Widebelt Sanding Price

Quote about a buck a minute, then work out the Karma face to face, is the consensus. August 28, 2010

I just got a call from a hobbyist woodworker that would like to have me run a glued up table top through my widebelt sander. They were wondering how much I would charge, but I didnít have a real good answer, so I told them we would figure something out when they brought the piece in. My thought is to get the most money that I can because the abrasive belts are not cheap, plus the machine itself is not cheap, and I am saving them a huge amount of labor. I want to be fair, but on the other hand I know the dollars they're saving in labor and the money I'm spending to run one item. How much do you charge to widebelt sand a glued table top for a woodworking hobbyist?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor A:
The "I am saving them a huge amount of labor" rationale is not fair. Most of the shops in our area have an hourly labor rate for using the wide belt. It is higher than the shop's normal shop rate to absorb the cost of the belts. Most shops also charge a specific hourly rate for CNC machines.

I believe if your normal rate is $65/hr, then $85 would be a fair price to run parts through the wide belt. You could easily burn through $20 worth of belts in an hour. However, if they bring you a table top covered with epoxy resin (which will trash a belt rather quickly), then you have something else to consider.

From contributor L:
I usually get charged around $1/minute. That is with me helping out. Usually I'm on the outfeed and he is on the infeed.

From contributor T:
$65/hr or $1/minute is not sufficient if it only takes you 20 minutes - in other words, you need a minimum payment and $20-$30 seems hardly worth the interruption. Think appliance repairman. I'd go with something like $60 for the first half/hour and $35 per half hour after that. That ensures you lunch out with a guest for a small interruption or dinner out for a longer interruption. For fellow woodworkers operating a business, I use this as an opportunity to barter or bank a favor.

From contributor J:
I had this done a few times and paid $50 a pop. This was ten years ago. Seemed a little high at the time to me.

From contributor L:
Well, if you show up out of the blue without a warning, then a minimum price would seem acceptable. But if you make an appointment with the widebelt owner and set up a time, then it should be convenient for both. Now, I do a trade with another widebelt owner. I use his machine and I do eCabinet renderings for him for the same amount of time.

From contributor E:
I take tops and shelves to a local shop to have them sanded. He charges me a minimum for the trouble and then adds for going to finer grits. It's been awhile so I don't even remember what I last paid. One thing I don't think about is giving him a deadline. I tell him to run them when he can fit them in. So it generally takes 5-7 days for him to call me. I also give him a few days notice before coming unless he tells me to come right away. I'm also willing to pay what he charges because he is saving me a lot of time and labor.

I say your normal hourly rate plus materials (belts) is fine. Just be sure to have a minimum. If he balks, send him down the road. You're not really losing much anyway, and other trades have a minimum charge also.

From contributor B:
First, never quote a price over the phone based on their description. Been there, done that - it's never what they said it was. When they bring it in you can decide on what it will take. If only 20 minutes, then fifty bucks. If more, than seventy five or a hundred bucks. I used to give this stuff away cheap - advertisement, I called it. One day I was at the lumberyard and someone I had helped was also there, ordering a vanity cabinet. Apparently the service wasn't worth much, nor was the advertisement. They are not buying hours of your time, so normal hourly rate doesn't apply. If another cabinetmaker wanted to use my services on a regular basis it would be less.

From contributor P:
I do it for $1.50/minute door to door, cash. (And no attitude - smiling face, spend a minute or two chatting about their project, etc.) It generally works out to 20-30 minutes. And no, it doesn't lead to other work very often, but it's a good way to top up your karma account.

From the original questioner:
Well, I ended up doing it for $1 per minute, which is basically my shop rate and the figure I had in my head at the time of the call.

I do agree with contributor B, however, to never quote a price over the phone. I wondered what the thing was going to look like when he got here. It took about 40 minutes to sand it and square it up on the saw. He was an older gentleman that builds furniture to keep himself busy. I ended up chatting with him for quite awhile and he gave me a lead on a possible kitchen.

From contributor B:
Hope the good will pays off in this case. Most want to look around the shop, although they haven't a clue what the machines are. I always let them - sometimes it can take an hour; guess that's the advertisement part.

From contributor N:
I pay $50/hr to another cabinetmaker with a widebelt. It usually takes 5 or 10 minutes to run doors or whatever, but $50 is the minimum, which seems fair to me.

From contributor O:
Up here in British Columbia our widebelt charge is $100.00/hr or $125.00/hr with someone catching and a minimum charge of 1/2 hour. For us it is more about it being an inconvenience to our production, so we charge accordingly. We are actually quite busy when it comes to our widebelt sanding.