I've been asked, I built, now what do I charge?

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Forum topic by Tennessee posted 11-27-2015 01:10 PM 2469 views 1 time favorited 41 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2541 days

11-27-2015 01:10 PM

The main museum store where I do a lot of business let their manager go and hired a much more aggressive guy who has a great eye. Much as I liked the guy that is now gone, this guy I like much better! I went over to meet him and found out that he is letting a few of the artists go, mostly due to quality, and that may include his cutting board guy.

Never one to bash another craftsman, it was hard for me to say anything when he showed me two cutting boards with wood putty in them, but even to me I would not sell it and certainly not buy it if the chance of putty coming out was there.
So then he asked me if I wanted to take some of the cutting board business, and could I make a couple of samples?

I told him I could not do end grain boards since I don’t own a drum sander and didn’t want to bring in an end grain board that may have waves in it, as one of the boards on display did (which they wanted out of there).

So I told him I would make a couple of boards. The pictures above are of the first one, a cutting board that is 12” by 18”, with a drip ring in it. It is made of cherry and kingwood, and finished with walnut oil. For the record, I like walnut oil and wish I had tried it earlier! I used Mahoney’s.

The second board, which comes out of the clamps this morning and will probably get finished today, is a much thicker 1 1/2” thick chopping block for use on a countertop. It is 14” by 16”. I don’t plan on putting a drip ring in that, just a nice roundover edge, square bottom, with a couple coats of walnut oil!

So my question, and the reason I didn’t post this in projects, is what do I charge?
I know the old adage, charge what they will pay, but I don’t know really what a board of this type above is worth, less alone the thicker one that is 14” by 16” by 1 1/2” thick. The store is fairly upscale, and they take 35%.

It is very hard for me to price these, since all the wood for these actually came off my scrap rack, and the time I put into them is simply cutting the boards, edging them for glueup, gluing up into the clamps, planing it when dry, cutting in the ring, (and no, I didn’t build a jig, figured out how to do it neatly in about ten minutes time with my router table once I got the bit in). But that’s another story.

So what say you board guys? I find this skillset somewhere on another mountain than my guitars, which sometimes take weeks. These I can pump out about as fast as I get scrap wood off my rack, glue things up, etc…

One thing I noticed – my wifey comes down to the shop and takes a really good look at these, being about a four star cook. I think at least one will never make it to the store. She would not let me burn in my logo on the backside since she neatly pointed out that people would flip it over and use the back side for things like veggies, where they don’t need the drip ring. Huh, Oh, OK…who knew??

Thanks in advance!

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

41 replies so far

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1203 days

#1 posted 11-27-2015 01:31 PM

Even though your wood came off the scrap pile it still costs money. What would the materials cost if you had to buy them? There is your material costs. At some point in the future you will have to actually buy the wood to continue making them.

As for labor, you know (or should know) what your time is worth. If they want 10 cutting boards how much time will it take you to make them? What other activities will you have to give up to make them?

What are they charging for the current cutting boards? Remove the 35% markup and you know what they were paying for the other craftsman to make cutting boards. Now comes the hard part, how much more will they pay for a higher quality cutting board?

Good luck with the pricing for me it is the hardest part of the project.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View bondogaposis's profile


4767 posts in 2378 days

#2 posted 11-27-2015 01:36 PM

I would not discount the price of the lumber just because it came out of your scrap bin. You paid for that lumber and now that you found a use for it, it is not scrap. I would work out some sort of average price per board foot based on what you pay for the various species in the board. Very easy to compute the board feet in a cutting board. Then add in some labor based on your time. Add a small amount for shop supplies like glue and walnut oil. Shouldn’t be too hard to come up w/ a reasonable price.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2034 days

#3 posted 11-27-2015 01:38 PM

Several ideas come to mind (in no particular order)
1. Good call by your wife on the logo. If you MUST have a logo, figure a way to put it on the edge.

2. Did you see any of the other guy’s prices? That might give you a base-line to start, and you might be able to judge “what the traffic will bear” from his prices. Also if he’s been selling “less than great” products and charging premium prices, you might be about to get a bit more for nicer products.

3. What about boards that are cut into shapes? You could start with a few simple ones like a barn (easy to cut out and sand the edges). Maybe a pig shape ( a few curves but still not too bad to sand the edges with a ROS). If those meet the new buyers approval, you could do a few with some more intricate edges which will be a bit more time consuming to cut (and are sometimes a real bitch to sand the edges) like the cow below.

Here’s just a few ideas of some of the one’s I used to give away for Ladies Night when I worked at the big orange box .








-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2988 days

#4 posted 11-27-2015 02:25 PM

Very nice work! I’m familiar where you are looking to sell the cutting boards. Good luck. I feel that there will be a good market there for quality work like yours.

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2541 days

#5 posted 11-27-2015 03:20 PM

Thanks! I think I will start by asking if his boards are selling, and then see what the pricing was. Go from there. And Joe, great ideas on the shapes – but my wife and I could not figure out what the picture above the motorcycle was. A motorcycle sitting on a block was the best we could come up with.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2034 days

#6 posted 11-27-2015 09:01 PM

Yes Paul. I originally made 2 versions of the M/C boards. One is the silhouette of a Honda Gold Wing (because I had one for years) and the other was more of a Harley cruiser style. Problem was, the center section of the boards was too narrow to cut much of anything on other than maybe a hot dog My first attempt at making the center section wide enough ended up with one that was almost 2 feet long. LOL

So I tried to come up with a way to have a big enough board to be useful and also still have the silhouette of the M/C show. And that’s how I ended up with this version. Big enough to use as a cutting board, and still having the M/C be recognizable.. Here’s a few versions I did.





I also did a Model T board.

This Texas board was sent to my niece who lives in Texas. Then all my relatives in TX wanted one :-)
I tried to do Tennessee but it also had to be way too long to get it wide enough.

I had a piece of poplar that had a weird knot in it. I glued up some scraps and the knot became the eye in this strange fish !

And I did several variations of a house


-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View SawSucker's profile


110 posts in 955 days

#7 posted 11-27-2015 10:15 PM

You should of worked out a price before you made any.

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2971 days

#8 posted 11-27-2015 10:36 PM

Pricing is hard because we don’t like rejection.

Calculate the wood cost as if you had to buy it. Calculate your labor hours, then multiply by your hourly rate. Figure in your shop costs. Add it all up and it is your price. If you think it is too high, then either figure out how to product quicker, cheaper wood or don’t make them.

It is that simple. You already know all of this information. Don’t worry about rejection as it happens to all of us.
Do make sure that you get every penny that you are worth. If you don’t, then it is a hobby and just give them away.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View rwe2156's profile


2965 posts in 1507 days

#9 posted 11-27-2015 10:56 PM

JoeInGa—> Nice cutting boards, but really?? Is that answering his question?

To the OP’s original question:

I don’t think you can price something out like this based on hourly shop time plus materials because a) you’re using scrap lumber and b) like you said, you can bang them out pretty fast if you build them in batches. For example if material = 0 fine but what it your time worth? Its more complicated than thinking “I’m worth $20/hour so the cutting boards will be $40. You’re not building a Philadelphia Highboy, here, right? This is a low skill operation, so keep it in perspective. That being said, its amazing what people will pay for things like this. I’ve seen boards like this at craft shows sellling—no asking—$75 (I don’t think they were selling many)

Are you doing this to make a side buck, then I would just get a number in my head, but ask him first what he will pay. You may be surprised.

If you really get into this then a drum sander would be a legit expenditure. It will save you a lot of time plus you open up the end grain option

Bottom line is he’s got to make a profit, (and he may think you don’t) so going to be paying you the equivalent of wholesale prices. Hypothetically, if he is going to sell them for, say $60, then may have to get them from you for anywhere from $25-30.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Texcaster's profile


1285 posts in 1700 days

#10 posted 11-27-2015 11:22 PM

I don’t know your costs. If I were to make commercial cutting boards in number, I would use long lengths and process in long lengths, ( 4-5 boards per lamination ) cutting to size only after final sanding.

For domestic use, end grain is overkill.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3258 days

#11 posted 11-28-2015 01:13 AM

Go to a Bed Bath & Beyond and look at the ones they have for sale. You may get your feelings hurt when you see them.

I still built a few for Christmas gifts. Our kids (grown adults) love them. A friend hung hers (flounder) on the wall and exclaimed that it will never have a knife cut on it. :-)

I did sell a large one similar to yours for $75. It went to a BBQ cook off team to use.



And an apple! :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View DocSavage45's profile


8601 posts in 2869 days

#12 posted 11-28-2015 01:33 AM


This is the best information on woodworking as a business.

Check out Hull’s blog!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View bigblockyeti's profile


5140 posts in 1747 days

#13 posted 11-28-2015 01:55 AM

Your best reference might be to see if you can find out what the lower quality boards were selling for in the same place and add a little. You certainly don’t want to undersell yourself and finding chinese made competition at any store is going to be thinner and of low enough quality to not really even begin to qualify as competition. In my area if I made something like that, especially with those dimensions, I would make sure it resulted in at least $120 in my pocket regardless of what percentage was being taken.

View a1Jim's profile


117120 posts in 3604 days

#14 posted 11-28-2015 02:15 AM

Hey Paul
As you know there are lots of threads on LJs about what to charge and many approaches as to what’s right for each person according to the material cost and time involved. The truth of the matter is that no one can tell you what to charge. It takes some experimenting with the marketplace and some production trials to really know what makes sense for you. Perhaps the honest approach is best by telling the manager you have not made these items before and that a trail sale time period might be a good Idea as far as what items are popular and how estimated prices work out for you and them. Another idea is just to place the boards with them on consignment and see what happens. Either way you need to come up with starting prices and tell them they may change up or down after a set time period.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View WhoMe's profile


1564 posts in 3270 days

#15 posted 11-28-2015 04:05 AM

I have seen everything from $40 basic boards to guys selling larger 2” thick end grain ones that go for $300+ each. So pricing is all over the map. It seemed to be based on woods and how much time it takes to make it. Sorry if this not a huge amount of help but I bought I would leads it on.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

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