getting a fair return for effort expended

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Forum topic by kevlights posted 10-06-2014 07:02 AM 1121 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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12 posts in 760 days

10-06-2014 07:02 AM

...I have been making craft items and play huts/Wendy houses/garden park benches.
. ... so too must the price of your labors ,the end price goes up ,how do other crafts workers solve this problem .

lately on request as commissions,but as every crafts person knows ,the cost of Materials , plus fittings bolts screws, ,wear and tear on blades ,cost of oil and beeswax ,they all go up as the years go past price now is three times what i was getting seven years ago ,but the cost of business has too, and the cost escalation continues .

...I have to pay through the nose now what used to be firewood /boxing wood prices.perhaps I had it too good in the early years.

..The rise of the Big Box Sheds ,Bunnings, The Ware House,Mega Mitre 10, etc ,Chinese $2 to $5 shops have been great for the consumer ,but IMHO a disaster for the Crafts .

The comment, i hate to hear is ,as the punters stroll past your finely crafted work is,

..Oh i’ve seen those, at the Big Red Shed for $19.95 , ,,, bull dust !

How do you handle / cope with the price vers cost war ,in your neck of the woods.

-- Kev, Hobby/home repair/woodworker .Timaru .NZ

11 replies so far

View Loren's profile


8163 posts in 3069 days

#1 posted 10-06-2014 07:17 AM

I have thought on this a lot. Most woodworkers
don’t much like my solution: be seriously awesome…
as in doing inlay and elaborate finishes, gilding
and so forth. Do it for rich people. Make fancy
stuff. Like crows, people gravitate to shiny,
fancy things only the affluent can afford to buy.

If your work is competing in the annual budget
with a family vacation the vacation is generally
going to win. Sorry. Sell to people who can
have both the vacation and a bunch of other
stuff. That may mean attending a better
class of juried shows and so forth. More
affluent people attend fancier craft shows.

View emart's profile


416 posts in 2049 days

#2 posted 10-06-2014 07:52 AM

That is more or less my problem as well. It is hard to justify the cost when people can order the same thing online. I remember when I as building a futon for a client who needed it custom to fit in their house I stumbled onto the exact same one for 1/3 the price. Same materials similar build quality only difference was the manufactured one was unfinished and my futon was built specifically to fit the client’s low loft ceilings. Surprisingly enough it is my most requested item and I think it is due to having a higher quality finish on it. So my opinion is this: I try to stay away from most things that can be store bought for the same quality unless you think and can advertise that yours is better. I still feel guilty though since I know full well that this item is so common.

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View Puzzleman's profile


410 posts in 2365 days

#3 posted 10-06-2014 12:20 PM

I went the personalization route. People will pay higher dollar for personalized items that they can’t buy off the shelf anywhere. Big box retailers don’t want to deal with personalized items as it requires an employee to actually know something about the product and to help the customer to order. I am also in agreement with emart as people will pay for high quality. That is where Loren’s advice comes into play. You have to find the crowd that can afford your product line. I do not do many shows as they do not meet my community income level. I look for a higher income crowd that can afford my products.

Yes, it does work as I have been doing this exclusively for over 10 years. Started out doing shows, then I have migrated the business towards more wholesale. Used to do over 30 shows a year, now cut back to less than 10. Actually only doing 8 this year.

The hardest part about woodworking is the marketing and finding the right market. I went down a lot of dead end paths until I found the right ones for my business.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View InstantSiv's profile


259 posts in 1016 days

#4 posted 10-06-2014 12:46 PM

You can either compete or differentiate. If you want to compete research efficiency, sales, and marketing to bring your prices down and hopefully profit up. Or do something different that will be hard for others to copy.

View jmartel's profile


6469 posts in 1571 days

#5 posted 10-06-2014 12:50 PM

Go custom, and do something you can’t buy at the box store. Either that, or do serious production work and crank out as many as you can. Those seem to be the 2 best ways to make money, with more money coming in from production work from my research.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View jerrells's profile


891 posts in 2306 days

#6 posted 10-06-2014 02:19 PM

I do/did scroll saw work and pricing drove me out of business. People would not pay a fair price. The comment about custom work or different than any one else is correct, in my opinion. Time to step back and look at what you do vs others and what you want your return to be. A crafter might be one who breaks even in the mind of some. Get all the information you can and rethink your position in the market.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View MT_Stringer's profile


2820 posts in 2652 days

#7 posted 10-06-2014 02:47 PM

These days, everyone wants something for nothing. I went through that with my sports photography. Parents shoot their pics with the cheap digital cameras and give the images away. I doesn’t matter if the composition, clarity, color balance or sharpness is lower quality, free is good. Oh, then there was the guy that out gunned me. He was a lawyer and volunteered his time at the school and shot all of their games and…gave the pics away. :-(

Or, they simply will not buy a great shot. I got the shot of a JV wide receiver as he caught a long pass at the ten yard line and scored the touchdown. No one else could get that – perfect angle and perfect timing. It didn’t sell. That is the hard part I just can’t figure out.

Edit:Ii found the picture. It was actually a freshman game. There are 6 -7 images in the sequence of the catch and score.,tx%29/freshman-football/photos/full_size.htm?photogalleryid=cd432794-a2a0-4795-8569-89b6a6579448#photoid=f23c6fc6-e544-4661-aca6-65a9cdefb727

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View bigblockyeti's profile


3573 posts in 1142 days

#8 posted 10-06-2014 03:07 PM

One thing I tend to do is make everything way heavier than it needs to be, like twice at least. If it’s something built on spec. I’ll use familiar species (lower cost) and give it a shiny finish; there does seem to be a false perception on shiny = $$$$. If I can use plywood for a panel, instead of 3/8” or 1/2” I’ll use 3/4” if the species I need is available. I like to stay away from 3/4” milled stock as it’s available at the big box stores and thicker stock isn’t, makes for another point as to how my work is further distinguished from the import market.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2390 posts in 2343 days

#9 posted 10-07-2014 01:09 AM

”... bring your prices down and hopefully profit up. Or do something different that will be hard for others to copy.”

- InstantSiv

This is what I attempt to do. I keep my prices down by buying wood from the sawmill, my hardware on line by the thousands, finish and glue by the gallon and do what others do not . I have perfected “double bevel inlay” of images and do this on simple cedar box lids. I can now do it well and quickly and sell a lot of them. The most lucrative item for me, that sells well, are toys.

-- "You may have your PHD but I have my GED and my DD 214"

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1738 days

#10 posted 10-07-2014 02:00 AM

The first step is to get away from the mentality that you’re making things for people. Since the industrial revolution, almost all necessities have been provided for us at low cost from the factories. Nobody needs the stuff us woodworkers can make.

Avoid simply trying to make “better” versions of cheap, mass-produced goods unless you can produce mind-blowing improvements that are obvious at a glance.

What you want to offer is a service. People buy your service and not your product.

People still want some of the things we can make. Every successful pro woodworker has found a tiny niche that the big industries have ignored and left under-served. A couple of previous posters mentioned personalized puzzles and inlay boxes as their profitable niche. Building custom furnishings for the 1% is also a profitable route. My business mostly builds custom furnishings for churches and that’s something overseas manufacturers cannot do. It takes too much time and effort onsite to do the job overseas plus just about every church wants something a little different.

On the side, we use our expensive equipment to provide custom wood components to other businesses that don’t have our level of infrastructure (takes a fair bit of capital to do church work and turn a profit). This gives us reliable cash flow that helps span the spikes in the custom church furniture market.

In summary, you need either skills or capital that others do not possess and some sort of unique service to offer to your targeted clientele.

-- See my work at and

View nuttree's profile


279 posts in 2745 days

#11 posted 10-08-2014 03:59 AM

I agree with everyone else. What worked for me may not work for you as we have different inputs for the variables. I can tell you that the only way I could make more than minimum wage was to market myself as a craftsman and not a furniture builder or assembler.

-- I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. -John Muir

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