First Sale

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by DannyBoy posted 11-01-2007 04:50 PM 1544 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DannyBoy's profile


521 posts in 3893 days

11-01-2007 04:50 PM

Okay, I just happen to get into a conversation with a work friend yesterday about my woodworking hobby. He asked me what kind of things I build and I told him that I really do about anything that pops into my head, but right now my mind is on stuff that I’m building for family Christmas presents. In particular, I told him about a barbeque tray I’m making for my parents and my in-laws. He perked up on this and asked if I would make an extra one because he would be interested in purchasing one from me.

Now, my ears perked up at the prospect of my first official woodwork sale, but it didn’t hit until later that materials alone for the tray would be about $35 to $40 (birds-eye maple box with a teak top). I didn’t say anything about cost to him and I didn’t get any impression as to what he would pay for the item.

Here is my question to all you lumber jocks out there: Should I be happy to sell this first ever item for cost of materials and use it as a stepping stone of experience (keeping in mind to tell my buddy that I did this one project at cost this one time)?


-- He said wood...

7 replies so far

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4120 days

#1 posted 11-01-2007 05:23 PM

We’ve gone back and forth about this subject in several different discussions on working for family and friends. Basically, you have to find what makes sense to you and what works for you. We can’t tell you what will make you happy.

I’m currently doing things at cost and taking on projects as “learning experiences” with little compensation for my time and skill – that’s fine for me right now. But I’m also not trying to make a living at it. I have a goal for making a part-time (bi-vocational) living at it some day though. So, I’m learning to keep track of time and materials expenses more accurately. As my estimating gets more accurate, I’ll get more expensive and the number of projects will probably slow down from the waiting list I have now.

If your friend pays for the materials, I would say you’re doing it for free. Friends do those kinds of things for each other. Check with him ASAP about the materials cost though. Some folks don’t realize that often materials alone are more than Wal-mart charges. If he insists on “paying” you, he needs to understand how much it’s going to cost beyond the materials cost.

Do a search of forums and blogs on “friends” or “family” – and you’ll find a bunch of opinions on this subject.

-- Paul, Texas

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4188 days

#2 posted 11-01-2007 06:22 PM

here is a good discussion about the topic
I think Paul’s comment about “what makes sense to you and what works for you” is the key to it all.

What are your goals? What do you believe a family/friend should pay? And how much of a profit or loss do you want to make on this?

Talking to the person is vital as well: does he want it made from pine (or another inexpensive wood) or does he want weather-resistant wood? Will he paint it to match his current deck/outside furniture? Giving him an estimate re: materials may end the discussion right there .. and if you are going to charge him for time/labour/expertise make sure he knows what that will cost as well.

Tell him that handmade items aren’t as inexpensive as some people think: it is usually a LOT cheaper to go to some chain store to get an item. If he wants inexpensive, that’s where he should go; if he wants the quality and the uniqueness of handmade then you can talk about the cost.

let us know what you decide with this. This topic is of interest to a lot of people!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Kaleo's profile


201 posts in 4168 days

#3 posted 11-05-2007 12:27 PM

Never sell yourself and your skills short. People aren’t just buying your piece they are buying your skill. Because they can’t do it themselves. So figure out what you hourly rate should be and how long it will take to make the tray and what the material costs are. Add them all together and there you have it.

-- Kaleo ,

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4033 days

#4 posted 11-05-2007 02:06 PM

I have to agree with Kaleo. Pretty simple formula actually.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View RAH's profile


414 posts in 3905 days

#5 posted 11-13-2007 05:30 AM

Dannyboy, Labor, Materials and Overhead. It does cost you to replace dull blades, bits, elctricity and other fixed cost, harder to keep track of unless you are keeping records. How many (just this one time buddies do you have)? I have my own business and I would have lots of work, more than I could handle if I was inexpensive. somewhere I would have to cut corners to stay alive and pay the bills. You don’t want to be known and have referrals because you are inexpensive.

-- Ron Central, CA

View cajunpen's profile


14575 posts in 4094 days

#6 posted 11-13-2007 06:24 AM

I am a pure hobbyist – I never try to sell woodworking, as everything that I build is for myself of my sons and their families. I do know that if you start cheap, you’ll probably have to stay cheap. Most “friends” you will find will look at you like you stepped in dog dew when you tell the cost of materials (not your time and skill/equipment costs).

I think if I were in your shoes, I’d quote a price based on the cost of materials and the cost of a few small tools that I was hoping to buy. If it’s a VERY CLOSE friend and you want to do them a favor, then just charge for the material and call it quits. I’m willing to be when you tell him how much the material is – he’ll say don’t worry about it.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Scott's profile


63 posts in 3889 days

#7 posted 11-13-2007 06:33 AM

Hello Danny

I too am just getting started when it comes to selling what I make. For now I am selling things I make for double the materials. That way I can make two and get one for myself for free. It is cheap for the time you put in but it is a start. Some day i will charge more but for now it helps on covering my cost.


-- Scott, Kentucky ----- "Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry" Mark Twain

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

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