View Full Version : How many hours do I charge for this?

bob ward
10-23-2009, 03:56 AM
This is a paying job, an aluminium ink tray Ive just made for a local printer. Being an amateur new to machining etc etc, its taken me far too long to complete, but Ive learned a lot along the way.

Ive no idea what is a fair number of hours to charge for a job like this, so I guess the question is, how long would a competent 1 or 2 person jobbing machine shop, manual machines only, no CNC, take to turn out a 1 off?

The item is 290mm, nearly 1 foot long, and the trough is a 65mm (2.5) radius down to a depth of 9.6mm (.375)

The fin is a separate piece 30mm x 3mm which started off as a piece of 50 x 3 (2 x .125) flat, its held to the body with 5 blind M5 countersunks.
The main part of the body is 79mm x 22mm, (3.125 x .875) and started off as an 80mm x 25mm (1). There are 2 M5 through threads, one in each end.
My gut feeling/guesstimate is 4 hours, am I somewhere near the mark?

John Stevenson
10-23-2009, 04:09 AM
I would say you were pretty close on at 4 hours, that's what I was thinking as I looked at the photo's and before I read your last line.

BTW, nice work, one off's are a bastard to do as regards working out true time v time spent then converting this to $$.

I always ask myself would I pay $xx for that and the answer is usually no :(

The other side of the coin is where do they go then? I have just has a short week off to go to the Midlands show, the 3 rewind companies were given 1/2 a days notice of me going.
I have to do this as anymore and they send 3 days work down and swamp you, when I got back I had a pile waiting as I expected but one company fetched two jobs back from another company who hadn't even started them and even told me what they were going to be charged which was way over what I charge and they are struggling for work ?

10-23-2009, 06:08 AM
Way back I purchased a small program to keep track of time spent on a
project. Works great.


You need to make sure you log in and out of the projects you are
doing.You will be amazed at how 'long and short' some jobs are.
Keep a small file for future reference with prices charged.
This will work great for estimating and to see if the job is worth the effort.

All that said, do not be afraid to CHARGE.Don't work for nothing.
There are two other shops in my area doing some what the same work.
I am perhaps the most $$, but I base my price on quality and quick turn around time Some of my customers have moved on, but many have come back saying that it was cheaper but " I had to wait longer and the work was not as good".

Your work looks great.Quality work, not just price will bring in good paying customers.And they will come back! :)

10-23-2009, 06:09 AM
How did you make the trough down the middle. Horizontal mill?
I would have charged how long it would take you to make it the second time.

10-23-2009, 06:20 AM
I always had the same problem in my computer repair business. Somebody brings in a machine with a new virus and I would spend hours researching how to get rid of it without nuking all their data. I never charged for my learning curve, only for the time it would have taken had I already known exactly what to do.

I have applied the same rational to the few machining jobs for which I have charged money. The most recent being making a pair of mold for parts for car heater and ac controls. I charged 2 hours shop time for each even though it took me the best part of two days to work out the cutting toolpath and machining kinks.


Peter N
10-23-2009, 07:33 AM
I've done a fair bit of one-offs and prototypes over the last couple of years, but all for companies that use my moulding business. These have included test rigs, assembly fixtures, miniature instrument compressors, hand punches and so on.
One thing that is common is that I have never been able to charge the full amount of time that they have really taken, as this would often put the cost out of the window. So in effect they were all loss-leaders for me, but helped to support my main business.

The problem is when you're quoting smallish one-offs you can't spend hours or days working out the quote price, so often you work out the material & parts cost, then lick a finger and stick it up in the air to guess at shop time.
If I had to do it commercially then I wouldn't be able to eat much..........


10-23-2009, 08:23 AM
At work, as a designer I would expect to pay $300 to $500 for something like that... But it would probably be anodized or nickle plated which ads about $75 I'd guess.

That's if we provided the prints, and if the design is wrong it's our problem.

If you had to "make a cover for this" and had to design it, work out the bolt pattern etc... And if it doesn't quite fit you're expected to make it right I think an hour or more of design time would have to be tacked on.

10-23-2009, 09:22 AM
when i do jobs i make it simple. cost of materils plus 25.00 per hour now oyu do have to mark up the cost on your materials for example you have to get a 12 foot aluim rod let say 6061 cost exapmple 50.00 mark it up 20 bucks to cover your time and gas to go get it,so now its 70.00 then you take shop time at what ever your want to charge per hour, if you do cnc there is a programmers fee that has a set min with most shops i know of plus the rate per hour now to compet you gota be cheaper but not alot cheaper, most shops i know around here will not do a one of job its not worth their time to do it, i have gotten alot jobs this way, even if you are not cnc set up still a min fee or just go by the hour..

i have done alot of one of jobs and alot of times i have found my slef where the customers design sucked it was not complete and alot of bugs had to be worked out and most customers dont know or dont under stand this stuff , i use to get alot of jobs with here is what it needs to look like custoemr takes wild guess on deminsions and so on thats not going to work that way, time is money, knolwedge is power ,

i had a guy once wanted to me to trun down a peice of SS not sure what grade it was but it was not that nice and i had to take it it really slow he wanted it turnned into and simple axle ok i says give me 20 bucks , customer was like thats expensive, i was like go else where then cause iam not going to tie up my machine for that longof time and its had to fit the bearings perfectly so had to pay really close attention to OD near the end i had to remove a fair bit of material, any how no shop in town would do the job , now i was in a good mood that day so 20 bucks is 20 bucks what should i have charged for the job about 100.00 would have been fair. i learned after that no more nice guy, 25.00 per hour and i set timmers now when i start when i fininsh any breaks i take i stop the timmer and restart when iam back at it,

we buy thousands of dollars in machines , and tools and we have the know how so we need to get paid for what we are worth , if its a new to you job ok charge half the time it should take on any manule or cnc knowing what your doing the only thing is most one of jobs have never been done before so take it for what its worth ,

me i wont work for free any more..

a buddy of mine wanted to me to do some welding for him, on some thing h built the wornge way and decied he better get it welded again no one would do the job and he only wanted to pay 20 bucks well sorry friend or not business is business i told him 50.00 to do the job and he was not happy, by they way he is not a firend i hang out with some one i known for long time but it dont matter either way i was still 400.00 cheaper then the a pro level shop , so 50 bucks is cheap ,and no he never got me to do the job and i wont now even if he decided to come back, i weed out thoes that want stuff done for nothing,

to many people want you to work for free , this is not smurf land ,

if some one has the bucks to go and buy a 3000 dollar tv then they got money to spend on having stuff welded or turnned or built periored ,

anyhow thats my rant and imput on this one,

10-23-2009, 09:53 AM
Bob, that's beautiful work. If you're really new to machining, you're off to a great start!

10-23-2009, 07:56 PM
Me I charge $1.00 a minute . And all minutes count. Haven`t had a customer complain yet. When they do I say well when you can`t find some one to do it cheaper I will be here.

10-23-2009, 08:06 PM
a buck a min now thats a new concept i like that idea, thats cool still works out to 60 bucks and hour nice, i like it ..

10-23-2009, 08:18 PM
I have to disagree with Evan's learning curve charge. You have to consider whether or not your competition has already mastered the learning curve.

I am starting a new job right now. The first month of my job is ALL training. I will contribute some during this time, but not much. Following my training, they start making money hand over fist with my training. They expect that they will have to make sacrifices to ensure that I learn what I need to learn to be able to do my job.

On the little moulds that Evan posted, 2 hours is slave labor IMHO, depending on your rate.

Glenn Wegman
10-23-2009, 09:16 PM
One thing to be careful of is not to punish yourself for being efficient! Everything has a value. Once you have mastered certain techniques to expediate certain tasks, and amassed lots of special tooling and setup fixtures to make jobs easier, you often need to consider more than just the actual time that a particular job actually took. Use your knowledge and skill to your financial advantage, and not always to the customers.

There will of course be jobs that just take too long, and adjustments to the customers advantage are necessary.

bob ward
10-24-2009, 06:22 AM
Thanks for the advice and complements guys, although the item looks nowhere as good in the flesh as it does in the photos.

At the risk of derailing my own thread, there were a few things I had to ponder on this job, I thought I you might be interested in some of the steps.

This is an existing ink tray the customer gave me to copy. Its a 2 compartment tray and he also needs a 1 compartment tray, ie same thing but no centre divider.

First decision is that the main feature, the trough, will have to be horizontally milled, which means the fin along the back edge will need to added after the trough is cut.

Second item is to determine the radius of the curve, so I need a test piece to check against the curve, which by calculation I reckon is 70mm radius.

This is a piece of 75 x 150 flat with a spigot welded in so I can quickly take it in and out of the 3 jaw.

Nibble away at the piece of flat 1mm at a time and keep checking against the job.

And eventually I have a fit at 65mm radius. Just as well I double checked against the calculated 70mm.

10-24-2009, 06:30 AM
Pity you didn't show that in the first post Bob, you're fighting the price of an extrusion that the original manufacturer has invested tooling charges for.

Go for three quarters the cost of the manufacturers price and talk to someone who can weld Aluminininium.

Regards Ian.

bob ward
10-24-2009, 06:38 AM
I have a vertical/horizontal mill but have zero tooling for the horizontal side of things, so I need to come up with 65mm radius/ 130mm diameter cutter.

First step is to weld a spigot into a piece of .5" flat and turn the OD of my cutter which I will make at 120mm.
Once I have the OD turned, I can chuck it by the rim and bore the centre 1.25" for the horizontal mandrel.
After I finished the blank, I milled a keyway, milled an 8mm slot for the .625" HSS, drilled and tapped 2 x M8 bolts to secure the HSS. The little plate with 2 x 6mm allen heads is there in case the HSS wanted to wriggle out sideways. Here is the finished 130mm horizontal cutter.

bob ward
10-24-2009, 06:55 AM
I set the cutter on the horizontal arbor for a test cut, ran it at minimum speed 60 RPM, and so help me it did a 10mm plunge cut, which is a little more than I need, no worries at all. A little slow but it got there. The cutter will also side cut 1mm DOC at a time without protest.
I'm on the home run now. Use an end mill to remove the bulk of the material from the trough.
Use the 130mm cutter to clean out the rest of the material.
The rest of the job is straight forward from here.

10-24-2009, 08:48 AM
Very nice. I was wondering how you got that long radius machined.

10-24-2009, 09:02 AM
Awesome solution Bob! Thanks for taking the time to post the pics.:)

10-25-2009, 01:27 AM
Ok, that is slick. The sad part is you'll never see the money for the time you've invested in just making that cutter....

Of course if you end up making more of those ink trays you'll be set tooling wise.

So, the question begs to be asked....

What is a reasonable hourly rate to charge for your time in a manual machine equipped shop?

I'm not in the 'for hire' ranks. But I am curious what the rates may be.

10-25-2009, 01:42 AM
Figure out what your time is worth to set a price. Then figure out what the customer is worth going forward. If zero, then charge full price - you've nothing to lose. If the customer is worth quite a lot then discount 50% - you'll get it back.

10-25-2009, 02:22 AM
I do the odd job and charge the same as Lane, 60.00 an hour plus tax if it's official. I did a small run of items for our local tractor shop recently, 5/8 hex bar with around 5/8 of 8mm dia on one end a hex in the middle and around 3/4 of M8 thread on the other end. I knocked out ten in an hour, took them up there and asked them how much the last bloke charged them, it was a big job to find the last docket but the boss there said, we are selling them for 28.80 each, I said ten bucks each will do me fine! And i have more at home waiting to go, made in the same setup!
Don't sell yourself short! Quite often there is no alternate supplier or the manufacturer will only supply a complete unit for megabucks! Which is why I make these items, replacement parts from the manufacturer are around 400 bucks.

10-25-2009, 02:37 AM
I am also not in the for hire ranks so for me a question for the customer is
Why don't you go out and buy a replacement instead of asking me to make one?

The answer may be they are too expensive or simply not available anymore
in which case the replacement cost for the part to them is the cost of the machine, you should be able to come down a long way from that point of view and have both side feel they have a good deal. Coming at it from the other side of what is the most I can afford to loose if something does not go perfectly is asking for trouble. Maybe not this time but eventually.

10-25-2009, 11:10 AM
What to charge. First, what is the going labor rate in machine shops around you? Next is how long did it take and would it take that long for more of them? As to the tooling, you can't get it back on one piece unless the customer has agreed to it before hand. I do a lot of small runs and if I see I am going to have to make tooling I tell the customer. If it's something I will be doing a lot of short runs using that tooling I either add a portion to each run or just figure the cost of the tooling is worth getting the work.

When I do work that is for resale I charge $60 per hour but my shop rate goes from $30 to $60 depending on what it is and maybe who it's for. The last job shop I worked in had a labor rate from free to $100 per hour depending on who the customer was and a lot of other factors. He was an interesting person to work for.

Bob, if your doing this for income set your labor rate the same as the other shops. Charge for what it actually takes to do the job less the boo boo's. For the tooling, how many parts will you make using any tooling you make is what to consider but charge something for it unless it's a long time job.

One thing to remember is charge at least 3/4 full price of a manufacturers replacement part and if the part is not available your in almost complete control but remember you want them to be happy and come back.

10-25-2009, 01:45 PM
If this becomes a recurring job, it's time to get some horizontal cutters. Much faster to remove the bulk of the metal with a horizontal cutter, close to the desired radius and finish with your single point tool.

Paul Alciatore
10-25-2009, 02:41 PM
Interesting thread that illustrates a dilema we have probably all been in to one extent or another. On one hand, most customers are going to complain about paying full tilt for a one-off job that just does not "look like" all that money. So we have to consider the competition, the cost of similar looking items that are mass produced, the fact that some of the time is spent learning how to do it, the time and materials spent making special tools, all the items that add time and material that is really not part of the final item's production. Is it really fair to charge for these things?

The answer is really both yes and no. Another part of the decision is, can they go somewhere else and get it done cheaper. Perhaps I can get it done elsewhere and add a percentage. And, do I want to spend the time and money necessary to learn how to do it and to tool up? Will I be able to use the knowledge and tooling at a later date for other jobs? Perhaps I can add just a small percentage of these costs to each such job instead of adding all of them to the first. Then there's good will, word of mouth advertising after a job well done, and possible future income from additional work.

I can guarantee that if a big company is asked to do such a job, they will factor in ALL possible costs and then add a generous percentage to cover any possible over runs. And their attitude will be, "Take it or leave it, that's what we charge". On the other hand, we are often hungry and will take less for our time. This is not necessairly a bad thing.

As far as what is fair or honest to charge, any and all of the choices are both fair and honest. No one is forcing them to buy it. There are good reasons for almost any choice and you have to decide where draw the line.

10-25-2009, 03:33 PM
What a terrific collection of points-of-view. Thank you folks. Great food for thought.