Big commission piece coming my way

Jack King
1,017 posts and 27 followers
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I do not do my woodworking to make money because as we all know 99% of the general public will not pay for quality handmade pieces. That being said, I have a few pieces in an art gallery here and a few in a gift shop. So I get a call from a lady who has seen some of my things and want me to make her a gift for her husband for his birthday to display some of his rock collection. It is a display case with framed glass panes on three sides, with each corner anchored by a fluted column, full door that opens on the front, two foot square top, one drawer equal to the size of the top, round ball feet, three shelves and made in solid cherry. It is for his birthday which is 8 days away. And now comes the most important part, IT MUST BE REALLY INEXPENSIVE. So I am writing all of this down until we get to that last line, so I ask her what would was she thinking about paying? And I quote, " It must be $100.00 or less." I very politely told her to got to Walmart and said goodbye. Anyone else have a story or is it just me?


Yes. The neighbor directly across the street who is a funeral director at a very large and well know funeral home comes to me and tells me his boy and the kids friends were drinking his 80.00 dollar bottle of Jack and a few other ones. He asked if i could make a liquor cabinet that would sit waist high on tapering legs. It had to be made of red oak, had to have a quality locking system, preferably a mortised in one. Quality hinges, and hold at least 24 bottles. He also asked if could get a hidden drawer. So ok. I stop doing what im doing for my shows and draw up a sketch. We spend about an hour drawing this up making changes. Know i did this because hes always bragging he makes over 80 k a year and it shows. So i figure if i give him my time ill get this job. Well after actually figuring out board feet, searching the internet for the lock, hinges knobs and a magnetic lock for the hidden drawer i gave him a very honest dicounted price off 375.00 (very cheap i know) he also said i quote “are you kidding me Jeff thats insane” i said insane i said you wanted soild wood no plywood then you picked out the most expensive hinges, knobs and lock. Not to mention you wanted a hidden drawer. I said what were you expecting to pay? His words " 100 to 125 tops". I said hell your materials are at that. " well im not paying that" then i gave it to him. Well i dont get it you spend 80 bucks on one bottle of jack. You tell me you have a half dozen bottles that cost you over 300 each. And god only know what the others cost but, your to damn cheap to lock up them expensive bottles to protect your kid and his friends from getting in trouble, not to mention getting in trouble yourself when the other parents call the cops on you for contributing to minors. Oh by they way you owe me 48 bucks. For what he says. My time isn’t free. Lol we haven’t talked since.

Jeff Vandenberg aka "Woodsconsin"

I have sent about twenty people to Walmart. It’s not that uncommon for the average person to be oblivious to the price of real wood. For those who do pay, I guarantee my products for life, no questions asked I will buy it back at the original price. I think I’m up to 3 pieces now, each of which resold for higher prices, even one at double the original cost. The prices of wood do nothing but go up!

CHRIS, Charlottetown PEI Canada. Anytime you can repurpose, reuse, or recycle, everyone wins!

Now I know why I joined this group. Not only do I learn great woodworking technics and styles, the stories are awesome. I read these to my wife just now and said exactly what we as woodpeckers would say. “Just can’t understand people”, the time and effort put into our craft alone would send most crying for mommy, cause it is too much work for them to fathom. I learned a very long time ago, woodpeckers are a very special and rare breed. I work wood for the gratification of a completed project, as I’m sure that is the feeling across the board. If we make some m o net great but, not critical. I love woodworking and I love being in this group, thank you for all your knowledge and sharing your stories.


Lesson learned: “What is your budget for this job.”

I’ve had people state I shouldn’t expect to earn more than fifteen an hour, thinking they’d have access to tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment (via me, of course) to accomplish their unique tasks.

As I put it to one guy, who complained about the thirty-five dollar glass etched mirror I did for him, for his in-laws anniversary: “When you send it, insure it for three hundred.” By the way, you earn twelve an hour and begrudge me the same, but you merely have to show up, while I have to do the design, acquire the materials, fabricate the project and do all of it using a building and equipment I provide. I gave you a good deal, as a friend. It was your last deal."

By the way, he packed the etched mirror poorly and, in the end, the U.S. Post Office paid him three hundred for the loss.

Fortunately, we learn, even from idiots and fools.

I feel you guys, i hate going thru the process of drawing, designing, and quoting, only to get an “i will let you know”. I think i undercharge for my work, but as many of you put it, common folk do not know what it takes. What really gets to me is once, when i started offering my services a lady in m neighborhood wanted a farm table, i messaged her and said i could build it for her.I tried that “whats your budget” i think she felt i was trying to take advantage of her. I thought to my self 3-4 hundred seems fair. There is another guy in my neighborhood, i do not want to call him a wood worker because this guy builds stuff on his garage floor. Anyhow, he quoted her a price and and i guess she went with it, probably with the mindset that me asking her budget was me trying to take advantage. Anyhow he made her the table charged her 800, and then posted a video on youtube for how to build a farmhouse table for under $100. I think about it and shake my head, i feel bad for her because the table is very plain. As i do this more and more i post stuff to my facebook and im sure shes sees it, i hope shes kicking her self. LOL.

I relate to all of these stories . People go to the store and see a cedar chest for $99.99. They don’t realize that it is made out of pressed wood , that if it gets wet at all it is junk. Also there is no strength to it and finally the the oak is paper thin veneer . I made a solid oak steamer trunk with cedar lining 15 years ago . We store her best Christmas decorations in it . It’s as good a shape as the day I made it . I had $250.00 just in material not to mention labor . And people will want me to make them one for , you guessed it $99.99 . I get so mad, they have no idea what woodworking is . This piece cost me a little than just money and labor . The guard stuck on my 4" jointer planner and the wood stopped but my hand didn’t. Took the ring finger on my left hand down to the bone and chewed the heck out of my middle finger. So when is say I had blood sweat and tears in that one , I’m serious .


Everyone wants a deal…our culture is completely disconnected from most of the labour that goes into the stuff we buy which I think distorts our perception on what quality really costs…
I just finished my first commissioned piece a few weeks ago. I’ve made stuff for friends and family before but always for free. This was the first piece too that I really kept track of my hours spent working on it. It was a Nakashima style hall table with a big walnut slab top; I quoted $500 for the piece before I started it. Well, the wood itself was almost $400 and it took me 30 hours so I made about $3/hour.

Rob, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

I think I have only ever been paid by people I don’t really know but they know of me. So all Toledo I think I have been paid about for 5% of the things I have made. I believe the most I ever made per hour was a complete basement set of cabinets for a knee wall all around the perimeter, it was just over $2 per hour. Took me over 200 hours, and I loved every minute of it.

CHRIS, Charlottetown PEI Canada. Anytime you can repurpose, reuse, or recycle, everyone wins!

My cousin recently, who has seen the stuff I’ve made on Facebook, sent me a message praising my skills and asking if I would make him a table for card playing. In return, I could come visit him! LOL. So he says he wants a simple table, about 4′ × 8′ for playing cards in his basement. Now, he lives in Vermont. I love in Long Island, NY.

I told him no problem. I’ll put a sheet of plywood on 2 saw horses. After all, that meets his stated requirements perfectly! Haha… Then I said I have a lot of projects already in the queue and it night take a bit of time to get to his table.

But then I told him if he saws up a couple of walnut and maple trees, his table would immediately go to the top of the queue. I haven’t heard back from him since.

Losing fingers since 1969

This kind of scenario is very typical . I hate to say this happens because many woodworkers love woodworking so much that they will sell what they make for cost or less than cost,this makes it tough on people who are trying to make a living in the woodworking business because much of the public expects woodworking to below cost no matter how involved the item is. This along with products made in foreign countries that sell for less in places like Walmart for less than we can buy the material it would cost us to make the same product.

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