If you’re okay with parting with your woodcarvings, it is possible to make money – even full-time income! – by selling them. However, before you can start making sales, there are a number of considerations you must weigh – and one of the most important ones is figuring out how much you can sell your woodcarvings for.
Every carver has their own method of pricing carvings, so it is always hard to say how much you can sell a woodcarving for. However, two of the most common options are charging by the hour and by carving area (that is, by square inch). Of course, there are several other considerations you must keep in mind as well, including material costs, the complexity of carving, and other similar factors.
While these general rules of thumb will help you come up with an initial price, this may not be the final sales price of the carving. If you’re wondering how to reach a final number, read on.
How to Price Wood Carvings
As mentioned above, there are two major ways in which you can price your carvings: by the hour or by carving area. Additionally, if you’re carving vertical sculptures, you may also choose to price by height.
By the Hour
Pricing by the hour is exactly what it sounds like – you set a base, per hour price that you’re willing to accept, and then price your carvings based on how long it took you to make them.
However, this also means having to choose the right hourly rate for your work. It’s essential for carvers to make sure that they don’t quote too low an hourly rate when using this method – ideally, it should be no lower than $10 per hour.
If the minimum wage in your state is higher than $10, your hourly rate should increase to reflect this. Similarly, you may need to raise your hourly rate if the piece you are working on is extremely complex and detailed.
Additionally, as you increase in skill, your rate should increase as well – intermediate carvers can often charge between $25 and $50 an hour, depending on the complexity of the piece and the client they are working for.
By Carving Area
If you’re a slow carver, you may find that charging by the hour isn’t feasible, as the prices you demand will be higher than most people are willing to pay. Similarly, fast and experienced carvers who price by the hour will end up selling skilled work for far less than it’s worth.
An alternative to pricing your work by the hour is to price by carving area. This is especially effective for relief carving, nameplates, and other similar projects, as they can often be challenging to price.
As with charging by the hour, your prices per square inch will differ depending on the type of carving, the piece’s complexity, and who you’re carving for. However, as a general rule, if you’re just starting out as a woodcarver, you should charge about $1.50 per square inch.
More experienced carvers can change significantly more, with prices reaching $2.50 per square inch and above. If you’re just starting out as a woodcarver, don’t forget to increase your prices as you gain the relevant experience.
While pricing by square inch can be effective, calculating the figures can often be challenging if you’re carving standing sculptures, especially ones that are life-sized or near life-sized.
In such cases, the best option is to price your pieces by height. More carvers set a base price for carvings that are about 5 feet in height. Taller carvings will require you to set up scaffolding, which increases the complexity of the piece – and, therefore, its price.
For experienced carvers, a good rule of thumb when it comes to charging by height is to price pieces at $150-200 per foot for pieces up to 5 feet in height and add about $200-300 per additional foot of carving after.
So, a $7 foot sculpture would range in price between $1150 (5 feet x $150 + 2 feet x $200) and $1600 (5 feet x $200 + 2 feet x $300).
However, it’s essential to keep in mind that the methods mentioned above are only rules of thumbs. There are a number of considerations that can change the prices you set for your woodcarving pieces.
Factors That Influence Price
As mentioned above, there are several factors that can influence the way you price your woodcarving pieces. These include:
This primarily means the wood you’re using for a given piece, as well as any finishing products you may be using. The higher the quality of the materials used, the more you should price your products.
For example, if you’re making a piece using a rare wood like purple heart or Bubinga, your prices will be significantly higher than if you were making the same carving but using basswood instead.
Usually, the cost of your tools is not included when considering material costs. The only exception is if you need to purchase specialty tools that you would not need for other carving projects.
Ideally, your final price should be at least double the price of your materials. If you’re ever in a bind on how to price your products, this thumb rule should give you the lowest price you should accept, after which you can revise prices higher if needed.
Even though two pieces may be of the same dimensions, this doesn’t mean that they are of the same complexity. For example, you may work on two identical pieces of wood, creating two sculptures that are both 5 feet high.
However, if one sculpture is of a single bear standing up, while the other is of a mother bear and her cub, you will likely have spent longer and worked harder on the more complex piece – the second one. In such a situation, you will need to increase the price of the second sculpture to better reflect the additional work you’ve put into it.
There are numerous ways in which carving style can affect the way you price your products. For example, if you’re best-known for your relief carving skills, you can likely price relief pieces higher than you could for whittled pieces.
Similarly, you may find some carving methods easier or more challenging than others. Just because you’re comfortable carving with a knife, for example, does not mean you’ll be just as familiar with chainsaw carving. If you are interested in learning how to preserve a chainsaw carving, click on this article here.
In this situation, you can adjust your price depending on why you’re using a different carving method. For example, if you’re doing so to gain experience in a new method, you should likely price your pieces lower than usual, as they will be “practice” pieces you work on while you perfect your skills.
On the other hand, if a piece is a commission and the commissioner insists on a particular carving method despite your own preferences, you can increase the prices to make up for the inconvenience, as well as for the additional time and effort you’ll spend on the piece.
While every piece you carve on will be unique, given that it is a handmade piece, there are some pieces that stand out above others. For example, a spoon-maker may make several traditional soup spoons that are relatively similar to each other.
For customers who purchase these spoons, there is not a lot of variation between one spoon and the next. They’re paying for quality and the handmade aspect of the piece, not because it stands out. In such situations, you will often find that slightly lower prices can be more effective.
On the other hand, if you’re creating a truly one-of-a-kind design – or have been commissioned to create something completely unique – you can significantly increase your prices. After all, the customer will be paying for both your carving skills and the time you spent on the design.
This is especially important if you’re working on a piece that you cannot replicate in the future – as such a clause limits your ability to use the skills you learned on that job to improve your other work, a higher price will make up for the potential losses.
What You’re Willing to Part With It For
Some woodworkers may find it challenging to part with their work, especially if it’s one-of-a-kind or holds special meaning. In such situations, you may choose to put a high price label on the piece when pricing your work – the higher cost representing what value you put on it and what it would take for you to part with it.
What You’d Be Willing To Pay For It
Another consideration to keep in mind is how much you’d be willing to pay for a piece if you decided to buy something similar from another woodworker.
For example, if you’ve priced a product at $40 but would only be willing to spend $10 on it yourself, there’s a good chance you’ve priced your piece too high. On the other hand, if you’d be willing to buy something for $100 but are selling it for $20, you’re undoubtedly pricing it too low.
Checking to see how much you’d pay for a particular product before you confirm a price will prevent you from overpricing and underpricing your products, especially when you’re only just starting to sell your carvings. Once you’ve got some experience with selling them, you’ll have a better grasp on what you should charge for a given piece without worrying about whether you’d be willing to shell out that amount of money for it.
For more details on how keeping in mind what you’d be willing to pay for the carving and how much money it would take to make you part from a piece can help you determine your prices, take a look at this YouTube video:
One of the biggest challenges that woodcarvers – and most other artists and artisans – face is getting over imposter syndrome. It’s extremely easy to tell yourself that no one will be interested in your pieces, and even if they are, they will not be willing to pay more than a nominal price for them.
These thoughts can result in you significantly underpricing your carvings, especially if you’re worried about turning away potential customers by raising prices. However, the challenge arises in how these prices are perceived.
When people see you pricing your products at $10, $30, or even $50, they believe that that’s how much the piece is worth. Even if a piece is intricately and masterfully carved, the carving’s price ultimately determines its value to the customer.
Customers may believe that gorgeous but clearly underpriced pieces are also extremely low quality – there’s no other explanation for the disparity between price and look.
By pricing your products higher, customers will believe that products are worth what you’re asking for them – and thus be more willing to pay that amount. There’s a good chance that you’ll find that pieces that you could not sell when priced at $30-$50 will sell much better when priced at $150-$200.
Are you constantly running out of stock?
Even if you’ve found the perfect price point, this doesn’t mean that there’s no space for adjustments. Ultimately, it’s essential to remember the product prices are determined by market demand.
If you’re constantly running out of carvings and find that you can’t carve fast enough to supply demand, that’s a good suggestion that it’s time to increase your prices. You already have a dedicated following, and they’ll likely continue buying even if you increase prices by 10-20%.
The opposite, of course, holds true as well – if you don’t have enough customers, there’s a chance that you’re pricing pieces too high. This is especially true if you find that you are making fewer sales after increasing your prices.
Where to Sell Carvings
Once you’ve found the right price, the next consideration is determining where they should be sold. Some options available to you include:
- Flea Markets and Art & Craft Shows. These spaces have a low barrier of entry, and you’re almost certain to find an audience that is interested in your wares.
- Wood Carving Shows. These are a bit more niche than the above options and should only be considered once you have a bit more confidence in your work. You’ll be competing for customers with other woodcarvers, so your skills should match up to those of the other carvers at these shows. That said, one advantage is that these shows are frequented by collectors, and they can pay a pretty penny for pieces they really love.
- eBay. This is a good option for one-of-a-kind pieces, as you can make use of the auction feature. You can let the market determine the price, and you’ll often be extremely surprised – for the positive – by how much a piece can fetch. This will also help you price pieces of similar style and complexity better in the future.
- Etsy. Etsy’s a good choice if you plan on selling pieces frequently, as it allows you to build a storefront without needing you to invest in creating your own website. It also makes shipping to international customers easier than it would be if you did it yourself.
- A Personal Website. With a personal website, you don’t have to worry about the store “host” (like Etsy or eBay) taking a margin of your profits. However, you will have to spend on designing and coding the website and paying for the domain. Additionally, you’ll need to invest in optimizing it for SEO so that the most people possible can find it. Personal websites are great when you have an existing following, are looking to get into custom pieces, or as additions alongside Etsy and eBay pages.
Making Profit Saving Carvings
While selling your carvings can be lucrative, it’s also essential to figure out how to make the most money possible without overextending yourself. One option is to understand how to make the most money possible from each carving, so your profits are high, which means your income is high.
Some ways to make profit saving carvings include:
- Use cheaper wood: The average customer isn’t interested in investing in rare woods – they’re buying for the design. If your material costs are low, the profits are higher.
- Custom orders: You can charge a significantly higher price for custom orders than you would if you sold the exact piece in your regular storefront, as your customer will be paying a premium for a design that you don’t already sell.
- Adjust your prices: As mentioned, make sure to change prices when needed. Are your pieces selling out faster than you can stock them? Raise prices and increase profit margins. Do you have too much stock and not enough buyers? Reduce prices so that you don’t have to spend as much on storing the stock. This also allows you to change and work on pieces that are more popular among customers.
Deciding on the price of your products is one of the most crucial decisions you make when you make the call to sell your pieces. While you don’t want to price your products too high, nor do you want to undervalue yourself – it can lead to others undervaluing you as well, which is the last thing you want as a seller.