Where no previous records are available the proprietor must assess his own capabilities and those of his employees. Common joinery items are usually in softwood of fairly large dimensions, with no careful selection of materials and no elaborate detailing. In furniture, hardwoods require from 10 to 20 per cent more time to work, more time to cut the smaller joints, more time to finish off; and a cabinet-door only a quarter of the size of a standard softwood door might take twice as long to make. The only practical method, therefore, is to see the work as a whole and attempt an assessment of the hours required to make it in terms of one man’s working time; then to itemize the various operations, i. e. making working drawings, setting out, preparation of jigs and templates, getting out material (plenty of time should be allowed for this as it entails careful selection), sawing out and planing up for carcass, jointing carcass, getting out drawer material, framing drawers, fitting drawers (again allow plenty of time), etc., etc., timing each operation individually and thus arriving at an alternative total. With a little experience and given the normal perspicacity the two totals should not be far apart and the average reasonably accurate. Points to watch will be (1) a general tendency to underestimate for small work, particularly where there is fine detailing; (2) failure to allow for the extra working time involved in lifting, handling and helping to set up large and heavy work, which may necessitate the help of several craftsmen as the work progresses; (3) failure to allow for mistakes in setting out, or defects in material which develop in the making.

One thing is reasonably certain, the average newcomer will usually underestimate the amount of work involved, for it is a perfectly natural failing to overestimate one’s own speed and accuracy. In the first few months of working, therefore, the time allowance should be generous, for again the newcomer will be frightened of allowing too much, and will often quote at uneconomic prices in his anxiety to secure the work.

Percentage additions

To the cost of working time, materials and machine costs, etc. must be added a fair proportion of the workshop overheads and other indirect expenses. Workshop overheads will be all the indirect costs incurred by the workshop which cannot be debited entirely to one particular job. i. e. foreman’s time in general supervision, heating, lighting, maintenance and repairs, carriage of goods ‘in’ and sundry materials, etc., but not including rent, rates, insurances or interest on capital. Indirect expenses will be salaries, rent, rates, insurances, office expenses, car expenses, depreciation, audit fees, interest on capital, profit, etc. Both workshop overheads and indirect expenses will be expressed as percentage additions to the direct cost of the work.

Where the business has been in existence for some time accurate assessment of all indirect expenses can be made, but new businesses will have to estimate for them until sufficient data have been accumulated. A typical costing

Estimated total yearly wages paid say 20,000

Estimated insurances, paid holidays, pensions, etc. say 10 per cent 2,000


Estimated workshop overheads at 40 per cent on 22,000 8,800


Estimated materials consumed at cost 10.000

15 per cent profit 1.500


Estimated indirect expenses at 20 per cent 8,460

Estimated total turnover 50,760

where many of the factors are still unknown could be as follows:

From the above example it will be seen that out of the total estimated turnover the cost of the workshop overheads plus the profit on materials would be available for all the indirect expenses of the workshop, and an additional 20 per cent of the estimated indirect expenses to provide for all expenses incurred in running the business, including the owner’s own remuneration and profit over and above the wages he would pay himself if he also worked at the bench with his craftsmen. Working masters who do not employ craftsmen often price their work at the standard craftsman’s rate per hour plus 50 per cent, plus the bare cost of the materials used, but they will usually find that they are either grossly underpaying themselves or rapidly drifting into bankruptcy.


Where fixed sums for specialist subcontractors have to be included in an estimate, i. e. prime cost sums where the exact cost is known, or provisional sums to cover the probable cost, it is usual to add a 5 per cent charge for handling.

Carriage of goods

If the proprietor maintains his own transport for the conveyance of finished furniture, the cost per running mile must be arrived at and added accordingly; or if transport is to be hired on each occasion then the estimated cost can be added before or after indirect expenses have been included in the final estimate.

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