How to Price Your Woodworking: A Community Guide to the Great Pricing Debate

Based on your response to 12 Simple Woodworking Projects that Sell Fast by Joe Trueheart I decided on another piece to help those hobbyists who want to make their hobby pay a little… or even go into woodworking full time. Instead of what sells, this time we’re investigating how to price what you’re selling, whether it’s custom furniture, custom installations, cutting boards, bowls, pens, signs or anything in between.

Below you’ll find quotes from and links to forum discussions on:
>> Pricing Custom Work, Custom Services
>> Pricing Turning (Bowls, etc…)
>> Pricing Pens
>> Craft Fair Pricing + General Experiences
>> Pricing Engraving Services
>> Large Runs + Selling to Other Businesses for Resale
>> Pricing Signs
>> Marketing Your Products Online

To start off – instead of getting my hobbyist readers all pumped up about going full time – I’m going to share a sobering thread from WoodNet. It’s called:
Burned out, and it’s a cautionary tale of what can happen if you’re successful too soon with your venture. Here’s a choice quote from the OP (original poster):

“I should have kept this a hobby, something to do in my spare time. But the passion got the best of me, and I made it into a full-time job. Now the dream has turned into a nightmare. All I want is a casual, free-form woodshop where I can create to my heart’s content. But doing so would not make me a living, so I’d have to get a real job. But the real job would get in the way of the passion and creativity, and I’d be caught in this same cycle of burning desire to create, but no time to do it. To those for whom this is still a hobby, I envy you.”

Let that ring in your ears for a moment: “To those for whom this is still a hobby, I envy you.”

Granted, this is a fellow at his bleakest, darkest moment. Also, it’s someone who got the opportunity to go all the way and he rushed into it, probably before he was ready. In addition to some great pricing advice in that thread, further on comes a great suggestion: “Maybe you should think about finding something part time just to take some of the pressure to produce off. It is also a big help when you are able to start picking and choosing your jobs. All I do now is period furniture which is where my passion really lays.”

In short, don’t quit your day job until you’re comfortable with the realities of your new venture.

If you stuck around through my lecture and finger wagging then you’re serious enough ;) Without further ado, here are some pricing guidelines and further discussions for woodworkers curious about how to price their goods and services.

>> Pricing Custom Work, Custom Services
Custom furniture and other custom services pricing are one common area of discussion. Some sample “pricing models” from the forums:

“My shop rate is $60/hr plus material marked up by 20%.” FamilyWoodworking

“(Supplies)+(Hours invested * what your time is worth to you)” LumberJocks

“Material cost (with 20% markup) plus approx. $25/hr. for all your labor (milling, assembly, finishing)” SawmillCreek

General threads on pricing custom furniture and cabinetry:
Contractor Pricing (GREAT discussion for potential woodworking contractors…)
Review: The Woodworker’s Guide to Pricing Your Work
help pricing osage rocker
How do I decide on a price for my work?
Help with pricing cabinetry
“New here, pricing questions”
Job Pricing? (sticking to your price when prospect starts negotiating)
Pricing? (for small restoration jobs)
pricing for a labour of love (great for general pricing philosophy of high-quality installation and furniture)
first post – pricing question

>> Pricing Turning (Bowls, etc…)
If you’re new to turning and are curious about pricing, check out this thread at SawmillCreek – you might get bowled over by what some of those artists are asking. There are no numbers regarding how many they sell :) Here are some rules of thumb from forums I read:

“I’ve read of some folks who price by the inch (in diameter), and add or subtract from that number based on the uniqueness of the wood. Here again, your market will dictate the price, but I’ve seen some guys who shoot for $5 per inch, and others who go for $10.” FamilyWoodWorking

“Obviously your local market defines in part what a bowl will bring but a rule of thumb I have seen is $8.00 and inch wholesale and $10.00 an inch retail.” SawmillCreek

“For a starting point, some people use a size-based pricing system, say $10 per inch of diameter, plus another $10 per inch of height. In this case, an 8″ x 3″ bowl would be priced at $110.” Family Woodworking

Threads on pricing turned work:
Pricing your work (general)
New Turner Pricing
Interesting pricing for turnings (big bucks)
Pricing for a newbie? Salt and Pepper Mills
Bowl Pricing
Pricing on Baseball Bats

>> Pricing Pens
Pens are another highly-sellable item that many folks can crank out. They have a bit more material cost with all that metal and ink. Here’s how some people figure out pricing:

“Materials
Time. Say 25.00 per hour.
+ 20-30% markup.
Profit is in markup.
Pay yourself for your time. Thats the paycheck. The markup is profit, to be able to purchase new tools, etc.” SawmillCreek

“The pricing question comes up frequently on the penturning forums. Everyone has their own take. For many, they simply go 3X cost of materials.” FamilyWoodworking Family Woodworking

Threads on pricing pens:
I need some help on Pricing
Pricing Advice
“pricing pens for sale”
“redeemed previous pricing blunders”

>> Craft Fair Pricing + General Experiences
One question I’d like to get into in the future is WHERE to sell. Thankfully the affable and highly-knowledgeable Vaughn McMillan has a couple of great threads at Family Woodworking with some good advice and direction.

“…the canopy, sign, tables, table covers, and a few baskets from Ikea have set me back about $600 – $700. (And that’s after doing a lot of price shopping.) I’m learning this is not for the weak at heart. Just means that much more stuff to sell before breaking even. Glad I’m not doing this for a living.” FamilyWoodworking

“after having done much field research in this matter I’ve found that having a line of work (small bowl, pen, top, etc) that includes items for $10-20 is very important.” FamilyWoodworking

“One booth selling $15 and $20 craft items nearly ran out of stock, but others selling similar products had slow sales all weekend. I don’t think the other two turners at the show did much (if any) better than me, and they had a lot more of the $20 to $100 range than I did.” FamilyWoodworking

Threads on craft fair selling:
Da Booth: Selling Work at Craft Fairs
Added Something to the Booth

>> Pricing Engraving Services
Professional and startup engravers have a strong presence over at SawmillCreek.org. Apparently there’s continual demand for their work from trophy and sign-type shops in local areas. Here are some tips, though less from the selling-to-another-business perspective (see below for that).

“If it’s a one-piece to be inlaid, I would charge as I would for a plaque, $xx times number of lines, plus $xx for laser time, plus your overhead and profit, plus any materials (x 3) that you have in it.” SawmillCreek

“I reckon on between $1 and $2 per square inch to do custom inlay/marquetry work with my laser – mostly around $2.” SawmillCreek

“Material Cost + Labor Cost + Profit Percentage + Overhead Percentage = Wholesale Cost” SawmillCreek

“The one year I had my ornaments in a Holiday Craft Sale, I found that the ones priced $3 sold well, those at $4 sold OK, anything $5 or more just sat there.” SawmillCreek

Pricing engraving work threads:
Suggestions on pricing Inlay with Engraver
pricing suggestions
Pricing Christmas Ornaments

>> Large Runs + Selling to Other Businesses for Resale (B2B)
From the forums it looks like there’s no shortage of work from local businesses. Is it “woodworking?” Well, yes. You’ll be using your woodworking tools, that’s for sure. These types of jobs are where you’re going to start thinking of yourself and your shop as a factory. Also useful from these discussions – making room in your price for the margins of those who are reselling your work…

For cutting out jigsaw puzzles: “I charge $1/minute.” SawmillCreek

“2-3 times materials and $1 per minute laser time, plus whatever time you spend prep and post work (shop rates are quite varied).” SawmillCreek

“I have several trophy/award/sign shops that come to me for these, most of them have only rotary engraving equipment. They got me to agree to a wholesale price of $30/hour for any setup and .50/minute for actual laser time. As it turns out with the low volume it’s really not worth it for me so get more than that.” SawmillCreek

Large run + B2B pricing threads:
JigSaw puzzle pricing help
pricing wood “poker” chips
pricing question for trophies and awards
Pricing a recognition award job?
pricing?? on quilt racks (commissioned by store then price negotiated down)

>> Pricing Signs
Similar to large runs, signs are another job woodworkers can land in service of businesses. Additionally, they could make nice craft fair items. Here’s some insight into pricing signs:

“Since there are fewer people that can handle the large jobs, I charge the greater of $65sf or $125 per laser hour “plus materials”. Additional finishing requirements are usually extra.” SawmillCreek

“I was happy with 2x material price plus a nice per hour rate, but I don’t know now.” SawmillCreek

Sign pricing threads:
Help on job pricing
Sign Pricing Help

>> Marketing Your Products Online
I’ve found 3 websites so far that exist solely to connect woodworkers with the buying public. And no, I’m not talking about eBay, Craigslist and Etsy ;) We featured one of them, CraftsmansWoodshop, in a recent article. Two of them are new – I originally had thought that custommade was new, but Mike corrected me (thanks Mike!).

http://www.craftsmanswoodshop.com/
http://www.custommade.com
http://www.finewoodartists.com/

>> More Resources, Articles, Guides, Books, Etc…
I will add more as I find them! If you know of any good ones, please let me know!

12 Simple Woodworking Projects that Sell Fast
How to get your work in Stores and Galleries
Free Web Exposure for Woodworkers (ideas for marketing online)
Woodworking Price Estimate Wizard
Markup & Profit: A Contractor’s Guide

This entry was posted in Q/A. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to Price Your Woodworking: A Community Guide to the Great Pricing Debate

  1. Jon says:

    Very good advice, price is always a tough thing to quantify.

    Jon @ WoodMarvels.com

  2. Hi there, great article here. Thank you for listing a number of resources for fellow woodworkers. We noticed that you featured our website, http://www.custommade.com in this article. However, I wanted to let you know that we have been around for 13 years and did not “emerge recently”. The website is under new ownership, but the website itself has been helping over 500 custom woodworkers get business for a long time!

    thanks again for such a great article.

  3. Joe Truehart says:

    Hey there Garrett, thanks for the great article that addresses the age old question that all woodworkers find themselves asking at some point in there hobby or career. You definitely have covered the bases and have created a great resource to all woodworkers looking for additional advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>