the average consumer needs to be educated on the quality of handmade goods.
This is exactly what happens when I make a piece of furniture.
Everyone always ask me how cheaply can I do something and expects the highest quality, care, and attention to detail. Then I outline the cost of the materials and suddenly the question, “Can you do it for the price of materials?” comes up. They think that’s all that really matters; how much work could actually go into it? Most of the time I spend a minimum of 100 hours on a piece. This is even for a small piece, a little cabinet or something. The amount of work that goes into it is staggering and the average person has no concept of how difficult it is doing this quality of woodwork. So this week I made the tough decision to start saying no to people when they come to me with projects and want to use our friendship as currency.
I’m finishing up a huge cabinet that has been very difficult and a lot of work. The cost of materials was $200. It’s made of poplar, the barest minimum quality of wood, for the smallest price. Because the wood is not high quality it has made every step in the process of constructing it much more difficult. I have to devote even more time to it and yield poorer results. Their budget was $300, so I will be making $100 (this is without shop fees & tool wear considered). I said yes because they’re my friend and I didn’t want to have the negativity that comes with saying no.
I’ve now spent 150 hours on the cabinet. This comes out to about $0.67 an hour. This is for highly skilled labor. I’ve spent years and thousands of hours working on my craft. Not to mention the hundreds more I’ve spent researching and learning through books, dvd’s, other woodworkers, and forums. I’m not going to feel bad about saying no anymore. If people aren’t willing to have an equal exchange they can go to Ikea and buy cardboard furniture.