Skull Mount....how much?

I’m putting the finishing touches on this deer skull mount. This is an order from my wifes coworker for her son. Made out of Hard White Maple and finished with Pre Stain Conditioner and Hickory Gel Stain. Not the wood of choice but I achieved the results I had envisioned. This took a total of maybe just over 3 hours to carve. Now the big question of the day…how much does a hobbyist charge for this? I have about $10.00 in materials. About 2 hours of finish sanding and removing fuzzy’s, wood conditioning, staining etc. I saw on another forum that suggested $2.00 per minute of carving but do the math…that’s not going to happen! I’m thinking at least $50.00 to $60.00 for this piece. I would love to hear everyone’s opinion on pricing this.

Thank you,
Bill

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Pricing is an art form. Remember that you have to cover not just materials and time, but also consumables — which includes endmills. A basic formula:

  • double, triple or quadruple material cost
  • add in some amount to cover the wear / risk to the endmill (up to the full cost)
  • add in a bit to encompass wear on the machine (consumable parts include V-wheels, belts, router brushes)
  • add in a reasonable labour cost for your time (at least minimum wage, but this is skilled labour)
  • add in a reasonable cost for customization (variable, pennies per word for long pieces, up to a dollar or more per character for short things which are intricate and require design work)
  • cost / value of any design files, esp. those which are unique to a piece and not reusable
  • cost compared to mass-produced equivalents (want to be at least twice that for custom work)

Remember that you’re not just pricing things, you’re also setting a perceived value which will affect the ability of others to charge for this sort of work as part of a business/livelihood.

Hope this helps! as a hobbyist, $50 as a favour for a friend, marked down from $75 would seem in the ballpark (mass-produced ones are typically $35–40 and not so nice).

Congrats to the young man for his first trophy!

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This is key. As Will has suggested, I’d also recommend showing them a “list-price” and then that they’re getting the “you’re my buddy” discount.

With higher finish/stain quality, I would say you could charge even more for it than that, with 85-95 not being impossible if it’s well finished, well-photographed, and well presented. Then your buddy-markdown can be greater, and they understand that if they want you to do more in the future, or if they’re going to recommend you, they know what price-point to recommend you at.

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Not too cheap and not too expensive… it’s a tough balance. I do a lot of free(welding, design and mechanical) jobs for friends and family and now everyone expects it. I dont mind it, but there are “those people” that will take advantage of your generosity.

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Thanks guys…A lot of good and valid points. $75.00 came to my mind as a regular price. Hobby or not I don’t like leaving money on the table but I surely don’t mind giving a break to a friend. Since my post my wife informed me that the person who ordered this for her son wants me to make one of those pineapple serving trays as a gift for her sister. Maybe I can make it up on volume…who knows.

Gonna have to print out Will’s post and pin it to the wall for future reference…lots of good points to remember.

Thanks again for your input fellas!

Only additional recommendation is that you (or any of us) never try to justify lower pricing on the idea that you/we can make it up on volume on custom work, because you/we can’t—there is no efficiency of scale here to leverage, and what you’re doing is instead diluting the value of your/our time.

Instead, keep your “list” rates up where they need to be, and then show discounts for the friends/family rate, to protect your top-line pricing. That gives you the opportunity that if you don’t want to keep doing the work for cheap for someone, you can just stop offering the discount or offer a lesser discount, and they’ll either be willing to pay the higher price or they’ll go somewhere else… which is fine if the cost of doing the work is hurting your ability to deliver on (better) paying jobs.

If they then say “why am I not getting the discount?” you can say “were the other discounts I already gave you previously not enough of a break for you as a friend/family member? This thing isn’t free to run, and it does take a substantial chunk of my time to do these projects” which puts the issue back on them to think about whether they’re respecting your time as a friend/family member, and reciprocating some generosity/care back to you… or are they just taking advantage of you?

Hope that helps you navigate the consulting space a bit… Preaching to myself too here!

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Just wanted to post a follow up on the skull mount…she absolutely loved it! I finished it up with a couple coats of lacquer which really made it " pop " for lack of a better word. She also ordered 2 serving trays. Just from this 1 order it seemed to start a frenzy at my wife’s office. I now have orders for a total of 6-serving trays, an engraved hammer, a custom Clemson graduation plaque and I sold 2-pallet signs I had previously made over the summer. Not gonna be able to quick my day job but it is gratifying to make a little back to pay for supplies and such.

Thats very awesome Bill,Congrats

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I agree with UnionNine…We have an Etsy store that we sell things I’ve made on along with other digital files my wife makes. I prefer this over selling to friends and family because I can charge what I think my time is worth. Many people think that because you have a CNC that you can just “cut one out real quick”. I hear this a lot now with people that know I own one and think you just push a few buttons and the finished product is amazingly completed before your eyes. They don’t know you’ve spent hours creating the model, building tool paths, standing over the machine while it cuts it out, sanding and staining. Not to mention all the time you have invested in learning to do all of the above…and your $2k (at least) you have invested in said machine. I also agree with Will as well…this is skilled labor, you’re not flipping burgers for 4 hours in your garage ;).

All of that being said, the Skull mount is awesome! Way cooler than anything I’ve made!

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Thank you Josh, you are spot on and I could not agree with you more. Heck, just buying finishing supplies and tools will put you in the hole not to mention your machine investment. Somewhere along the line the friends and family price has to end.