This will either make a lot of sense or spark some debate! Here goes!!!!
Here's my take on why custom, handmade furniture is worth it and what makes it different...
Recently I was asked to price a dining table for a client. He sent over an image of a table he had in mind, it was a beutiful, live edge Parota slab on a plexiglass plinth base (Parota is an attractive hardwood species).
I found the source of the image on line, it was a dining table offered by a large well known chain store retailer for almost $3000.
Here's a flaw in buying psychology guaranteed to trip us all up from time to time - You see, armed with no more information beside an image and a price tag; $100 is a lot of money, $1000 is a lot of money, so $3000 is, yup you guessed it... a lot of money right?
It only settles the stomach once offset against whatever it is you get for your money. A photograph isn't enough information to achieve that piece of mind. So sure enough $3000 is a lot of money for a dining table right?
I spent a day in the office, shopping around for materials to price a properly made example and here's what I came up with...
and feel free to judge for yourself on this one...
A kiln dried live edge Parota slab was going to be $1500 + $100 for shipping to my woodshop so $1600 in total.
For the table base, 2 large pieces of polished plexiglass at 1-1/2 inches thick x 28 inches x 30 inches were $1100 each + shipping so $2400 in total (yeah I was shocked too).
Workshop supplies and materials needed (sandpaper, glue, and a bunch of other nick nacks) were going to add up to $200.
How long would it take me to make. About 3 weeks of 8 hour days, that's 120 hours at $12.50 an hour adding up to $1500 for 3 weeks of skilled and experienced craftsmanship. I normally charge more but this project really appealed to me.
The client lived within my state so I'd have to charge sales tax at 9% which was $600
I'd have to ship the table to the client once finished. It could no longer lie on its side in a truck so would take up much more space. It would also need to be insured, delivered and physically lifted into place by the shipping company for the client so I thought $450 was a reasonable price for that.
When I presented the price to the client you can imagine his surprise at a $6750 price tag.
He declined because he was hoping that I could beat the price he had in mind which was less than $2500
I went on line to check out customer reviews for the retail store the image came from and although some were satisfied, even delighted, some were really bad. There were complaints that tables wouldn't sit level, shims had to be pushed under the base to stop it from rocking on a level floor. Another said that after a month they noticed wine glasses would rock rather than lay flat. They called and were told that this was normal! It isn't and will get worse! One complaint was that a crack had appeared and seemed to be getting longer... All of these happen when wood isnt properly dry (green i.e. not fully dry wood is much cheaper than dry and looks the same). It takes time and money to dry wood properly which is why it costs $1600 to buy a 10 foot long, 3 feet wide and 3 inch thick massive slab of Parota hard wood that really is fit and ready to use.
I think my point is that $3000 is still a lot of money but armed with a few facts, you can make a judgment call rather than a guess.
I suppose you get what you pay for but how do you really know until you've already made the decision.
In a nutshell, hand made furniture made by a real craftsman is massively superior to ANYTHING you can buy from a chain store retailer... It just costs more...