to your product, not your product to your clientele.

This is why it’s difficult for furniture builders to make money…and it’s also why I’ve never bought a single item from Ikea.

-- jay,

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2393 days

#15 posted 04-22-2013 03:56 PM

If I were retired with all the time in the world, I’d do it for cost of materials and a few cases of good beer. As it stands now, I have next to no free time to complete my own projjects, so I’d pass. The only time I build something for others right now is as a gift or to barter. If I’m making one of something for myself, and its easy to make two, I may offer it to them at a cost just to cover materials for both.

For that particular piece, the case itself would be simple plywood box with poplar face frame construction using pocket screws and could be done in an afternoon. If you’re looking for heirloom quality with better materials and M&T, much longer. If the fancy feet are a must, those can be purchased pre-made. Like someone else said, the doors and drawers is where you’ll spend your time.

If you have the time, does this friend of yours have skills/products you could barter for?

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View mg550's profile


11 posts in 1945 days

#16 posted 04-22-2013 03:59 PM

I’d see if those legs screw on. Maybe they could buy one from the store and you could make some 4” taller legs for it.

View MrFid's profile


876 posts in 1928 days

#17 posted 04-22-2013 04:22 PM

Agree with all those before that mentioned the fact that the website says “crafted of wood composite”. To me, that is an oxymoron. Nothing can be “crafted” from wood composite. Things can be “banged together” or “assembled” out of wood composite, but we really should save the verb “craft” for things that display and are worthy of actual craftsmanship. Like whatever any of us would build.
Also agree with the people who said that they’d provide an itemized list of expenses for making one of these out of real wood. If necessary, explain that an 800 dollar piece that lasts a lifetime (call a lifetime optimistically 60 more years for me) is about 13 bucks a year. A 300 dollar piece that will last maybe 10 years is more than double that in price (dollars per year). I get a chuckle out of people who think that we can whip together a finely constructed cabinet in a weekend, but I am not offended. With the HGTV culture, people are used to fast results. What they don’t show on TV is how those projects and renovations hold up across decades. People are naive, but be humbled that they asked you.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2994 days

#18 posted 04-22-2013 04:38 PM

I start out with telling someone that anything I build is going to be better materials, better hardware, and better overall quality than that stuff in the store. I just don’t waste my time and risk my good name on cheap goods. And next I point out that quality costs money. My materials will all cost me more than theirs, and hand made “one of a kind” manufacturing will cost more than mass produced. That’s just a fact of life. If they haven’t left by now, then I will make an honest effort to provide a realistic price; which will usually be about twice the store bought price.

View Dwain's profile


533 posts in 3883 days

#19 posted 04-22-2013 04:45 PM

bbasiaga has the right idea. I think you have your answer. I would respectfully say that you can’t make the piece for near what he can get it for at the store, and that your build would be much better. Simple as that really.

-- When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there is no end to what you CAN'T do

View pintodeluxe's profile


5702 posts in 2837 days

#20 posted 04-22-2013 04:55 PM

I buy quartersawn white oak for as little as $0.39 per board foot. Even at that, I couldn’t build a cabinet that size for $300.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#21 posted 04-22-2013 05:09 PM

The issue of folks working for nothing or for a couple of cases of beer has been brought up before, even though this is usually intended to be a kind and generous offer but in my opinion hurts The woodworking trades buy lowering the prospective customer’s view of what our talents our worth, an also makes it difficult for woodworkers to make a living and stay in business whether your a furniture maker or framing houses how can a person in a legitimate woodworking business compete with zero cost for labor. In short people who offer these kind acts are not being kind to the small business owner trying to make a living or to woodworking in general. My 2 cents

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Woodknack's profile


11773 posts in 2404 days

#22 posted 04-22-2013 05:53 PM

What I’ve found is that many people are not interested in furniture that will last generations or even a lifetime because deep down they know they will toss it in 5-10 years and buy something else.

-- Rick M,

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2393 days

#23 posted 04-22-2013 06:50 PM

I may may build something for a couple cases of beer but I disagree that I’m hurting the woodworking trade. I’m not doing this in large quantities, nor do I advertise or seek work out. To this point, any such transactions have been limited to tasks such as helping the next-door neighbor make some bullnose trim pieces for his stairs, or providing a baby gate for the baby-sitters’ deck, or making a kitchen cart for my sist-in-law. I’m not taking money away from the trade and they certainly aren’t looking down on woodworkers’ talents. Most of the time, it comes down to a combination of them not being able to find something that works for them, afford something that works for them, or both. After our area flooded a couple years ago, I installed a new hot water heater for my sister-in-law because she simply could not afford a plumber, and I don’t think I was taking away from the integrity of the plumbing community. I’m not a master craftsman, but I have yet to make something for a friend/family that is appreciated as a a work of craftsmanship.

I think you may have misinterpreted the extent of my work for others. It really works out to nothing more than me making something for friends/family, and enjoying a beer or two with them at the end. And taking some home for myself.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View LakeLover's profile


283 posts in 1963 days

#24 posted 04-22-2013 07:47 PM

Get the friend to video tape it. Then he has an Idea of what it takes and you get a digital record?

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#25 posted 04-22-2013 08:01 PM

I certainly believe in helping others and making gifts for friends and neighbors . I tried not to personalize my post towards you but addressed the subject you brought up. I brought this point up because I’ve experienced job losses by others who have taken jobs from me over the years as a contractor and as a wood shop owner even on jobs I’ve had written contracts already approved .This subject has been brought up on other LJ threads and other members in business have also had experienced this same problem . I don’t believe the type help you do is harmful to the woodworking industry but I have personal knowledge of individuals telling my customers “you don’t need a contractor we can build all of your cabinets ourselves and you can take my wife and me out to dinner as payment.” This is another example of where I had a written agreement signed and material ordered. I could have taken both of these people to court but the cost would have been equal to or more of what the profit would have been to the jobs. As for interpreting the extent of this kind of work done by others ,I think you have to be in the woodworking business to have that kind of knowledge .Ed I certainly don’t pretend to know what you do or don’t do, but it sounds like your a good guy that cares about others.

Gpaster I’m sorry for getting off subject on your thread

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View wlkjr's profile


10 posts in 1925 days

#26 posted 04-22-2013 08:38 PM

I just tell my friends and others also, that I only use quality materials and take pride in my work and that I can’t come close to what they are looking at. I have one close friend that always tells me to build it anyway cause he wants me to do it.
I was making cubicle coat hangers at work and was selling them for $3.00 each. One guy told me he could make them cheaper. Told him to go ahead. If you count the tools involved it gets expensive, not to mention the electricity and cleanup time involved.
I do handyman work part time since I retired and I tell people that I don’t do “beer money projects”. At the end of the day do you want to be broke and tired or broke and rested? Either make money or be broke and rested.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2993 days

#27 posted 04-22-2013 09:49 PM

I’d say you would be into 2 days between making it and painting it. Then you’ve got all the running around to do for hardware, timber, paint. If you want to make it put in a realistic price and explain you can’t compete with a factory in China that knocks these out by the boat load.

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3766 days

#28 posted 04-22-2013 10:42 PM

Tell them to buy it and put longer legs/feet on it for them or a riser

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View TerryDowning's profile


1077 posts in 2141 days

#29 posted 04-22-2013 10:52 PM

I had a similar problem in my own kitchen. We removed a trash compactor that we did not use and put drawers in it’s place. I was going to build a raised panel door to match. After pricing the various tooling I would need to make a matching door and the materials, I found it was a less expensive option to have the door made and then just stain to match.

Sometimes the best solution is buy and modify rather than build from scratch.

If i were doing a kitchen full of doors the roughly $150 dollars in router bits would not have been so bad. For one door? Forget about it. It would have cost me double the price of a ready made door in tooling and materials alone.

I did get the satisfaction of building and installing the drawers to her specifications so LOML is now happy with the solution and that’s all that really matters.

-- - Terry

View DraftsmanRick's profile


112 posts in 3084 days

#30 posted 04-23-2013 12:40 AM

I went to an arts and crafts show this weekend. there were approximately 250 venders. two guys we’re selling cutting boards, two other vendors we’re selling adarondac style furniture, (one of them had built everything out of Cyprus, and neither guy I believe sold anything). And another guy was selling chests with the arched or radius top. I spoke with all of them, but in talking with the guy that was selling the chests I realized after looking at the amount of work that he is put in them, all of them being cedar-lined as well. He was selling these things for 200 to 350. Way too cheap for the work involved. the $200 chest was made out of solid cherry and lined with cedar. If it took him 20 hours to build it he didn’t make any money! And I told him he was cutting himself. The problem we have is when somebody finds out that we build things, the first thing they think of is that they can get us to build it for cheaper than what they want to pay for where they seen it. Lee is absolutely right!I I’d rather build nothing for anyone, then build something that someone was paying me to do and make absolutely no money or worst case lose money doing it! I have been working for about 10 years and I usually make gifts if I do anything. The stuff I build is quality and comes with a quality price. If they don’t want to pay that I tell them they can go to Walmart or ikea where the price equals the quality. Levi is absolutely right…. You have to have respect for yourself and feel good about it!

-- Jesus was a carpenter

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#31 posted 04-23-2013 12:12 PM

There are a whole lot of things being said in this thread.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3309 days

#32 posted 04-23-2013 12:43 PM


Building and selling custom, or hand crafted furniture is an art within itself. (especially when trying to duplicate a piece someone saw in a retail store, but ask you to build it with a few “minor” changes).

This is a delima both hobbyest and the professional woodworker has to deal with and very few know how to sell a piece that may be similar in size and style to a mass produced piece of furniture, but 2,3 or 4 times more expensive to build as a custom piece.

First problem: Knowing what the mass-produced piece sells for. It doesn’t matter! You can’t (or shouldn’t) try building it for that price. Once you have that price in your head, most woodworkers make the mistake of trying to work towards “that” number instead of taking the time to figure the most important things out first.

Second problem: Not knowing how to price our own work.

Third problem: Not knowing what you are getting into…........If the customer really likes that piece execpt for the size, then can you duplicate each and every detail of the original? Sure, everyone says they can build it out of better materials, but that’s not the real reason the customer wants you to build it.

Can you duplicate a glazed finish? Can you build the doors exacly like the mass-produced piece? (Relieved edges at the seams of the stiles and rails?). Can you do inset doors and drawers? Can you do a mortised butt hinge and keep everything lined up perfectly? Can you duplicate the legs? Can you duplicate the hardware?

Once you can answer all those questions, then you will probably realize that you can’t build it for $300, so then it’s simply a question of what will it cost you to build this particular piece of furniture and once you establish that price…...............can you sell it to the customer so they understand the value of your pricing.

Probably not; trying to educate most consumers on the differences of buying a mass-produced piece versus having a piece custom built is like trying to teach a pig to sing. ( When all is said and done, who is more frustrated)?

Third problem; Most woodworkers only compare the differences in the quality of the materials or the quality of craftsmanship and that alone is hard for a customer to understand or justify spending that kind of money.

And the biggest problem most woodworkers make; not taking the time to qualify their customer, We have a terrible habit of when someone ask us to build something, then we drive ourselves crazy trying to qualify ourselves to be able to build it for their price instead of figuring out if they would or could afford having a piece custom built. (We want to please and sell everyone that ever ask us to build something).

Only you can determine if you could build that piece for $300 and be happy with yourself, but trust me, I’ve learned over the years that most customers will never understand or appreciate the great deal you gave them if you build it for anywhere’s near that price. If you don’t think your work is worth any more than that, then you certaintly can’t expect the customer to think any different.

As far as what I would charge to build that piece; I would probably take the sale away from the customer and not even price it, but simply explain why they would probably be better off if they could find what they wanted in a retail store, that trying to compare a custom built piece of furniture to a mass-produced piece is not comparing apples to apples.

-- John @

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3309 days

#33 posted 04-23-2013 12:51 PM

BTW; I’ve made my living for over 25 years designing, building and selling custom built furniture and cabinetry and always dealing with being much more expensive then mass-produced furniture.

It can be done and there are customers that truly appreciate quality and craftsmanship ( but just not everyone)!

Good luck and have fun no matter what you decide.

-- John @

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#34 posted 04-23-2013 01:07 PM

The hardest thing for me is to get the customer to decide what they really want. The last one gave me a bunch of pictures and wanted elements of each. When I drew them up (and this is time spent as well), they didn’t like what they saw – so I drew something based upon what they were telling me they wanted, offered a couple of ideas and they were good with the drawings I provided.

Once we get to an agreement, the price is established, and materials are finalized, the documents are signed. Once this is done, any changes are add-ons and cancelations will result in materials and time spent up to that moment on their project.

I will not “copy” another person’s work or design from add or pictures. There are laws against this – unless the commission IS to replicate a specific piece – which is a serious pain in the neck and very time consuming. I can make something similar but it will not be the same – AND it will be a custom made piece of furniture.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2874 days

#35 posted 04-23-2013 02:27 PM

quote: There are a whole lot of things being said in this thread.


I like the differentiation between helping a neighbor with a project and taking the time to write a bid for a kitchen and then hearing, “Well, we decided to go with my cousin’s friend who has a new Sears table saw in his garage.”

I’m totally in A1Jim’s camp on this, but that does not take me out of Ed’s!


Lee, apologizing for the ongoing hijack.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View JAAune's profile


1802 posts in 2340 days

#36 posted 04-23-2013 10:45 PM

Cabinetry of the type listed in the original post typically sells for $200-$1200 per lineal foot depending upon geographic location and the quality of materials and workmanship. South of Chicago where I’m at, I’m likely to bid around $200 per lineal foot for local jobs – $250 for higher end work. If I were bidding a job in the actual city, the price would be higher.

If I were selling a cabinet like that I’d tell him that I’d want to spend $300 for lumber and hardware then proceed to show him all the specialty hardware that is offered by companies like Blum. I’m not actually a cabinetmaker but if I were, I’d have samples of finishes and working components that would give potential customers a chance to feel the difference. Good hardware just works so much better than the cheap stuff on discount furniture. I can also optimize storage space, build secret compartments and back my work with a satisfaction guarantee.

Most likely the “customer” would get sticker shock then drop the subject. There’s a small chance though that he’d realize that there’s better things available than what Wal-Mart sells. What can work even better is to show the guy’s wife what sort of wonderful furniture ideas can be created. I’m pretty sure statistics indicate that women are more likely to make the decisions on furniture purchases – even if their husbands are the ones footing the bill.

Regarding the whole “friends work for beer” thing, I may have lost some minor work towards stuff like that but for the most part, the people who would hire me know that very few hobbyists have my skill-set or will even attempt to do the work I can do. My business strategy involves pushing myself to tackle complex and difficult tasks that would intimidate many woodworkers. Rather than say, “I have to keep the design simple to stay in budget”, I’ll think, “How can I build this fancy design without losing money”?

-- See my work at and

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#37 posted 04-24-2013 11:49 AM

It is a funny think about sticker shock. Some of the people that I thought would not quibble about the price -walked away – and people that I figured would never make the investment jumped and came back for more stuff.

One of the reasons that if asked, I will draw it up, price it out, and give it to them, you just never know.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View gpastor's profile


184 posts in 3082 days

#38 posted 04-24-2013 12:43 PM

Thanks to everyone for your help!

This is not the 1st this has happened to me and as i can now see you guy have gone down this road many times.

To me this looks like One BIG public relations problem.

I think what I am going to do is build as a gift or free, with a small catch. My friend work in the area of public relations, so am going let her know that I will build it for free if she reads this post and helps us with this problem.
let us break this down for her:
what are we saying? #1 To inform: what do we want to inform people about? #2 To persuade: what do we want to persuade and inspire? #3 What is the best way to get the word out?

-- Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. Proverbs 16:31

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3691 days

#39 posted 04-24-2013 01:32 PM

Making things by hand but selling them for china-mart prices destroys the craft and lessens the value of every other woodworkes time.

Cheap, fast, or nice…..., pick two and drop the other.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#40 posted 04-24-2013 02:12 PM

The definition of quality is what is acceptable.

In this day and age, what is acceptable has been dropped to new lows. Much of this has to do with attitude, everybody wants it “now.” Patience is lost. The idea of growing a company on things that matter – quality products, safety, taking care of your employees, good word of mouth reputation – all gone.

Everything must be politically correct or be sued, you must sell 50% more than last quarter, your net profit must be 70% more than the previous quarter. If you lose a customer, there are 10 million to take their place.

You have to cut your employees to the bone to where things get dangerous, training – that takes too much time and way too expensive. Apprentice someone to learn a job skill, hell, minimum wage is more than what I was paid as a skilled tradesman.

Get back to basics – great products, clean and safe working conditions, quality training (without the need of unions), good marketing and customer care – bring these back and the economy will take care of itself.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4242 days

#41 posted 04-24-2013 02:34 PM

I just had a similar situation with a couple who are close friends with me and my wife. They were looking at a large, solid wood bookcase in a store that sells unfinished furniture, and they wanted to see if I could build it for them rather than them buying it from the store.

It was difficult to explain the situation to them, without being blunt. The quality of the piece they were looking at was good, so I really couldn’t give them a big advantage there. My cost of materials alone would have been only slightly less than the price of the store bought piece. Once I added up all the time of purchasing materials and actual construction, I would have had to at least double the price to pay myself even a minimal hourly rate.

Some people don’t realize that even with a good quality item, there are savings in mass production. Materials are purchased in bulk so the price is better and waste is reduced, setups for milling multiple parts save time, etc., etc. To custom build a single piece is always going to be a lot more costly than mass-producing it.

So the real problem for me is this: How do you tell a friend, who knows you like woodworking, that donating your time to build their piece is just not what you want to do? I’m sure a lot of people think that, since this is our hobby, we will be happy to make anything for them if they pay for the materials and maybe take us out to dinner. The truth is, I like making the things I want to make. Making something to order for someone else is usually just not that fun.

I’m currently in the middle of making a pair of end tables for my den. I’ll probably have $200 in materials and 30-40 hours labor in them when all is said and done. That means I would have to sell them nearly $500 apiece to really make a decent profit. It’s worth it to me because they are for my house, and I will enjoy owning and using them for many years. Giving away that much time for a friend? Not so fun.

There is nothing wrong with donating your time to help a friend. But what I’m trying to say is that, in this case, you are spinning your wheels because nobody wins. My friends would end up with basically the same bookcase as the one they could have purchased, and I will be out a bunch of time on a project that didn’t really interest me.

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

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15368 posts in 2642 days

#42 posted 04-24-2013 02:44 PM

mg above is close to my answer as well. Have him buy the piece and bring it to you. Take off the top and add a line of drawers then re-mount the top so the whole thing is 4” taller. Win-win.

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

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#43 posted 04-24-2013 03:02 PM

Charlie…As a hobbyist, it’s easy to communicate that’s its not in my best interest to build something for them. Most people who know me KNOW that time is a precious commodity for me. Thank goodness for my job…I’d never have time for Lumberjocks otherwise!

But when people DO ask, I just tell them straight out…you can’t afford it. It has less to do with materials and production time, but more with my own freedom…it’s simply going to cost people lots of money if I’m going to give up some of that freedom. I make them understand this…which keeps them from getting offended by me telling them that they “can’t afford it.”

Now, those in business have real decisions to make in that regard.

-- jay,

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2393 days

#44 posted 04-24-2013 03:32 PM

If you’re going to make it as a gift, perhaps take lots of pictures during the build, show the craftmanship, and maybe it will increase their appreciation of the craft.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8085 posts in 2352 days

#45 posted 04-24-2013 03:50 PM

A log goes through a mill….

You can make your cabs out of the boards that come out of that log… or you can make them out of the saw dust that’s swept up off the floor :^)

You can make them from a log that was harvested in a regulated and responsibly run timber land. Or you can make them from a log that was raped from a rain forest.

You can have a craftsman run the mill and build the cabs, whose kids go to school with your kids and who pays income and property taxes into your school system with the money you pay him. Or you can have a craftsman who is a 12 year old indentured servant girl, who works for a bowel of rice.

Life is life…. you gots to make your choices. Sadly, a very large % of Americans will sell out for a nickel. And we wonder why our country is falling apart.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2937 days

#46 posted 04-24-2013 03:52 PM

Jay and Charlie pretty much sums up what I have learned in the short 3-years I have taken up WW-ing. I actually did tell my sister that she could not afford me. It was all in good humor, though it did send a clear message. I am clearly in Charlie’s camp of wanting to build FOR ME, and me only. I take no greater pride than to look at and use furniture that I alone created. Even with others plans, I still built it from 8/4 or 12/4 roughcut lumber and it makes me smile. 8-)

Maybe in another decade or so, I might consider selling some existing pieces, but only after not needing it any longer or wanting a personal change in my home.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4242 days

#47 posted 04-24-2013 03:54 PM

Jay, you are correct that being straightforward is probably best. What I ended up telling my friends was basically that I could not make it significantly better or cheaper, so they might as well buy it.

My main point is that some people just don’t “get” the concept that all woodworking is not created equal. Just because I enjoy making wood things in my shop doesn’t mean I enjoy making your wood things.

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

View muleskinner's profile


896 posts in 2460 days

#48 posted 04-24-2013 04:07 PM

One of my wife’s friends really liked a screen door I built. She wanted to hire me to make something similar for her. My response was: “If you hire me to build you a door, that’s a job. I’m retired. If I wanted a damn job I wouldn’t have retired.”

Also, what ssnvet said.

-- Visualize whirled peas

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#49 posted 04-25-2013 12:55 PM

I have had a number of folks ask me to build book cases for them. I have a standard drawing for a 6’ bookcase that I give them and a parts list – to take to HD. The drawing is the cut list of how to cut the plywood. The quality of the plywood is up to them.

If needed, I can help them with the assembly.

The list includes the poly, the shelf supports, all of it. When you get the pricing for the materials, time to build, and then go to an office supply company, the price difference is not that much. In some cases cheaper to buy the bookcase.

This is a nice way of keeping friends as friends and they also learn about asking for free services – not so free.

I have helped put together a few IHEA and a few book cases from Quill.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Woodknack's profile


11773 posts in 2404 days

#50 posted 04-26-2013 02:12 AM

I like that David.

-- Rick M,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

1 2 next »
62 replies

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics