Help me pricing items

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Forum topic by Bonjin1977 posted 06-14-2016 09:46 AM 1248 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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27 posts in 4300 days

06-14-2016 09:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question turning lathe carving tool

I began turning last month and I made few wooden bowls. I posted on my Facebook and my friends, neighbors and acquaintances want to buy my bowls. I don’t want to price too low or too high. All my blanks are pretty much picked up junk piles from lumberyard or pick up from sidewalk. How are wood turner hobbyists or professionals price out their products? hourly? size Whatever they feel like it?? If I price it out by hourly, what are the going price (cheap end)? If I go by size, how to price it out? Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks you!

10 replies so far

View Clarkie's profile


505 posts in 2850 days

#1 posted 06-14-2016 10:21 AM

Hello Bon, if you are starting out thinking to price cheap, it shows how much you yourself value your work. We all begin thinking no one would pay good money for something we produced. Step back and look at your ability, then look at shows etc., to find what others consider a good price. Notice I said a “good price” that eases your mind into a good set as to just what is comfortable and complimentary to your standard. I started out 40 years ago with the intention of doing good work for those who couldn’t afford, yet wanted good cabinetry, thinking it would be satisfying. Never thinking those who couldn’t afford weren’t looking for a hand made product and I became an easy target for too many customers looking for a “cheap price”. Just my opinion and I mean no harm, but if you start out too low, you don’t get to go up from there and soon you detest your own work. Have fun, make some dust.

View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4676 days

#2 posted 06-14-2016 10:59 AM

I see this a lot, people find a “free” source of wood, then think they can sell a product cheap but still make a buck. What happens if you really start selling and have to buy wood? Your price to produce will double overnight but you will not be able to raise your sales price as you have set your mark too low.

It’s next to impossible to raise prices once you get going, as your price point is also a marker for your work.

Real material cost + true overhead + labor = pricing. Do some honest math and real introspection on what your goals are. Hourly is a hard equation as everyone works at different speeds and has access to different shop situations.

I always suggest to start high and negotiate down.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View HokieKen's profile


16655 posts in 2147 days

#3 posted 06-14-2016 11:12 AM

I would agree with the above. I rarely do work for cash unless it’s family/friends and I’m just doing it as a favor for the cost of wood and overhead.

The fact that you get the wood free/cheap doesn’t mean that you have to give it away. I would value it at the cost of the wood (based on what you would have had to pay for it had you bought it)+the cost of overhead (finishing supplies, tool wear, grinding wheel wear, wear and tear on lathe, electricity, etc…)+15-25$ an hour labor. I would then mulitply that by 125% for profit. Like Clarkie and Rhett said, I wouldn’t price it low. You have the ability to make something people want. Be a capitalist, not a socialist! ;P THAT IS A JOKE, NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2871 posts in 3930 days

#4 posted 06-14-2016 11:48 AM

I do not make bowls, but I do make, and sell, small cedar boxes. 8”x6”x2” with hinged lids. I inlay maple images or lettering into the lids. I sell about 300 of these a year. All at our local farmers market and street fairs and festivals within an hours drive. The way I price them is this: “what would I pay for the item?”. I sell mine for $20 each no matter the size. I found by doing that what size people prefer with the price being the same. This is how I settled on my price and the size I make. I used to sell a larger box for $14 and sold a lot so I raised my price and tried different sizes. I keep records of how many of each design I sell so I know which designs to drop. I have over 100 different patterns but about 40 of them sell well. I also do some custom orders. I have had other vendors come to me and tell me I am pricing my stuff too low. I tell them “you buy them from me and resell them at your higher price”. They all just walk away. Pricing of items to sell is a personal thing but I understand that finding out what others ask for their work is a good way to get started. I did not have that when I started this seven years ago. I am usually the only wood worker selling where I set up. (farmers Market)
I buy my wood by the pick-up truck load every nine months or so, and I buy hinges and screws by the thousands. This keeps my cost of materials for a box under $3. I do not make a living at this but I do have a nice self funding hobby.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Lubbock Texas

View Kelly's profile (online now)


3378 posts in 3953 days

#5 posted 06-14-2016 03:38 PM

Everything you sell should be sold with an eye to buying either retail or wholesale to replace the materials. If I find a really nice burl, turn it into a very nice bowl, then sell it for just a little for converting it to a bowl, it’s gone forever and cannot be replaced, except at significant cost that will double the price. This means I have to dip into my pocket to replace the wood, rather than the family, friend or customer covering it [and a bit more]

Would count much as good business that way, eh? That would be the stuff bankrupt businesses are made of. Even non-profits have to bring money in to continue or grow.

From there, how much is it really costing you to run your shop, including a bit for tool purchases (initial and upgrades).

While others were buying nice cars, skis and vacations, I was buying cabinet saws, routers, lathes. . . . If I get to use their skis, cabinet saws, golf clubs and so on, they get a deal. Otherwise, I’m learning to be fair to me.

View Woodknack's profile


13549 posts in 3388 days

#6 posted 06-14-2016 04:27 PM

If you are selling to friends and family does it matter if you get the pricing right? You risk more by being too high than too low. By the time you move on to selling to the general public you’ll have learned a lot about pricing. Each bowl is unique so there will never be a formula. I see this idea, that you can’t raise prices, posted on the internet all the time. I’d like to live in that world so bread would still be 25 cents a loaf.

-- Rick M,

View TheDane's profile


5939 posts in 4671 days

#7 posted 06-14-2016 05:05 PM

Try to get a feel for what comparable items are selling for in your area, then price accordingly.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View LeeMills's profile


702 posts in 2310 days

#8 posted 06-15-2016 02:04 PM

I can’t help much since I give away everything I turn but…
I agree, price as if you were buying the wood. Also you state you have been turning for about a month. Considering an “hourly rate” at your current pace should be fine; as you get more experience a bowl that now takes you 1.5 hours may drop to 15 minutes as you get more into production mode. $20 for 1.5 hours work isn’t very good but $20 for 15 minutes work I much much better.

As well as local markets, you may be in a pragmatic market in which you will probably get a lower price or you may be in an artistic market with higher prices.
In an artistic market: Hollow forms. That is just wonderful, yadda, yadda, yadda. $325
In a pragmatic market: Q. What is it? A. A hollow form. Q. What is it used for. No sale.

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 2429 days

#9 posted 06-16-2016 04:25 AM

+1 what Jim, Rick, & Dane said. I’m in the process of learning to turn myself, but have been a scroll sawyer for over 20 years. We go to several shows a year in 4 states. The smaller shows ya see the same folks making the very same things year after year, & try to raise their prices 25% or better each year. The bigger shows have less woodworkers, & more junk dealers. We get a few new ideas, adjust our prices accordingly. We make dream catchers, napkin holders, trivets, crosses, memorials, a few toys, plates, you name it. I charge $13/hr on the saw, plus lumber, & then $25/hr in the shop for the finish work. Which, on most projects, covers, my utilities, insurance, & hopefully enough left to put back for more tools, lumber, & shop supplies. The main idea, imho, with pricing your things, is try not to be to judgmental of yourself, and, IF, you intend to keep selling to the general public, don’t let anyone else set your prices for you. The next thing to keep in mind is to do phenomenal work! If it doesn’t appeal to you, it will not appeal to your customers. They are more apt to have good things to say about you & your work, & be repeat business.

-- Sawdust703

View Wildwood's profile


2943 posts in 3143 days

#10 posted 06-16-2016 10:39 AM

You have some really outstanding advice so far let me add some thoughts. Before setting prices visit several craft fairs, farmer’s markets, and even flea markets! Recommend finding events or venues close to home to check out first.

Before selling your bowls & other things you make determine cost to sell. Your state, county, city may require you obtain a vendor license, collect sales tax & pay them. Besides entry fees or booth space may need to carry liability insurance too. If take credit/debit cards need an account, card reader, cell phone or I-Pad or laptop to handle those transactions.

State tourist boards normally have a web page that list of events held throughout the year. Or can go to sites like these to find & screen events to go too!

Big idea here is know what will be your cost to sell before setting prices!

-- Bill

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