charging for scraps?

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Forum topic by teenagewoodworker posted 05-31-2008 04:48 AM 1940 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3763 days

05-31-2008 04:48 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

for any of you who have been watching my commissions series you know that i am doing a commission right now and i haven’t mentioned it but i have about 3 more commissions lined up for after this one is over. my question is as most woodworkers i get a little more wood than i need to account for scrap. should i charge for this scrap too or just the wood that i actually need to complete for the project. for example for one picture frame i need about 2 bf of lumber so i get 3 bf and with both mirrors it comes to 4 bf for the frames and 2 bf for scrap. do i only charge the $16 (for hickory at 4$ a bf) for the wood that i need or do i charge 24$ for the whole 6 bf that i bought. i don’t think i explained this very well so if anyone has any questions just post them. so i hope that someone can help me out.

16 replies so far

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3779 days

#1 posted 05-31-2008 04:57 AM

That’s a very interesting question, Denis. My answer comes from zero experience, so take it with a grain of salt.

I’d advise you to charge the customer only for the wood that is used for the project. This seems like it would make for the most consistent pricing structure. Otherwise, you could conceivable build something for someone using “scraps” of very nice expensive wood but would only charge them for labor (since the previous customer already paid for the wood).

-- Eric at

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3891 days

#2 posted 05-31-2008 05:04 AM

I both agree and disagree with Eric. I generally charge for the entire amount of rough lumber I buy. Most times, I explain to people that buying rough lumber requires buying extra to account for knots, bad places, etc. So they are tuned to the fact that more is needed. I generally only buy about 10% more than actually needed. The scraps that I may get are used for smaller projects. I feel no problem selling the next guy the scrap project—- but I tell the previous customer that paid for the expensive wood – I usually offer them the wood and explain that if they leave it with me that I do use it on other projects that I may or may not sell. Usually they leave the wood and are ok with it.

You have to educate the customers as to what you do and how it works.

If you don’t charge for the waste/scrap—- you potentially will loose money over time.

I’m sure you’ll get lots of different opinions about this—but this is my take on it.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1285 posts in 3732 days

#3 posted 05-31-2008 05:14 AM

I include all of the wood purchased in the bid. I keep any excess for later use. It just a part of making sure that one has sufficient wood to complete the job. There are many things that arise during a project. A board may show up flaws after surfacing that make it less usable. Just the cost of going back to the lumber yard can make or break a small job. It is just a cost of doing business. To think one can not make a mistake and be 100% perfect is unreasonable. No business could survive with that criteria. I never offer the wood to a customer, as the job is a bid to do a a set price. Also, the customer will usually end up throwing it away after it gets in their way one too many times. The key is to make sure the finished product is of high quality and the customer is happy with the results.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View lew's profile


12055 posts in 3750 days

#4 posted 05-31-2008 05:42 AM


I think you need to use good judgment here. In you first example, you bought 33% more wood than you needed. In your second example it was double what you needed. It would be unfair- on a large project- to buy twice what you needed and pass that extra on to the customer.

As Betsy said, about 10% more is reasonable- most of the time. Again, you need to know your supplier, quality of wood and the waste incurred in sizing the stock for your project. Experience will teach you how much you need for the projects you are building.


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

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3779 days

#5 posted 05-31-2008 05:50 AM

I like Betsy’s approach of giving the customer the option of either keeping the extra wood themselves, or allowing you to keep the wood and potentially use it for future projects.

-- Eric at

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3891 days

#6 posted 05-31-2008 05:51 AM

Dennis – by the way, I think its good that you are concerned about and are considering the options when it comes to this. Making money at woodworking is hard, but if you start right and learn from others what they did, then that can put you on the right track. If you think you want to be a professional woodworker, this type of thing will come up time and again, and you need to settle on a set way of buying wood for projects.

You are never to young to be a businessman. There’s a fine line to walk to be successful, but if you want it, all you have to do is line up those proverbial ducks and start working.

By the way——I also make sure the customer knows they will be charged for screws, hardware, the finishing materials, etc. Because I do so little commission work, I don’t keep a bunch of stuff laying around to do every possible job that I could get.

Keep up your good work. I’m sure you’ll be getting bigger and bigger projects soon.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3769 days

#7 posted 05-31-2008 05:57 AM

On my bids I list the materials used on the different parts of the cabinets but not the quantities. If a cabinet takes 50 Bd Ft I double it. On sheet goods I figure full sheets. If a cabinet take 2 1/2 sheets, I figure 3 sheets. There is a lot more that goes into a bid, but this is how I figure solid stock and sheet goods.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View acanthuscarver's profile


268 posts in 3707 days

#8 posted 05-31-2008 11:30 AM


If you are selling the customer one of the two frames, then they should be charged for the 3 bdft you purchased for that project. When I calculate material costs, I calculate it based on the rough lumber I am going to need to buy to insure I can make the piece successfully. In other words, if they commissioned you to build one picture frame for which the smallest board you could buy to make the piece was a 1” X 6” X 8’, they should be charged for that board plus your profit on that board plus your expenses (your time plus travel costs) to go get the board. Even if you only use half of that board to make their piece. I usually figure if I have to buy something for a customer that I would not normally buy to have in stock (like a hickory board), then they should pay for the whole board even if I end up keeping part of it. The key is, it is something I would not normally buy. Therefore the customer caused me to spend my cash on something for them and I should be wholely compensated for my expense. If you bought two hickory boards so that you could make an extra picture frame to sell, then they should not pay for the extra board unless you had to buy it to meet a lumber yard minimum purchase.

If the project is larger, then you should figure up the actual board footage you need and add the appropriate waste factor based on the species of wood being used. In other words, if you are using mahogany, you might add 20% for waste but if you’re using Eastern black walnut you might need to add 50% in order to be able to cut around knots and defects.

In either case, the “materials” cost should be spelled out up front. You might say “I can make the picture frame but I need to buy at least a 1” X 6” X 8’ board of hickory which will cost you (insert your price here) plus my labor and other materials to build and finish the picture frame” or you can say “This job is strictly time and materials. I will provide an itemized bill at the end of the project but I estimate the cost will fall between (insert lowest price here) and (insert highest price here)”. Then you’ll need to do the math to figure out your lowest and highest possible prices. When it’s over, you bill them for the board you needed to buy for the project, your time and other materials used plus your profit. This avoids problems with the customer thinking the project will cost one thing and your actual price being something different.

Pricing can be the hardest part of being a professional woodworker. If you are planning on operating like a professional, then make sure you include everything in your bill that will cost you time or money out of pocket to build a project then make sure you communicate that effectively to the customer up front or as soon as a change occurs that will effect their price. Good luck with your projects and pricing them.

-- Chuck Bender, period furniture maker, woodworking instructor

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3934 days

#9 posted 05-31-2008 12:51 PM

Think of it this way, you’re not charging for scrap, you’re charging for insurance that you’ll be able to do the project. This is neither unethical nor abnormal. Every profession that I’m aware of that bills on time and materials uses some sort of “fudge” factor, typicall 10% to 15%, but some as high as 50%. The objective is to provide the product with the most quality and the least interruptions possible. If over the course of time you accumulate sufficient lumber to build another project, then that’s a good thing. It’s part of your profit. It’s wise to consider the ethics, but as has been said before, your expenses for any job should be minimal, because the more of your money you put in, the less profit you make and eventually, you’ll be paying people to work. (Okay that may be extreme)

-- Working at Woodworking

View dlcarver's profile


270 posts in 3725 days

#10 posted 05-31-2008 01:28 PM

I only charge for what I use. Even at that there is always scrap of smaller pieces that I can use for a smaller project. Probably 75% of my carvings came about because of scrap from other jobs. I design certain items just to use my scrap. Technically the first customer pays for #2 and#3…. these are hidden expenses…. that makes your little pieces more saleable. That’s just part of the game so to speak…. you must make sure that you come out on top.


-- Dave Leitem,Butler,Pa.,

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3763 days

#11 posted 05-31-2008 02:57 PM

thanks for all the help everyone. i know my first example may have been a little extreme but thats mostly because if one side of the picture frame takes 24” of the piece thats two linear feet or one board foot of the 1×6 that i used. so in the account that i mess up one side i need to have enough linear feet to make another piece. thanks for all the help though i never expected to get his much of a response from everyone.

View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3643 days

#12 posted 05-31-2008 08:01 PM

Figure on 35-50% waste on furniture projects and charge
your clients accordingly. You’ll have scrap left over you can
use on personal projects.

Underestimating the cost of materials can eat you alive.

Once I was hired to build 8 mahogany doors. Big ones.

I priced the Mahogany at a wholesale dealer I buy from, in
the rough… problem was that when the check came in I
called them up and they didn’t have any. 2 Months later
they still didn’t have it. I had to pay through the nose to
get the wood from another dealer who had it in stock.

I probably lost $1000 out of my pocket just on that lumber
buying experience.

If your prospective clients cannot say “Yes” to what you need
to get to pay your costs, pay your salary, pay to upgrade your
tools and build your skills – then offer to give those prospects
less for less money.

Sometimes people will not pay you. I have had this happen with
“contractors” and interior designers. Never had the problem working
directly with clients.

Always keep your marketing running, even if you are booked up.
That way you get to choose the most profitable jobs and the ones
that will let you grow.

There are three factors: price, quality and speed of delivery. Clients
can control 2 of them only. You always control the third. Never
forget that.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3763 days

#13 posted 06-01-2008 12:16 AM

thanks for the advice loren. i am posting the actual commission in a couple of days and i think that i hit the third. they’re beautiful, nice tight joints beautiful finish and feels like silk. thanks for the help.

View barlow's profile


129 posts in 3735 days

#14 posted 06-01-2008 05:27 AM

If you are going to be selling your work, you need to act if you are an actual full fledged business. You charge your customer for the full price of the lumber, if it takes less stock, save it use it on another project and charge full price as you would if you had to buy lumber for that one, and add the extra cash on to the bottom line. For example, my mill makes alot of millwork, say we are doing a major condominium project in oak that will take 10,000 lineal ft. of baseboard and 18,000 lineal ft. of casing, i will bring in a truckload of oak, say 10,000 bd ft. I bring in Appalachian Oak, and the grade is beautiful, we get an amazing yield out of it and it takes 8,500 bd ft, we now have 1,500 bd ft of paid for FAS oak in stock. A few weeks later a couple comes in and wants to do there whole house in oak, it will take 1,000 bd. ft, now you just dont give them the wood because it is paid for and charge them for the labor, you still charge full price, more profit in the pocket.

-- barlow

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3763 days

#15 posted 06-01-2008 02:20 PM

thanks for the advice barlow

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