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Finished Intarsia Woodwork – How Much Can I Sell It For?

How much can I sell my intarsia woodwork? That’s the question I get asked all the time. So I know that at least some of you are considering trying to sell your work.

So how much are they worth?

Early Days – A Typical Scenario

You have started a new and exciting woodworking skill called Intarsia. You can’t get enough. Your family and friends are really impressed with what you do. Thus, each new piece easily finds its place.

You are happy to give your finished pieces to close family and friends. But then friends of friends start wanting pieces. It occurs to you that while you certainly enjoy making them, there are costs other than your time. And even if you don’t think you need to be paid for your time, it would be nice to get some kind of return for your work.

Mid-Intarsia Crisis

Well maybe not a crisis, but now you’re starting to think it might be good to sell a few pieces of intarsia to recoup the costs. And how much easier is it to get the boss to accept a new machine in your workshop if you show feedback. “Well, sweetheart, I’ve already done a few bobs and with this money I can buy a brand new one – insert your preference here – so that I can make my intarsia even more effective and then I can easily move around to make that new coffee table you’ve always wanted and so richly deserve.” Woffle wofle woffle.

The big question – “How much are they worth?

“How long is a string?

The golden rule. “They are worth what customers will pay for them”

Which really tells you nothing. So let’s look at some pricing scenarios.

The academic approach

A Masters in Commerce will tell you to do something like this. First calculate your total cost of production.

Cost of materials

* Wood including all waste – $ Very little

* Plywood backing – $ A small amount

* Hangers from a framing store – pennies

Consumables

* Sandpaper – $ more than you initially imagine, but still not much

* Glue – a few pennies more

* Varnish or oil finish – $ few dollars

Overheads

* Workshop rental – it may be your garage, but someone had to pay for it at some point.

* Phone

* Electricity

* Broom for sweeping

* yadda yadda yadda

Marketing

* Cost of a stall at the local flea market / garage sale

* Travel costs to get there

* Your time sitting behind the booth all day

Profit

* The cream on top you deserve on top of your salary for running your own business. And now the big one.

Work

* Your local mechanic charges $50 (or $60 or $70) an hour to fix your car. And it was probably the first-year apprentice who did the work anyway. It took you 84 hours to complete your masterpiece (you carefully noted the hours) and it looks fabulous. You’re not greedy so maybe $20 an hour is enough. That’s $1680 plus the $50 for all materials etc. $1700+. I probably won’t get it at the local flea market.

Ok, let’s be less ambitious and work for $5 an hour, I don’t need anything, it’s just a hobby. And I’m sure I must have been wrong about those hours, let’s assume it was only 40 hours of work. So $200 plus a little more for materials, let’s call it $220 total. Now that seems more reasonable. So despite the business degree, what we did was guess the price. Surely there is a better way. You are right, there are.

An aside Sitting all day in the scorching sun at a local flea market hoping that a bettor with $220 in your pocket will show up is fine once in a while, but not a steady stream of income and reliable. Oh, you say, but if you take your work to a local gallery, they want 40%, or 50% or more for themselves. And all they have to do is hang it on their wall, I had to do whatever it took to get it done. Highway robbery. But if you go the gallery route, you don’t have to hang around all day, every day looking for clients. They do that. That’s what you pay them for. And they have to spend money to make their gallery look good, not you. We have always tried to make quality woodwork so that we can interest the best galleries in the country. Procedures. Happy to pay their share as long as they keep them in the truck.

The two month rule

I take my finished woodwork to the local craft gallery and talk to the owner. After some discussion, we arrived at an agreed starting price and its percentage. Listen to the owner. If they are good, they know their market. Your beautiful intarsia hangs on the wall. Hopefully the first thing the customer sees when they first enter the gallery.

* If the work sells in less than two months, it is too cheap.

* If it takes much longer than two months to sell it, it’s too expensive.

* And you guessed it, if it sells out in about two months, the price is right.

First time I made this I took away 2 frog intarsia on Thursday. They both sold out this weekend. Price too cheap but I knew there was a market.

Good, now you know the price at which you can sell them. But maybe you’ll still only make $5 an hour depending on how long it took you to do that first one.

So what did you win? The knowledge that you can’t expect your customers to pay for your inefficiency.

So what can you do about it. There are many ways to streamline your production. You will craft your 20th frog much faster than the first. As you gain experience, you’ll find all sorts of shortcuts. But that’s another article.

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