Pricing question....but not the weekly one

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Forum topic by rhett posted 09-22-2009 02:58 PM 2040 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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742 posts in 3661 days

09-22-2009 02:58 PM

OK, so after having been asked this question for many years, and having this idea suggested to me constantly, I am deciding to try a one-on-one woodworking lesson. This individual has basic woodworking knowledge, but wants assistance in going to the next level. They brought over a magazine article showing a sideboard and asked me to help them make it. Lots of things to be learned, tapering legs, door making, drawer making so on and so on. So the question then becomes, is it an hourly wage, or a set price. I am afraid if I say here is the hourly price and then they see how many hours it will actually take, they will be left with a half finished piece they paid lots of money to not have done. If I set a price to do it, I don’t want a slow paced piece sitting in my shop for six months. Suggestions?

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

15 replies so far

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3985 days

#1 posted 09-22-2009 03:34 PM

I’d say you have to do it hourly. Figure out how long the project will take, break it down into two hour chunks and figure out how many lessons it will take to finish (and what you’ll do in each lesson) and then let them know up front what the cost will be, if it’s too much they can just pick another piece.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View lew's profile


12052 posts in 3749 days

#2 posted 09-22-2009 03:36 PM

If you are going to successfully teach someone new techniques and skills, you will need to permit them to advance at their own pace. In my opinion, a predetermined time schedule is setting the “student” up for failure.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#3 posted 09-22-2009 03:46 PM

Rhett, this is not an easy situation to address. But, given that, if I were in a similar situation I would approach it similar to that of a woodworking course. I would set a course length based upon the estimate of the time it should take to finish the piece and divide the time up into sessions (weekly, biweekly, etc.). Based upon the number of sessions that you anticipate it will take to complete the project estimate a cost for the instruction. For a one-on-one basis this will get expensive whereas doing a group of 6 to 8 students lowers the cost, on a per student basis, dramatically.

In this area there are a couple of programs that offer woodworking instruction. For a typical 6 session woodworking course at 3 hours per session in the Jefferson County Adult Eduction program the cost is $250 per student and classes are usually in the 6-8 student range. At Kelly Mehler’s program in Berea the cost of a 1 week course is close to $800 plus materials.

It is wonderful to have the opportunity to be able to help another woodworker grow in his/her skill but how much is your time worth? I would think that $20 to $25 per hour would be the minimum as a professional.

Any thoughts on taking the individual come on board in an apprentice fashion? And then letting him/her work on the project on their own time once the necessary techniques have been mastered.

Just a thought.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Dennis_MGWW's profile


90 posts in 3411 days

#4 posted 09-22-2009 03:48 PM

I’ve only taught younger kids some woodworking and not adults, but the one thing that I learned in the process is that it always takes longer than I thought it would. Which ever method you choose, make sure you are allowing enough time to explain everything.

-- Dennis,!/MpleGrvWoodwrks

View RexMcKinnon's profile


2593 posts in 3189 days

#5 posted 09-22-2009 04:46 PM

I think you give an hourly wage with a best guess on a time frame but you let them know that it will depend on their learning curve. In a situation like this I assume you are using your tools, (wear and tear) your building at a slower pace than you would normally, your teaching, and you are possibly losing other business because of the time it takes. There could be damage to your tools, who pays for that? Where is the wood coming from also? If he show up with a bunch of pallets your in trouble. I think this is not worth the time unless you charge a good rate. Higher than you would charge when working alone. If this is too expensive for the client he should maybe find a school specialized in woodworking and maybe you could do extra sessions with him for more complex stuff. Will he only work the project in your shop? Once you show him how to mill wood do you want to stand around while he passes 100bdf through a planer? If the project is a small box and you are showing him how to cut perfect miters then you could probably get done in a few sessions. If you are helping him build a bedroom set it could become very time consuming.

-- If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3480 days

#6 posted 09-22-2009 05:25 PM

I would not spend every minute with him to build the whole piece. Way expensive. You become an expensive professional assistant, or worse, you end up building it and he just watches. I would teach individual techniques and methods. Such as teach him to build a door, a leg, a top (cost per technique or method), then let him go home and practice at his own leisure. Each technique has many subsets of detail, tricks and tips, which is probably the training he is really looking for. Maybe not so much the easy way, but the right way, with acceptable shortcuts, smart efficient working skills. For instance in one lesson at a fixed time and price, you could teach him how to setup, layout and build a leg. He can build the remaining three on his on time, and in his shop. Building a leg teaches power tool and hand tool technique such as hand planing or scraper. You can incorporate many skills into each lesson, such as equipment setup, layout, marking, etc. One lesson, such as door construction, incorporates many techniques he can use on other parts.

You need to gear your lesson to the tools at his disposal. Of course if he want to buy a new tool, all the better! Your charge should be based on your skill level and what the market will bear, anywhere from $35 to $100 per one hour lesson, give or take, seems reasonable for a technique taught and learned.

If his skills are very basic, like doghouse type work, he may want to start out building something more simple to develop his skills, otherwise, he may be making expensive sawdust.

Just my humble $0.02

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View swied's profile


74 posts in 3756 days

#7 posted 09-22-2009 10:25 PM

Surfboard shapers sometimes let their customers stand back and watch them as they shape and/or glass their custom board. The customer is only an observer though (no questions). Maybe this person just wants to learn by observing. If they want personalized instruction, which will end up slowing you down, then charge extra.

-- Scott, San Diego

View jussdandy's profile


157 posts in 3201 days

#8 posted 09-23-2009 02:06 AM

somewhat simular but not exactly, I had a customer close up his cabinet shop at least 10 years ago, his Idea was to move to the Tampa area and open a new business. He was going to set up a shop and rent time to anybody that wanted to build anything, he said he was willing to give advice if needed. I had concerns about libility if someone got hurt, his answer was to have them sign a waiver. Sadly I never heard from him after the move, I was told he passed on.But maybe the idea can work in with your decision.

-- Randy I have the right to remain silent, just not the ability ; )

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3279 days

#9 posted 09-23-2009 03:34 AM

Rhett, First question…...Will you be working in your shop with your tools or working in his with his? If you’re working in your shop with your tools, do you have insurance to cover him if he should get hurt. I doubt your basic liabity insurance would cover an accident “working” with your tools. I’ve taught woodworking through our local community collage and one of the WoodCraft stores, but they carried the insurance to cover everyone. Didn’t mean to put a negative spin on this, but I know friends and neighbors would never sue you if they got hurt….......until they do.
As far as pricing goes. I would set it up like a woodworking class, you pick the number of sessions with the number of hours that you feel that it would take to complete it, basing it on the average time it would take to do each phase. If it takes longer, they need to understand that there would be an addition charge for more sessions. Too many variables to set a firm time ( their skill level, how much time do they want to stand around and talk, what techniques they want to do, etc.) Some will take a class to a certain level and then want to proceed on their own. Good luck and keep us posted.

-- John @

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3661 days

#10 posted 09-25-2009 03:16 PM

Here is my solution to the equation.
First and formost a Liability Waiver, written by a lawyer, will be signed dated and witnessed.
My student will be responsible for all materials, hardware and disposable items (sandpaper, glue…)
He must take a MANDATORY 1 hour shop and safety tour to familiarize him with my set-up and machinery, that will be $50.00
For comprehensive one-on-one training involving students project of choice with my shop and machinery, I am going to provide 40 hours of instruction for a base price of $1000. Anytime used in my shop whether asking for assistance or working solo will deduct from the 40 hour allotment. Additional shop time can be purchased if needed.
I think this will more than cover my time and expenses as I will be working on my own commissions while students are in the shop.
In the future I would like to offer classes of an exact nature where multiple students can attend.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#11 posted 09-25-2009 03:28 PM


This sounds like a good plan. I commend you for wanting to share your knowledge and abilities. I think that is the fundamental reason most of us are on board here. But having the patience and desire to be able to directly help guide and influence another individual is a wonderful gesture. It is expensive to do this one-on-one but tailoring a program to multiple students should prove to be more economical as well as more efficient.

Good luck.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View a1Jim's profile


117087 posts in 3571 days

#12 posted 09-26-2009 07:58 AM

Hey Rhett
I teach for my local community collage and at my shop. I think that most project classes fall between $650
and $850 usually not anywhere close to 40 hours but also charge for material. Their the student and your the instructor, so you set the schedule and hours and length of the course and each class. The liability is great that’s why I’ve discontinued my in shop classes until a Saw Stop fits in my budget. Insurance an waivers are a must but don’t think that eliminates all chances of legal action. If you view other courses on line you will see what others charge for classes similar in scope but ultimately it’s up to you what you charge.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View WhittleMeThis's profile


125 posts in 3367 days

#13 posted 11-14-2009 06:47 AM

One on one lessons are painfully expensive, unless he is sitting on a pile of cash, I would prefer to have him apprentice. Teach him as I go and have him do many of the more basic task in the shop whenever he is available . just my 02 cents

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3834 days

#14 posted 11-21-2009 10:43 AM

There are so many ways to structure this, I do like a set number of hours for a set price. It great to sit down with a Lawyer for a waiver, but in a court of law it is still only a piece of paper. A person still has recourse against you. Talk to your insurance company and make sure of what they will pay in the event he has a accident. Make sure they will pay the legal fee’s to defend a law suit. It’s unreal to see what it costs to defend yourself in a suit. You could easily spend thousands of dollars a day for a lawyer to just show up in court each day. A lot of suits are settled out of court due to it being cheaperto pay a settlement than the cost cost of defending against the suit.
It’s really sad that onr has to fear our legal system, but I guess the lawyers have to eat too.

Good Luck

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View bench_dogg's profile


63 posts in 3131 days

#15 posted 02-06-2010 05:37 AM

Does he have his own shop?

One way to approach it would be something like a piano lesson—you spend an hour or so a week with him and focus on a single topic—maybe door making. You spend the full hour or so engaged with him and focused on either questions or a lesson. He goes back to his shop, works on the door then comes back with questions.

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