Selling slabs, whether/how much to charge for planing services?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by ADHDan posted 10-03-2014 07:00 PM 3036 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2105 days

10-03-2014 07:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have a big stock of newly-acquired live-edge slabs that I’m selling in the Twin Cities (you may have seen my other posts regarding this score). The slabs are fantastic, but most of them haven’t been skip planed yet and so I’ve been sanding small areas to show the underlying grain. I’ll probably have my 25” Woodmaster planer up and running by next Tuesday, so now I have the option of skip planning them myself or doing even more if a buyer requests. My question is, whether (and if so, how much) to charge for planing services?

I was thinking of skip planning all of the slabs on one side in a single go, to reveal the slab grain and give me better pictures to put up on Craigslist. Beyond that, I was wondering whether/what I should charge buyers for planing services. I think the metrics are:

(1) Per-pass fee at a flat rate.
(2) Per-pass fee at a rate based on bdft.
(3) Operating time flat rate.
(4) Operating time with a board-feet adjustment.

My thought was that I’m perfectly happy to skip plane one side as a courtesy (and to help move the slabs), but beyond that I probably need to charge because right now I don’t have spare cash to replace the blades (I’m bartering lumber just to get the electrical work done so I can run the planer). I know most milling services tend to charge an hourly rate with a minimum fee, but I’m basically just selling slabs individually and offering the planing services if the buyer is interested in them.

What do you think would be reasonable to charge for use of a large planer? Thanks!

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

9 replies so far

View woodsmithshop's profile


1319 posts in 3542 days

#1 posted 10-03-2014 07:08 PM

usually charge by the running foot on surface planing, around .50-.55 per foot.

-- Smitty!!!

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2105 days

#2 posted 10-03-2014 07:20 PM

Duh! A planer doesn’t care about board feet, just surface area. Since my slabs vary pretty significantly in width, and I don’t have the capacities or resources of a mill that charges based on linear feet, I’m leaning towards charging something like $0.50-$0.75 per square foot run through the planer.

Does that sound reasonable? I think most mills have a $25+ more minimum for planing and/or deal in large orders (hundreds of linear feet) rather than one-off slabs, so I feel like 50-75 cents per square foot isn’t a bad deal to save the buyer hours of surfacing with a sander, hand plane, or router carriage.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View FellingStudio's profile


93 posts in 1679 days

#3 posted 10-03-2014 07:55 PM

Run it through the planer to reveal figure benefits you because you can ask a premium for pretty wood.

Be prepared with a figure should a customer ask for more surfacing. I would suggest that you use your shop rate with a minimum of an hour charged.

(Shop rate = overhead + hourly wage + profit)

-- Jesse Felling -

View jdmaher's profile


427 posts in 2576 days

#4 posted 10-03-2014 08:48 PM

Flat fees are always appealing – so long as it’s not too much.

Two sides of an 8 ft long x 18” wide slab at 0.50 per square foot works out to about $24. And that’s not much time and not too much wear on blades, provided you’re only taking off up to an 1/8th.

Definitely DO skip plane to reveal grain. That’s to your benefit.

Then, offer to thickness to a specified dimension as “Thickness planing service generally available for $30 per slab.” That way, you can turn down or special quote someone who wants you to take off a 1/2 inch.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2105 days

#5 posted 10-03-2014 09:16 PM

Jim, that’s very good advice and a helpful example.

Jesse, my goal is to have figures in advance, but I’m not a professional and don’t have a shop rate. I could charge my hourly rate as an attorney, but I’m not sure buyers would go for that ;-).

Some great advice so far, thanks everyone!

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3574 days

#6 posted 10-03-2014 09:38 PM

If it were me Dan I would skim plane both sides just to equalize moisture intake,I would be concerned about cupping if you just skim plane one side. A lot of places that offer planning material have a minimum any were from $20-$35 and then charge buy the foot or by the hour $25-$50 an hour,some prorate for less than an hour some don’t. I think you win if done by the hour.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2687 days

#7 posted 10-04-2014 01:23 AM

I have a Woodmaster planer as well. It works great but is SLOW so I have been charging $1 a linear foot to plane both sides of the board to the buyer’s specified thickness. It is time consuming when you plane and then need to clean up the resultant shavings!

I would also caution against planning highly figured (crotch or curly) as tearout will happen!

I agree that skip planning only one side will lead to cupping/warping issues.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View FellingStudio's profile


93 posts in 1679 days

#8 posted 10-04-2014 01:38 AM

Hey Dan, I wasn’t trying to be an ass … just saying be professional about it.

I guess the real question for you is how much is it worth to you to offer the service? How much of a PITA is it for you, and what is your time worth? Every hour spent planing wood for a one time customer is an hour spent away from your projects. How much is that worth to you?

Personally, I would charge $50/hr with an hr minimum. But, lumber isn’t my business, and I never ask the sawyers that I deal with about it because I have a planer, so I don’t know the market. Of course if I really needed the money, I might take less, and if the customer was a friend or family member, I wouldn’t charge them.

And, like the other guys are saying, if you skip plane to reveal figure, do it to both sides of the board to keep moisture even through the board.

-- Jesse Felling -

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2105 days

#9 posted 10-08-2014 02:57 PM

Jesse – no offense taken, and I wasn’t trying to be glib. Honestly, I just don’t have a sense of what I’d charge for an “hourly” rate since I don’t run a for-profit shop.

At this point, I’m leaning towards a $25 minimum, and charging either $0.50 per square foot or $1 per linear foot. I haven’t really decided which fee makes more sense. Most of my boards are more than 1’ but less than 2’ wide. What do you all think?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

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