What do you charge per hour?

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Forum topic by Matt Hegedus posted 03-31-2016 04:24 AM 3673 views 6 times favorited 90 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Matt Hegedus

147 posts in 1764 days

03-31-2016 04:24 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pricing price labor hourly question table wage rate bulk order

Hey guys and gals,

Ever since sharing my projects on social media apps (like snapchat), I’ve had two inquiries about commissioned projects. Including one for the table I put up on here (see my projects if you’re interested). He may have me build him one. (I’m not selling him mine… I’m too attached to it lol)

I’m looking for some real world pricing strategies. Do you factor your price on an hourly wage? Or basically sell it for what Other projects go for in the market?

To me, the latter seems like a bad idea, since big producers can produce volume w automated means, and save big on bulk orders of stuff. I can’t carry that kind of inventory (or afford it). I like making things myself, with a lot of attention to quality.

I haven’t quoted anyone yet but Immreally thinking about doing it like this:

Materials + hourly what it will take for me to build it, while keeping market prices in mind.

How do you guys do it for custom-built one of a kind furniture? How do you have confidence in what you have to offer? And charge more than what they can buy similar mass-produced items of similar quality for? I guess every project is different…. But I’d love to hear your experiences… Thanks.

-- From Pittsburgh, PA

90 replies so far

View JAAune's profile


1917 posts in 3287 days

#1 posted 03-31-2016 04:51 AM

Materials plus $45 an hour for me. It’s going to $55 once my shop is fully organized and efficient. If people don’t like my prices they can go elsewhere but they’ll find all the other companies working at my level charge the same or more. I’d rather take a week vacation than build a custom piece for minimum wage.

Hourly rate is pretty simple. It’s based upon overhead plus taxes, salaries and profit margin. To charge those rates, you have to offer a service people can’t easily find elsewhere and have the capability of getting the job done fast.

Confidence comes with experience. There’s no other way to get it. When you’re first starting out and don’t have past experience, you just have to take risks and be prepared to work overtime for chump change. It’s a guarantee you’ll far exceed your calculated time and costs before the project is done.

-- See my work at

View Woodknack's profile


13543 posts in 3351 days

#2 posted 03-31-2016 05:00 AM

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 2423 days

#3 posted 03-31-2016 05:09 AM

There are two basic ways to price, flat rate and T&M (time + matls). For flat rate I try to get materials times two (2M). T&M I figure my time at $20 / hr. On most jobs if you figure either way you get a reasonable end price. Remember too that price doubles at each stage of production. If matls = $1, x2 = $2, wholesalers 2x again for $4 and final retail is $8.

As a general rule, your production cost should halve everytime the production volume adds a zero. Single unit $100 cost, 10 units cost s/b $50, 100 units $25, etc.

These rules of thumb are remarkably accurate.


-- Madmark - [email protected]

View bruc101's profile


1384 posts in 4512 days

#4 posted 03-31-2016 05:32 AM

I build reproduction farm and tavern tables and special designs for clients. My tables start at $1250.00 and goes up much higher. I have a sofa table on my projects page with hand carved Celtic rings and gold leaf. That table cost the client close to $5000.00 several years ago. It took me 3 weeks to build and deliver to her.

Since I’ve retired and handed over our millwork shop to our daughters I do nothing by the hour. I give a price and hold to it and will not drop the price. I have plenty of work to keep me busy all the way through the summer.

I’m also, per say, an established woodworker and designer in our area for many years.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View trevor7428's profile


266 posts in 1931 days

#5 posted 03-31-2016 05:58 AM

I’ve only been woodworking for a couple years now, but I would think it depends on your experience level and is this a full time wood working build. Or do you already have a full time job and build when you find time.

If woodworking is your full time job and you have all the tools/ machines a woodworker needs. Then charge materials plus hourly (hourly = what you think your time is worth)

If you already have a full time job. I would do a flat rate like materials x 2 or 3.

This is just my opinion

-- Thank You Trevor OBrion

View Woodknack's profile


13543 posts in 3351 days

#6 posted 03-31-2016 06:40 AM

The problem with charging a multiple of material cost is the client has control over your paycheck. If you give a price for a cocobolo table and the client freaks and changes the wood to walnut, they have reduced your salary and their cost but not your workload. (okay, it’s a little easier working with walnut but you get the point) I don’t do many woodworking commissions but I like Picciuto’s answer because it’s easier to estimate 1/2 day or a full day than to figure out it will take 11 hours. At some point your experience will allow you to be very specific I still like the day rate.

-- Rick M,

View Woodknack's profile


13543 posts in 3351 days

#7 posted 03-31-2016 06:51 AM

I have plenty of work to keep me busy all the way through the summer.
- bruc101

Years ago I was visiting a cabinetmaker and architectural woodworker that lived nearby. He was in the process of turning his business over to his sons, basically semi-retired. As we sat on his porch a fellow came by pestering him for a quote on some extensive work. The old woodworker didn’t want to bother with quotes anymore, hire him or don’t. But the customer was persistent. Finally he gave in and said, ‘How many quotes do you have so far? Three? Take the highest one and double it, that’s my quote.’
The customer got angry and left. The old guy looked at me and said, ‘He’ll be back tomorrow and I’ll have him talk to my son. Whatever price they agree on will seem like a bargain after today.”

-- Rick M,

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6734 posts in 3464 days

#8 posted 03-31-2016 11:33 AM

I don’t charge anything since I’m only a hobbyist, but a good friend who does this insists that hourly rates may vary widely by area and the best barometer is to look at the local auto repair shops, preferably (he says) the dealerships. Your hourly rate should be at least close to what they charge.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Ger21's profile


1100 posts in 4102 days

#9 posted 03-31-2016 11:37 AM

Stuff I do at home I figure about $50/hour.
At the commercial shop I work at, the rate is $60/hour.

25% is added to material costs.

So for 10 hours of work, with $500 in materials, it’s 10 x $50 + 1.25 x $500 = $1125.

-- Gerry,

View madburg's profile


311 posts in 1813 days

#10 posted 03-31-2016 12:00 PM

One of our local well respected craftsman who gave a talk to our wood work association said we should be charging Au$120 and hour = US$93. Can’t remember if this included materials but guess not!! Another local internationally fine woodworker who sell items to the USA as well as here in Australia charges A$800 for a 6 hour workshop /day so US$100 an hour. Seems some are all selling their souls for peanuts!!!

I’m retired and a hobby woodworker, so making a profit on commission to pay the bills isn’t a requirement, and I only make what I want to make – so a Au$200ish for a day is good pocket money for me!

-- Madburg WA

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 3340 days

#11 posted 03-31-2016 12:47 PM

I’m currently wrapping up my first “commissioned” project for a friend, for a pre-set flat rate (materials plus a flat fee), and with the time I have into it, I think I will be making about $6/hr. So, if you’d like me to price out your projects for you, just let me know.

Disclaimer : I offered to do it just for cost of materials and an excuse to get more garage time, and he insisted on paying me, so just I took what he offered. The profit was enough to buy a Kreg bandsaw fence, a used 3HP dust collector, and some fertilizer.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Robert's profile


4303 posts in 2451 days

#12 posted 03-31-2016 01:53 PM

I am in in the early stages of retiring into a ww’ing business, so this topic is of interest to me so I’ll share my thoughts based on zero experience in a ww’ing business :-D

I have own and operated a business for 35 years so I know a little about overhead, materials cost, and labor rates. Obviously, you can’t just reach in the sky and grab a number it has to be based on something.

If I’m understanding it correctly, the flat rate/materials based model MM describes is a bad model because it doesn’t take into account the labor intensity of a project. For example, building a dining table is much different than a dresser. They may have roughly the same amount of materials but the dresser is 4x the labor.

As BingamEd reveals, experience will make estimating labor more and more accurate. In the beginning one would expect a lower effective rate and later nights in the shop due to mistakes/less efficient workflow, etc.

Materials and custom work can have a huge effect on the price as Bruce describes. The same piece can be multiple X more depending on the wood and things like carving, etc.

I think its simply wood cost + a percentage is a must (to account for waste, locating and picking up material, etc.) Marking up the wood can also provide a buffer for the unexpected things that increase labor time.

I would anticipate estimating in a wood the client selects and have a couple options lower and higher to present to them. Also the type of wood can affect the labor rate because some are much more difficult to work with. For example if I was building a kitchen out of hickory or QSWO vs. maple or cherry, the former 2 I would price higher even though the wood may be cheaper.

And, of course, when they want it built of an expensive wood, you also have more risk if you make a mistake.

To answer the original question, you have to start by charging what the market will bear. If you need to make a living out of your shop, you have to get work, you have to build in your overhead (utilities, taxes, insurance, etc) into your labor fee. No doubt in the beginning you may end up working for $20/hour. That’s much different than what someone like me is trying to do.

Bottom line: I think any talented craftsman is worth at least 50-$75/hour.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Aj2's profile


3591 posts in 2768 days

#13 posted 03-31-2016 02:05 PM

I agree with madmark I usually just double the cost of materials.Then I add 100 dollars for every 400.
My wood shop always makes something useing this method.
What I make is only after the wood shop has been paid.
Too make it in woodworking Excellence has to be Normal for you.
Gotta be fast and work without too much thought of ego.

-- Aj

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 2492 days

#14 posted 03-31-2016 02:13 PM

It all depends on where in the world you live. I live in Georgia and I find it amusing when woodworkers say they won’t work for less than some figure like $50 or $75 / hour. If I waited until I got that much i’d be sitting around most of the time. It occurs to me that they may get $50 per hour but not for 40 hours a week, every week. I feel good about getting $700 a week.

View mounttod's profile


38 posts in 1942 days

#15 posted 03-31-2016 02:31 PM

Based on your table post you would appear to be a hobby woodworker like most of us on here. You can charge by hour or you can charge by cost of materials x 2 or 3. However, that cost just has to make sense for you and the buyer. If you work relatively efficiently maybe an hourly rate makes sense. However, if it takes you longer than a professional to build a piece of furniture you can’t charge professional rates, etc. I’d suggest cost of materials x 2 or 3 if this is your first commissioned piece. At this point you are just gaining experience on someone elses dime and having fun. I’m hoping to start doing a few commission pieces here and there and I know I’ll just charge cost of materials x some # that makes it worth my time while being fair to the buyer. Anyone seeking 50-70$ per hour should have a nice portfolio showing off what they are capable of IMHO.

showing 1 through 15 of 90 replies

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