Anybody care to discuss your procedures or formulas, if any, for pricing of your products?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by barringerfurniture posted 03-30-2014 05:31 PM 2790 views 1 time favorited 57 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View barringerfurniture's profile


224 posts in 2324 days

03-30-2014 05:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question pricing selling business

Taking a really close look at my pricing these days and really trying to take everything into account in terms of setting aside taxes and retirement, waste, tool maintenance, transportation expenses and everything else I can think of.

I really feel like I’m in this now for the long haul, though it’s not doing much for me yet. Still making ends meet by other means but I feel it’s important to set a precedent now or never, that will support me in the long run if I really plan on doing this.

After adjusting my prices recently (available on my website if anyone cares to have a look), they seem high. But they are very well thought out and actually seem consistent with those of many other makers who do work like mine. I don’t have the reputation, inventory or clientele that they do yet (inventory’s steadily growing). But as I said, I think it’s important to set that precedent now or never.

One thing I’m finding out is that certain kinds of items would be extremely unprofitable for me to produce unless the prices were sky-high to the point of being unsaleable. These tend to be smaller items because even though they’re small, they can still be a ton of work.

Any thoughts or advice always welcome.

Thanks for reading.

-- Scott Barringer, Sacramento, CA

57 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4260 days

#1 posted 03-30-2014 05:40 PM

Refined work costs real money because the processes
involved consume a lot of time. Only affluent people can
afford it these days.

Some woodworkers improve their visibility by writing
for magazines. Fine Woodworking doesn’t pay much
at all for writing, but the recognition is beneficial.

Some turn to teaching as well.

My philosophy is the work has to be proprietary and
stunning if you want to make some money at furniture.
That means you’ll need to develop skills that make
your work stand out so much from the competition
that no client will ever be able to make a lateral
price comparison. Basically, make the work impossible
to knock-off without a silly amount of time investment
and head scratching by the person attempting to
copy it. One very successful woodworker is
known for exacting reproductions of the designs
of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, which appeal to wealthy
people as you literally cannot get a Ruhlmann knock-off
that’s both cheap and beautiful. The workmanship
and quality is right there where anybody can see
that it required mastery to pull it off.

To my mind the best ways to do this are to master
veneering and bending and shoot for the truly wealthy
clientele. At one time, carving was relevant too but
with CNC I don’t know anymore.

View barringerfurniture's profile


224 posts in 2324 days

#2 posted 03-30-2014 06:07 PM

Loren, thanks for the input. I too have thought of teaching, writing and other academic aspects of what I do to bring in some income and build a reputation.

As a side note, I have a music degree (Bachelor of Music in Classical Guitar). Every professional musician I’ve ever met in the classical field (extremely high caliber of musicianship), teaches in some capacity and writes, etc. Maybe every once in a while, they play a gig and get paid well. Weekly restaurant gigs for tips help. You have to “piece together” a living from different sources.

It seems in the high-end furniture field you almost have to incorporate some academic aspect into what you do in order to survive.

Yep. Gotta go for the “richies”. Gotta look and act professional I think and have your ducks in a row.

But on the other hand, I think people who are potentially interested in work like mine, are looking for something a little different and a bit more personal – a higher level of involvement or a connection to the work. If they wanted a suit and tie salesman with a name tag, they would go to Macy’s or La-z-boy.

-- Scott Barringer, Sacramento, CA

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4260 days

#3 posted 03-30-2014 06:20 PM

I’d advise you to make mirror frames and perhaps
light fixtures. One of the problems of selling work
at craft shows is people will ooh and ahh over it,
then not buy it because they don’t know where
to put it. Mirrors and light fixtures don’t have
that problem.

I don’t know about that “personal” connection. I
think that’s a flimsy thesis. I used to think that
mattered more than I now think it does, having
worked as a cabinetmaker, bidding jobs. Even
though I can be charming if I want to be, in the
end the cold reality is that a lot of clients will
go for a cheaper bid. I build guitars from time to
time and while people are enthusiastic about it,
they go away when they hear a price. In the
end, they want the best sounding/best looking
guitar for their money and in general if the price is
more than a little higher than a laterally comparable product,
they will not want to buy. Marketing and endorsements
can persuade people the guitar sounds the best.
Another way to go is with fancy decoration.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2973 days

#4 posted 03-30-2014 06:34 PM

If you want to make a living at fine woodworking, find another line of work.

Your work is beautifully executed, but you’re playing to a niche market with a lot of similar looking pieces.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5523 posts in 2921 days

#5 posted 03-30-2014 06:52 PM

I have no input on your question. I just want to say your work look marvelous.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3897 days

#6 posted 03-30-2014 07:02 PM

And it looks like you’ve already discovered that there are some projects that just cost to much to make and be able to sell it for a profit.

Every manufacturer has to deal with that (big or small), but it is very hard for the small shop to compete at times. With that being said, most woodworkers automatically think that they are too high priced on everything and they will not be able to sell their woodworking which is totally wrong. There are customers out there for every price range and it’s up to us to find the right clientele for our work.

From what I’ve seen on your web-site, you build beautiful furniture and your prices look like they are in line with other fine crafted furniture. The problem you’ve probably run into is, shaker style furniture is available through so many mass manufacturers and their pricing is based more on quantity then quality.

Unfortunately, most customers don’t readily see the difference either in the quality or the value you offer, so you have to find that customer or educate them.

You will also have to find your “bread and butter” items that will fit a broader base of customers; easier to sell and a good profit margin. Case goods may be something to look into. Not a production cabinet shop or anything like that, but maybe things like up-scale home offices or libraries. More and more people work from home and I always found a large customer base that had a wide range of pricing you could work with.

Again, it has a lot to do with your marketing and what you’re willing to build.

Good luck

-- John @

View barringerfurniture's profile


224 posts in 2324 days

#7 posted 03-30-2014 07:41 PM

Thanks for all the responses. Clint, try being a little more honest next time.

I know the style I build in is EVERYWHERE. I never set out to be original. But one thing I think I have going for me is the fact that I cannot find anyone else in the Sacramento region who does work like mine, as conventional as it is. There are a few “Shaker inspired” makers in the Bay area and one or two in the foothills that I’ve seen but their work seems to be farther removed from tradition than mine. Some of it appears to be “studio furniture” – more to be regarded as art than functional in my opinion.

Of course, there may be a good and obvious reason for that; Shaker furniture is an East Coast tradition and not so desirable in California. I’ve contemplated this and there is a possibility I may start a line of Mission style pieces as well because Sacramento (especially Midtown) is absolutely full of old Craftsman style houses and apartments with affluent homeowners who appreciate the style.

Thinking in the long term, I know I wouldn’t be happy building breadboards or lamps or mirrors. I’m willing to accept that it will take longer to reach my goal, doing what I do but I firmly believe that in the long run, it will pay off both personally and financially.

-- Scott Barringer, Sacramento, CA

View Texcaster's profile


1286 posts in 2286 days

#8 posted 03-30-2014 07:56 PM

For me to prosper as a furniture maker/ cabinetmaker I have done both commercial work and furniture of my own design on spec. Commercial work to order always pays the best. In my case it has been period correct antiques and work for interior designers. The old maxim ”... manufacturers aren’t worried about making things, they worry about selling things ” is very true. If you get busy enough to need help, hire a tradesman over someone you have to teach.

I’m retired now and have an elec. double bass/ setup business. It’s beer money really, I sell 2-3 basses a year. I build acoustic instruments as a keen amateur and sell the odd one.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View barringerfurniture's profile


224 posts in 2324 days

#9 posted 03-30-2014 08:21 PM

By the way Clint, I see a lot of people making a living doing fine woodwork. Are you?

Like anything in life worth striving for, I think it’s about hard work, perseverance and problem solving.

But that’s just me.

-- Scott Barringer, Sacramento, CA

View Wildwood's profile


2796 posts in 2747 days

#10 posted 03-30-2014 09:05 PM

Besides your website where are you selling now?

Who is buying your products?

Have you thought about wholesale pricing?

Have you contacted local interior design & decorators in your area? You can go on the internet and get a feel what those in the industry are using and buying. Or call a few on the telephone to come look at your goods.
That exercise will teach current trends for your area and what to make or lead to custom work.

-- Bill

View JimRochester's profile


559 posts in 2226 days

#11 posted 03-30-2014 09:16 PM

beautiful stuff. I am strictly a crafter so I am looking to make a profit but making a living is impossible for that. I just try to have the hobby pay for itself so when I drop $3K on a Sawstop I know the products will pay for it eventually.

-- Schooled in the advanced art of sawdust and woodchip manufacturing.

View BJODay's profile


528 posts in 2555 days

#12 posted 03-30-2014 11:59 PM

You do beautiful work.


View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2705 days

#13 posted 03-31-2014 12:18 AM


I wish you the best of luck selling your pieces. They are fantastic and I am very impressed.

View Bieser's profile


176 posts in 2646 days

#14 posted 03-31-2014 12:32 AM

- Scott I am in the same boat as you with pricing. I would love to make a living doing woodworking and have been doing some commissioned stuff off and on and selling a few things. I think you make wonderful furniture and will do well with hard work. Good luck.

View barringerfurniture's profile


224 posts in 2324 days

#15 posted 03-31-2014 12:44 AM

Thanks to everyone here offering their constructive, honest thoughts and opinions.

Kryptic, while I appreciate your honesty regarding my portfolio and while I did invite others here to view my website, that wasn’t really the focus of the discussion here.

Additionally, I find your comment a bit rude and trust me, most people who see my work would not share your opinion. Where is your website? Where are your projects here on Lumberjocks?
What exactly is it that you do Kryptic?

-- Scott Barringer, Sacramento, CA

showing 1 through 15 of 57 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics