Do people really pay what your project cost?

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Forum topic by HuntleyBill posted 05-14-2010 04:12 AM 2477 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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118 posts in 3476 days

05-14-2010 04:12 AM

Hi Guys:
I have been having a ball building things. I have been building my wife and immediate family little things like jewelry boxes, planters, tea carts, and the like. My father in law asked me to make him a back scratcher. Nothing fancy or complicated. I went one step further and made him a matching set of a back scratcher and shoe horn.

When I finished, my wife said they were beautiful, looked fantastic and thought I should make some to “sell on ebay”. This got me thinking….hmmmmm….. _it cost me:

  • about $18.00 for the kits (including shipping)
  • $2-$3 for wood blanks
  • $5.00 for glues and finishing
  • Labor ( $15/hr x about 4 hours ) Since I didn’t keep track the first time, it’s a guess._

$85.00 for a back scratcher/shoe horn made to order with your choice of wood with a finish of your choice!

As it says in the title..Do or would people really pay $85 for this? You guys have been doing this for awhile and I have been just putzin around. Now wouldn’t someone just go down to a fancy store and buy one for most likely a fraction of the cost?

I know, I know…mine is hand made…to order…special…yada yada, but really. If you tell me YES, I’ll be in the shop turning my butt off!!!

Thank you. You guys ROCK!

-- If you think you can, or think you can't...your right!

22 replies so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18566 posts in 4062 days

#1 posted 05-14-2010 04:17 AM

No, I would not pay the $85. But if yiou want to kep making stuff for fun, you can put it on ebay for cost of materials and see what it brings.

-- 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 3372 days

#2 posted 05-14-2010 05:30 AM

It’s a strange balance.

I’ve been learning that everything you (I) make has a market of people who want it and will pay the price you need in order to sell it – it’s just a matter of finding them. Or, find the people who want to buy things from you and then figure out what they want. I do both of these things and am regularly examining it.

Another thing I do with my wood stuff is I make one or two of a “thing” and then put it out there and look for the market.. and any more are “made to order”.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 3341 days

#3 posted 05-14-2010 06:41 PM

that seems a bit on the steep side to me, but if you were making money selling them, I bet you’d be able (1) make them faster, and (2) get your costs down.

View RedShirt013's profile


219 posts in 4048 days

#4 posted 05-14-2010 11:40 PM

It’d be stupid to compete with industrial production. I’d try to incorporate some unique design elements that distinguish your work from mass production products and try to sell your stuff as novelty items or artwork. Maybe consign your work at local stores. Most people like me only go on ebay for a good deal

-- Ed

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3971 days

#5 posted 05-14-2010 11:46 PM

Answer NO,they will not pay a realistic price unless they are educated.You cannot make a iving selling backscratchers that can be churned out in China for a few cents each you need to make bespoke pieces to make money in this Hobby/game sorry I guess the truth hurts sometimes people want Krenov quality at Ikea prices or less. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View a1Jim's profile


117626 posts in 3963 days

#6 posted 05-15-2010 01:09 AM

Even very talented woodworkers that make high end pieces have trouble getting what their work is worth.

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4278 days

#7 posted 05-15-2010 05:54 AM

Tyskkvinna is correct. I have been preaching this for the last couple of years, but you have to be real about it. To quote myself from one of my blogs, “No one needs what we make”. I’m sure that there is somebody out there that will pay $85 for a back scratcher/shoe horn, however, there may only be one in 300 million. I have built a number of widgets over the years that I thought would be a great seller at shows. But after building a prototype, I realized the amount of labor would not allow me to hit the desired price point, so I dropped it. You have to create a realistic price point and then figure out how to hit it. If you can’t hit it, move on to something else.

When you build small widgets, you generally have to do large quantities in a short amount of time to make the numbers work. The materials cost is seldom an issue. It’s the hourly labor and overhead that will keep you from making a profit. It’s not uncommon to see someone buy $10 worth of wood, spend two days making a widget, sell it for $20 and think they are making money. This is something I struggle with all the time. It’s easy to see the profit when I build an $8000 entertainment center, but more difficult to sort through whether I am making a profit or not with small items. You need to ask yourself, “How many of these do I need to sell to recover my costs before I start making a profit”. Is it one, ten, or 50?

A lady asked me at a show last month how long it took for me to make a $50 medium size end grain cutting board. I told her three days. She said “you are not making money”. I replied “not if I make one, but I usually make 10 at a time and two of those days are watching glue dry”. In reality, I’m cutting out more wood, sanding lazy susans, or slicing bookmarks while the glue is drying. It all has to overlap.

Widgets are impulse buys. You make up a bunch, go to a show, and sell none. Then you go to another show and sell $1000 worth. Cash flow in the widget selling business can be tough. This is the reason I do custom casework, and supplement selling widgets at shows.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4053 days

#8 posted 05-15-2010 01:13 PM

Maybe you can hire about twenty 12 year old kids, pay them $2 a day, use the cheapest possible material available staining it to look like real wood. Sell them for $8.50 at walmart and still make an 80% profit.

Oh Sorry, I thought I was posting in the how to skew Americans views of value by outsourcing all manufacturing overseas forum.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View CampD's profile


1774 posts in 3872 days

#9 posted 05-15-2010 01:28 PM

What rhett said!

-- Doug...

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3346 days

#10 posted 05-15-2010 01:48 PM

if you want to make something to make money without having anyone ordering it from you in advance, then you must find something for wich there is a certain demand, but not big enough to have big companies mass producing it cheaply. something in wich there are only a few specialised companies producing it, generally at a high cost.
if you find something like that, wich you can also produce, but cheaper and of better quality, then you found your hole in the market.
go search some second hand auctionning sites with keywords like “wooden” etc… and see wich objects are getting lots of bids and attention that reach the profit limit.

you also gotto search for money where there is money, aim at special needs of certain businesses or professionals.
they have special needs and are usually prepared to pay what it takes.
same for woodworkers, we quickly find out that paying the extra for better quality tools is neccesary to deliver quality work.

View Dan Campebell's profile

Dan Campebell

36 posts in 3553 days

#11 posted 05-15-2010 01:59 PM

Sorry guys, it has been my experience that the only profit from woodworking is the appreciation from the kid who didn’t expect the little “gizmo” you made for them as they watched and the person with a need that you fulfilled. If you can recoup part of you expenses, it is nice (you will have more money to make the lastest “thing a ma jig”, and that is part of the fun of woodworking since so many of us just want to feel the appreciation of others for our work and talent. Walmart has their place in the grand scheme of things and we have ours!

-- Dan Campbell

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3671 days

#12 posted 05-16-2010 02:35 AM

I think closetguy covered it pretty well. I can justify my labor and material cost on a large project, but always have a problem working that with anything small. Do it for the fun and don’t think about making money. If you seriously look at $15.00/hr. labor charge, but take out taxes, insurances,utilities, overhead, tool up keep and all the other expenses as a business, you will only drive yourself crazy and realize that even $15.00/hr. is too cheap for your time. Ouch!. Have fun and enjoy what you do.

-- John @

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4310 days

#13 posted 05-16-2010 06:29 AM

I picked up a book a few months ago called “Starting a Outdoor furniture Manufacturing business” the author talks about how important it is to build a flawless prototype to show retailers and designing jigs to reproduce the same parts perfect every time and this will enable you to make the item faster each time. He points out that using local lumber that you can buy for less is a plus as well. I expect he (the author) will visit and make a comment or two as well because I sent him the write up.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3326 days

#14 posted 05-16-2010 11:24 PM

As a woodworker who makes a living from it, all I can say is that I totally relate to this discussion. I live in South Africa, but whether it is dollars, pounds or rands, the story stays the same. There are ways to find the balance and I’ve had 20 years experience at it. I still have to consider that balance every day.

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

View John Stegall's profile

John Stegall

527 posts in 3902 days

#15 posted 05-16-2010 11:43 PM

I saw a guy cutting “flowers” at a show with a pocket knife. He cut them from green twigs and sold them for 50 cents. I chatted with him assuming that he just did this to attract people to his booth. He laughed and said it was his most “profitable” item. He said he could literally cut one out in 10 to 20 seconds. He slowed it down when he had an audience but showed me how quickly he could churn them out…really amazing. He said he had started doing it as a boy and just never stopped. His grandfather owned a large peach orchard and that was what he learned on…peach trimmings. He and his wife traveled to shows and while she drove he cut them out. He displayed them in flower pots.

Another case of finding his “market”.

-- jstegall

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