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How much is your woodworking worth ?

by a1Jim
posted 06-19-2010 06:17 PM

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169 replies

169 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4823 days

#1 posted 06-19-2010 07:08 PM

I occasionally sell a box to a friend for the cost of materials. But to actually pay myself a fair wage for the time invested, I’d probably have to get $300-$400 for the average box. I don’t see that kind of market demand, so I really don’t try to sell them.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View b2rtch's profile


4915 posts in 3653 days

#2 posted 06-19-2010 07:41 PM

How many people do this kind of thing to make money and how many make them just for the pleasure , not even thinking about making a living out of them?

-- Bert

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3720 days

#3 posted 06-19-2010 08:27 PM

if you try to sell those small things for a living
wasn´t it time to take peoples fals imagenation from them
about wooodwork doesn´t cost
do as those who work with Clay and the glassblower they claim
there work to be art (one of) and it seems to me that there is a lot
of people who is willing to pay more than 400 $ for those things ( I have even seen prices on 5000 $ )
and they have done it for decates
and now when they seems to cut down on woodworking classes in schools
and nobody learn it , and if they want to learn it they have to wait untill
they can learn it as grown up the sameway as the glassblower

View j_olsen's profile


155 posts in 3776 days

#4 posted 06-19-2010 08:48 PM

Jim you’ve posed a good question here—My last posted project was a twin bed for a friend which i did for material costs (300)—I was curious what I could have charged and someone had posted a spread sheet to figure costs for a project which was pretty comprehensive – tool depreciation, overhead, vehicle deperecation and so on—I downloaded and looked through it and stripped all the costs i wasn’t worried about and lowered my per hour labor from 20 to 15 and the number it came up with to me was outrageous—over 1200 for a painted poplar bed!!!
I for one have a tough time thinking that my work is anywhere near worth charging that kind of money for a very simple item and would I pay for that item even knowing that it was handcrafted
I am going to watch this to see the other comments

-- Jeff - Bell Buckle, TN

View DAWG's profile


2850 posts in 3742 days

#5 posted 06-19-2010 09:25 PM

I hear what your saying Jeff, and if your building something for a friend covering cost is usually all you might ask for. My problem is the amount of people who know you do woodworking and will tell you they want you to build this or that, but then act so surprised (even offended or insulted) when you give them a price. I would not ask somebody to build me anything custom knowing that it’s better than store bought in materials and assembly and then act shocked over the price. I know most of you like me could have a full-time job+ if you made things for free, but starve to death trying to sell custom furniture. My wife has a long list of free stuff I can build and that list is full. With that said I’m always open to helping someone build something in my shop if they’re willing to help build it and buy the materials. Jeff your labor is worth $20.00 per hour if not more and if they don’t think so make your wife something.

a1Jim I charged $1800.00 for the Cherry Bookcase (they gave me $2000.00), $1400.00 for the DVD Case and $400.00 for the Louisville Slugger sign. These prices would not support full-time.

Thanks for the post a1Jim very interesting.

-- Luke 23: 42-43

View j_olsen's profile


155 posts in 3776 days

#6 posted 06-19-2010 09:35 PM

Dawg I’m right there with ya on the shocked look people give you when you give them a price—it’s like they think you owe them something—my question to them would be – when was the last time you spent a ton of time on something and gave it to me for free??
BTW—No wife here!!!

-- Jeff - Bell Buckle, TN

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3588 days

#7 posted 06-19-2010 09:58 PM

To be honest with ya a1Jim I couldn’t tell you. Although I have been asked to make some pieces and told them that my work is priceless and that you couldn’t afford it. How can you put a price on love? I just make what I want to make. I don’t like to make much of any one thing its seems like mass production and thats not for me.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View SchotterWoodworking's profile


113 posts in 3635 days

#8 posted 06-19-2010 10:00 PM

This is an interesting topic for me as I am trying to decide on pricing for my small clocks as a side income. I’ve got a full time gig in a custom cabinet shop but I would really like to make some side money to support my woodworking habits. I mean, how much am I worth; rather, how much are people willing to pay for custom furniture?

View jimswoodshop's profile


19 posts in 3521 days

#9 posted 06-19-2010 11:05 PM

I have taught woodworking and worked in retail at a couple wood working retail outlets. Here are some observations that I have noticed.
I found that most people who say they are making a living at woodworking are misinformed about what it takes to make a living. Most have a second income retirement disability or a supportive spouse.
A lot of people are believe that they can make a living piddling around in a shop making what they want and while having a pleasant day in the shop environment. A lot of people make one of a kind items have not counted the design hours delivery sales time or commission, cost of materials and time on consignment.
Walmart is not our competition nor is any other mass marketer.
Small shop and small overhead does not mean less expensive product than the big producers.
The consumer needs to be educated about what they are seeking out when comparing and looking at our woodenware. Two pcs that have the same function are not always the same.
To be profitable one need to be not only good to great in skills be marketable and knowledgeable but has to be something I have not spoke of yet and that is fast. Chopping out hand cut dovetails as quickly as most do with a machine (including setup) and incorporating time saving techniques wherever possible , Patterns, jigs, reducing machine setups whenever possible, and the biggest time saver is reducing shop interruptions like visitors and the telephone and other time thieves.
Several that I have met have little exposure to what a difference there is in detail in a $500.00 chest and a $2000.00 chest of similar made by a skilled cabinetmaker.
None of the woodworkers that I know that are not successful have a clue about marketing of their woodworking or themselves. Yes marketing yourself is as important as your product.
There are a lot of good under valued products in craft shows and festivals buy many people seeing a better way of working and making a living that they will sell cheap just so they can make expenses and do it again.
Generating sales does not mean making a profit or making a living.
I am not trying to cheese anyone off in this post but simply giving my observations. This was written quickly and probably has many errors of grammar and spelling, Be kind.
If you’re wondering what my gig is I work for a company and manage a shop making furniture and accessories out of pine and engineered wood. It pays the bills and has insurance. I also make 3 to 4 commissioned pcs a year in my spare time. This work pays well (I charge $25.00 an hour for my labor and shop and 1.5 times the cost of materials) It has built my shop and tools it feeds my creative side and builds my future retirement income business. Maybe someday I will quit my day job and do custom works but I doubt it. I think I will retire at 62 and supplement my income making my 3 to 4 pcs a year.

-- Will work for Wood

View a1Jim's profile


117906 posts in 4182 days

#10 posted 06-19-2010 11:33 PM

Lots of good points Jim . There are a number of things you won’t change with a big percentage of woodworkers. #! They under value there products or give them away. #2 most are not good business people even long term pros. #3 They short cut finishing with old products like Blo. tung oil etc.
Remember folks I said ”Big percentage”
I wish I could retire at 62 that’s what I am. What does that say about a 20+ year woodworker financial planning or being a good business person?
Back to the question how much do folks sell their boxes and boards for?


View woodsmithshop's profile


1401 posts in 4151 days

#11 posted 06-20-2010 01:18 AM

in the area I live, it would be called a “utility class area”, I was told years ago, there are 3 classes to consider,( in a monetary sense) utility class, craftsman class, and fine art class, most people in this area do not think your time is worth much , and the small amount of wood that you use could not cost you that much, so they don’t want to pay what something is worth or what you feel you should get for it, they always think they could build it cheaper themselves.
much of the time I feel lucky to make 2- 3 dollars an hour if that. so most of my work is for the family now, I quit doing custom work.

-- Smitty!!!

View Dark_Lightning's profile (online now)


3755 posts in 3714 days

#12 posted 06-20-2010 01:38 AM

The spectacles cases I make, my wife says I should charge $60 a pop. Mind you, I can make 10 a day if I jig up for it (I know, because I have done it). It wouldn’t matter if these were made from pine or bubinga, that cost difference is only a dollar or two for the amount of wood used.

As an example of where true craftsmanship makes a difference, one of my wife’s friends asked for a complicated quilt, king sized. The pattern is called “double wedding ring”. Anyone who cares to go look up how many pieces to cut out and sew together to make the pattern will find it is hundreds of pieces. At $5/hour, this would cost $800, not counting the material! Needless to say, the gal went and bought a quilt from wallyworld. It turned out lumpy and started to pull apart on the first washing. That’s the difference. My wife makes a quilt, it lasts for decades, not months.

This is what originally drove me to make my own spectacles case: the $5 and $10 made in chinee cases can last as little as three weeks before they self destruct. I had to drop my wood one 4 times before the thing cracked, and it is over a year old- and I repaired it with screws. Next time I’ll use dovetails, as soon as I figure out how to mass produce dovetails in my jig.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18783 posts in 4281 days

#13 posted 06-20-2010 01:58 AM

Don’t be too said about not making it at 62 Jim. There are milions who scrimped to save and invest. The liars on Wall Street destroyed their plans. At least you got to do what yoiu wanted to do :-) Most of them worked at a job they hated for an a$$*%& boss.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View tdv's profile


1203 posts in 3675 days

#14 posted 06-20-2010 02:10 AM

I wish I could make a living out of producing what I love Jim maybe you will get the odd client willing to pay but where I live in this economic climate people look at the price of IKEA (Swedish mass produced crap..can I say that here?) then look at the cost of craftsman built & they invariably go the cheap route. I think the modern culture is change your style evry few years so now a piece of furniture seems to have no long term value except to people like us & our friends & families who receive the heritage pieces we build. It would be interesting to hear comments from some of the professionals who use Lumberjocks
God bless

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 3814 days

#15 posted 06-20-2010 02:34 AM

Good question, Jim. When I worked my trade, it was straight-forward and easy to set my prices. People need plumbing work. But crafts… or art… that’s tough!

An acquaintance from Atlanta saw my Tight Weave board today and wants one just like it. I really have no idea what I am going to tell her. Honestly, I’m still at that stage where I am a little surprised when a project comes out looking good. LOL None of that means she shouldn’t pay a “fair” price… whatever that is! Another factor is wondering if she has a clue of the worth, or will she have a fit if it is more than Walmart prices. Also, just because I am a hobbyist, I don’t want to undercut someone else’s bread and butter.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4585 days

#16 posted 06-20-2010 03:14 AM

Great topic Jim;

On many of these small projects, which I’ve built for the fun of it, I just give them away. The reason I do that is if I told them what the thing would cost if they hired me to build them, they would think I’m trying to steal from them. It actually embarrasses me to tell them what it would cost. People are used to the prices on throw away products, coming from Walmart or Ikea.

Recently, a Developer I used to do work for with my construction business (millions of dollars worth), called me wanting an entertainment cabinet. He started the conversation by saying he saw something at Ikea that would work, but thought he may as well have something built. He mentioned the thing he looked at was around $4,000.00 for enough sections to make up a 17” long cabinet. He was trying to fill an entire wall.

I told him $1,000.00 per foot. I came up with that price simply because he was under the impression my price would be around the same price as Ikea. Frankly, it irritated me the he could be so naive, or think that I would be tempted to compete with Ikea for such a magnificant project.

His response was he would be embarrased to spend so much for a piece of furniture. Yet he feels his time is worth about $500.00 dollars per hour. I told him to find someone that specializes in working with Melamine. It takes all kinds.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3720 days

#17 posted 06-20-2010 03:21 AM

LoL….that was a good one Lee
he takes 500$ pr. hour and wont pay you 50$
he shuold be ashamed

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3591 days

#18 posted 06-20-2010 03:44 AM

I do not make my full living from woodworking, I do some other things. I would be happy if I made all my income from wood, but I don’t want to give up those other things. But the money I charge for my woodwork is, I feel, a fair representation of my time and effort put in it.

I charge $50/hr + 1.5X materials. Pretty straightforward. A lot of my materials are recycled/otherwise gotten for free (hello dumpster diving) but I try to guess the market worth of them.

I was charging less but I had more than a few people (who were buying things from me) tell me to raise them. I did. I’m still selling at the same rate.

Granted, most of what I sell requires a lot less time than much of what the other people in this thread make. I sell a lot of photo frames, bookends, that kind of thing. Small, quick, out the door.

Incidentally, I charge less for my woodworking than I do my photography. Since we’re being honest about pricing here – I get $75/hr minimum for wedding/event photography. Usually it’s closer to $120/hr. I don’t do a lot of weddings but it makes up for it in price. That’s strictly my time, prints and albums and whatnot are not included.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Dark_Lightning's profile (online now)


3755 posts in 3714 days

#19 posted 06-20-2010 03:48 AM

Keep it in perspective, Lee- to him, you’re just some guy with a saw under one arm and a gallon of finish and a stiff brush in the other. [/snark] Let’s face it folks, there are few people in the world who are going to value what we do. I’ve seen your work, Lee, and it’s really nice. However, high craftsmanship is essentially meaningless to most people. We recognize it here, but as TDV said, people change their style frequently and can’t afford to buy something nice that will last. We really do live in a throwaway culture. It’s worse with clothes- those “fashions”? psshh.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 4101 days

#20 posted 06-20-2010 03:59 AM

Wow, what a great subject…........... I have always had a dilema as to what to charge.
I don’t make a living on woodworking, however, I do try to somewhat supliment my income and pay for my tools as I can. Having said that, here is the way I look at for myself: I am retired ( 66 ) and am not working at all, therefore In effect, I have nothing to do with my time so I make no money for my “time”.
Now, I go and have fun in the workshop, create a box or something for someone, I charge the for the materials + whatever I feel is appropriate. For my larger 6 drawer chests I charge $350.00 ( should be closer to $500.00) and the humidors I charge $250.00 ( should be closer to $350.00) and the standard jewelry box I charge $175.00 ( should be closer to $250 – 300 ). This is only on the internet and by word of mouth. I am going to try to do some shows next year so, yes, my pricing will go up closer to what it should be.

Even though I don’t charge alot, I still make what I call a “profit”. Again, my time is free anyway and I am having fun, so my profit ends up buying me more toys ( tools ) (wood ) and I end up happy !!

You may think I am crazy but, it works for me for now….......... and I am getting a customer base and repeat requests.

Let me know what you think of my “simple logic”..................

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18783 posts in 4281 days

#21 posted 06-20-2010 05:00 AM

Sounds like retired guy logic having fun buying a few more tools and more wood to do it again :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View stnich's profile


128 posts in 3529 days

#22 posted 06-20-2010 05:10 AM

For me it depends on the project. The clocks that I make are by the piece. I make at least 50-60 different models. I also make various barometers which I also sell by the piece. When I do commission work I either have a contract price or I work by the hour. I have a few regular customers that trust me to treat them fairly which is what I do. It used to be more regular than it is today because of the downturn in the economy.

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 4101 days

#23 posted 06-20-2010 05:22 AM

That’s right Topamax…......... as long as I can keep on doin’ it !!!

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View Jesse.R's profile


56 posts in 3530 days

#24 posted 06-20-2010 05:25 AM

a long time costomer of mine who we just did a $100k kitchen for said she loved my celtic box and asked how much i wanted for it. i told her $200 (which i consider a hellova deal for her considering the time i spent on it.) the way she looked at me youd had thought i called her ugly lol..

-- jesse

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18783 posts in 4281 days

#25 posted 06-20-2010 05:29 AM

Trouble is people have no idea what it takes to make a nice box or what the materials cost.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3591 days

#26 posted 06-20-2010 05:32 AM

The point of heirloom pieces is very good. While a painted piece of furniture will certainly be of very high quality and way better than anything I can buy in a Box Store, it’s probably also not something that I will want to keep forever and have to hand down to the grandkids. I’d be more likely to save my pennies or something that really screams “fine woodworking” – showing natural grain, timeless style (or more historical style, if my tastes ran that way), beautiful wood grain, etc.

But, I also think a lot of people assume that getting something painted or out of a cheaper wood will be dramatically cheaper… when it in the end most of the price goes to labour, not materials.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 4358 days

#27 posted 06-20-2010 06:12 AM

Jim, these are some of the Items I make, and for Atom, I do the dove tails, a hundred or more at a sitting. Granted my market is a nitch market, but the products still move out the door. My prices are on the web site for the lights.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 3939 days

#28 posted 06-20-2010 12:36 PM

There are people who are willing to pay high prices for handmade things, but they must be very special and the maker must also have good access to his market. Only a very few people have the marketing skills and/or contacts to do this. Another big issue is having a well known name, which adds a lot of value when folks brag about their acquisitions.

Small complicated things take just as much time and sometimes longer to make as larger nice pieces. A nice jewelry box vs a piece of furniture for example. Much more utility from the furniture for the same money equals a much bigger market.

After I had been doing woodworking for awhile, I joined a group of other crafts folk who operated their own gift store. We paid 10% of our sales to the store and we took turns running the store. there were a lot of things there including some mass produced small cast statues slathered with a brown paint and highlighted with bronze. The motifs were similar to the good stuff, but very poorly done with no artistic merit whatsoever. Unfortunately this is what the public bought because it was at least half the price of everything else in the store and was an easy gift for the mother-in-law or aunt May. The result was that we were being used as free labor to sell mass produced junk. I sold most of my stuff to an artist who sold her oil paintings through the store. She appreciated all the work that went into my stuff. Not too good with mainly one customer, so I quit the group. I would rather make my stuff as gifts to family members and friends who appreciate and cherish them. the payback is so much more rewarding.

The only similarities between professionally built and hobby built are the end products. Making those products and selling them at a profit is a whole different ball game. Lacking a big name in the design area, a professional shop has to have very good quality and be very productive to succeed and they have to know their market well enough to get buyers for their stuff.

Please tell me if I’m wrong about these things Jim. I’m sure with your experience you have a pretty good handle on it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4379 days

#29 posted 06-20-2010 07:40 PM

Hi Jim

I know you were asking about smaller projects but I really feel for a lot of the people trying to make a living doing woodworking these days. I always worked for prison industries my whole working career except for first 5 years when I taught. For 9 years I had a custom cabinet business on the side besides working at the prison full time and made a lot of money doing it. The biggest problem then was I put more hours in my part time job a week than at my full time job. I was a lot younger then and still burnt out after nine years. I even started doubling and tripling my bids and still had too much work. Two years ago when I retired and put in a new shop and thought I might like to build some cabinets and furniture on the side. I gave out 100’s of cards and about 20 bids. I never got one bid. I figured if I could not make $20 or $25 dollars an hour it was not worth my time. I made $15 to $25 dollars an hour back in the 70’s and had more work than I could handle. I am so thankful I am retired, don’t really need the extra money and decided to just build things for my family, church and friends. Man has times changed! I know some people do real well yet today but I can also see where it is a lot tougher now than before for a lot of people.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18783 posts in 4281 days

#30 posted 06-20-2010 07:50 PM

Tom, adjusted for inflation, the average wage earners hourly rate is down 40% from when you were averaging $20 an hour back in the 70s. There are higher priorities than buying custom made goods.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View BillyJ's profile


622 posts in 3808 days

#31 posted 06-20-2010 08:14 PM

You bring up many good points, stefang. I, like many others posting here, do most of my work quid pro quo. I marvel at the prices people are able to command. I believe there are three (probably more) categories – carpenter, woodworker, and artist. I place myself somewhere between the carpenter and woodworker. My work is what I consider, ok, but I would probably starve to death if I had to support myself with my work. I appreciate the artistic work, and know I would never be able to even come close to replicating most of the work I see on these pages.

The pens I make, I give away (cost + a little extra). It amazes me that people are able to make pens and sell them for $100 – $200. I’m glad they can, and will leave it to them.

-- I've never seen a tree that I wouldn't like to repurpose into a project. I love the smell of wood in the morning - it smells like victory.

View antmjr's profile


262 posts in 3789 days

#32 posted 06-20-2010 09:45 PM

I agree with Mike too: marketing is by far more important then the quality of a product. Maybe it’s sad, but it’s the truth. In the center of many Italian touristic towns (I’m thinking of Venezia for instance) you may find hundreds mediocre artisans selling their mediocre products (“artistic” masks for instance) for lots of money. Tourists aim to have a souvenir and are willing to pay that money. So it’s impossible to determine the value per se of a wooden artistic product without knowing its possible marketing.
Just a thought about professional/amateur: in one of his books, John Gardner (who was a great American boatbuilder and popularizer) wrote that building some small types of traditional wooden crafts is so time consuming, that they can be built quite only by amateurs now, because only amateur’s time is worth nothing.

-- Antonio

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3545 days

#33 posted 06-20-2010 10:59 PM

Is there anyone actually making a living out of small fine woodwork items? I am specifically referring to the “works of art” as Jim correctly calls them. Sure, some survive through producing small items but then it is all about production and speed. The same thing over and over, as fast as possible!
I make my living from woodwork, a part of it through small items. Two things we have to quantify:
1. Making a living is a relative concept and does not mean making loads of money. I live a very basic life, my pickup is over 20 years old, and most of my machinery was bought used and old (they all received much TLC though!). I’m a one-man shop and my overheads are extremely low. I’m not big spender, I’m not a consumer. Heck, I don’t even have a TV! (I prefer it that way!)
2. To have any chance of selling enough small items, the price must be low. Fact, we live in a consumer era and compete against the Chinaman. Remember, the target market in his case is the average consumer. For the price to be low, I have to be fast. For example, one of my lines is wooden pencil boxes. I have to make 10 in a day to make it profitable for me(profitable again being relative!). Remember the retail shop still has too add his commission. Sure, I would like to do inlays and fancy wooden hinges. How many customers are prepared to pay 3 or 5 or 10 times more for what is still just a box?

I do make the “works of art”. They go to galleries on consignment at a price. Sometimes they will sit there for months before the right buyer comes along. Jam on top of the bread!

I do all this because I love the frigging shavings! I chose this way for so many benefits that cannot be measured in dollars. It is tough sometimes but a thing that comes easy is not as satisfying. Every paradise has its snake!

There are lots to say on a very interesting topic but I’m already writing too much, so, over and out!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 3588 days

#34 posted 06-20-2010 11:07 PM

Jim you’ve gotten alot of good responces. my two cents is, i travel around northern calif. alot and visit some art and furniture studios and see a lot jewlery size boxes, as best as any you see here made by LJ’ers, and these boxes are priced from $300 to 450.00 each. but the store front gets there cut so the artise may only get 25 to 35% percent of that.
so go figure….i guess if you make enough boxes and spread them around the country you just might make a good living.

View poopiekat's profile


4559 posts in 4339 days

#35 posted 06-21-2010 12:26 AM

Interesting question, Jim!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View degoose's profile


7265 posts in 3960 days

#36 posted 06-21-2010 04:25 AM

Just to add a little bit from the land downunder… boxes.. I just got a commission on a small jewellery box for AU$250, Man boxes are 150 and most of the bandsaw boxes are from 50 up to the 150 mark altho this is still a little low.. boards are from 60 through to 250 I can command far more than most of the board makers here due to the uniqueness .. Furniture is now a smaller part of the business but then I am not getting any younger… If a commission comes in… the price is right up there…maybe 3 to 4 times what I would have charged not that long ago… if I get it well then I make money… if Not then I don’t have to make it… I am finding that a lot of the people who have my work appreciate the quality and are moving away from the imports..

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

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3755 posts in 3714 days

#37 posted 06-21-2010 04:41 AM

Pete_Jud: HOT Ziggity! I love the whole LED/CC market! I just wish that the stuff was in a better price range (i.e., replacing incandescent lights in homes). When the incremental breakthroughs for that and solar panels finally come together, we (the world) will be saving mega-millions on energy (and health- for example the LED lights in South America replacing kerosene lanterns). I’ve bookmarked your site and will back to visit.

Sorry for the off-topic…

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View a1Jim's profile


117906 posts in 4182 days

#38 posted 06-21-2010 05:03 AM

I’m still here soaking this all up great input everyone I thank you all for you telling your thoughts on this subject.
To Mike to answer your question . I don’t remember a time you were wrong and this time is no exception.


View Billinmich's profile


246 posts in 4336 days

#39 posted 06-21-2010 05:08 AM

I’m retired and mainly make things for the mrs.and kids and the grand kids.My son will have me make him something and pay materials.I do say that I do get some nice fathers day ,bday ,and Xmas gifts for my hard work also daughter and daughter-in-law pay me in dinners an cakes ,which is ok by me.Sold a few boxes but no money in it and couldn’t make a living doing it.Sold my neighbor a cedar chest and thats about it.Jim boxes I sell for 40 or 45 dollars which is not enough but I only sell a few anyway.

-- Bill in Mich

View Rogue's profile


260 posts in 4075 days

#40 posted 06-21-2010 05:42 AM

Great subject! I am a fulltime selfsupported woodworker. My wife has contributed off and on but I’m the main bread winner. She helps me alot in my business. We argue about this alot. How much do I charge? We do bids together and I think thats the key. She wants me to charge more and I’m always pulling for a lower price for the customer. This opossition creates a balance. To answer the question I charge $40 per hour and I figure the price of my off that and the price of material. Projects thathave been around awhile tend to get the price lowered. Basicly though it dosent matter what you charge its the promotion that gets the stuff out the door. If people think your worth it they’ll pay it.

-- Rogue

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 3527 days

#41 posted 06-21-2010 06:17 AM

I hope not late yet… I had never experience getting money from the boxes had made. It is always controlled by my good heart. THE PRICE IS PRICELESS all the time. I am gifted and so my boxes are always a GIFT… Hey that’s true and most of the time, I feel extra happy and joyful in return. Janna's box started a chain of gift giving from my side, it had made a lot of story to tell. Followed by My Mom Gregoria's box, and now the latest and most dramatic… (still I have to make the blog) MEGAN'S BOX... you take a reading first why my BOXES cannot be valued by money.. but it will remain PRICELESS ….

-- Bert

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 4325 days

#42 posted 06-21-2010 06:56 AM

My two cents: it depends on the market segment or segments that you have chosen to serve. The product or service is not important. It is the feeling that the client associates with throwing the money at you that matters. The product or service is like the carrier wave that transmits the feeling to the client.

For example, a fancy, well-made box to one market segment might represent tradition and the sense of family. It will be an heirloom and passed down for generations. That market segment might pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the feeling of tradition. For them, the family is invaluable. If the price isn’t really high, they won’t buy, because it doesn’t match what they want (the tradition within the family).

For another market segment, the same box might represent a fancy place to put things i.e., the feeling of efficiency or order in their lives. They can get boxes to give them that feeling at a dime store. Nothing handmade could even attract their attention because the price would be too high for the feeling of order or efficiency.

If a business hasn’t selected a market segment to serve; studied the needs of the clients; the prospects understand that the business is just for money and hasn’t earned the right to ask for a sale. In my opinion, most businesses don’t even have a clue who their customers are or what feelings they want to buy.

Hope this helps.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3890 days

#43 posted 06-21-2010 02:16 PM

Jim, good topic and a lot of good responses. As a full time (one man shop) custom woodworker, that relies 100% on my ability to market, design, sell, build, finish, deliver and clean the shop, income is very important to me. Not to get rich, but to live a modest life style while enjoying what I do. I love building the smaller projects, such as the boxes and boards, but not to make a living at. I sell a few during the year, but mostly they are gifts. I would starve to death if I depended on selling my small stuff. Why? Because I’ve never taken the time to study the market, find the right clientle and market them. The biggest problem that keeps me from pushing that market is the simple fact of time. My shop labor rate is $50/hr. (has to be… cover overhead, insurances, all my taxes,licenses, marketing and all the other expenses related to runnng a business). It’s easier for me to get paid for my time, building a $5,000.00 desk or a $10,000.00 entertainment center then selling a $400.00 box or $275.00 cutting board. I think Rich just made a good point…...most businesses don’t have a clue who their customers are or who they should be targeting. I keep hearing about this company called Ikea and how hard it is to compete with a company like that. I never heard of Ikea before, so I had to go on line to see what all the fuss was about. That’s not my customer base. Don’t get me wrong, I always have people ask me about my work and they have a heart attack when I give them a price. Whether you are selling big stuff or small stuff, you need to know your market and the customer you would like to sell to. If your work is “ART”, or high end furniture or cabinets, then don’t worry about the Wal-mart, Ikea, big box stores type customer, but take the time to find your market. Bottom line….....As a one man shop, I only have so many hours a week to market, design, build, finish and deliver my work, so I have to find the customer that fits me and my work. So, it’s a full time job, wearing all the hats in your own company and it’s a real juggling act of how many hours to devote to each part of my business. (So I can go to the bank). LOL. I’m talking strickly from the full time woodworker side of this and it’s different if you have another income to rely on or it’s just a hobby. But you still need to know who you want to sell to and who your customers are. The cheaper your price, the more you get to compete with Ikea, The higher the quality, craftsmanship and price, the more you set yourself apart from them. (Much smaller customer base, but it’s there!) Good luck to everyone, whatever your goal is.

-- John @

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4497 days

#44 posted 06-21-2010 05:38 PM

I agree with Richforever and Huff. I’ve said this in my blogs many times that our customers do not shop at Wal-Mart and Ikea. There are people out there who appreciate what we can give them and will pay an appropriate price for our work. But, because of the recession, that market segment has narrowed considerably making us have to work harder to find those customers.

My income has always been centered on custom casework. You can’t go into a store and buy “out of the box” built in cabinets. This was always a lucrative business for me and price was never an issue in this market segment. These customers still have a significant amount of disposable income, but they are being a little more prudent with how they spend it much more so than in the past.

I started doing the craft show thing a few years ago hoping to offset the reduced cash flow on the casework side. Selling small items, whether they are boxes, cutting boards, etc, is a numbers game. You have to make them in quantity to get the price down to a reasonable level where people will actually buy them. Then you need to be at a show that has a lot of customer participation, good demographics, and good weather. I’ve had bad shows where I barely covered expenses, outstanding shows, and rained out shows. I go to one show and sell completely out of a category and at the next show not sell one item in that category. It’s like the wild, wild west, and yes, craft show customers shop at Wal-Mart. This is a different segment than I am use to dealing with. But the key is to make items that can’t be found at Wal-Mart. My items run in the $5 to $100 range.

I can make a profit selling small items, but in this economy I cannot see making a living at it without another source of income. I was making a good living in custom casework with yearly sales in the $200,000+ range. It’s hard to replicate this as a street vendor selling $35 cutting boards. There was a guy at a recent show from out of state selling $350+ boxes. They were very nicely done with highly figured and exotic woods. He sold one all weekend. I did $1,000 selling 29 items and he probably had as much labor in the one box he sold that I had in all these 29 items. It was a poor show for everyone, but I walked away with more cash because I play the numbers game with a lot of lower cost, easy to make in quantity items. Everyone is passionate about something. This guy was passionate about boxes and he was good at it. I loved his boxes and felt they were appropriately priced. But his price points narrows his audience significantly. I’m passionate about woodworking, but because I do it full time, I am more passionate about money. Call me a whore, but I choose to sell what creates the most cash flow. Lower priced items appeal to a wider audience, particularly at the type of shows I attend.

The price is the price. You have to calculate the costs, overhead, and all the expenses associated with running a business to come to the appropriate price for the widget. If the price you have to sell the widget for is too high for what it is, drop it and find something else to make. I’ve done that many times where I thought something was a good item to sell, but after building the prototype I realized that I couldn’t reach the target price point because of the labor cost. If you are making 50 cents an hour on an item, you need to dump it. It’s easy to get $50+ an hour doing large casework projects, but you can’t expect to recover that labor rate on small items. Thus, you are forced into building in volume and selling in volume to create reasonable cash flow and profit. This does not mean low quality. You can still make high quality, high volume items by utilizing jigs and streamlining processes. The bottleneck is always with sanding and finishing. This is where the difference in quality is evident to the customer’s eye, but also where your labor costs will make or break you.

I’m an optimist. I happen to think that there is a way to make a living with smaller items in the $250 to $500 range selling to an under served niche market. I’m currently exploring one of those areas right now. In the mean time, I sell at shows, online, and take on the small trickle of casework projects. It’s a tough business right now, but I’m too stubborn to quit.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Huckleberry's profile


218 posts in 4458 days

#45 posted 06-21-2010 06:09 PM

Nice topic there Jim. I like to keep my pricing simple so I figure materials and that is really just the wood of the project. I then multiply that cost by 3. 1/3 for materials, 1/3 for building, 1/3 for finishing and installation. This is for any project not finished with automotive finish. Those that are finished with automotive I multiply it by 5 for the added finishing costs. I then track the hours of the build and divide it into my estimate and as long as I stay above my shop rate of 40$ per hour then I am in good shape, if not then I am on the cusp of losing money once I get to about $25 per hour. Hope that helps a little

-- I cut it twice and the damn thing is still too [email protected]#$%

View TheWoodsman's profile


65 posts in 3501 days

#46 posted 06-21-2010 07:36 PM

I started in 04 charging about $40/hour but gradually found that I was underpricing my work because, frankly, I am faster than most and have less labor hours in a project. My rate has increased to $60/hour plus 30% material markup. If I get stuck with a piddly “goodwill” job (usually residential stuff) I might relax the hourly rate. Also, if work is slow and I need to “get something in the door”, I will relax the rate. On the other hand, if work is rolling in and it is plentiful, I may add a “profit multiplier” to my final pricing(for example: total price times 1.1).

Also, if it’s high-end real-wood and veneers work I can charge a higher hourly rate than I can for a melamine and/or laminate job.

-- I'm the Woodsman . . . the four-wheelin', tree-farmin', custom-furniture-makin' descendant of Olaf "The Woodcutter" Ingjaldsson.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3545 days

#47 posted 06-21-2010 09:24 PM

Such good responses and so much to learn from everyone! Thanks from my side for sharing your knowledge.

One important thing that stands out from so many responses is that the worth of one’s woodworking is not determined by woodworking skills but by MARKETING skills. Hmmm…...

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View 76winger's profile


151 posts in 3722 days

#48 posted 06-22-2010 12:28 AM

Lots of good responses in here, especially for someone like me who makes his living in a non-related carrier (I work in a corporate IT department), however am interested in how others make money selling what they make and have woodworking for their livelihood.

I always anticipated getting into woodworking as a retirement activity, and have been collecting my tools for such over the past couple of decades as I perform DIY work around the house. About two years ago I thought I’d try to supplement my income by ramping up the working and trying to turn it into a 2nd stream of income, which so far hasn’t materialized very well. I HAVE gotten more proficient at what I’m doing, which is mostly pen making and bowl turning thus far, and have shaved the creation times down somewhat, but still not enough to where I feel it’s profitable.

I’ve learned a lot about networking and marketing through books such as Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Levinson, Tribes, by Seth Godin, 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Monday by Dan Miller. Those have helped me think a little more like a marketing person (and understand those in the sales and marketing dept. at work) and figure out that this is something I love doing and wish to expand upon and continually try to monetize even more, and as mentioned above, I believe finding the right market for what I make is part of the solution but also only the first step. The next step is determining what those I’ve connected with want, and figuring out how I can serve them and create what they want at a price that’s affordable for them and still makes me some amount of an income off the transaction.

It’s valuable to me to read this discussion and learn from those of you already in the business and what your experiences have been. The small projects that I do certainly don’t appear to be something one could make a living solely off of, but it’s netted me enough from selling them online to at least break even and add a tool here and there. I like to think those results will lead me to even better results as I learn more and get a better grasp on how I make things, what I make and what audience I should be marketing to.

Good topic for newbies like me to learn from. Thanks to everyone who’s participated in the thread and Jim for getting it started!

-- Dave, See some of my creations at:

View a1Jim's profile


117906 posts in 4182 days

#49 posted 06-22-2010 01:19 AM


Wow WOW WOW Some of you words hit me right over the head” but it’s netted me enough from selling them online to at least break even” This is not directed at you Dave, but that’s why it’s hard to make a living in woodworking because so many folks want to do woodworking so bad breaking even is acceptable. Which of course in real business is not really even breaking even once you take into account many have already stated , like equipment. power, material. and a myriad of other things. so unless you have a product that is so unique and so well set up through jigs etc your competing with people willing to work for nothing. That’s less than third world laborers get,at least they get there $ 1.00 a day . I know lit sounds like I’m clobbering you Dave please forgive my rant, but with hundreds of post about folks wanting to go into the woodworking business this just really turned on a light after all these years and many lost jobs because the neighbor came over and did it for a lunch and a six pack built the ? even if the neighbors work is far inferior who could blame a perspective customer with my cost $3800 for build in cabinets or $400 in material plus lunch and beer?


View TheWoodsman's profile


65 posts in 3501 days

#50 posted 06-22-2010 01:39 AM

I think the most important thing that quality-minded custom woodworkers can do is try to educate the customer. Most residential customers just don’t know anything about our trade and what the difference is between junk and heirloom quality. This is the main reason I prefer doing commercial work. Designers, architects and contractors generally have a better idea what they want and at what level it needs to be built . . . and I haven’t had a tough time educating them on what adds $ and what saves $.

There are far too many people undervaluing their work and that hurts everyone in the long run. As a skilled woodworker with many years experience and probably close to $200K in machinery and buildings, I really think I should be able to scratch a living out of it.

-- I'm the Woodsman . . . the four-wheelin', tree-farmin', custom-furniture-makin' descendant of Olaf "The Woodcutter" Ingjaldsson.

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