So you think you can go pro ? :) #8: Watch Out Lest ye get your finger smacked by Murphy's hammer

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Blog entry by sawblade1 posted 05-30-2011 05:44 AM 3228 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Do what you love ( but please don't kill yourself to get there) Part 8 of So you think you can go pro ? :) series Part 9: Hens and Biddies »

Good evening LJ’s

I know it’s been a while but I really haven’t had much to write about but here is a scoop load of info based upon my learning experience.
Two weeks ago I was commissioned to build a bathroom cabinet not much three drawers, two doors so I quoted a price of around $320.00 :) The customer loved the price, But Boy did I sell myself short, After a Google search I found out it was called a vanity and boy was there a price difference Paint grade sell for $650.00 and up for Oak and other hardwoods :) Now I would have been profitable except for a few quirks I did not expect. One was the lumberyard I deal with delivered Chinese Plywood :( Boy did this crap give me fits Splinter city. Second Blum drawer glides require a special jig to be productive and square Not easy without it. Third and most important was my utter Clutter and disorganization On one such occasion I counted 15 Minutes looking for a square I laid down After figuring a cost analysis I figured out I lost money due to this check this out.
As hobbyist we really don’t account for time because we really don’t need to, Organizing is an option and our work methods and tools really don’t matter.

Well do the math if your shop rate is $35.00 per hour a fair rate by today’s standard and you spend 15 minutes per day looking for tools supplies and Etc. Look how much you can lose

$35.00 per hour Divided by 4 OR 15 minute quarters

This boils down to $8.75 per 15 minutes

Over a 40 hour 5 day week this is $43.75 out of your profit margin

Add more for effect 1/2 hour per day and it double’s to $87.50

On a profit margin of 170.00 you just ate up all but $82.50

Really I got my fingers smacked by Murphy’s Hammer on this one next week I hope to cover how to bid profitably and I really learned my lesson about jumping the gun without any bullets :)
If you want to figure out how much things go for do a Google search on what you are building, Stay away from the stuff less than normal as this is most likely Chinese made stuff but look for the American handcrafted items Boy will you be surprised :)
As I leave here is a picture of the cabinet in my shop

-- Proverbs Ch:3 vs 5,6,7 Trust in the lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding but in all your ways aknowledge him and he shall direct your path

10 comments so far

View Hacksaw007's profile


614 posts in 3211 days

#1 posted 05-30-2011 01:37 PM

The hardest part of woodworking is sometimes pricing the work. Some prople are gifted with this but most are not. I find it hard and a bit frustrating to manage. Thanks for sharing.

-- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 2852 days

#2 posted 05-30-2011 01:39 PM

You live and learn..sometimes the hard way…lol
The cab looks good so far. I hope for that price your not doing the finish.
For a vanity like that with paneled doors and three drawers, and Blum hardware, I would have quoted somewhere in the $900 to $1200 range (complete and installed) depending on finish.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2589 days

#3 posted 05-30-2011 02:14 PM

I’ve been estimating work of different kinds for 25 years (both wood and now technology). If you’d like my opinion on the subject here goes.

1.When pricing “YOUR” work it makes absolutely no difference what others charge. If you want to make money, you need to know how long it takes “you”. You’ll need a materials list, and that should be a hard fixed cost. If not, remember where you went wrong and don’t make the same mistakes twice.

2.Break the project down into manageable pieces. Doors=X hours, frame = x hours, top = x hours. Either buy an estimating program or use a repeatable spreadsheet. Microsoft and others has a lot helpful utilities.

3.Keep track of every job you do. If you have a hard time estimating (i was lucky, I learned from a master, and picked it up easy) a good record will give you history, and since history repeats itself, you get some costing ideas.

4.You’ll almost never want to be low bidder in this type of work, unless you know the people you’re bidding against are in your caliber. Some guys will work for $10/hr. I’d rather eat.

5.As for the $35/hr. Really. Gross that’s only $70,000 a year. Take out your overhead (shop heat, insurance, tools, marketing, etc, etc) and your willing to live on that? You have to do your own math, but if I was looking for a really good wood artisan……..

6.It’s all relative. As in #1, once you know your cost, and if you know the price is high, but the project has other value (good marketing, high visibility, future better paying project, whatever) you can decide what these advantages are worth.

7.In the end, making money is about knowing “your” business. Wood working is just the product you’re selling. Successful artisans are also successful business people. The skill part of any business is a lot easier to teach (and learn) than the people part.

8.Success is individual. You define your goals.

9.If you’re not a good business person, marry one. Just make sure its forever 

10.This is the most important part. If you’re not enjoying it, life is going to be very very hard.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View nate22's profile


475 posts in 2897 days

#4 posted 05-30-2011 03:32 PM

Sounds like you learned your lesson. Because the last thing you don’t want to do is lose your butt on a job. Nobody likes going in the hole. I learned this lesson a year ago.

-- Gracie's wooden signs. Middlebury, In.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2697 days

#5 posted 05-30-2011 06:04 PM

I think they say something like this: experience come from making decisions and most of them were bad. Most folks have done this. I am wondering when I can stop. Now you know and can move forward from here. At least you didn’t bid a house full of cabinets like this. You will survive.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3292 days

#6 posted 05-30-2011 06:27 PM

It is not uncommon for folks to do as you have done….If your mindset on woodworking is from a hobby standpoint…then you do not count the business aspects as that important. Consider that not only did you sell your time short….but you also sold your overhead short too….what about the wear and tear on your machines, bits, and blades? What about the light and power? These items are also part of the mix…and need to be accounted for….otherwise….how will you be able to afford the re-sharpening and replacement bits and blades? For that matter, when your machines give up the ghost due to doing work like this…where will the money come to replace them?

I sell my work occassionally as a hobbyist…but when someone comes to me to do something more considerable….and ask for a quote…I give them a real professional quote….if they don’t like it….they do not have to hire me….no harm no foul….but I will not sell myself short…my time is valuable to me also.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View StumpyNubs's profile


7598 posts in 2822 days

#7 posted 05-30-2011 07:07 PM

I know people like to say “time is money”, but I dispute your formula. Your time is only worth money if someone is paying for it. For example, if you have paying work to do 24/7- then yes, your time spent looking for that square cost you money. But most people have off hours in which they eat, sleep and relax. So when you have to stop a paying job and spend 15 minutes looking for a tool, you don’t charge the customer 9 bucks less or fall 15 minutes short of finishing the job, you go back to work, finish the job fifteen minutes later than you would have, and that time comes out of your free time.

If my time is all worth $35/hour, I’ll stop eating, sleeping and everything else but work and be a millionaire in no time. But the fact is a person sells only a limited amount of his hours.

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 2962 days

#8 posted 05-30-2011 09:01 PM

Good words from Don W!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View sawblade1's profile


754 posts in 3048 days

#9 posted 05-31-2011 01:41 AM

Thanks Don W, I am working on this as we speak :) Stumpy I disagree with you based upon two things Per say I wound up getting more work coming in like today then either you cut into your me time of eat, sleep, and relax time all of which neglecting these can have serious consequences ranging from being burned out to serious injuries which can cost more!!!! As you may or may not realize the effort put forth from you must be as profitable as possible remember your customer is not paying for your disorganization, your incompetence, or lack of tools thereof. Time may not be money to you but the person on the other end may or may not think so :)

-- Proverbs Ch:3 vs 5,6,7 Trust in the lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding but in all your ways aknowledge him and he shall direct your path

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3694 days

#10 posted 05-31-2011 02:13 AM

Thats a nice looking cabinet.

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