Jump to content
I Forge Iron

How Much Per Hour!! (What is you shop rate)..

Recommended Posts

I’m no professional smith by no means but I am self employed, 

I charged $75 an hour In My repair shop as a minimum

regardless of what I’m doin or how short of time it took, it’s a $45 minimum fee for handhelds, $75 for everything else as a rule 

time, tools, parts, materials, consumables, insurance, fuel, employees, rainy days, dealing with the IRS and many more things figure into $75 per hour and I still don’t make enough to set back for retirement….

like was said before I can barely hire help for $10 an hour here so I’d go bankrupt an loose my house shop an everything else if I tried charging that 

if this isn’t your sole income and your blacksmithing for fun then I’d still charge at least $60 an hour like George said, 

but if I was gonna do smithin as a living I’d be $75 and or above 

that might sound crazy but there’s shops charging $125 an hour for the same work I do on machines not 30-45 minutes from my shop!

if someone wants to hire you to do custom work I see no reason you can’t charge $60 an hour for it plus materials, fuel ect..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 147
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

TW, when I started out, the hardest thing was how to price my work and one of the most common answers was just what you have said, with many variations on that theme. I asked that questions often and when I went to ABANA conferences I specifically went to the business demos. 

So how do you deal with this very common situation? "S" hooks may be the example, but it applies to literally every job I have done. Lets say that when starting out, I can make one "S" hook  in an hour. By your rule of thumb that I set my hourly rate by the average shop rate for any shop in my area ($60), I must charge $60 for a single item. The going rate is say, $6 and if the guy next to me has a skill set and experience to make 10 an hour, he will be in the market range and my choice is to follow (the generic you) your advice and charge $60 for one that is over priced and lacks quality due to my lack of both technique and experience or not put it on the market. To me the answer is obvious, I must sell my "S" hook for $6 or less due to quality differences, and chalk up the loss to my cost of learning. Then I have no loss. I made $6 and invested $54 of my time into my education which in fact is a priceless investment into myself. Thats the answer I have come up with when asked " how do you price your work". Somebody has to pay for our education and I don't charge it to my clients. To do this one must be completely honest with your judgment of your skill level and experience.

Jen, I did not understand your response to me. Perhaps the above will better explain what I meant. 

George, again great words of wisdom. I'd like to elaborate on one item, consumer vs commission and a customer, no matter how satisfied, wont need another railing.  Unless you live in a community that can't afford the work of a blacksmith, I've never been able to saturate the market with my work. Even when other smiths have hung out there shingle, there has been plenty of work for all. Its one of the benefits of being in a craft that is very small. Even tho I have never advertised, It continues to blow me away when I get calls from far away.  Lol, all I can say is God smiles on fools and blacksmiths,,, and definitely I fill the bill for both ;) ,,,   but what a great journey it is!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anvil, your response is in line with what my thinking was when I was approached to design an online card game for someone willing to pay me. They asked what my rate would be (thankfully over email so they couldn't see the deer-in-headlights response, lol) and I went combing the internet & asking other friends who had their own business how to figure this out. The overwhelming response was exactly as you've experienced. I really wanted to get this gig, so I didn't want to overprice - but I also knew it would take me much longer to work on it because I'd have to learn as I went. Ultimately, I received the best advice from a random article that hit my feed thanks to the algorithm of my searches (big brother for the win! lol).
Anyway, basically, the article was all about how independent contractors should try out the method of "Pay what you want" and see how it fares in comparison with their standard rates. The general conclusion being that others appreciate and value your work more than you do.

I figured I had nothing to lose. The worst that could happen is they give such a low offer that I know it's not worth it. So I went for it and accepted their offer - and then tracked the time it took me to work on it and used that as a guideline for the next time (which turned out to be a LOT more time than I expected it to be, lol). I had warned them that I could eventually come up with my own pricing structure and that I was offering the 'pay what you want' option because I didn't have a baseline yet. He just approached me again this year and I threw out some ballpark numbers based on how much work I knew I'd need for the stuff I already knew how to do. So overall, I feel like this method worked - at least for programming - but I'd think it would work for commission based projects too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shania I have over the years  done the sliding scale method of payment..      Not exactly pay what you want because some people are extremely cheap and only value their own time as valuable.  

Time is the only thing we never get back so is the most costly "item" in our lives.. 

So I then developed the sliding scale..      This was implemented for those in retirement or injured, sick, etc. etc..  

The regular  trim cost is 75.00  but acceptable payment was between 55.00 and 75.00..  If you can afford the 75.00 then that is what one pays..  But if they are having a hard time. Then 55.00 is perfectly acceptable. 

This completely backfired in so many different ways..    I drive an old 2001 Audi A4, my F350 truck is held together with fiberglass and bubblegum.   I'm extremely thrifty with my money.  But if I see value in something I don't dicker price.. 

The guy who comes to clean our furnace charges 150.00.. I'm happy to pay him..  The oil man delivers the oil I pay them..   We have had 2 roofs on our house in 15 years with a total cost of nearly 40K Both companies did crap work and now looking for a 3rd roofing company.. Which will be JLP services inc. 

Many of the people I had this "sliding scale" with were buying brand new trucks going for 65K, new heating systems, roofs, cars, etc. etc..  And they would never pay the full amount..     

"VALUE" to every person has a totally different dollar figure.   


If your happy with what you are getting for payment, this is the only important part. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For the game design stuff - it's worked out for me and I've been happy for what I'm getting. I think for blacksmithing, I'll probably fall into the gifting category for most everything unless strangers/acquaintances start approaching me - at which point I'll likely just look on Etsy or Marketplace and get a ballpark of what others are charging and try to charge accordingly based on how my stuff looks comparatively. I don't think I'll be ready to use a one-size-fits-all algorithm for many years. I just don't have the hours to practice. 

Point-in-case: those shawl pins I did. By far the most beautiful and well made stuff I've done to date. Every single one was given as a gift. One I even paid money to ship to someone who offered to pay! LOL (to be fair though, she gifted me my first anvil in the form of a railroad rail so I felt it was deserved)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shainarue, You have it figured out, Keep it up.

Jen, It's hard to believe $75 for a trim. When I changed my product from farrier to general blacksmithing cold shoeing was $40, and a trim was $20. 

Philosophically speaking, for me value has no dollar equivalent. 

6 hours ago, jlpservicesinc said:

If your happy with what you are getting for payment, this is the only important part. 

Again, differences between us. For me,Happiness has nothing to do with payment. 

By the way, it seems that the answer asked by so many new folks in our craft, "how do I sell my work", is still answered, in one way or another, "Your time is precious, charge $60/ hr", or whatever the amount is or a variation on that theme, with no consideration to their lack of skill set and experience. Thats a pathway to failure if followed. I attempted to give an answer that solves that problem in my posts above. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jannifer, your sliding scale reminds me of a County Court judge I dealt with back in the mid '80s when I was a legal intern in Gillette, WY.  At that time Gillette was a boom town and there was a wide range of incomes.  One guy could be driving a coal truck at one of the mines and making an amazing rate while the next guy might be flipping burgers for minimum wage.  This judge would ask someone who had pled guilty or been found guilty where he worked and what he did and would have a pretty good estimate of their income.  He would impose a fine based on that rather than a set fine for a particular infraction.  For a defendant who was working at the mines and had a very good income he might impose a fine of $750 (the statutory maximum at the time) for a 1st offense DUI and the burger flipper might only get a fine of $100-200 for the same offense.  I thought that his system worked pretty well.

If I had ever become a judge I would have tried to use a variation of it if I could.  Some states have a set scale of penalties for particular offenses.


PS How is your arm healing up?  Well and quickly I hope.

PPS Roofing companies are famous for shoddy work.  If I ever need to replace the roof on this house (it was done about 3 years before we bought it) I am thinking about a metal roof.  They are more expensive but last much longer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We went shingles and that formed ice dams but did not leak..   I had installed ice dam before the roof was put on.

Went with Erie Metal roofing on the second roof at 24K and it still forms ice dams and leaks..  

I had bought standing seam metal roofing 10 years ago to put on the house but my Honey was talked out of it by the roofing guy and I had no way to move 22ft long panels by myself back then. 

Now I have the manlift so can do that so will.   Erie has been anything but terrible to deal with.. Got the money and the job is terrible. 

George, the arm that was broken is good.. The elbow is pretty bad..   I've been doing 10+ horses a day and it really starts to kick up around 5 or 6..  

I did go to a remelt meet this past saturday and tried to swing a hammer.. 1.5lbs was max and 5swings was enough. 

Thanks for asking.. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, anvil said:


Again, differences between us. For me,Happiness has nothing to do with payment. 


This is only said by people who have what they want and feel as though everything (needs and/or wants) is taken care of. 

A friend of mine some 35 years ago said " if you don't mind, then it doesn't matter".. 

You are correct philosophically..    Happiness has nothing to do with payment..  But if your doing or trying to make a living doing something/anything and you have ample working coming in and your still not able to make ends meet nor pay the bills or buy the kids shoes..   Or keep the wife or husband or partner happy then what. 

I know a guy who is extremely happy.. He lives for free on someone's property, get a check from the government.. Enough that he can do what he wants, with stuff he can find or barter for or save for.   (one of my best friends, gotta lot of respect for him and his lifestyle). 

No real responsibility but for himself and the doggy.. 

One then gets into the argument if one chooses that everyone could live as simply or make due..  It is so true, "Payment" has nothing at all to do with happiness..   I have a bunch of things I need forged..  Lets strike a deal and I won't pay.. See if your happy then.. 

Since we are in fact talking about business while you "Did address your view on it"  You still haven't really answered the the original question.. 

What do you charge per hour?  Do you actually forge as a business now for money or barter and have you kept up with the changing tide of what things cost?   Hydraulic oil is now 100 to 130.00 5 gallons in the area,  few months back paid 6.70 gallon for diesel. 

When was the last time you shod a horse back in 1984?   First year on my own shoes without clips was 65 and 50. trims were 25.00.  I was making really good coin back then.. 

Do you own your land or make payments?  Car/truck insurance? Home insurance, health insurance, life insurance.  Do you take vacations and/or plan for retirement?  Do you have a "cash on hand reserve"  or 3 months back up funds to keep things running if you get hurt? 

Being in business has all the same rules when it comes to money..  Really the only difference is how someone feels about it and what they hope to get out of the business.   (time is money.. LOL..)

If 75.00 is shocking again that was the rate 3 or 4 years ago.  I usually go up about 5.00 a year and drafts are always 2X going rate. 

I often find/see there are double standards for people..    There is what they tell people, and then there is what they actually do..   

You would think talking/telling and action would be one and the same..  But it's a rarity these days it seems.  Maybe it always was.     I really don't know. 

Your not wrong..  I'm certainly not the person to say or even think as much.  You, do you the best. 

I'm still waiting on the forging video you promised a few years ago..    Few more years and I'll be mobile so since the video is lost I'll have to come for a visit to see in person.   

Crazy world, crazy people, crazy times.     Fun, fun, fun.. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone who has commented is right.

They are doing what they believes works best for them.

The information I keep trying to share was the same information given to me by the SBA "small business administration" by 3 different people over the course of a year way back in 1989. 

As was told to me. A business has to account for every expense and income.

They also have to account for employees and surrounded extra expenses.  

If one is not accounting for everything then they are indeed losing money nor establishing an effective "rate".   

They arent wrong either. Lol. 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jennifer, good stuff in both posts.

Yes, there is a "right" or "best" way to do things according to business schools and the SBA but I have known a lot of people who violated the "rules" and still had a successful business and were happy.  I've known several folk for who the idea of not comingling their business and personal finances was completely unheard of.  To them, their business was just an extension of their own lives and spending or recieving money for personal or business purposes was exactly the same.

And you are absolutely right about doing whatever makes you and yours happy.

I will emphasize that in our health care system health insurance is a really big issue that many folk, particularly younger and healthier ones, tend to underappreciate.  One accident or diagnosis for you or a family member can really turn everything upside down.  I'm glad that during my legal career I didn't have to give advice about bankruptcy very often.  That is not fun for everyone involved.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

George,  back then I wanted to look and be more legitimate for the establishment. 

I was looking at taking out a business loan, so wanted to know what the standards of the day were. 

I met with a guy who was a professor of business and 2 others that ran MFG businesses.  

They are shared the same basic business outline. 

They asked me about the business and I explained what I did.

I was then told about losses at a microscopic level that I never really looked at.   Bolts nuts, rivets, welding flux, stuff that gets used everyday but overlooked when quoting or billing.

There were 2 things that really changed how I looked at things.

Having a business model that addressed pay, retirement,  vacation, insurance, etc,etc and really looking at what each item meant cost wise. 

The other is when I was told that for every employee for every hour they work, they generate revenue for the company. 

They make the part, but for that given part they need to produce X number of parts over their pay rate so the company also makes money on each employee.  

They all tried to talk me into mass production and tooling up.  Lol

I'm a hand forger..  I'd say. 

Back then every professional Smith I knew had a full or part time job other than smithing with full benefits  or rich parents that bought them fully equipped shops and gave them money.

Everyone i knew who was a professional was in the 20-35.00 range and including materials, coal, etc.

When I did the SBA formula, it spit out 150.00 per hour of needed pay, retirement,  paid vacation,  health and dental insurance,  life insurance.

I settled for 60.00 in 1988. 

Its was a great learning time, but farrier work ruined it all.  

Very thankful for my master to teach me the trade. 

None of this really means as anything.

It's simply information and people do what people do.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was away, so great response. Before reading your two posts above, Ive put a lot of thought into my response here, so in fact can answer your questions. The last few daze I've gone thru my journey that brought me to where I am now from the beginning, especially focusing on the myriad of catch 22 economic hurdles that must be overcome. Every time a post comes up concerning economics or the validity of becoming a working smith, I've debated on detailing how I did it. Truth is, it would only be of value to perhaps that 1 in a hundred persons who want to give it a try. And with the absolute belief that my pathway is NOT "the Way", its my way and every one must find their own pathway. It would only be a confidence boost that, sheesh, if he can do it, so can I. 

The simple answer to your question is literally in my own way everything you brought up was taken care of with my farrier business and a successful transition to being a full time working traditional smith. A wife, two kids, and no exterior source of wealth behind us, just totally on our own. And the kids always had shoes.  ;) 

A background check, My parents came from a lower middle class background. Middle European immigrant coal miners on one side and roustabout gold miners from the Colorado territory daze to present. Mt Dad was the family hope and became a Air Force pilot. They brought me up to be an aerospace engineer/business Military officer. 2-1/2 years at Colorado Uni, I had "a moment", so to speak. I saw myself at the big end of a cone of light, the other end was the door of the engineering building. If I continued thru that door for the next 2 years, the American dream would live in the palm of my hand, Around this cone was just black. If I had the courage to step into that unknown, I may, if I was lucky, find a life perfect for me. So I did.  My folks, being rather old school cut all ties to me. Boom, choices create results. I then joined the navy(Viet Nam) to get the GI Bill and started my Journada. I put this here for you, Jen so you will know that I am not here because I have a wealthy background dealing with my economics. I've known a few great craftsmen from that background and I have a lot of respect for them,,, Then their is one of my students,,, still sucks off his family and refuses to sell any iron,,, no respect here, but to each his own. 

Owning my property was critical. We bought 10 bare acres on the national forest, built a Tiny Home 30 years before they were called that. Lol, I think at that time they were called "a shack on the side of the hill".  By choice we heated with wood, hand pumped our water and my wife totally embraced the concept of an alternative lifestyle and everything you can imagine that entails. This too was necessary for our journey to succeed. Perhaps I misunderstand, Jen, but I sense sacrifice in some of what you list above. We, my wife and I realized early on if our life choices meant sacrificing something, it would led to failure. We embraced and cherished every bit of it. We made NO sacrifices to achieve our goals. This too, in my opinion, is critical. When the property was paid off, we were ready to transition to smithing. A rather large litter of Malamute puppies paid for Turley Forge.  

We had no health insurance and had no major medical bills other than my wife had epilepsy, no small detail. Our medical was paid by cash and trade, both as a farrier and a working smith. 

We had no conventional retirement, no stocks, IRA's, bonds or cash savings. However, thinking out of the box, consciously we both understood that the equity created by our property and the improvements would serve that purpose, along with SS. Thats how we handled that. 

Our economics was via our farrier business, goat milk/yougert, eggs, Malamute puppies, Persian kitties, colt and stud fees,tropical flowers, and over time the farrier work was reduced, but never completely replaced by my blacksmithing. We could have dropped the farrier work by year #3, but too many of our clients were long time friends, so we just quit taking in new customers. My last shoeing job was when my daughter got married on horseback and my last trim about 5-6 years ago. 

I've left out the chaff, but there was plenty of that as well. The chaff challenged me totally wrt my philosophy. Its easy to live when the going is good, but when the living gets hard,,,thats the real test. Heres the highlights to that. I divorced, a few years later we decided to try it again and 6 months later she passed from her epilepsy. About 10+ years later I got involved with an ex best friend and built my greatest project. My log home. I designed it and built it as an example as to what forged iron could do in a log to the max. I hit every detail but one right on the mark. Lol, I missed the one concerning his integrity.  :)  He got the house and I got the road. To be real, I wouldn't trade one minute of that project for the loss. I would hope for a better ending. ;) . This was the biggest test of my philosophy. I jokingly say I began my Roady blacksmith phase with 10,000# of stuff, a ton of Pocahontas coal, a broke down Willys PU and no trailer. Sometimes its better to joke about reality than anything else. My belief was in myself and the belief that even in the 21 century, my smithing would handle my needs. My alternative was sell my stuff and get a job at Walmart as a greeter,,,,   I choose to test my philosophy. That was about 10 years ago. I have a number of nice commissions spread between here and now, plenty of time demoing and selling at flea markets in Farmington and Durango, two soul saving stints with two good smith in the area, oxbow stirrups sold back where I used to live, etc etc. I made 4-5 moves during that time and 3-4 years ago the VA determined I had a 100% disability from "The NAM". There was back pay involved so I now live on my paid off 20 acres and am building my new shop. When you are 75 and building a shop, trust that its the journey that matters, not the completed shop. It workable, but being on the point of my very own mini-mesa, wind is forever present and the ends are open.  So the Journada continues,,, with spectacular views!

I think that about covers your questions above,Jen. I stress, this is not The WAY, this is MY way. It took me, as a farrier to being the official farrier for the Colorado Paint Horse Finals at the stock show in Denver for about 10 years, various race tracks, tons of "12 year old lil girls" and transversing the beautiful state of Colorado from end to end. As a smith its taken me to the oldest and largest estate in Beverly Hills(so they informed me), the AFA, churches, gov buildings, business and private residences as well as Prague Cz and chandeliers in a castle near Frankfort, Germany and points in between. Not bad for an ole broke down mountain hippy blacksmith. 

Jen, my old vids are unpacked and on my new computer that I built(dual bios for win 10 and win 7) set up for win 7. All my old win xp software is available for editing.. I didn't think you were actually interested. I think there are 6-8 clips on some masonry tools I built to do the rock work on my dream shop back between 02 and 07. These were done on the ranch I was caretaker of for 30 years or so in my first roady blacksmith shop.  I can show them individually or edit them into one ~30 minute vid. I know Glen doesn't encourage vids posted here and I have a Thing about YouTube, so I'm solving those problems now. 

I have never had a shop rate, to be honest. I have always done as I explained above. I kept my economic needs low, figured out a time and material bid, not to exceed x$, and kept up with what the smiths I knew and respected were charging for comparable work. That set the dollars and I set the time so I could, at my expense, play as I pleased til the cows came home. Of course, the time is often the most critical with new construction. Not so much with commissions with owners.  I've found that the question is most often asked by beginners with minimal skill sets and experience. The ones who who most often answer this question, with max respect to ALL and no disrespect to ANY are those who are not full time smiths and have the skill set and experience of an intermediate+ part time or hobby smith. When I've asked those who I consider great smiths there answer is basically that its a personal thing and you must figure it out for your own situation. The experienced smiths that I know that have an hourly rate have more often than not, a full metal business as well as forging stations. They have the skill set and experience to do most anything from structural steel to fine forging and have a number of employees, not single man shops.

Actually, Jen, your post to George is totally meaningful and is the very root problem for starting any craft business. Generally it takes money and a proper business plan and a bank is the answer for any contemporary business, but fails totally for nearly any craft business. No bank in its right mind is going to lend money to a nitch market business. Thats the first catch 22.  Unless somewhere somehow you have the equity to back the loan. So you have to be creative and a shop rate and bank works for contemporary but not for craft, at least as a startup source. My GI bill was my source of money to get my farrier business up and running. All of the above was all we needed to transition. 

I'd say that all the working smiths I've known have been mostly single man shops with no other job. every one of the paths taken has been different. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jen and Anvil:  Very good stuff and you are both absolutely correct that everyone has to take a different path and certain choices and requirements open some doors and close others.

There was a time between my geology and legal careers when I supported myself with my blacksmithing.  I didn't make much more than unemplyment would have paid me but it felt a lot better than being on the dole.

I will say that getting older and my experience with Martha being in cancer treatment for 6 years really gave me a higher appreciation for the importance of some sort of health insurance.  Unfortunately, it can also be "golden handcuffs" that tie a person to a job, situation, or relationship that they are otherwise unhappy to be there. 

I think that someone in their mid life or older has enough life experience that they have an appreciation for the realities of the world and life.  It is often the younger folk who do not have the life expereince to make informed decisions that benefit most from discussions like this. 

Everyone should make their own evaluations and decisions for what is best for them and theirs but it should always be an informed decision with all athe cards on the table and an honest evaluation of the pluses and minuses of the various choices.

All in all, I think this has been a very valuable discussion.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anvil, thanks for sharing. 

What seems to keep being said is "Life choices" 

George you said a mouth full as well. 

Hourly rate is not really the key..   

Sustainability as a Smith might be a better topic line. 

I really don't know. 

I've had 5 successful business over the last 40 years. 

I've done well in each of them, and each was word of mouth and customer induced success. 

Demand and supply. 

Interestingly being a farrier was not a job I wanted , yes I trained in it, but the idea was to serve my apprenticeship,  and the information to my shingle and that's that.

Now I love how the horses respond and can't ever see giving it up.

Lots of the Smith's I know now have insurance thru their spouses. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lol, If my portable blacksmith setup could do that kind of work, I'd have an hourly rate in a Texas minute.  Alas, thats not the case.  ;) 

I'm not saying don't have an hourly rate, if it works for you then go for it.  My point here was to make sure that if you do craft work, ie commission type work, that you be honest with yourself and figure in your skillset and experience. And when dealing with new folks in whatever craft, telling them that their time is precious and to charge $60-$100/hr when starting out is a pathway to failure. Lol, guess it does keep the competition down,,,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone work by a dollar amount they want to make? I know it's more typical early on while learning. So instead of focusing on making xx/hr making s-hooks. You figure out you can profit 2$/hook and just take however long to hit your daily goal.

Then as you get better you can either raise the daily goal or work less hours.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Custom work one has to have a wide enough base to understand how to quote the work and still be profitable. 

I know generally how long a spring latch would take based on examples I had made.    These were noted with each sketch and customers order..   

Eventually it becomes second nature. 

Funny now though..   A spring latch back then from start to finish was 3hrs..    Now it would take me 6 or 8.. 

My forging ability is not as good.. But my finish work has gotten better. 

Was at the old shop and noticed my old desk was there.  Opened the drawer to find the latch and HL hinge the guy had given me to copy nearly 36 years ago.   Funny really how the obsession with hardware took off.  

I still think hardware is some of the toughest forgings skill wise to forge well. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What Charles said. Its a great way to do it. Find the market value and use that as your price, then take your time making them til you are happy. Shoot for consistency. The macrame lady in the booth next to you is far more likely to trick her work out with your S hooks if your 3" hooks are in fact 3" and not a mix of 2-3/4" and some 3-1/4". The last thing she wants to do is make the straps on her plant hangers different lengths to match your inconsistencies. When you are there, your prices and the money you make will be a fair wage. Basically this is whats called piecemeal or by the piece. Its a viable alternative to an hourly wage with its own benefits and drawbacks. 

In my opinion, hardware is a great entry level product into our craft. Its a wide open market, especially if you don't limit yourself. We are a nitch market so to only do pintle type barn door or farm gate type strap hinges really limits you. Learn how to do a really good 3 knuckle barrel both hot rolled and forge welded. The time difference is minimal, but they both fit a different nitch. In the '70's I charged a basic $25 for most any 3 knuckle/barrel hinge, then a "by the inch" for the strap. No hourly wage was involved.  Crafts Fairs were great practice, but when I focused on Cabinet hardware and stuff for custom furniture makers, My business reached another level, both for challenge and dollars.

Cabinetry/furniture hardware is very lucrative, but figure out how to do pulls and knobs as well. Lol, Ya gots to be able to open and shut those doors and drawers. And the variety is infinite. Knobs are really cool and can be very creative. Knobs, bales and teardrop danglie pulls with a rosette or simple Escutcheon  are all possible.

If you limit your self to one period, you are doing just that, limiting an already limited market. It can work and its a good way to get into a production roll. Colonial hardware on the east coast and elsewhere works well for this. However, check out other styles. English Tudor Is common from the east coast to California and points in between, as an example. Grab a few books on this style for ideas. Southwest is another. Surprising as it may seem, this style works in other than adobe homes and is very contemporary. Log homes too is a great source for work. Not to forget, many of the European smiths from around the '30's have many examples in their books. The Kuhn  books are inspirational. A little knowledge of the art periods, focusing on iron and architecture is a cheap investment in books to further this.

Custom cabinetry/furniture makers are a great market. I could put $500+ on an armoire that was sold in a gallery in Sante Fe and they doubled that in return. Its amazing to me that their competition used Acorn fittings for their custom work. 

Beat the streets with a sample board and check out interior decorators as well as custom hardware outlets. 

Basically once you learn a basic hinge, a bale, a knob, and a nice pull, you are there. Thats the basic skillset for door/cabinetry/furniture. The experience is learning the different architecture styles and applying those simple basics to expand your market. 

It works wherever you are,,, east coast, west coast, big town, little town and everything in between. 

As far as bidding custom work, I look at it as "limited production". A hinge is a hinge is a hinge. Substitute picket, collar, right angle bend, on and on. These skillsets can be counted and time figured precisely. So much of the cost of your work is easy to bid. Applying these to different situations is where the challenge begins. I always challenge myself with some design element or new skill that I want to try. When I bid as job, I always make a sample of this challenging part. Its included in my bid and I always keep it. When done, I at least know step one etc. I have a rule of thumb that comes from experience and that is when the sample is done I know the basic time to completion. My rule fits me and is that when I gain the experience, the time is about 1/3 the first time I do it. I now have a number that I am confident with to fill in the rest of the bid. Now I can make a "time and material bid not to exceed "X"$. I do the time bid strong in my favor and nearly always come in under. Lol, this really makes my client feel I've done a great job and usually lets his friends know "wow! And he came in under bid!!!"  Great advertising.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...