Pricing your work

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Forum topic by Russell posted 01-22-2008 03:46 PM 1514 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 4046 days

01-22-2008 03:46 PM

Can anyone tell me how you come up with a price to charge your customers for things you make? I am not the fastest woodworker out there so I really don’t feel that it would be fair to charge a customer so much per hour. Is there another way. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Russ

-- Russ, Williamsport, Pa

14 replies so far

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4112 days

#1 posted 01-22-2008 03:50 PM

It has been easy for me, so far. The only thing I have expected money for is some pens I have turned. I just ask for a free-will offering. Then I expect (of myself) to be content with whatever that is.

View toyguy's profile


1672 posts in 4075 days

#2 posted 01-22-2008 04:04 PM

If one is trying to make a living selling their projects, it may be a little different. For me, I just like to build stuff. Most is given away to friends. However, the toys I have for sale on my web page are priced:
1- cost to build plus
2- how well the project turned out. I’ll add say $20 to $30, my cost and ask that, but I’m also willing to talk. Remember though, I’m not doing this for a living… if I was I would starve.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4289 days

#3 posted 01-22-2008 04:35 PM

I checked out a good book from the local library.
The Woodworker’s Guide to Pricing Your Work/How to Calculate the Value of Your Time, Materials and Craftsmanship to Make Money from Your Woodworking (Paperback)
by Dan Ramsey (Author)

this is worth reading

-- Hope Never fails

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4552 days

#4 posted 01-22-2008 04:57 PM

Material X 2 for simple. Material X 3 for most stuff. Material X 4 for involved projects. Material X 5 if you actually want to make money on the deal.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4200 days

#5 posted 01-22-2008 05:01 PM

I went over my process in another blog somewhere here. I just can’t remember which one.

Figure the material and add 1/3 for waste
Figure the approximate time. If you’ve built it before you should have an idea if not add 1/3. Remember that shop time is different from wages. I’m at $40/hour now but must up it because I’m paying $55-60 at the garage.
Add these two together and add your profit. (that’s not a dirty word) Any thing from 20-40% You also might consider overhead if you haven’t and amortization of the design process if you are making multiples of a design.Other wise the design time is part of the shop time.

If you think this sounds high, consider $35,000 pick-up trucks. Also consider that I recently left my pick-up at the Dodge dealer for one day and it cost me $1372. One of the items was “Misc. shop supplies…$25.60. If you want to be in business, you have to make a profit.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4112 days

#6 posted 01-22-2008 05:51 PM

That’s the question – are you just trying to cover costs? make a little spending money? make a living? Remember that if you underprice your work, you are taking work and income away from someone who is trying to make a living at it. If you are trying to make a living at it, remember that you have to make a certain amount to survive, no matter how slow you are.

One simple thing is try to find similar work and base your price on that. Look for similar materials, quality, etc.

You might come up with a pricing scheme like this …
~ material cost plus 20%
~ add some amount per sheet for cutting ply (maybe $30-50 per sheet)
~ add some amount per BF of lumber for processing, depending on wood hardness and project complexity
~ add some amount per drawer – commercially made drawers are around $40 each, plus glide hardware, plus having to make extra little doors for the drawer fronts (this applies mostly to cabinets, but a lot of furniture has drawers too)
~ Take the total of above and add your markup. This is where the income happens. Remember you’ve put your time, effort, and skill into this project, and taken the risk if anything goes wrong.
~ Add list price for any accessories, hardware, etc. You may be buying for less than list, but the whole reason for list is that they have already figured out a fair price for those items
~ Now add a fee for delivery (if applicable) and installation (I’m thinking cabinets again here)

It’s not a science! Good Luck!

-- -- --

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4060 days

#7 posted 01-22-2008 07:43 PM

You might want to check out Odie’s post. He has issued a 14 part series on going pro. Priceing work is included in one of them.

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

View Hibernicvs's profile


65 posts in 4105 days

#8 posted 01-22-2008 08:18 PM

This is astounding. Over the weekend (after I finished screaming in pain from my back going out, long story) I completed preliminary planning and layout for two tables. One is to replace temporarily a small table in the kitchen of a po’ lil’ ol’ lady who has something her grandmother had made in the late 19th or early 20th century, and whose mother slapped (i.e., nailed) some particleboard over and painted brown so her son could do his homework on it. I am going to strip it and fix the gouges and such after taking off the particleboard (and dancing around it while it burns … if my back stays “in,” anyway—it’s really ugly), and refinish it, but she needs a table to use while I do this. The other table is a little end table, which I’m making simply because the material I bought for the first table had enough left over to make another table … so I figured on selling it to recover the cost. So the first thing I do today is head for Lumberjocks to see if there’s any discussion on pricing, and lo and behold ….

-- Hibernicvs

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4412 days

#9 posted 01-22-2008 09:40 PM

There is no simple answer to this question, but the response Dennis gave is definitely the least complex.

My first response, however, is to make it up. If you work slowly and don’t feel you should charge your customers for the time you’ve spent on it, then an arbitrary price you come up with off the top of your head is just as good as a price you come up with using some complex formula, don’t you think?

Another thought – charge what you can get for it.

I was recently at an art/craft show where one woodworker had items (small clocks, cribbage boards, boxes) that were priced really low and he didn’t sell a thing. The guy a few stations down from him had boxes listed at several hundred dollars a piece and high-end pens (not a slim-line in sight) for anywhere from $55 to $125 each; half of his stock was gone by the end of the show. The main difference, from what I could tell, had a lot to do with quality of work.

Looking at the first guy’s work, you sense a certain laisse-faire attitude. I could see spots where he didn’t sand properly, runs in the finish, a lack of uniformity to his shapes, and edges that didn’t meet up – in general, it wasn’t the best quality work, especially considering he was selling at an art show. The second guy certainly spent much more time on his pieces. His finishes were smooth and run-free; his joints were well formed and tight; you could tell he spent time and effort on his design and concept.

The first guy had his items marked low – and they were still over-priced because he didn’t produce quality pieces. The second guy had his items accurately marked, considering time, material, and quality – and it showed in how well his pieces sold.

To put this in another way, you could give two woodworkers the exact same set of plans to make a box, the exact same amount and quality of lumber, the exact same tools and finish and the exact same time frame in which to make the box, and chances are good that you wouldn’t be able to sell both boxes for the exact same price.

The woodworker who pays more attention to grain (as in, using the grain in design elements to make the piece more harmonious), has better technical skills like joinery and finishing technique, and generally produces a higher-quality piece is going to be able to demand more money for his box than the other woodworker.

That’s my $2 worth (yeah, I think my opinion is worth a little more than two cents…)

-- Ethan,

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4043 days

#10 posted 01-22-2008 11:45 PM

I sell my boxes in a gallery and I price at what I feel people are willing to pay.
If things are selling fast I’m either pricing low or people like my stuff.
I work as a volunteer at the gallery once a month and noticed that many visitors commented on how ‘reasonable’ the items were priced.
Recently I put some items in a Christmas sale in our local art gallery. I used this as a pricing exercise to see if I could sell at higher prices and learned from it. I couldn’t really lose out – if they didn’t sell I have stock for the coming season, if they did sell then the higher prices are acceptable. Whichever way it went, I learned about my pricing levels.
Based on my experience, most important item is having a good stock on show for sale.

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4315 days

#11 posted 01-23-2008 01:16 AM

Russell . . . I posted this some time ago when DW’s aunt wanted some work done.

-- BLOG -

View patrick m's profile

patrick m

197 posts in 4051 days

#12 posted 01-23-2008 02:49 AM

Russ, Take a look out there at some of the prices… I from fishing rod handles to doors “hand made” custom” work should sell high… I look around ny at astronomical prices on some woodcrafts, and now with internet anything you can ship, you can charge a good price for it seems… You no longer need to have thing on consignment in a shop in nyc.. you can just click…and sell your work look into starting your own website.. Let me know how it goes…unless it’s cabinetry or framing then it’s all about location… and word of mouth of course … Good luck.. And careful working for friends n family.. often subcontract those jobs out…If possible and i “if” And yes material X5 remember the tools you bought and the space it takes

-- PJM.`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸ ><((((º> ""BY HAMMER AND HAND ALL ARTS DO STAND""1785-1974 nyc Semper Fi, Patrick M

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4112 days

#13 posted 01-24-2008 03:58 PM

The Feb 2008 issue of Woodworker’s Journal has an article about woodworking for profit and pricing your work. It’s interesting. In their example, I think they ignore the fact that for every hour spent actually building a small project, you probably have three or four hours in design, travel, material selection, marketing, administration, etc.

-- -- --

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4412 days

#14 posted 01-24-2008 04:42 PM

If you’re going to make the same or a similar piece over and over, however, the time spent in design is amortized out over all of those projects.

If each piece you make is unique and custom, then you should take the design time into consideration and reflect that in your prices. I think the biggest pitfall woodworkers run into when trying to price their stuff is in looking for some easy to use formula they can just plug a few numbers into to figure out.

Even if you did have some special formula for coming up wtih a price, it wouldn’t mean anything if the market isn’t in tune with that formula. Example: A friend of mine bought a house three years ago for $250,000. He’s right now trying to sell it for $380,000 because that’s what a realtor tells him (and what he thinks) it is worth. He’s had it on the market for over a year now, because nobody else thinks it is worth that. So today’s market doesn’t reflect that “housing boom” formula people were using to over-inflate the price of their house five years ago.

-- Ethan,

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