What Price to Sell it For?

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Forum topic by Mark A. DeCou posted 08-18-2006 12:43 AM 3418 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4427 days

08-18-2006 12:43 AM

Hey jocks:
I was interested in getting some feedback as to what woodworkers think in relation to what pricing they are willing to sell their work for. Do you use time & material pricing, such that you figure up the material costs and add to it the number of hours it will take with predetermined shop rate per hour? Or, do you price things in comparison to what other’s price their work? Have you found a unique way to get more than “market-price” for your work? I met a guy once that used to sell wood turnings for $150/each and had a lot of trouble selling them. Then, he moved to a resort/tourist area in Arizona, and now he can sell the same work for $5000-$6000 each (yes, that was three zeros). Same work, same skill, same material, different market, different customers, different competition. What gives?

Let me know what you think, I need help in this area,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

31 replies so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4336 days

#1 posted 08-18-2006 03:20 AM

Pricing seems like the difference between artisan and craftsman. A mission style table I would price time and material. A reinterpetation of the style and added design time could justify A three ZERO price increase. I might add my attempts at art furniture (very nice pieces) sat in the furniture galleries for years unsold no matter how i priced them. Market seems very importain.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4349 days

#2 posted 08-20-2006 05:21 AM

Was talking to a friend of mine today about just this. Someone told him to simply figure out how long a project was going to take you, and multiply that by 4x your hourly rate. This will cover materials, overhead, as well as any extra time that may work its way into the project (especally all those hours outside the shop you spend designing or problem solving in your head!).

I had a graphics professor in college suggest essentially the same thing. (she also suggested starting with a base price – essentially your “creative fee”, then 4x your rate)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4348 days

#3 posted 09-11-2006 03:50 AM

I have often considered picking up a copy of “The Woodworker’s Guide to Pricing Your Work” since I really have no idea what to price anything I do at. Seems like it might be a good starting point at least.

Unfortunately, this book constantly gets bumped down the list of things to buy. There always seem to be other things higher up the list like more lumber, tools, supplies and clothes for the kids!!!

I don’t have any advice other than making sure your stuff has several “zeros” in front of the decimal!

View TonyWard's profile


748 posts in 4350 days

#4 posted 09-11-2006 01:26 PM

Pricing is a constant issue. For those people who are aware of the time devoted to completing project the price is too low, for potential buyers who are not interested in the journey (that is the time devoted to completing the project) the price is too high.

I also struggle with the definition of “artisan and craftsman”. I also have a problem with the definition of a Cook and a Chef. Each produce the same product, work with the same ingredients and essential the same tools.

Is it volume of the work produced, originality of the work, quality, or the price that people use to categorise us as either a artisan or craftsman?

Tony Ward –

View mike's profile


46 posts in 4332 days

#5 posted 10-11-2006 04:06 AM


While I am not at the present a professional woodworker I have in the past sold items that I have made – I am reminded of the collector’s adage that something is worth exactly what someone else is willing to pay for it.

As for the Chef vs Cook dilemma – the Wikipedia defines Chef and Cook in the context of a restaurant kitchen as follows:

Chef is a term commonly used to refer to an individual who cooks professionally. Within a restaurant however, chef (French for chief or head) is often only used to refer to one person: the one in charge of everyone else in the kitchen. This is usually the executive chef. The executive chef is in charge of everything related to the kitchen, including menu creation, personnel management and business aspects.

The term cook within a restaurant kitchen usually refers to person with little to no creative influence on a menu and little to no command over others within the kitchen.

No real inspiration here and slightly off topic but good fodder for discussion.


-- Mike, Maryland,

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4183 days

#6 posted 01-21-2007 08:25 PM

I added something in the following topic that is related to this as well.

I do not know if it helps, but I hope so.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4259 days

#7 posted 01-21-2007 10:36 PM

It all depends, Mark. For cabinets I take the cost of the material and 10x it. On the magazine table I’m making right now, I just ballpark it and came up with Oak $175.00 and Cherry $225.00. On the Heirloom Rocker I’ll be starting on in the near future I figure if I could make $750 – $1,000.00 per week ( or a minimum of $2,500.00) and the cost of the wood, that would probably make it worth my while, even though it would be about $1000.00 cheaper than everybody else. It all depends on what your market can handle. I was told recently by a couple of fellow Jocksters not to give my work away, but til I get established, I have to eat.

And in the case of the DVD cabinet I made and sold for $400.00, that was based on the item that my friend saw for $300, plus tax and shipping.

View cabinetman's profile


144 posts in 4165 days

#8 posted 01-23-2007 05:13 PM

My .02 cents worth says to get as much as the market bears. After 30 plus years of doing this as a living, it’s still a matter of watching the expression on the client’s face. If they are comparative shopping, there may be other factors that will influence them paying a higher price.
I’ve tried the cost plus theory on some items and for kitchen cabinets, or vanity cabinets, the format must be fairly straightforward to use that method. Cost plus doesn’t account for an intricate layout differential, that has to be figured separately. But on the whole, since I used to bid many jobs and knew it was just for them to get a bid, I had a system.
For whatever the materials were to be, I used a per/ft price for upper cabs, per/ft price for full or partial splash, per/ft price for the type of material for the countertop, per/ft price for base cabinets, price each for drawers. Then figured demolition and disposal costs for the tearout of the existing kitchen, delivery charges, installation charges, and any costs added to the job that included any specialties. I found that the per/ft pricing covered the costs over just wall length prices. There are some areas that don’t get base cabinets even though there is an upper cabinet on that wall, like an opening for a dishwasher.
Sorry to get so verbose about pricing, but kitchen cabinets are one of the one most bids done that have a multitude of differentials. For entertainment units, bars, commercial work like jewelry stores, figuring the cost will entail estimating how much time the project will take, materials cost, overhead, and don’t forget profit.
For artistic or one-of-a-kind projects, time out of your life went into crafting a very personalized thing that may be difficult to put a price on. For what it’s actual value may be compared to the craftsmanship involved there’s no set price. Consider yourself a craftsman/artisan, no matter what your skill level may be. Anything you make; sign, carve, or whatever method you can, put, engrave, burn, or scratch your name and date on it somewhere.

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4183 days

#9 posted 01-27-2007 08:29 PM

I am trying to avoid cabinet work, since there are so many people in that trade and all have more experience than I do. I may do some in the future, but not at the moment.

Instead, I am trying to focus on free standing items. Some may be one time, some can be repeats.

Funny thing is, even when I estimate the costs and such, I do not make as much as I estimate. Right now, everything seems to take twice as long to make as I estimate. If I added that additional labor rate in, no one would buy my products. I am sure this will get better as I get more skilled and more experienced. All I can say is I do have a formula to produce the estimate and it does work.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Kaleo's profile


201 posts in 4161 days

#10 posted 01-28-2007 01:16 AM

I personally think that you can take the hourly rate of a localk mechanic or plumber which kiks usally 50-70 dollars an hour, and make that your shop rate. Then when you make a piece you price the first one at hours, materials and your mark up. Your location has alot to do with what you can charge. I think you’lkl get more in New York City than you would in Wyoming. But there are people every where that are willing to pay top dollar for hand made creations.

But at the same time you have to look at the going market rate in your area. But I think there are very few piece of hand crafted furniture that should be sold for under 1000.00 dollars.

-- Kaleo ,

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4427 days

#11 posted 01-28-2007 03:05 PM

Either I have to work much faster, or the world needs to wake up. I can’t sell anything for $50-$70 an hour, not even close, not even half of that. Even the folks that were from all over the country at the Western Design Conference told me that they can’t make that kind of money on one-off, original works.

I made $60/hour doing drywall work, but I don’t want to do it for a living, or in fact, ever again. I know a plumber that retired at 50 to the country, in fact he makes a good customer of mine now. This craft just doesn’t have the following of people to make what plumbers are able to charge for getting us water, and getting rid of our waste.

The cost of furnishings for most buyers is set by the cost of factory made, imported goods, and antique stores. There is a 0.009 % shopping niche out there that wants hand-made pieces of woodworking, and all of us are vying for the same shoppers.

I didn’t have much trouble getting minimum wage for my work, then I went to $10 an hour, then $15 an hour, and then $20 an hour. I started running into resistance at that level with being able to sell my work, eventhough my speed has increased exponentially, and my investment in tools has gone way up also. It could be my work is the problem, it could be my local area, or it could be that I work to slow. Or, it could be that, ” we just don’t get no respect,” to quote Rodney Dangerfield.

Keep the suggestions coming, I have enjoyed seeing the perspectives, and getting the feedback. I watched a show on Andy Warhol a few months back. He could take a photograph, do a bad rendering of it in a silk screen, and then make a fortune selling copies of it in ugly colors. I don’t get it, but people didn’t care a bit what his hourly rate was. I couldn’t handle all of the publicity and parties either though.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4259 days

#12 posted 01-28-2007 05:51 PM

We are truly Artists and our art usually goes unappreciated til we die. My son explained it like this: “We’re consumers, Pops, that’s what we do.” What he meant to say is that they are content with buying cheap crap, and have no real appreciation for the labor of love that we woodworkers live for. So guess what? My children can go ahead and buy their cheap particleboard crap, while I surround myself with beautiful hardwood furniture. The stuff that I complained about settling on is better than anything they have in their homes.

And when my time comes to leave this world, I’m going to will it to my customers. Donate the shop to the local up-and-coming woodworker… or maybe start Ye Olde Cabinet School for struggling artists.

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4183 days

#13 posted 01-28-2007 09:57 PM

Ok Michael – put me on your donation list for the shop…..just kidding.

I think it would be great to have a woodworking school in our area. Most seem to be located on the East Coast or Midwest. The few out here are in the larger cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

I think if we had a “school” in this area it would do very well. I have read how some other areas have established these schools for teaching skills. As another line of business, they also support the local woodworkers by giving them access to tools and such they would not normally have (e.g. – 24” planner, raised panel machines, etc.). As a side benefit, both the woodworkers and school get good PR and create an outlet for selling their goods.

While we might not get the same rate as plumbers and electricians, we should move above minimum wage rate.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4199 days

#14 posted 01-28-2007 11:04 PM

Quote Obi: ”And when my time comes to leave this world, I’m going to will it to my customers. Donate the shop to the local up-and-coming woodworker… or maybe start Ye Olde Cabinet School for struggling artists.”

Obi, my greatest fear is that when I die, my wife will sell my tools for what I told her I paid for them. LOL

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Kaleo's profile


201 posts in 4161 days

#15 posted 02-05-2007 12:28 PM

Personally Mark I think that there are more than .009 % out there. And to be honest there is now way that people like us can compete with factory made stuff from Asia. So why even try, we do something much better than that.

I still believe that if you are going to run a professional shop then you need to account for everything. Overhead, tools , materials, travel, insurances, internet, phones, computers…everything. When you add all that up there is no way you can make all that happen for 20-25 dollars and hour. Because on top of all that stuff you need to build in some profit. I ran a small refinishing shop before I decided to go back to school and make instead of fix. But even then with all my cost tallied up, I charged 55 dollars an hour for work.

I know that alot of makers that can get that kind of money have a name out there already. But look at the big dogs like Sam Maloof. He gets something like 15,000-20,000 for his chairs. He can pump those things out in a week.

I think we sell ourselves short sometimes, there are people out there that are willing to pay for handmade furniture. Finding those people is the problem. But I guarentee they are out there. The problem is that we ourselves most of the time need to sell the piece so bad, to put food on the table that we under cut ourselves.

I recently made a mirror, that took me 20 hours to complete. It was an original design and the first one I had ever made. Now I can do it in half the time. But the first one sold for 900.00 Australian dollars. That’s 45 dollars an hour. But the next one that I make will be faster and most likely cost the same if not more.

So price it fair but for what you want. And if you can wait it out. The buyers are there. Just my .02 cents, and then again I am a student, maybe I still have lofty dreams.

-- Kaleo ,

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