Oh my gosh, do pens and bowls really sell for this? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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Oh my gosh, do pens and bowls really sell for this?

On my way back from the local Woodcraft today we stopped at a craft fair. There was a booth where a guy was selling hand turned pens and I recognized his cheapest pens as the same kit I had just purchased for $7 each, but he wanted $50 for the finished pen and his most expensive pens were over $100. There was another booth selling bowls for $100- $150 and some were even more. I didn't get into turning for the money, but I was a bit shocked at these prices. Do pens and bowls really sell for this much or were these folks overpriced? Sitting in a booth in a craft fair doesn't sound all that appealing to me, but having my hobby pay for itself sounds kinda nice.
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post #2 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 08:27 PM
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absolutely, some bowls turned out of burls can sell for upwards of 3-400$ I get for a lower end of my game calls i get 45$ some sell for a lot more depending on the wood! I sell my 10" pepper mills for around 80-100$ and that is cheap!
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post #3 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 08:30 PM Thread Starter
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I can actually see the bowls going for that kind of money. I'm a lot more shocked about the pens. I guess some people have a pen fetish, I'm just not one of them.
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post #4 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 09:27 PM
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I sell pens ranging from $25 slim line to $55 for cigar pens and ink pens for $60 depending on the wood type; I also provide a cheap display case. I sell bottle stopper for $25, letter openers for $25. I sell game calls $40 to $60 and Pepper mills for $60, but I am going to raise my prices based on the time it takes to laminate the wood and the type of wood and their cost. I did some recalculating and my prices are too low, if you only want to make $3 an hour goes ahead and lower your prices. Remember you have a lot of money invested in special bits, lathe, energy (yours and the utility company) wood, adhesives, finishes, turning tools, chucks, mandrels, exhaust systems etc and the travel and/or shipping cost to get all of the above. Don’t forget your time and effort to shop for the above. Another factor is your time to document your business expenses and file sales tax on the items you sell, but if this is your hobby and you want to give them as gifts and on second thought that gift you gave away is really worth more that you thought it was!

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post #5 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Willing View Post
... if you only want to make $3 an hour, goes ahead and lower your prices. Remember you have a lot of money invested in special bits, lathe, energy (yours and the utility company) wood, adhesives, finishes, turning tools, chucks, mandrels, exhaust systems etc and the travel and/or shipping cost to get all of the above. Donít forget your time and effort to shop for the above. Another factor is your time to document your business expenses and file sales tax on the items you sell, but if this is your hobby and you want to give them as gifts and on second thought that gift you gave away is really worth more that you thought it was!
Very well stated.

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post #6 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 10:35 PM
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I wouldn't dare sell any of the pens that I've made for that much, but I know they aren't top quality.

I've seen some pens at craft shows that were obviously crafted by someone who cares deeply about making pens. The hardware they use, the piece of wood that they choose, the attention to detail in the turning, fitting, and assembly, not to mention a great finish. Those pens are well worth fifty bucks or more - especially to someone who values a fine pen.

I've also seen some pens at craft shows that looked like somebody said, "Eh, I guess I'll give this pen thing a whirl..." - and those weren't worth ten bucks.
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post #7 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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I've got to be very careful in how I state this because I don't mean it to be insulting to anyone, but it will help explain where I don't understand. I got my first lathe in August and recently upgraded to a Nova DVP XP. I've spent a lot of weekend time since August practicing spindle work and now that I've got the new lathe I'm starting to learn bowl turning. I've turned exactly 6 pens in my life - two of them single tube models and four double tubes. I turned all of them entirely (including roughing) with the skew chisel which I've been focusing on because I've heard how much others are hesitant to use it. With all this lack of experience I turn and finish a pen in about a half hour. As far as I can tell the results were in the same ballpark quality as the pens I saw for sale today - though since I'm new at this maybe I don't notice the quality differences that are there. The pens I saw were clean and simple and had no fancy embellishments. It appears to me that turning a pen is turning a blank into a shape which is mostly dictated by the pen kit with only minor differences. This reminds me of people and wine - something I also have no appreciation for that others get wildly excited about.

Now I think about bowls. The time it seems to take to turn a bowl is multiple times what seems to be involved in making a pen. There is lots of opportunity for style decisions with bowls and from what I've heard there is more risk of having a bowl blow up on you. Turning a bowl green, putting it away to dry for months, then final turning it and finishing it is a MUCH more lengthy process. The quality of the bowls I saw at the show were excellent and clearly art.

So the pens I saw at the show were priced at between $50 - $100. The bowls were between $100 and $250. It just feels that either the pens were over priced or the bowls were way under priced. While I as drawn to the bowls, I just couldn't relate to why someone would be willing to pay that much for the pens having nothing to do with the investment of the maker. Is there really something there that I'm just not seeing?
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post #8 of 29 Old 11-13-2010, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by sprior View Post
i've got to be very careful in how i state this because i don't mean it to be insulting to anyone, but it will help explain where i don't understand. I got my first lathe in august and recently upgraded to a nova dvp xp. I've spent a lot of weekend time since august practicing spindle work and now that i've got the new lathe i'm starting to learn bowl turning. I've turned exactly 6 pens in my life - two of them single tube models and four double tubes. I turned all of them entirely (including roughing) with the skew chisel which i've been focusing on because i've heard how much others are hesitant to use it. With all this lack of experience i turn and finish a pen in about a half hour. As far as i can tell the results were in the same ballpark quality as the pens i saw for sale today - though since i'm new at this maybe i don't notice the quality differences that are there. The pens i saw were clean and simple and had no fancy embellishments. It appears to me that turning a pen is turning a blank into a shape which is mostly dictated by the pen kit with only minor differences. This reminds me of people and wine - something i also have no appreciation for that others get wildly excited about.

Now i think about bowls. The time it seems to take to turn a bowl is multiple times what seems to be involved in making a pen. There is lots of opportunity for style decisions with bowls and from what i've heard there is more risk of having a bowl blow up on you. Turning a bowl green, putting it away to dry for months, then final turning it and finishing it is a much more lengthy process. The quality of the bowls i saw at the show were excellent and clearly art.

So the pens i saw at the show were priced at between $50 - $100. The bowls were between $100 and $250. It just feels that either the pens were over priced or the bowls were way under priced. While i as drawn to the bowls, i just couldn't relate to why someone would be willing to pay that much for the pens having nothing to do with the investment of the maker. Is there really something there that i'm just not seeing?
yes!
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post #9 of 29 Old 11-14-2010, 06:46 AM
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Interesting discussion.....on many levels.
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post #10 of 29 Old 11-14-2010, 08:06 AM
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I think your analysis of the relative prices vs cost-to-make (in terms of ALL resources applied) are pretty accurate. Others may disagree, but I think the answer is that the pens are somewhat overpriced and the bowls are somewhat underpriced. The reason is supply and demand and has little to do with the relative costs to produce.

Bottom line is that a really nicely made pen costs an amount that is not bothersome to many people, whereas if a bowl were to be priced based purely on the supply side considerations you are aware of, the demand side would shrivel up.

Add to this that a lot of us bowl turners turn bowls because we LOVE to turn bowls and often keep cranking them out whether they sell or not, and you have a strong supply side up against a weaker demand side and that keeps the prices down regardless of all of the supply side cost considerations.

I am probably a somewhat extreme example of that because the segmented bowls I make are incredibly time consuming to make and if I charged for them based on my "day job" pay rate, I'd have to price them WAY, WAY up in the hundreds of dollars and they simply would not sell. I started out selling them in the $40/$100 range and now put them at more like $75/$150 but that's peanuts compared to what they cost if you count my time as worth very much. AND often they sell from a craft gallery and I only get 1/2 the sale price.

On the other hand, I keep turning them the way a heroin addict keeps shooting up, and I'm delighted to sell them at the prices I can get just so I can keep buying exotic woods to make more out of. I have so many of them that I've had to start packing them in boxes and stashing them out of the way just so the house isn't so cluttered.

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Last edited by phinds; 11-14-2010 at 08:11 AM.
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post #11 of 29 Old 11-14-2010, 09:12 AM
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I would think that prices would vary widely based on geography. I live in a heavily dutch area so a $50 bowl would be hard to sell. (I am 1/2 dutch by the way so I offend myself) Go to the city and tie yourself to a home decorator and who knows what your work would command if the quality was there.

Roger from the Great Horicon Swamp
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post #12 of 29 Old 11-14-2010, 09:31 AM Thread Starter
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Aside from obvious things like a goofy shape or flat spots which can go wrong, what are the things you notice that make up a "well made pen"?
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post #13 of 29 Old 11-14-2010, 03:52 PM
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It's interesting to know that there are enough rich and stupid people out there to pay such high prices for IMO really frivolous objects. I would thank that if someone can turn a bowl in one day and sell it for $150-$300 they should consider that a good days pay. It seems that working 5 days a week X 52 weeks the annual gross income would be between $39,000 and $78,000, thats well above poverty level. Not a bad earnings for something you really love to do. I might try it myself!!!!!
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post #14 of 29 Old 11-14-2010, 04:26 PM
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It's interesting to know that there are enough rich and stupid people out there to pay such high prices for IMO really frivolous objects. I would thank that if someone can turn a bowl in one day and sell it for $150-$300 they should consider that a good days pay. It seems that working 5 days a week X 52 weeks the annual gross income would be between $39,000 and $78,000, thats well above poverty level. Not a bad earnings for something you really love to do. I might try it myself!!!!!

(1) $150 - $300 would be quite a high range, not normal
(2) you need to go back and read post #4 or #5
(3) DO give it a try ... I think you'll find it's not quite that simple.

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post #15 of 29 Old 11-14-2010, 06:35 PM
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At the time when I was turning pens and pencils, I would sell a pen/pencil set complete with case for $50. My price was low for a set of 2. However, I gambled that I would make the money on other lower priced products and 9 times out of 10, I would. A family member paid $75.00 for a pen turned from a drum stick for me a few years back and I thought that he was nuts. Sometimes, my wood working seems a little overpriced, but I too, am of the belief that I should get paid to make it, not just get paid for the material. My time is worth something so I charge material plus an hourly wage. I'm sure as heck not gonna tell them that I enjoy making this stuff.
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post #16 of 29 Old 11-15-2010, 01:18 PM
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Oh well if it's not easy and does't make alot of big easy money I'll just do some other kind of wood work, and raise my little Pygmy goats and almost give them away. With the present day cost of feed, and the low price of livestock, I was hoping to find a good fast buck , but it seems that everone is in the same eco , since our goverment has shipped everything to overseas sources. It appears that Doris Day's words in the song Kay-sa-ra Kay-sa-ra have come true (WHAT WILL BE, WILL BE) so good luck to all of you in this changing and TURNING world. . A little self inflicted humor can go a long way when things are not going really great. Cheers! JACKIE.
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post #17 of 29 Old 11-15-2010, 01:58 PM
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Oh well if it's not easy and does't make alot of big easy money I'll just do some other kind of wood work, and raise my little Pygmy goats and almost give them away. Cheers! JACKIE.
Well Jackie it's my belief that people wanting to make a fast easy buck is what caused the problem. What's wrong with a good honest days work.

Bowls take allot of time, talent, money for tools, accessories and materials. Pens may not be quite as bad but why not get a fair price. Most times a craftsmen has to lower their prices in order to make sales. Location, quality of work and reputation can have a big impact on pricing.

Last edited by rrbrown; 11-15-2010 at 02:11 PM.
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post #18 of 29 Old 11-15-2010, 06:59 PM
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Well Jackie it's my belief that people wanting to make a fast easy buck is what caused the problem. What's wrong with a good honest days work.

Bowls take allot of time, talent, money for tools, accessories and materials. Pens may not be quite as bad but why not get a fair price. Most times a craftsmen has to lower their prices in order to make sales. Location, quality of work and reputation can have a big impact on pricing.
rrbrown ; you dont't seem to recognize humor when you see it. My whole point is if you are not satisfied with your payment for your efforts. Then do some other sort of work. My comment about a fast buck was a total tongue in cheek saying. I have always earned my honest dollars, I spent 32 years as a pilot in the USAF serving my country. how many years did you do for the marines??? Yes you are correct the American people are going to HELL in a hand basket. As I said a little sense of humor keeps the strokes and heart attacks away. We're all in the same don't rock it . I rocked it alot when things were wrong, and I still do!!! CHEERS!
COL, USAF retired Jackie L Gates.
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post #19 of 29 Old 11-15-2010, 07:21 PM
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Sorry Jackie I did have a in there after the but I must have deleted it. I knew you were more then likely joking but the premise of what you said is sadly true.
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post #20 of 29 Old 11-15-2010, 09:35 PM
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Sorry Jackie I did have a in there after the but I must have deleted it. I knew you were more then likely joking but the premise of what you said is sadly true.
RR: I know as GI's you and I are in lockstep with each other in regards to our thoughts about our nation, it's constitution and our duties. May our GOD Jehovah bless our Nation and help return it to the great leadership role that it has earned. I know that this thread has gone a field from woodworking, (this post included) unless we remember that Christ was a carpenter, and died on a tree for our salvation. This is my last post on this thread. ADMIN could change it over to the OFF TOPIC forum. Jackie
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