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Custom Furniture Maker in Greater DC area

Posted by steve_a (My Page) on
Thu, Sep 25, 08 at 8:56

We are in the market for a custom "writing desk" Shaker style table for our computer. It is a very simple design, which may or may not include a drawer. I am considering building one, but would also like to see if there's a custom woodworker in the area that is within our budget. These tables are available unfinished for about $200. My estimate to build, including millwork, is about $500. I recognize that master craftsmen justifyably charge much more--we have an estimate from a gentleman who apparently does very nice work, but the estimate is more that we can pay. I've also requested information from a woodworker in Leesburg, VA. If anyone is (or is aware of) a custom woodworker in the Washington DC metro area (including MD and VA), please let me know. I don't know if I've completely exhausted the internet for sites, but close to it. Thanks for any leads, Steve

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Custom Furniture Maker in Greater DC area

If you can get what you want for $200, why are you looking to have one custom made?

RE: Custom Furniture Maker in Greater DC area

Please forgive my confusion, but did you or a professional woodworker estimate that the desk could be built for $500?

Here's my take, as a working carpenter and sometimes furniture maker. In any wood, $500 is extremely low. Off the top of my head, here are a few of the tasks involved in such a job (and I'm sure I've forgotten some). You can guess at how long they take, but note that vehicle time isn't free.

- meet client to find out what they want
- produce working drawings and budget
- show drawings, budget to client and get signoff
*now, some would argue that the steps above are part of a 'free' estimate. I've done it for free; I just know that the cost of those activities ends up on someone's bill eventually.

- buy lumber -- about 30 bf @$4/(take time at the yard to find nice boards)
- mill lumber to close thickness/width/length
- glue up tabletop (jointing/biscuiting/gluing/clamping)
- cut remaining stock to finish width/thickness
- mortise legs; shape legs if not rectangular
- tenon aprons
- build drawer wasn't included in this exercise, but if it got built, it would also need to be fitted and hardware-d
- tabletop out of clamps, cut to final size and smoothed
- assemble legs and aprons
- attach tabletop
- final sand; no finishing
- deliver to client

For the non-free tasks, I guessed 22 hours, and I always guess low. Which brings us to our final task:
- pick up cheque for $500 ($120 for cheap hardwood; $380 for labor @$17/hr)

- then, after hands are shaken, go to the accounts shoebox and deduct taxes on that $380; pay various overheads; pay for the cost of the machinery used in the production; pay for the vehicle; pay for consumables in the shop like sawblades...

Then, realize that the net wage for that job was about $10/hr.

RE: Custom Furniture Maker in Greater DC area

Aren't forums great? To clarify and illuminate: If I only had $200 to spend on this table, I would certainly consider an unfinished one, along with a used piece, if I could find one of the proper dimensions, style, interest, etc. For $200 I would get a mass-produced piece of inexpensive hardwood (or pine), which may or may not take a stain well, and which I would do my best to finish attractively. Since it looks like I can afford to spend more for the piece, I would like a table made for me by a craftsman, to my exact specifications, out of nicer wood of my choosing.

justnigel, forgive me, but I was not quite clear in my post. When I said that I estimated $500 to build the table, that was for me to build the table, using some pre-fab parts, and having some millwork done locally. I did not include any amount for my labor, of course. Nor was I expecting anyone to build my table for that amount. I am more or less aware of what goes into a custom project, but thanks for the detail. I don't ask or expect anyone cut their prices for me. I ask for an estimate, and if I can't afford it, I say so and walk away. I wouldn't want a craftsman of any kind to work for less than his going rate. If someone wants to come back and make another offer, that's fine. As I posted in the "joiner" post on this forum, I'm close to making a deal for this table, and I'm looking forward to it.

RE: Custom Furniture Maker in Greater DC area

Sounds like you need to spend at least $1,500 to have a woodworker make the desk you envision. Make your own drawing to provide to the woodworkers you get estimates from. That way the estimates are for the same thing.

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