Charging Walk-Ins for Occasional Cuts on a Saw

Making one cut for somebody who walks into your shop isn't much of a money-maker. So what is it worth? December 28, 2014

I have people come into the shop sometimes asking if I could make a cut or two on the slider. I'm always at a loss what to charge. I also have a sign shop that often needs various products such as PVC core aluminum, foam core, MDO sheet stock etc. to various sizes. Any input?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From Contributor D:
It depends on what you need to do. If you need to break a setup and/or change the blade, I'd say $20.00 minimum. I have always used these kinds of jobs to get soft drinks, lunch etc. For the sign shop, you might do a trade or just ask them to keep you fridge stocked with soft drinks.

From contributor G:
New person, polite, asks nicely. I do that for free if I can. It usually only takes a few seconds. The karma that comes back is usually pretty good. The same goes with walk-ins to do small 20-60 minute projects. I usually charge them some lowball price. Again, good marketing. If it's someone who keeps coming back, you'll have to explain to them that once or twice is a favor, more than that it's starting to turn business. Then you figure out a minimum charge and beyond that is your normal shop wage.

From Contributor U:
If they have had a kitchen/work from us in the past then generally free or otherwise $10 minimum.

From the original questioner:
$10 minimum and $75 an hour broken down to the half hour after the first cut is what I'm thinking.

From Contributor W:
Sometimes I tell ‘em to just buy the guys lunch!

From the original questioner:
That’s all very good and I usually do the same (do it for free or lunch, etc.) but what if I mess up the cut? It can happen and if I am taking a risk (though minimal) then perhaps the cost of the material plus 10%? I recall the saying "no good deed goes left unpunished".

From contributor C:
I charged a $50 minimum. It usually takes a lot more time than the simple cut. They tell you about their project, ask about work in the shop, ask about getting scrap wood and ask how you started the business because they are thinking about doing that too, you get the picture. No simple cut every one took less than a half hour away from the real work. I closed the shop to get back into the industry, but those drop-ins and calls drove me crazy.

From Contributor Y:
Friends or friends of friends are free. If you charge what's worth they get mad, if you take what they think it's worth you get mad. Walk-ins are $20 min and then $60 an hour.

From the original questioner:
You forgot "I love the smell of freshly cut wood". I think if the risk is high, I'll go with material plus going to get it plus 10% or $10 a rip. If they start talking and I'm busy, the charge goes up according to a $75 an hour shop charge. If I have to change a blade and "set up" then the $75 an hour applies too - totally confusing!

From contributor E:
As a long-time amateur woodworker (who would never ask anyone to cut anything for nothing) and someone who has owned and run several businesses I can say there might be some minor merit to extending a free favor to friends or previous customers. Goodwill, and all that. But, if you do that you have also just indirectly said that your time, never mind your equipment is worth nothing, even if that wasn't your intention. Not generally a good idea. As was mentioned, any transaction of this type is going to take at least 5 minutes. If your shop rate is $100/hour, then charge appropriately. Five minutes equals eight dollars. If they want to jabber on about it, then eight turns into more, by the minute. They probably bought the lumber from a big box, and that's where they should get their free cuts.

From contributor P:

A. Enough to make it worth your while,
B. Enough to discourage them from asking.

From Contributor D:
In my experience this is more of a sales opportunity than anything else, so deal with it accordingly.

From contributor K:
I planed a couple of small boards for a guy who walked in. I didn't really want to do it, and I know a lot of people wouldn't allow unknown materials to be run through their equipment. However I couldn't bring myself to tell him off. When he asked what It would cost I ended saying I would do it at no cost. It would have been too complicated to price this on the spot. I also didn't want to set precedent that I work cheap by charging a couple of bucks. I didn't want to charge for an hour for a minute of work either. I later found out that this guy and his son were both respected builder's and related to several other influential people in our town. So yes this is a marketing opportunity. I typically charge about $50-60 per hour for wholesale cutting for contractors, and businesses and upwards of $100 per hour if it means firing up the CNC router (typically with a 1 hour minimum).