For what it’s worth…

Selling things you make is fun – it is fun that people value what you do. But what should it cost? Here’s a bag of cents to get you started.

I came across a comment from someone, asking about price setting and how to find the value on something we make. This person made a work bench, and someone wanted to buy it. But what should he ask for the bench? This was my reply:

I’ve thought of that as well – I was lucky enough to get a huge oak tree for free, which I converted to a huge stack of materials. I have more oak than I possibly could (or want to) use in our own house, therefore I plan to make some furniture and other items for sale.

Felled oak
Before and after. Slide the line back and forth to view the entire images.

It could give me funding for tools or other materials, or provide a nice boost to the «family project fund» (renovating, a boat, vacation or what ever we want that cost some money).
Say I got the same question as you did – someone wanted to buy my work bench. I would look at a commercial model that would come close to my bench and price it similar to the commercial one.

My bench is made of cheap pine, but is very well made and a lot sturdier than any commercial bench I’ve seen here in Norway. It has the Eclipse vise and is on the larger size at 80x200cm.

My Paul Sellers inspired work bench
The bench I built

The benches I can buy commercially are made of beech. Mostly Sjöbergs, but there are a lot of cheaper ones that looks exactly the same (there are differences of course, in finish and wood selection/quality).

Since my bench is hand made, the quality is very high. Every piece of wood has been selected, worked and placed with care, in order to produce the very best bench possible. No commercial considerations has been a factor. I therefore feel confident comparing it to the very best benches the commercial manufacturers can offer.

I would do the same for a coffee table, for example. What does a similar table cost commercially? And here we must compare apples to apples. You cannot compare a veneered MDF thing stained to look like walnut, to a table made entirely from real wood. Even a commercial all-wood oak table could be of inferior quality. Edge glued or finger jointed pieces of Tetris is, in my mind, inferior to a table made from glued panels of wood planks.

Since a hand made item is, I would assume, made to be the very best it can be and that any quality issues would have been considered and dealt with in the best way possible (such as some sap wood being included, but placed where it does not matter or won’t be seen), my opinion is that that item is of superior quality compared to a commercially fabricated item.

It is only fair then that the price tag should reflect the price level in the market. Maybe even go a bit above the commercial pricetags. Then one should adjust the pricing to what the market are willing to pay – a one million dollar oak box 5 inches cubed is worth zero unless someone actually pays a millon for it…

«Not a million dollars» -box. It was a gift, but the sales value would exceed Tupperware prices…

And of course, one could give a discount, give away for free or a mug of coffee or something like that. But as pricetags go, know your worth. Do not sell your work too cheap.
This is not capitalism or greed. Back in the days, you would expect a fair trade. A dining table for a milking cow. If you «only» got a pig, you would have bacon but no cheese or butter.

I think a good starting point for hobbyists, is the cost of materials times two. That enables you to replenish your stock of materials, get more materials, replace broken tools, buy new tools, etc. Basically, enjoy your hobby for free. THAT is a luxury and a goal worth pursuing.

Gifting your work, though… that is worth more than what money can buy!

There is one who scatters, and increases yet more. There is one who withholds more than is appropriate, but gains poverty.

Proverbs 11:24

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