Hard landing

A while ago I posted about an inquiry I had for extra large candle sticks, 1000mm  tall, in 2 different designs and a slightly smaller version in 600mm tall. The inquiry was for 50 units for a wedding.

Well, sadly that whole thing has completely imploded. I made a huge effort in making 6 samples, in varying finishes and in 2 different timbers, recorded all my working times and materials used, prepared a quote, and collected quotes from subcontractors and timber suppliers. And then I find out that these guys have completely unrealistic ideas about this sort of stuff. Figures of £15 for a 600mm candlestick in pine were bandied about the place.

I am not sure where folks like that live. Here in the UK we have something called a minimum wage, and as I type this, that wage is £7.50 for a normal worker. That’s not even a skilled worker, that’s just somebody who’s got enough wherewithal to follow instructions. You go into any skilled labour and this figure goes up rapidly. And this is just what the boss has to pay his workers, not what he needs to charge customers to survive as a business.

I am not trying to rip people off, and when I spoke to the possible subcontractors, my figures about timescales and hourly rates were confirmed by them (for this sort of job I usually quote £25 per hour).

The normal formula for making and selling anything is (material + labour) x 2. Simple enough, and essentially meant to cover all your non-productive time (e.g. time spent on writing quotes, sourcing materials, cleaning and maintaining machinery and so on). So now, presuming that the material for this 600mm candlestick in pine is about £4, we come to a result as follows:

£15/2 = £7.50 – £4 = £3.50 for labour.

Considering an hourly rate of £25 this means that everything (cutting, turning, gluing, sanding, sealing, spraying) is done in 8-9 minutes. Or, using my actual time used, I end up with an hourly rate of about £1.75. Either way is totally unrealistic, unless we have Vietnamese slave children at our disposal (and are happy to have this on our conscience).

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