How much does custom built solid wood furniture cost?

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2022-03-24

How much does custom built solid wood furniture cost?
You are an individual with your own taste and your own views, why would you want something produced for the masses in your living area? Talk to me about something special.

Everybody is different, I have built some awful pieces in my opinion for people that absolutely loved them. I am not a huge fan of some styles of furniture and will not build anything with pallet wood, not even a fire. Experience has taught me that quality and cheap materials do not go hand in hand.
solid wood cost

I will be discussing the cost of custom built solid wood furniture in this article, first we need to cover some facts that inexperienced woodworkers will eventually grasp.

If your supplier is not profitable, guarantees are worthless


It goes like this, I try and save money by using cheap materials and spend more time making them look good. Materials are just one part of the equation when costing a job. The cheaper the materials the more expensive the labour is as a proportion of costs. Many cabinet makers will charge more for labour based on the cost of materials, They work on a material cost x 3 for their efforts. This is not at all sound reasoning, If I build something with Oak it takes the same if not less effort than building with pine. Pine takes longer to get a really good finish on than Oak does so If I am working with pine cost x 3 I will always lose money.
solid wood furniture cost

There is always someone that can do it cheaper and worse


I guarantee that you will find someone that works cheaper with Pine and the cheaper less stable timbers than I will. I have learned that when using wood like Poplar, a lot more effort needs to be expended to get a good finish than with a wood like Kiaat, Oak or Beech.

It is therefore better to work in wood that does not twist, burr or rip out chunks in the planer. Using timber that is unstable makes it more expensive to work. Unique custom built solid wood furniture will always cost more than mass produced furniture imported from the East.

In order to have something special uniquely yours, you will need a budget exceeding the prices of furniture seen in the hyper stores and retailers. I say this not because I am trying to frighten you away, but because I have been brought catalogues from a well known retailer and asked if I could make it cheaper.

There are three reasons that this cannot be done.
  • Scale of economy. The big retailer is buying 1000's of those cheaply made plasma stands from a manufacturer in China that uses the cheapest materials they can source and is not overly concerned with quality.
  • The second is that I want you to grow old using the plasma stand I built and leave it to your children. Building a cheaper version of junk furniture will not achieve my goal.
  • The third is that I want my business to survive beyond next week, Supplying junk and not making a profit will ensure that this does not happen


Solid wood is not cheap


Lets talk wood prices for a minute, Wood varies from around R 6000 per cubic meter to upwards of R 450 000 per cubic meter for Ebony. It all depends on the supply.

In South Africa we have access to a wide range of wood broadly categorised as local, African and imported.

The prices vary substantially as we have already said, but there are African and Local timbers that are more expensive than Imported wood.
Custom solid wood furniture cost
Soft woods are generally cheaper than hard woods.

In order to help you understand the costs as most do not understand a cubic meterage price I am going to show you the cost of a plank in a range of timbers. I will be costing this on a plank 2.4 m long, 25.4 mm thick and 150mm wide. The prices of this wood can change at any time so these examples are just examples. The format is wood, price per m3 in the second row and price per plank in the third row. The fourth row shows the traditional carpenters way of costing for labour making something with ten of those planks.

PineSalignaPoplarRubberKiaatMahoganyRed OakWhite OakRose Wood
R 8 400R 14 100R 11 500R 17 000R 20 000R 30 000R 26 500R 50 000R 23 000
R 88.34R 148.26R 120.93R 178.77R 210.31R 315.47R 278.67R 525.78R 241.86
R 1 770R 2 970R 2 420R 3 580R 4 210R 6310R 5 580R 10 520R 4 840


You can see by the above that a traditional costing will have a business earning less money for exactly the same work using a cheaper wood. If you do not know this by now, this is bad for you, because if the cabinet maker is not making a profit, they cannot stay in business by working with the cheaper woods. At some point in this exercise you will be paying more for labour than it's worth.

I don't cost by material cost. I cost by the cost of time and overheads. If I am using White Oak. the labour is identical to pine, if not more labour needed to finish the pine piece, so why would I charge less or more than is needed to keep my business profitable.

The three pieces of furniture below are costed at today's price and are to give you an indication of the cost of building specific items. For every project I take on I will do a 3D design like you see here. They don't show every detail but you will know what to expect. The cost is detailed as per the timber costs above. The table will show you the amount of wood used m3, and the cost of the product.

What does a custom built table cost?


Custom solid wood table cost
This table would use .28 m3 of wood, the cost includes a wax finish designed to bring out the wood's natural beauty. The size of the table is 2,1m x 1,2m.
PineSalignaPoplarRubberKiaatMahoganyRed OakWhite OakRose Wood
R 12 165R 13 970R 13 145R 14 887R 15 837R 19 005R 17 896R 25 340R 16 788



What does a custom built chest of drawers cost?


Custom Solid wood headboard cost
This chest of drawers would use ,15 m3 of the wood chosen plus ,18 m3 of construction wood (pine or saligna), the cost includes a wax finish designed to bring out the woods natural beauty. It uses traditional wooden drawer slides like my Grandpa made.
PineSalignaPoplarRubberKiaatMahoganyRed OakWhite OakRose Wood
R 14 006R 14 345R 14 190R 14 517R 14 695R 15 288R 15 080R 16 475R 14 873



What does a custom built headboard and pedestals cost?


Custom Chest of Drawers cost
This head board and pedestals would use ,14 m3 of wood, the cost includes a wax finish designed to bring out the woods natural beauty. It uses traditional wooden drawer slides like my Grandpa made.
PineSalignaPoplarRubberKiaatMahoganyRed OakWhite OakRose Wood
R 7 818R 8 711R 9 166R 9 637R 9 637R 11 205R 10 667R 14 341R 10 107


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