I've got a Weinig 6 head moulder and I've also got a 24" gang ripsaw. I know the answer to this question will vary depending on many variables, but how do small to medium sized shops price out their work on a moulder and ripsaw? I have had people wanting me to give them a price for milling their lumber into flooring, mouldings, etc., but most people would make me starve for the little amount that they are willing to pay to have me mill for them. I'm just trying to get an idea of how you guys charge for your labor to mill customer supplied lumber into various items. Overhead, including the electricity to operate the machine, obviously has to be figured in the cost. And, the labor to empty my dust collector needs to be added in too. There have been quite a few times that I have priced out making mouldings for a customer where I would be providing the wood. By the time that I figured in the wood, including the waste factor, and added a small portion for the labor, a lot of times the customer wouldn't take the bid. What am I missing here? I do know that large millwork shops are not paying as much for their wood as I am, but is that all there is to it? I'm just trying to get an idea of how much you guys charge per linear foot to push lumber through your rip saw and through your moulder. By the way, I'm located close to Atlanta, Ga. Thanks in advance for your help.
It depends on the size of the job. Small runs, you have to charge a set-up. Usually, for a small job, I will charge about $35 to set up. Then it depends on the width of the molding. For 3" to 5", we generally charge about 0.75 per foot for orders over 1,000 ft. Wider than that, we charger more. It also depends on what you are running.
Soft woods like Popular are much easier to run than Maple or Hickory. For me, the big thing is that we do not compete with the lumber yards. Make your moldings thicker, more substantial. Also, keep your knives sharp. Sharp knives run easier and no one wants to waste time sanding.
Another little secret is how do you calculate waste? When you order 1,000 BF of lumber, you actually receive 990 BF. Wood is scaled green and loses about 10% in the kiln. I use a waste factor of 50% when I bid jobs and you will be surprised how close that works out to be.
I really do appreciate your advice. Just to clarify, do you mean that you charge a set up fee of $35.00 in addition to the footage amount that you charge if an order is less than 1,000 linear feet? Also, do you mean that you charge $0.75 per linear foot to run 3" to 5" wide mouldings if the customer supplies the wood? BTW, you are spot on with the waste factor. I've usually tried to figure a 40% waste and sometimes I had to get a little more wood to finish up. I have a customer right now that is wanting me to give him a price to mill his 4/4 1 x 8 yellow pine into 3/4" thick shiplap. He has about 1,800 linear feet that he wants milled. My knife grinder is going to charge me $176.00 for the two sets of side knives to mill it. So, if you were figuring this job, would you figure 1,800' x $0.75 + $176.00 (knives)= $1,526.00? Thanks again for your help with this.
Waste factors are are hard to guess at. For a job that requires specified lengths of 10' walnut base at 5" wide, 100 pcs, you can go thru an entire truckload of Walnut FAS and not be able to fill the order. Or even get one piece. This is due to NHLA rules.
But Poplar 2" wide molding, random lengths? Easy, and low waste, like 10%.
Paul's remark about buying green tally only applies to those sellers that still practice what is now considered to be a dishonorable method of pricing and selling lumber. Most everyone now sells - and buys - on net tally - what you actually have.
I have a a pre computerized spread sheet based on a few million l/f of moldings that tallies the actual b/f per l/f, the labor costs overall, as well as rip cost, resaw const, molding cost and defecting. This makes it easy to know your exact costs on a wide group of moldings. We also charged $100 (1985) per set up for the first l/f. This was absorbed by us if the order was for 5K or more.
We have developed a molding calculator. It is an Excel spreed sheet. I checked it and for 8" wide boards, we add $3.00 per lin ft to rip and run the material.
You really need to get a Knife Grinder if you are going to do moldings. There are a lot of good used grinders out there and the key to good moldings are sharp knives and you can put a knife on and hit a knot or nail and need to sharpen your knives almost immediately. I have a six head Weinig molder and a Weinig grinder. They are old now, but they still make us money. I think Weinig is the best and they have a system called Axial Constant for making knives.
As for creating an Excel Spreed Sheet, I don't like doing that work, I had someone do it for me and I learned to adjust the numbers. You can figure it out.
You should make good money on moldings. Also, your lumber suppliers are usually good sources for knowledge when you are starting out. When I started out, I did not know what a board foot was, so you are probably further along than I was 20 years ago.
Thanks David and Paul. Both of you point out some very good points. David, where are you located? Are you still in the moulding business? Paul, I agree with you that I should be making good money in the moulding business. But, for some reason, I have had a hard time getting people to take my bids. And, apparently from what you two have told me, my prices are not too high. During the recession years, I met a guy who was a former part owner of a large millwork shop in Atlanta. During the recession years, they lost their business. He gave me his pricing formula. And, that is the formula that I have been using. I know that everybody's pricing formula isnt the same because of various overhead, etc. But, i was just trying to start somewhere.
The formula was this: my cost of wood per linear foot (including waste) + my cost of the knives for that particular profile (divided by total linear footage) + $0.30 + 10% (sometimes more) profit = total cost per foot. I don't buy lumber by the transfer truck load right now. I buy the wood as I need it for each job. But, like I said, people have not been taking my bids. Maybe I'm trying to sell to the wrong crowd.....
I don't know anything about your business or your market so I really cannot give you advice. But, I sell a lot more than moldings. Anything that is wood, we can build and more than wood even, we can offer steel as well.
But, you are just starting out and the best advice I can offer is to make sure your quality is as good as they can get anywhere.
When you run a molding, hold it up in the air, pointing it at a light and look to see if you are getting vibration or if you have a slight knick in your knife. Close your eyes and run your hand on the molding to feel for defects. Closing your eyes will increase your sense of feel.
In this business, quality is more important than price. That formula you stated does not look high enough. I start out by estimating my lumber quanity and cost.
I add 1/4" to my width of the molding am going to rum, times that by 1.5, then divide that by 12 and now I have my BF per Lin Ft. Example: 3 1/2" wide casing, 3.75 x 1.5 = 5.625 divided by 12 = 0.47 BF per LF times this by your lumber cost and you should be close to your material cost.
But, like David said this can vary because you may have to pick through aot of lumber to get wider boards. Can you glue up for an order? Do you have glue up racks? I did a hotel a couple of years ago in Walnut and we glued up most of the wide base. But, gluing up takes time as well. Lot to learn. I worry more about quality,
Thank you, Paul. I have actually been in the cabinetry and woodworking business for the past 27 years. I have built cabinetry, planed all different sizes of lumber for people, milled flooring, done finishing, and made some mouldings. The moulding part is my newest venture. I am definitely a perfectionist at what I do and I agree totally with you about having a high quality product. The Weinig moulder does a great job. I don't have any problems with chatter marks. From looking at other people's mouldings, mine is just as good, if not better. I can glue stock together, if needed, but I don't have a glue up rack. I'm usually just buying my lumber the width that I'm needing. I just priced that job for a potential customer where I would have been milling their 1 x 8 pine lumber into 3/4" thick shiplap. My knife grinder guy was going to charge me $176.00 to grind the two sets of side knives to mill it. And, I was also needing to get my two sets of straight knives sharpened. So, after adding tax and shipping, I added in $300.00 to my labor portion for the milling. I figured the estimate up at $0.50 per linear foot for the labor. So, 1,800' x $0.50 + $300.00 (knives) = $1,200.00 total. I thought that was a great price for the customer. I sent the bid and didn't hear back. This morning I texted the guy to see what they had decided. He said that he found another millwork shop that would mill it for $0.20 per linear foot. Am I missing something here? That is the same old song and dance that I deal with a lot. That's why I'm wondering if I am trying to sell to the wrong group of folks. Thanks again for all of your help.
Yes, you are trying to sell to the wrong crowd - the ones that don't buy. But seriously, you need to get to the top, and not fiddle with the tire kickers and shoppers. Find the 5 largest houses being built in a 50 mile radius, and find out who the GC is - the person buying the moldings. Talk to them, even if they already bought the trim they need, and find out what they like and don't like about their vendor.
Around here you have to do the take-offs from vague drawings. Potentially hours of work, that may or may not be accurate. And do you call that sales (overhead) or production at your hourly shop rate?
Know your basic costs. What is your hourly labor rate? The one that has overhead and all costs in it? Then, if you know how long it will take, or past tense, did take, to do the job, it is easy to come up with a per l/f cost. Do this on every run, breaking out set-up from the run. You will have real world numbers in no time, and this is what you use. Forget what the other guy is doing.
I do not run moldings any more, but since my records are based on Net B/F going in, and Net L/F coming out, the numbers are still applicable today.
I agree with David. One comment I will add, for the straight knives, I bought cutter heads that accept insert knives, Tersa type knives for both the side and top cutters. They change quickly and I found a source in Canada that is reasonable. The side cutters also have an adjustment for setting different angles. I don't know the cost today, but when I bought mine, they were about $500 each, but worth it.
You will need glue up racks. Then you will need to find a source for your scrap. I have two JLT racks side by side. I sometimes need to glue up a long handrail, 16' or more. I once ran a handrail that was 25' long. I got $500 for that handrail. You do something like that, you hold your breath as it is running, hoping you don't get some tear out.
Thank you David and Paul. I will definitely start contacting GCs in my area that could use nice mouldings. David, I know that you said that in your area that you had to do take-offs from vague drawings. Is there any way to get the GCs to give you the footage of the mouldings that they need? I talked to a millwork shop in northwest Georgia several years ago and I remember them telling me that they always required the customer to tell them the footage that they were needing. Also, do/did you guys buy wood by the transfer truck load to get a better price so that you could be more competitive? Or, did you just buy the actual quantity of wood that you needed for each job? Paul, I will look into the cutterheads for the Tersa type knives. I'm sure that it would be easier to rotate small cutters versus resharpening straight knives every time. I will also look into the glue up racks. And, I can definitely imagine that you were holding your breath while running that $500.00 handrail. I would be too.
Also, if I contacted trim installation companies, would it be possible that they could provide me with the footage of moulding needed on a job? I would imagine that they would know since I'm sure they get paid by the foot. I'm not trying to get out of doing work on my part. I'm just not confident in doing take-offs for all of the mouldings on a project. I have total confidence in producing the mouldings though. I'm just wondering if I could team up with a trim installation company that knows how to do the take-offs and just let me produce the product. Thanks again Paul and David for all of your help with this.
My area has always had the lumberyard do take-offs. And they volunteered, since they did the floor system, walls, roof package, etc.
This has caused the “builders” to see it as one of their human rights as entitled white men that failed at everything else they tried in life, so they “started building’ stuff”. I don't know if I ever saw one walk in with a take-off, unless it was some competitor of ours.
In the higher plane of AIA and AWI commercial work, it was all hard bids, and you had to spend hours pouring over plans to get the info. Woe is you if you missed anything - you still had to supply it. In 47 years of professional work, I have never seen a take off done by an alleged builder, or general contractor.
The plans were always five pages of some scavenged, stolen or found footers, first and second floor plans and a wall section - the absolute minimum to get a permit. If I was foolish enough to ask a builder what they needed for lengths, it was "all 16 footers - every damn piece! I can get 4-4' pieces out of each."
Crown in what rooms? Don’t know. Probably the usual. Size? Don’t know - what size is that? Base - the stuff with the, you know, that wiggly edge on it - that is what I need. Just about everywhere, except where I don’t need it. Just do it like the last time. How much is this gonna cost me?
However, we still diid a fair amount of custom runs, and ran inventory of Poplar moldings. Salespeople did the takeoffs. I just had to fill the orders. We did accumulate a fair amount of ‘over-runs’ that we sold or gave away.
The top trim crew locally is tied in with a vendor, and no one can break the bond. Kickbacks are suspected. But it might be a good strategy for you - the partnering, not the kickbacks. Even if take-offs are a part of it, it is easier now than ever, and you just have to decide it is part of your business. Or offer one per l/f price for the material alone, and another for per l/f with takeoff. At any rate, word all you docs specifically so you are pricing “526 l/f of WM 180 Brick Mold in Poplar, random lengths, with large defects removed, as determined from conversation and notes made on toilet paper while you used our bathroom”.
Doing take-offs can be time consuming. But, if it is an estimate for a private job like a home, you won't have to be exact and you can base your Quote on the estimated quantities. For basic estimating, figure about one linear foot of baseboard for every sq. ft. of the home. For doors, usually five sticks per door for a 3' x 7' door and 2' 8" door. It doesn't take too long to count the doors. When I say sticks, I usually run 8' lengths for doors. Seven would work, but you cannot order 7's and 14' lengths would give you a poorer yield that using 8's. If the plans were drawn by an Architect, they will have a door and window schedule. If there are 20 or 30 windows, there won't be 20 or 30 different windows. You might have five or six different windows. It looks more difficult than it really is. If you get the job, you can do an actual walk through and get a more exact count. Your quote will have a linear ft. price.
I am assuming that you are just getting into moldings. Why did you make the decision to get into moldings? For me, it was the desire to enhance my cabinetry. I run my own crown, spacers, drawer fronts, S4S and a whole lot more. If you really love woodworking, you will love having the molder and all the other equipment that you will need. Doing wood working will or can lead into many many other areas in the home, like built-ins around the fireplace, fireplace mantels and stairways, and on and on. Having woodworking equipment can make a $50,000 cabinet job a $100,000 home and that will make it more profitable.
If you have four jobs of about $25,000 vs one of $100,000, you will make more on that one than the four. Less people to deal with, less sales, less trips to various jobs, etc.
You asked about selling to trim carpenters, probably not. If you do get into all of the above mentioned aspects of a home, you will be completing against these trim carpenters as they like to do built-ins, fireplace surrounds, stairways too. Just about all of them, you will find have a shop of their own. If not now, eventually, your shop will be so much more than their shops.
About builders: I was a builder in the late 70's and early 80's and for a builder, having dependable suppliers and subs is the key. So, it is about building a relationship. Take care of your builder and expect to be paid on time. Be sure he knows that you cannot finance his job. If you are good, he will know that your work is selling his next job and you will become good friends.
One final word about set up charges. My charge is probably the lowest in this area and I am fine with that. That is the first item the builder or owner will see. But, we can set up our molder in about 20 minutes. Depending on the profile, usually you don't have to change all of the heads and sometimes, changing a profile is nothing more than cranking up a side cutter. The more you do, the better you get.
Thank David and Paul. You both "hit the nail on the head". I personally have never thought that its my job to do the takeoff for the mouldings. Its different when doing a takeoff for cabinetry. Doing the takeoff for cabinetry has never taken me that long to do. But, doing the takeoffs for mouldings can eat up a whole lot of time when you don't even know if you will get the job or not. In the past, I have always had customers come to me and tell me what they wanted (in terms of milling their own wood into flooring or needing a certain amount of footage of trim or whatever). I do remember milling poplar baseboard for a contractor. I asked him how many feet that he needed and he said that he had done a takeoff once or twice. He didn't sound too sure of his own ability to do the takeoff. And, I definitely don't like the part where if I figure it wrong that I've got to "eat" the footage that I missed. I had a cabinetmaker friend of mine tell me that he used to work for a large millwork shop. They were doing the millwork in a high rise building in Atlanta. He said that their estimator at the shop accidentally left off an entire floor of baseboard. It turns out that he had left off 5 MILES of moulding. I know that may be an extreme case, but I'm just trying to not get in the same boat.
Paul, I got into mouldings because I never really have been able to make enough money with just building cabinets. I thought that the moulding would be something that I could produce a lot faster and hopefully make more for my time. Flooring is actually where I have personally made the best money for my time. In the late 90's I used to mill reclaimed heart pine into flooring for another company. I didn't have my ripsaw and moulder back then. So, producing the flooring took more time and labor back then, but I still made good money. I'm wanting to concentrate more on flooring, but I'm also wanting to mill mouldings too. My only issue with the flooring right now is that I don't have a good way to end match. Any suggestions on that? Thanks again guys for all of your help and advice. It is much appreciated.
David is right about dealing with a lot of builders. We don't do take offs for builders. Actually new home builders are a poor client to have. Remodelers are much better because they can't just go to Home D and get something cheap. They have to match something old.
I consider a profile grinder a necessity. What do you do when you get a ding in a knife? Wait a week to get it sharpened and have to do another setup? Do you offer the full package? Any profile, straight or curved, even custom rosettes, curved crown, jambs, hand rails, newels, balustrades? If you are trying to sell to the one off buyers you will waste a lot of time to get a short, one time run of molding that they will only buy if you are the cheapest. The historic preservation remodel guys have a niche and we try to completely fill their niche. They don't have a lot of choices and simply want to get'er done. We try to be their one stop shop for all aspects of their millwork. Most of them like that and are willing to pass on the costs to their customers. It is about filling a need not about being the cheapest. The race to the bottom isn't worth it. If all you are offering is straight moldings there are a lot of alternative suppliers. All of them claiming to turn out quality!
FORUM GUIDELINES: Please review the guidelines below before posting at WOODWEB's Interactive Message Boards(return to top)
WOODWEB is a professional industrial woodworking site. Hobbyist and homeowner woodworking questions are inappropriate.
Messages should be kept reasonably short and on topic, relating to the focus of the forum. Responses should relate to the original question.
A valid email return address must be included with each message.
Advertising is inappropriate. The only exceptions are the Classified Ads Exchange, Machinery Exchange, Lumber Exchange, and Job Opportunities and Services Exchange. When posting listings in these areas, review the posting instructions carefully.
Subject lines may be edited for length and clarity.
"Cross posting" is not permitted. Choose the best forum for your question, and post your question at one forum only.
Messages requesting private responses will be removed - Forums are designed to provide information and assistance for all of our visitors. Private response requests are appropriate at WOODWEB's Exchanges and Job Opportunities and Services.
Messages that accuse businesses or individuals of alleged negative actions or behavior are inappropriate since WOODWEB is unable to verify or substantiate the claims.
Posts with the intent of soliciting answers to surveys are not appropriate. Contact WOODWEB for more information on initiating a survey.
Excessive forum participation by an individual upsets the balance of a healthy forum atmosphere. Individuals who excessively post responses containing marginal content will be considered repeat forum abusers.
Responses that initiate or support inappropriate and off-topic discussion of general politics detract from the professional woodworking focus of WOODWEB, and will be removed.
Participants are encouraged to use their real name when posting. Intentionally using another persons name is prohibited, and posts of this nature will be removed at WOODWEB's discretion.
Carefully review your message before clicking on the "Send Message" button - you will not be able to revise the message once it has been sent.
You will be notified of responses to the message(s) you posted via email. Be sure to enter your email address correctly.
WOODWEB's forums are a highly regarded resource for professional woodworkers. Messages and responses that are crafted in a professional and civil manner strengthen this resource. Messages that do not reflect a professional tone reduce the value of our forums.
Messages are inappropriate when their content: is deemed libelous in nature or is based on rumor, fails to meet basic standards of decorum, contains blatant advertising or inappropriate emphasis on self promotion (return to top).
Libel: Posts which defame an individual or organization, or employ a tone which can be viewed as malicious in nature. Words, pictures, or cartoons which expose a person or organization to public hatred, shame, disgrace, or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion of a person or organization, are libelous.
Improper Decorum: Posts which are profane, inciting, disrespectful or uncivil in tone, or maliciously worded. This also includes the venting of unsubstantiated opinions. Such messages do little to illuminate a given topic, and often have the opposite effect. Constructive criticism is acceptable (return to top).
Advertising: The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not an advertising venue. Companies participating in a Forum discussion should provide specific answers to posted questions. WOODWEB suggests that businesses include an appropriately crafted signature in order to identify their company. A well meaning post that seems to be on-topic but contains a product reference may do your business more harm than good in the Forum environment. Forum users may perceive your references to specific products as unsolicited advertising (spam) and consciously avoid your web site or services. A well-crafted signature is an appropriate way to advertise your services that will not offend potential customers. Signatures should be limited to 4-6 lines, and may contain information that identifies the type of business you're in, your URL and email address (return to top).
Repeated Forum Abuse:
Forum participants who repeatedly fail to follow WOODWEB's Forum Guidelines may encounter difficulty when attempting to post messages.
There are often situations when the original message asks for opinions: "What is the best widget for my type of shop?". To a certain extent, the person posting the message is responsible for including specific questions within the message. An open ended question (like the one above) invites responses that may read as sales pitches. WOODWEB suggests that companies responding to such a question provide detailed and substantive replies rather than responses that read as a one-sided product promotion. It has been WOODWEB's experience that substantive responses are held in higher regard by our readers (return to top).
The staff of WOODWEB assume no responsibility for the accuracy, content, or outcome of any posting transmitted at WOODWEB's Message Boards. Participants should undertake the use of machinery, materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB's Message Boards after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages it deems inappropriate. (return to top)
Forum Posting Form Guidelines
The name you enter in this field will be the name that appears with your post or response (return to form).
Personal or business website links must point to the author's website. Inappropriate links will be removed without notice, and at WOODWEB's sole discretion. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
Your e-mail address will not be publicly viewable. Forum participants will be able to contact you using a contact link (included with your post) that is substituted for your actual address. You must include a valid email address in this field. (return to form)
Subject may be edited for length and clarity. Subject lines should provide an indication of the content of your post. (return to form)
Thread Related Link and Image Guidelines
Thread Related Links posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should point to locations that provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related Link that directs visitors to an area with inappropriate content will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
Thread Related File Uploads
Thread Related Files posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. Video Files: acceptable video formats are: .MOV .AVI .WMV .MPEG .MPG .FLV .MP4 (Image Upload Tips) If you encounter any difficulty when uploading video files, E-mail WOODWEB for assistance. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related File that contains inappropriate content will be removed, and uploaded files that are not directly related to the message thread will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links, files, or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices.
What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe
for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use
of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation,
and at their own risk.