|Forum topic by jdh122||posted 106 days ago||1251 views||0 times favorited||20 replies|
106 days ago
I just finished a blanket chest for a friend. I did the milling with machines but cut the dovetails by hand and handplaned all of the panels after glue-up.
The project used 24 bf of yellow birch, which sells for $3 per bf, about $5 worth of white pine for the bottom (resawn to 3/8 inch thick, hand-planed tongue and grooves). Hinges cost about $5, there’s a leather strap to hold it open ($3 belt at thrift store), plus a few bucks worth of tung oil and varnish. Say $90 in materials, which is how much I’ll charge my friend.
For the first time, however, I decided that I’d keep track of how much time I spent on the project, just for curiosity’s sake. Here’s the break-down (in hours):
I also kept track of my many times I cut myself (saw even a drop of blood): 6 times (mostly on the sharp edges of the boards, none of them were serious enough to need even a bandaid)
So if my time was only worth $15 per hour, which seems pretty low, I’d have to charge $550 for the chest, and that includes nothing for overhead and no amortization of tools and assumes I’d be able to sell it without investing any time at all. Selling it through any kind of retail store or boutique or whatever would mean that the price paid by the customer would likely need to be closer to $1000.
I am quite happy with this chest – the dovetails are probably my best yet and despite the fact that the grain turned on almost every piece of wood I was able to plane without tearout. Still, I doubt that anyone would think this chest was worth that much coin.
A more experienced woodworker could certainly knock off time simply by being better at things – 8 hours of planing and 8 hours to cut and chisel the dovetails seem pretty high. But I think that to make projects like this worthwhile financially you’d have to move toward machines – a router for the dovetails and a panel sander would cut 12 hours or more off the project.
This is my hobby not my job and that’s the way I like it, but it was an interesting thought experiment to imagine trying to sell work done through this kind of machine/handtool combination. I think I’ll try keeping track of my time the same way on my next greenwood chair.
-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests