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First commission?

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  • First commission?

    I was asked today if I would carve a house sign for an acquaintance. He wanted a 22”x8”x1” board with 8 letters to scale nicely on it. He also wanted it weather proofed, possibly stained and possibly letters painted black or burnt.
    We settled on Iroko or oak for the board, and whatever I felt best for letter size and style.
    I showed him a picture of my own house sign which was ordered from a shop catalogue, costing about £50.
    He said this was far over his price range.

    The timber I can get for £15, so that leaves less then £35 to do the work, including buying stain and weather seal.

    Is it even worth doing?

  • #2
    If 50 pounds is far above his price range, what does he expect to pay? It appears much less than 50, so maybe 35, which after deducting 15 you're looking at 20 less finishing materials. You would be doing this job for the exercise not profit. If you make an irreparable mistake on the wood and have to start over fresh you're in the hole.

    Your client apparently has no idea what hand work is worth (he's not alone in that), so I'd decline.


    • #3
      If you don't walk away from the experience happy, why do it? You have to decide what it will take to make you happy.

      If he won't pay for commercially mass produced, why is he looking for custom? He should pay at lest 'minimum wage' (do you have that?) for your hours. Minimum wage here is around $10, shop rates run anywhere from $30 to $100. I'm pretty happy to estimate my time at $20.

      I've seen this many times in my career as a woodworker- people have the incorrect impression that buying from the builder (carver in this case) is cheaper than buying from a mass producer.

      I've done a couple commissions- things they can't buy anywhere. One guy paid me to hand carve a wooden Nintendo controller, can you believe that? That was a fun commission, and I'd have done it for less than the agreed on price just for the laughs.

      I might walk away from this guy, personally.


      • #4
        I agree. Being paid to carve is what I’m aiming for, but not earning from it is almost pointless. Obviously some projects, eg Nintendo controller, are worth doing for the experience and fun of carving them, or as a show piece that could get your work recognition.
        I think I was hanging too much on the “first paying project” to see the bigger picture.
        Maybe next time.


        • #5
 wife and I paid $175 US dollars, (around $133 British pounds), for a plastic sign that looks like limestone with our address on it. $57 US seems a bit cheap for the work you would need to do. Just my .02.

          Like Mr. Bif indicates, you have to make yourself happy!

          Good Luck


          • #6
            Hi Dan
            I think you would be money in the pocket if you gave your customer 5 pounds and said" have a couple of pints on me " and carved something for your self


            • #7
              Bif is right. If you're carving and not happy doing it, it will not be your best work.

              I think your price is fair. But now, I would tack on another $20 because the "customer" is trying to low ball you.

              Bob L


              • #8
                Do you need the Experience?? If so do it and maybe you would get other Sign Work when your work is seen. Tell your Customer that you will have to make the Sign Smaller to do it for the Price that he Stated. It's a Good way to get your Name out . Have Fun and Enjoy this Hobby. Merle


                • #9
                  Ok if you want to do something for experience.....but your basically doing it for free. Lots of hard work goes into signs, I know I am making one right now as a gift. But honestly the sign is worth more then 50 pounds, .....the cost of sealer will take your money. They are not cheap.


                  • #10
                    If loosing money is your end result, and you are o.k. with that, go for it. Future commissions will want the same treatment. Setting a price on one will set the price of the future ones. Think of this price as your benchmark so to speak. Good luck.
                    Carve On,


                    • #11
                      Kadidle, I was thinking that. Also cheap goes hand in hand with poor quality, whether it’s true or not.
                      Getting a name for cheap or substandard work is not what I want at all.


                      • #12
                        Some commissions are not worth accepting. I turn away almost as many as I accept.
                        Keep On Carvin'
                        Bob K.

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                        • #13
                          While you may be flattered by his asking you to carve the sign, be aware that he may be trying to take advantage of your skills. If he is a friend, then it is up to you as to whether you accept his proposal, but you may not want to do it if you don't feel comfortable. I have done many signs for people, both private or individual or business, and the price he offers is far below what I would accept. Your skills are worth while and you strive to improve those skills all the time. You may consider this commission a practice, or just pass it up. I don't have a business, I'm like you, just a person who carves and sometimes for others for profit, but I do know what my skills are worth.

                          Before they slip me over the standing part of the fore sheet, let them pipe: "Up Spirits" one more time.