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Forum topic by gpastor posted 04-22-2013 03:35 AM 2755 views 1 time favorited 62 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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192 posts in 4068 days

04-22-2013 03:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I don’t build furniture for a living so when I had a friend of a friend ask me to build a This two cabinet, five drawer storage chest I was unsure what to tell them. They showed my a picture of what they were look for. It looks like something I could build and I could use the extra money. My problem / question came when I saw the price that this item was for sale in a local store, that was given to me by the person that was wanting the item built. The only reason they ask me to build it was they wanted it to be 4 inches taller. As you can see in the add is less then $300. I am thinking there is no way I could build this for that cheap. And pay my self much at all. What do you guys think, would you build this item for 300 if not how much you charge to build it.

-- Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. Proverbs 16:31

62 replies so far

View Joshuah's profile


152 posts in 3703 days

#1 posted 04-22-2013 03:55 AM

I find that there is soon a tipping point when you have to start saying no to quite a bit of projects. I think that the most annoying phrase for me to hear is,”hey, I saw this in the store and it was really expensive, and was thinking you could build it for cheaper.” Drives me iINSANE!!

I now tell people. If you see the one that you like in the store. If you want me to build the same think, but better quality and better materials…be prepared to pay at least double…sounds like a lot, but do the math. A dresser like that, the materials alone probably range in the 200-300 dollars.

-- -Joshuah

View RogerInColorado's profile


321 posts in 2964 days

#2 posted 04-22-2013 04:14 AM

Many people have no concept of what material costs. I once had a guy ask me to look at building an office suite for his home. When I gave him sort of a rough estimate, he told me what he thought he wanted to pay. His price was about what I had estimated to be the cost of the rough sawn lumber I would need to buy to make what he wanted.

I’m a hobbyist. What I learned from that experience was when someone inquires about building them something, I ask what they think their budget is. The answer has always saved me a lot of sketches and arithmetic. I can just say that as a hobbyist I can’t buy material for the same price as the people who do it for a living and that is probably where they need to look.

View richardwootton's profile


1701 posts in 2965 days

#3 posted 04-22-2013 04:16 AM

You could build it with exactly what that is built with, aka MDF, plywood, and cheap soft wood. However that doesn’t factor in time and labor. However I’m currently building a coffee table for a good friend for only the cost of materials but that serves a dual purpose. I’m building somethingfor a good friend and adding a new piece to my portfolio.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View waho6o9's profile


8997 posts in 3587 days

#4 posted 04-22-2013 04:48 AM

@ $250 a linear foot you’re around $1000.00

@ $15.00 an inch you’re at $630.00

Some where in between you should be, especially if they want it painted
and or finished.

The kirkland cab uses no metal drawer guides and is “Crafted of wood composite”
meaning who knows what.

If it’s painted I’d use MDO and maybe poplar for the face frame, etc.

Good luck with your decision.

View Woodknack's profile


13549 posts in 3390 days

#5 posted 04-22-2013 05:06 AM

It would be pretty simple to build but what will eat up your time is the drawers then by the time you buy the hardware, for $300 you’ll be working for less than minimum wage.

-- Rick M,

View Tony_S's profile


1426 posts in 4093 days

#6 posted 04-22-2013 10:09 AM

It all depends on how much you think your time is worth, labor…drawings…material cost…hardware…finishing…travel…blah blah…adds up fast.
What if you screw up? Minor mistakes can sometimes be pretty costly.

If someone asked me to build that cabinet for $300 bucks…the first coarse of action would be to help them clean the coffee off that I just spit all over them.
Second coarse of action would be for them to spit coffee all over ME when I told them $1000.

Unfortunately, the average Joe has NO clue, nor really cares, what mass (read made in china) production is all about.
That cabinet was manufactured, then shipped across the world, long hauled to a warehouse, distributed, then shipped to final destination(customer) for $270 bucks. Everyone made money.
I’d be surprised if the manufacturer of that cabinet sold it for more than $40-50 bucks.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View kdc68's profile


2992 posts in 3287 days

#7 posted 04-22-2013 11:19 AM

I’ve been in your shoes. Totally agree with posts above. It’s being caught between a rock and a hard place when a “friend” asks you to build a piece (handcrafted)that they have seen sold (mass produced). Provide them a bill of materials of everything. Provide sources of your materials. Give them a fair estimate of your time/labor. Present this so your “friend” can see how easily things add up and exceed the mass produced cost. Maybe by doing this, your “friend” can get a sense of what a handcrafted piece will cost and prevent awkward feelings. Explain the flaws and cheaply done construction detail on the mass produced piece, compare that will the better methods that you can provide, and that your piece will last a lifetime….good luck

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View bondogaposis's profile


5950 posts in 3361 days

#8 posted 04-22-2013 01:33 PM

It is made of “wood composite”, in other words particle board crap that will fall apart in 2 weeks. Tell your friend you will make him one of actual wood for $800. I’d use poplar if he wants it painted. If he thinks that is too high them let him walk. You can’t really compete in price for particle board made in China crap. However if he wants handcrafted that will last a lifetime, he has to be willing to pay more because he is getting more, a lot more.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4587 days

#9 posted 04-22-2013 01:51 PM

Don’t try and compete with Walmart and Ikea type furniture,you will spend as much or more for the materials and hardware as they are asking for there low end so called furniture. You might take the approach of telling them you can build a quality piece for $650 plus material and hardware. More times than not they go with the cheep furniture .


View dbray45's profile


3405 posts in 3786 days

#10 posted 04-22-2013 02:18 PM

A lot of the stuff I see out there for up to $1,000 have laminate over MDF but mostly LDF (Low density).

What I tell people – and this holds true more than it should – if you want something that will last up to five years, go with the regular stores. If you want something that will last for many years and even be passed down for generations, this is your price. My price is usually about 4 times of that of the main stores – and with the prices of wood and real ply wood lately, I am looking at this carefully.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2172 posts in 3860 days

#11 posted 04-22-2013 02:49 PM

The key issue here is your self respect. Keep that in front of you.

There is nothing in this discussion that is more important than your keeping your self respect.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3005 days

#12 posted 04-22-2013 02:58 PM

A friend of mine i used to work with was an excellent wood worker. He never built anything for anyone. Almost never anyway. His standard line was that he only built special things – stuff you can’t buy, customs – and therefore could not be cheaper than store bought. He was happy to talk to people about true custom projects, but they knew the cost was going to be appropriately higher than showroom because of it.

Now that I’m getting more in to the hobby, I see why. I am building two endtables. They cost me $200 in materials (total for both). They are exactly what I want and unique, but I’d have to get $200 apiece for them at least to make it worth my while. There are a lot of nice showroom pieces for less than that.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4168 days

#13 posted 04-22-2013 03:19 PM

Tell him that if he respected you as a friend, he wouldn’t expect you to work for a dime per hour. If he doesn’t understand what he’s asking, then you should explain it to him…some people don’t realize how long these things take and how expensive they can be.

Otherwise, if he wants Ikea, then he should buy the one in the picture and put it on a pedestal, or something.

If you need the money, then take the job…but I would hope that your time is more valuable to you than that.

On the other hand, if you have time to build it as a gift, then do so with a glad heart. I gift my time quite often for people I care about.

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4168 days

#14 posted 04-22-2013 03:30 PM

BTW, you could make it from construction lumber. It’d still cost between $50 to $100 in materials and hardware…and that’s not including the finish. That leaves $200 in profit. If you could build it in 8 hours, it’d be worth it. I’d say 40 hours is more accurate…probably more…and yes, most of that time will be spent on the doors and drawers.

If I built furniture as a business, I wouldn’t charge less than $1000. But since people don’t like spending so much money on things like this, it’s a moot point. You have to match your clientele to your product, not your product to your clientele.

This is why it’s difficult for furniture builders to make money…and it’s also why I’ve never bought a single item from Ikea.

-- jay,

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 3379 days

#15 posted 04-22-2013 03:56 PM

If I were retired with all the time in the world, I’d do it for cost of materials and a few cases of good beer. As it stands now, I have next to no free time to complete my own projjects, so I’d pass. The only time I build something for others right now is as a gift or to barter. If I’m making one of something for myself, and its easy to make two, I may offer it to them at a cost just to cover materials for both.

For that particular piece, the case itself would be simple plywood box with poplar face frame construction using pocket screws and could be done in an afternoon. If you’re looking for heirloom quality with better materials and M&T, much longer. If the fancy feet are a must, those can be purchased pre-made. Like someone else said, the doors and drawers is where you’ll spend your time.

If you have the time, does this friend of yours have skills/products you could barter for?

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

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