Turning Archive 2004

Spindle Turning - PRICING *PIC*

Russ Fairfield
>The question is always asked, "How do I price a turned spindle?"

It is impossible to charge by the hour. If you are just starting, you will be charging too much because you will be taking too much time. If you are skilled and very fast, you will be charging too little. I have found it more reasonable to charge by the piece and the number of elements in the piece.

I determine the cost as follows:
Cost of wood at board-foot commercial rate with a 1-bf minimum.

Flat $5 per piece to put it in the lathe. This covers sawing and preparation.

Total number of Elements in the piece times a cost of $5 per element for sanded and finished with a friction polish. An "element" is defined a bead, a cove, a pummel, etc.

Complexity Factor (Multiplier). How difficult will this be to turn? How big is it? Do I need a steady rest? Are there any difficult elements? Is the wood difficult to turn? Special finishing?

Market Factor (Multiplier). Quantity discount? What will it be used for? Who is buying it? How bad do I want the job? This multiplier could be less than 1.000.

An example is the Queen Anne finial that is in the photo.

Minimum charge for Cherry Wood ($8) + Set-up Fee ($5) + 7 elements at $5 each ($35) for a total of $48.

This isn't a difficult item to make, but it takes a bit more than just putting it between centers and turning. Therefore, I would use a complexity factor 1.3

That would make the total price for the finial in the photo to be $62.40 without any marketing factors or quantity discounts.

I have no idea how this fits with what Ruth or anyone else is charging for spindle work. I am happy with this, and I can get all of the business I need.

Practice, practice, and practice some more until you get proficient at turning spindles.

Make up a batch of samples. I use these Queen Anne finials because they are a good display of my turning skills. They are mounted on a turned pedestal and flat board base so they can sit on a desk and not get lost in a drawer. A printed wood business card is inset in the base. These take some time, but I am trying to display my woodworking skills.

I would then then find every architect and contractor who is doing restorations of old houses. Driving through the historic sections of most towns will produce several leads just from the signs that are posted at each site. Visit their office and leave one of the finials and a small brochure with some photos in it.

Then I would find every shop in the area that is building custom and restoring antique furniture. Leave them with the same finial sample.

It may take some time and a few follow-up calls, but the work will start coming in. And, you might get lucky and hit one that needs something on your first call.

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