Depressing Pie....Chart. *Armoire*

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Forum topic by Core2 posted 01-09-2014 11:40 PM 2199 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 2207 days

01-09-2014 11:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cost sheet goods plywood money question arts and crafts oak

Well. I want to build an Armoire. This would be for a family member so I am not going to make any money off of it. I was adding up a list to see what the damage would be if I were to make it. All these calculations are estimates, save for the sheet goods. I am really shocked by the total.

Rough dimensions are 40Wx26×72. Frame and panel build, modified from some plans I found on the net. I think I can save some money on the hardware. I could make some pulls or get something cheaper local.

Even though I am not making money off of this project I was going to use this one to gauge what I should charge for any future commissioned works. Currently I woodwork for fun, but the idea of making some money at what I enjoy doing pops into my head often.

I don’t have any time calculated or Electricity costs figured up. I know electricity would be minimal but it has to be considered. Consumables like blade, bit, and machinery wear? I don’t even know how to begin calculating that.

If I build, I am going to build it out of quartersawn white oak. $2.60 per board foot.

So I guess my question is how does a guy make money at at woodworking? I am almost certain the cost is going to scare them away from doing the project. I am going to try to get creative and see about getting the price down. I will start with the biggest slice of the pie, the sheet goods. Followed by the hardware.

I am probably asking the same question that has been asked hundreds of times before. Thanks for your time.


24 replies so far

View HowardInToronto's profile


77 posts in 2304 days

#1 posted 01-10-2014 12:49 AM

To answer your question about how does a guy make money at woodworking, find people who want what you make, who have money and are willing to let you tell your story.

Talking to people with lower budgets/expectations in relation to your output is a quick race to the bottom.

Just tell these people that it’s around $765.

Let them tell you it’s too much. Then very nicely and sincerely tell them to start a research tour. And that once they see what their money will actually buy, you’d be very happy to help them if they want to revisit the idea.

It sounds like they’re not your clients. So you aren’t losing anything. Above all, don’t get huffy.

Leave them as a friend.


View 49er's profile


174 posts in 2206 days

#2 posted 01-10-2014 01:07 AM

“I am probably asking the same question that has been asked hundreds of times before. Thanks for your time.”

I think it is a very good question. I can’t help you- I never do woodworking for money.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30505 posts in 2940 days

#3 posted 01-10-2014 01:45 AM

Some understand and some don’t. People want something special to them. If they are sincere then they understand the cost. I don’t get upset if they say it’s too expensive. For some it is. I have others that believe I am very reasonable. If they want Walmart prices, there’s nothing I can do for them. Luckily I have many more willing to pay my prices.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View HowardInToronto's profile


77 posts in 2304 days

#4 posted 01-10-2014 01:48 AM

Very well said Monte

View JAAune's profile


1872 posts in 2918 days

#5 posted 01-10-2014 02:01 AM

How to make money doing that? It would look something like what’s written below.

$750 materials

$1,500 for labor

$500 overhead

$750 self employment plus income tax

Subtotal: $3,500

Plus 7% sales tax at $245

Grand Total: $3,725

Basically you need a well-to-do customer.

-- See my work at and

View Bluepine38's profile


3387 posts in 3687 days

#6 posted 01-10-2014 04:00 PM

You are supposed to make money at woodworking? I thought it was like racing cars, if you want to make
a small fortune, you have to start with a large fortune. I know a couple of woodworkers that do make a
good living, but they are master craftsman. One of them stated one day that he had never worked a
day in his life, because he enjoyed working with wood so much that he could not really call it work, and
his excellent woodworking proved his enjoyment was not misplaced. You have to live in an area that has
disposable income, if there are no McMansions and fancy apartment buildings near you, you might have a
tough time making a living making expensive products no one can buy. I had to work most of my life to
be able to afford to buy used tools and repair them so I can afford to be a woodworker in my retirement.
I am not complaining, I had fun raising a family, and am happy keeping busy and out of trouble in my shop.
If you do a search on this site, you will find some that have made a good living at woodworker and there
are several blogs by knowledgeable people on how to make money at woodworking. Start looking and
reading, the answers are available.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1332 posts in 2537 days

#7 posted 01-10-2014 04:41 PM

It is really tough to make any money at this. I have had one commission sort of fall into my lap and it actually worked out quite well. Other than that, I haven’t hit pay dirt.

I will give you one useful resource: There is a user here on LJ’s named “huff”. He owned a woodworking business for a long time and recently retired. He wrote two INCREDIBLY informative blog series. One is about Marketing and Selling your woodwork and the other is about pricing it correctly and fairly enough for you to make money. They were instrumental in my pricing exercise for the commission that I did. They are pretty in depth and super-helpful, especially if you read them all the way through. Despite many of my own personal mistakes, I still made a decent chunk of change on my commission because of the information gleaned from those blogs.

My painful but true advice is to avoid doing “paid” commissions for family and friends if at all possible. I know family and friends are the best way to market, but I honestly think gifts are the way to go with that crowd. Of course that applies with cutting boards and small trinkets and such. In your situation, I wouldn’t necessarily want to dish out that much cash to make an armoire as a gift just for fun (unless you have a bunch of cash sitting around, and if so I and others would be glad to send you our mailing addresses). You are kind of in a tough spot here. I would say tell them the price of materials, and see what they say. If it surprises them, so be it, they can find an armoire elsewhere.

Just looking at your pricing list, it does sort of frighten me for the following reasons:

1. An armoire is a large project and it is going to eat up a LOT of time. You may feel like the Santa Claus of woodworking during hour 3, but at hour 78, you might feel more like a slave-laborer. I find it incredibly hard to think about giving away all that time for absolutely nothing.
2. Given the size of an armoire, you are going to go thru some wear and tear on your machines and blades, you need to factor that in.
3. That consumables category seems emaciated to me. I don’t know about you but between glue, rags, brushes, oil, mineral spirits, poly, sandpaper, sharpening stone life, electricity, etc. etc. I can slam thru some consumables VERY quickly. You probably do to, so I might add a little bit to that. Look in your garage trash bin for ideas of what you go thru.
4. Add an emergency category in there for $150 or so. Your planer is going to break or your drill press is going to break or your router bits are going to explode or something like that. It always happens and you need at least a little back up. This category is probably not necessary for professionals, but for guys like you and me, it is necessary.


Think long and hard about whether or not you really want to do this. An armoire is large and is going to take up probably at least a month, likely more if you are just a hobbyist. It won’t hurt their feelings if you say no. Just think about sanding out burn marks during hour 81 and ask yourself if this project is really what you want to be doing in your shop for the next few months. I have learned the hard way to only start projects that I am interested in/am making money at or both.

In the end, if you don’t want to be doing it, you won’t do it.

Sorry for the length, but I want to help you make the educated decision.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View BArnold's profile


175 posts in 2434 days

#8 posted 01-10-2014 05:04 PM

After I started building better projects and doing quite a good job, I thought what we all think: “Wow, I should make some good money for this!” Then, reality set in when people asked what it would cost for me to make them something. The typical response to my estimate was, “I can get the same thing at WalMart for $39. I told them to go for it!

A neighbor once asked for an estimate for kitchen cabinets. They were doing a total remodel and had a quote from Lowe’s. I did not ask the amount. I worked up a cost for them after looking at what they wanted done. My quote was slightly higher than Lowe’s. The neighbor was incredulous. I told him that’s what custom woodworking is worth. He insisted that Lowe’s was also doing a full custom set of cabinets for him. Yeah, right!

The only real commission I’ve ever done was a special cabinet for the family room at our doctor’s home. It needed to completely enclose a computer system and look like a piece of furniture. I got what it was worth and they were happy.

One thing I’ve learned from talking with people about building for them is that I really prefer building what I want to design and build. In other words, I want to enjoy my hobby. If I build a few things that someone wants to pay me for sometime, that’ll be fine, too!

-- Bill, Thomasville, GA

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1332 posts in 2537 days

#9 posted 01-10-2014 05:08 PM


I agree wholeheartedly. You are just a bit more concise than me. Your last paragraph perfectly reflects my feelings toward this topic.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 2329 days

#10 posted 01-10-2014 05:13 PM

Looking at the sizes, you may be able to cut the unit down to 24” deep and save on the sheet goods.
I don’t know how you have the material laid out but at 24” wide you can get 2 rips out of a sheet, instead of 1 rip and a drop. (Unless you’re fully utilizing the drop.)

View MrFid's profile


900 posts in 2506 days

#11 posted 01-10-2014 05:19 PM

Lots of very good points made so far. One that I’ll add (I’m not the first nor the last to say it) is that furniture is expensive, or at least quality furniture is. Especially an armoire. 765 seems cheap to me for a quality piece. Go to a furniture store that sells hardwood furniture at about the quality that you’ll be making and look at their prices for an armoire. I really doubt you’ll find anything for under a few grand. Like others have said, you’ll never be able to compete with Walmart prices, but you shouldn’t be thinking of them as your competition. There is a reason why NFL tickets cost more than Pop Warner admission.
Not even knowing the quality of your work since you’re relatively new here (as am I, welcome by the way!), I can say that custom handmade furniture is never supposed to be a cheap buy. Find an armoire on here that is similar quality to the one you’ll build and PM the maker and ask them if they sold it, or if they were going to what they would consider fair.
Good luck with your project, and make sure to post it on here when you’re done!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3571 days

#12 posted 01-10-2014 05:26 PM

What would the cost of a comparable piece be in a reputable furniture store? (Not Walmart).

View CampD's profile


1807 posts in 4088 days

#13 posted 01-10-2014 05:59 PM

Where are you getting $2.60 bd ft for quarter sawn white oak?
Sounds like plain old red oak prices to me.

-- Doug...

View Underdog's profile


1437 posts in 2637 days

#14 posted 01-10-2014 06:03 PM

People who say they can get the same thing down at Walmart are just plain ignorant. They haven’t the slightest clue what goes into a piece of hand made furniture in terms of quality and time. Of course we all know that. You don’t get solid cherry, you get a cherry paper veneer over MDF, or most likely, particle board (which I fervently hate). Also, you get a mass produced item that may or may not be what you really need, or fit in the space you have. But if you have to explain that, they probably don’t care, and don’t care to know.

As for Lowes, they might have decent cabinets, but they are modular, and won’t be custom fit to your space. They will have to use fillers which waste space. If you could do cabinets for nearly the same price as Lowes, then why in the world would they choose anyone else but a custom cabinet builder? I’m certain their installers won’t do as nice a job as the guy who built the cabinets.

I work in a cabinet shop, and we don’t back down on price. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth charging a fair price for it.

As for the price of the armoire, I bet you’ll pay $2-3K for a similar piece at Haverty’s or Ethan Allen.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View DrDirt's profile


4600 posts in 4344 days

#15 posted 01-10-2014 06:24 PM

When I made some tables (dining) for money – I looked at mid level comparisons of what folks would buy say at Eddie Bauer home, and Pottery Barn… just as a sanity check -
Knowing up front that I am NEVER going to compete with Ikea or Sauder put together stuff or Ashley furniture (table +4 chairs for 199.99)

For an Armoire I see the following:
I would be looking over the plan and thinking- if I can do 500 in materials and 1000 in labor + some overhead, I should be able to be delivering “Market Price” with a bit better quality to match ~1600 bucks.

The oak table I did – was based on something that they found at Eddie Bauer – but wanted it longer and with pull out breadboards etc. The smaller Eddie Bauer table (no chairs) was 1999.99 – - I made their table for 2500, materials were about 700 dollars.

Higher end comparisons – look at Ethan Allen.
If you were doing it for money – you could say ” my cost would be somewhere between Pottery Barn and Ethan Allen – -which automatically excludes Walmart from the discussion.

No reason you cannot beat the 3600 bucks for the armoire! But still show your friends the value proposition.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

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