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Pricing Questions

06 Sep

In talking with potential customers, I often encounter the same conncerns or questions about the products and pricing. I thought I’d share those, along with answers….

• Wow. It seems like your furniture costs a lot! I can get a table like you have at Target for 1/4 the price you’re asking!

You’re right, I’m sure you can. You can get furniture you have to put together yourself, made out of :

“An environmentally friendly material called “engineered wood,” a combination of high quality hard wood and soft wood materials which are residuals of other lumber processes. These materials are bonded together with a synthetic resin, then applied to high heat and pressure.”

In other words, shredded wood lumber companies didn’t want, held together with a resin, which won’t hold screws, and the “finish” is paper laminate. Really? Is that what “furniture” is made of now? The designs are ok (at best), but doors fit poorly, the “finish” is easily marred and not repairable, and the piece is not strong. Water will damage it, easily. Handles or pulls will come off, as they are only plastic. They are one-size-fits-all furniture; no way to customize it, should you want to refinish it, order it a bit taller or shorter, and so on.

I know, I have purchased some before! Now before you have a heart attack, let me explain – this was when I was first married, when I wasn’t even into woodworking; we were young and needed some cheap furniture, somewhere to put our clothes. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about furniture and what passes off as furniture.

• Ok, so I’ll skip the put together yourself stuff. Still, I can get a table from a national chain like Ashley’s (no relation), IKEA, Raymour & Flanigan, or places like that. They are at least half your price!

They are, again you’re right. I’ll shock you again, I’ve bought from Raymour & Flanigan! Now, at this point, I was into woodworking, but certainly not into upholstered goods, like a couch. That’s just not my thing (yet). So, my wife picked out a love seat and sofa recliners, at a price of about $1500 (about 5 years ago), for our family room. After about 3 years of use, the one side of the couch where people usually sit is more deeper than the other side, and the arms at either end have some give to them. When you flip the couch over to vacuum behind it, you can see the frame twist. The upholstery itself has held up ok. It’ll have to be replaced in probably another 2 years.

When we finally replaced our living room furniture, and this time we got the good stuff – and there is good stuff out there in national stores. We bought Bassett. Specifically, a couch, love seat, and two upholstered recliner chairs; about $7000. That’s quite a lot, huh? It’s not because we are rich, we certainly aren’t; but this time, I did my homework, and found out which furniture is made like I would make it – built to last, and attractive. Even I was happy with the construction upon delivery. I expect it to last us 15 years, and even then, just the upholstery will need to be replaced, the mechanics should be fine.

• I see your point; you have to pay a lot of money to get quality furniture – but I can’t afford that! 

Actually, I’d argue it’s a false economy to keep buying furniture that damages easily, you’re not satisfied with nor proud of, time after time. Unfortunately in America, we’ve thrown craftsmanship out the window in favor of cheaper, but a looks-kinda-good mentality. Reminds me of Chrysler products – the look stylish, but won’t last, and have poor workmanship. A Mercedes looks great, and will last. Would you rather pay more for the Mercedes, drive it for much longer, and have a better experience, or take the Chrysler to the shop often, and be uncomfortable, or at least not thrilled with, the car?

• Again, why is your stuff so much? There’s not that much wood in it!

 Limbert tableIt’s not about the wood – though that plays a part. It’s about the time and craftsmanship that goes into each piece. The pieces I make aren’t made in the thousands,  nor the dozens, not even it pairs – all are made individually. Each has it’s own personality, it’s own feel. I don’t let it ship until I’m happy with it, late or not. I just don’t feel right any other way. Let me give you a little idea about what goes into making, say, my Craftsman Style Table:

  1. Going to the lumber yard, evaluating and selecting lumber, and hauling it home: 1 hour
  2. Breaking down the lumber and milling it into the close dimensions I’ll be using: 1 hour.
  3. Cutting the wood to gross final dimensions for all the pieces: 1/2 hour.
  4. Gluing up all four sides, the top and the shelf: 1 hour.
  5. Waiting for the glue to dry, cutting a few of the other small supporting pieces: 3 hours.
  6. Unclamping the pieces, hand planing them to flatness: 1 hour
  7. Cutting the pieces to final sizes, including tapered bevels: 1/2 hour
  8. Cutting out the large holes and bottom curls in the sides with a jigsaw and router: 1 hour.
  9. Sanding and chiseling those cut holes to perfection: 2 hours
  10. Cutting the shelf and top to final dimensions: 1/2 hour.
  11. Dry assembling and fixing any issues: 1/2 hour
  12. Sanding the entire project to perfection: 1 hour.
  13. Reassemble the bottom portion, glue up: 1 hour.
  14. Wait for glue to dry, sand mating corners to perfection, reexamine for other issues and fix: 3 hours
  15. Final fit the cleats that hold the top to the base, and install: 1/2 hour.
  16. Assembly complete; start finishing.
  17. Reexamine the table for any surface scratches; sand out; look for any other issues: 1 hour.
  18. Make up a custom dye, test on scrap piece for right color and density, test different number of coats to apply; wait to dry: 2 hours
  19. Apply dye to entire project, wait to dry, apply at least one more application: 2 hours
  20. Apply 3 coats of matte polyurethane, wait to dry between each coat, lightly sand and then remove sanding dust between coats: 3 hours
  21. Final inspection and sanding; 2 coats of wax: 1 hour
  22. Make a crate to ship the piece, pack and pad the piece: 2 hours
  23. Deliver to post office or carrier, 1 hour.

Total time: about 30 hours. And that’s not including the time put into marketing, photography, making special jigs and so on. The wood for that piece is about $150. The price I’m asking for it is $875; shipping is $100, but that’s barely enough. That’s $725 for profit, roughly, which is $24 per hour, assuming everything goes right, and I don’t make any costly mistakes.

If you’d like to compare prices, you can do so:

  1. MFDA, $1450
  2. Voorhees, $1800
  3. The Craftsman Touch, $2200
 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Pricing Questions, ShopNotes Blog

 

2 responses to “Pricing Questions

  1. jorge

    September 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    You are preaching to the choir here.. :-) I encountered the same problem and had almost the exact same explanations, what I did was actually print out a 2 leaf pamphlet with the explanation that I give to customers. This way you remove the perceived sales pitch “pressure” and at the same time you get a chance to show some nice pics of your work.

     
    • pashley1916

      September 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      It’s really a big problem for crafts people in general, whether it’s wood, textiles, ceramics, etc. People have lost sight of quality, putting focus on price. Price doesn’t mean value, always. It’s up to us to educate them.

       

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