Help!! Pen kits, bulk, pricing! Sorry so long!

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Kburr

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Jun 20, 2017
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I am relatively new to pen turning and have just started selling the products I create. In the past, I have sold my items too cheap but have been working hard to create prices that are reasonable yet benefit me as well. That being said, I HAVE MY FIRST BIG ORDER! Not just one or two pens but BULK quantity. I have only created "low-cost" slimline resin/wood pens so far. This customer, wants a higher-end artisan/cigar style pen that cost anywhere from 25-35 dollars a kit. I'm adding $5-10 to each pen depending on quantity for blanks/labor. I have been doing my homework and comparing prices/quality on a lot of sites. There are just so many!! I narrowed it down to one specific style, on woodturnerscatalog.com, that I know my customer is 100% satisfied with design wise.. even though he has no idea how much they cost yet.

Fast forward 24 hours.. customer has asked to replace the cap portion (design) of the kit with their LOGO instead.. Great idea, but I have no idea how I should execute it. My significant other, just happens to be a machinist so he suggested either creating a die and pressing or stamping it into a type of metal or milling the logo in.

MY QUESTIONS ARE: How do I begin pricing 25, 50, 75, 100, 40-50 dollar pens (I think im pricing them too low)? What are the best places to order high quality pen kits in bulk!? I have to add machining work/material but I have no idea what i'll truly need until the pens are actually ordered. Does anyone have experience with bulk pricing and the time it takes to create 100 pens??

I am just feeling so overwhelmed. Picture of pen below. ANY advice would be great!! Thanks, in advance!
 

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corgicoupe

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Smoke Rise, GA
Ryan Krusac (ryankrusac.com) considers the statesman to be the highest quality kit. Go to his site to see his pricing. Cut it in half and discount a bit further for bulk sales to get in the ballpark. But it has to be top quality work!
 

Kburr

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Thanks, corgicoupe! I am at a loss for words, 400 dollar pens!? It definitely gives me something to go off of, though! Thank you!!
 

Kburr

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I haven't priced anything, yet. I'm well aware the items I've sold in the past were too cheap. However, most went to locals, friends, and family who have helped me get to where I am now. I want to make sure, I dont make that mistake in the future though, so that's why I am asking. Bulk quantity is new to me. Should I charge hourly, instead? Location, location.. How do I know which areas pay more?
 

firewhatfire

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Columbiana, Alabama
If you are $40 in a kit and blank with custom finial costing another $10, if it was me I would start pricing at $200 per as a bulk order prices. $250 start for a single pen.

That is minimum

Price them all like you are in an area that can afford those prices.


I haven't priced anything, yet. I'm well aware the items I've sold in the past were too cheap. However, most went to locals, friends, and family who have helped me get to where I am now. I want to make sure, I dont make that mistake in the future though, so that's why I am asking. Bulk quantity is new to me. Should I charge hourly, instead? Location, location.. How do I know which areas pay more?
 

thawkins87

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McKinney, TX
Most of what I see (in my industry, which is admittedly not related to the pencrafting industry whatsoever), a customer would expect a 15-25% discount on a bulk order over what they would pay for a one-off. Looking at the pricing of components on a pen part distributor like Exotic Blanks, that looks to be on-par for an order of around 100. So you could figure out what you would charge for 1 pen, multiply it by 100 and apply the "bulk discount"? Or you could go through, figure out your direct cost (including kits/customizations, blanks, expendable materials, and a rate you would charge for your time/artistic investment) and then potentially add a bulk discount. Although you may be able to factor out the discount if it's factored in to the price you paid for your raw materials.

But take anything I say with a grain of salt... everything I've turned on a lathe so far has been gifted so I haven't technically made any money off my hobby yet o_O
 

TonyL

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The only real economies of scale we enjoy in pen making is marketing (maybe some bulk product cost discounts too) - even with a duplicator, we don't save much time when producing multiples of the same pen. The "discount" would reflect a percentage of your customer acquisition costs. That is for you and the buyer to agree upon. And after all of the calculations, one is still stuck with what the buyer is willing to pay. You have the right not to sell, but the buying decides what the product's cash value is.
 

Marc

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The problem with discounting bulk orders is that you cannot pick up enough efficiencies in the process to justify a significant discount. You still must do each part of the process one at a time. You can save some time by doing all of the cutting, drilling, glueing etc in large batches, but it is still one at a time so you are not saving significant effort.
Don't forget that even the most careful craftsman will still experience some failure at the various steps and those you won't get paid for.
The logo adds a significant cost to the project and you may have to farm that out. That cost should also be increased somewhat for you administrative time and effort and costs of capital, etc.

All of that said, I would also consider a non-refundable deposit to cover hard costs so you are not out of pocket should the buyer flake out at the end. Things like not liking the final product or moving to Canada or whatever.
 

magpens

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If you are just starting out with making pens I think you should count on at least one day of your time per pen. . Of course, there are many factors to consider, and one of the biggest factors is the type and quality of finish you put on the pen.

Another factor is whether you adopt some mass-production techniques, and if you do, how you implement and sequence the individual operations.

For example, assuming you start with square cross-section blanks, will you first turn all the blanks round, then cut all blanks to length, then drill all the holes, then glue all the tubes, then trim all the lengths, then turn all down to the appropriate size, then do the shaping on all pieces that are intended to be the same size and shape, etc, etc.

Selling price ? . If you buy the pen kit for X and the blank for Y, then some people will tell you that you should sell the product for A times X + Y, where A ranges from 2.5 to 4 depending on how much you value your time, how much you estimate you spend on expendable supplies, the market you are selling into, whether you are selling at craft fairs, online, or whatever, etc., etc.

There are so many factors and variables it is difficult to give a definite answer.

If you check on Etsy you will see prices ranging (for the "same" pen kit) by at least a factor of 2 and the same will be true if you look at individual websites.

Of course, you have to factor in what it costs you to rent space and tables at a craft fair, and what it costs you to pay the subscription and maintence fees for a website.

When it comes to buying pen hardware kits in quantity, every vendor does their pricing a little differently.

For buying, the best pricing quantity discounts, in my opinion, are at www.ExoticBlanks.com on the kits that they "specialize" in

You can get some bargains by shopping around and asking each vendor what their discount would be for your proposed quantity.

Be sure you consider quality of hardware kits and be assured that you won't get the best quality by buying from the vendors which have the biggest slice of the market pie.

You have to figure out all these things for yourself and you have to try kits from various vendors unless you get to know others in your position who have gone this route before you and who are willing to divulge the trade secrets that they have learned the hard way.

Pen-making may be the one field of manufacturing and marketing where there are so many variables and uncertainties and where individual experiences can be so different.

I am no expert by any means, but if you want to ask me questions I will be happy to try to give you honest answers from my point of view. Send me specific questions, one or two at a time, in a PM (private message).

I know I speak for everybody on IAP in extending a hearty welcome to you as a new member. . There is lots to be learned here, and there are many, many very helpful people.

Good luck !! . Hope to hear from you !!
 

leehljp

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Tunica, MS,
The bulk discounts should begin AFTER you establish a reasonable price. Reasonable for some are two times the kit price plus extras and time. For others 3 times.

Here are costs beyond the components:
Finish it costs to finish
Sandpaper,
lathe
wood
resin costly.
casting molds
tools of different kinds
TIME.

Bulk orders are good but in reading past posts from others here, bulk orders take the joy out quickly, and it becomes WORK. You have a family and they will need your time but when you contract for bulk pens, a deadline can ruin the fun. It sure helps when you know that you are getting PAID well to make up for the time working instead of spending the extra minutes with family.

Equipment costs; material costs; your time is worth considerable. I noticed your casting and it shows your experience. That is a $10 - 15 pen blank in itself if you bought it.

The custom logo on top, that is at least a $10 item, maybe more. Then the tooling to get it inserted without ruining the pen cap. Don't sell yourself short on pricing. For someone relatively new, you have talent that is worth more than what you are stating. From long past posts, several have said it is HARD to raise prices to reasonable value once a low price is established. One more thing, not sure where in GA you are located, but the Atlanta, (along with a couple of other famous tourist areas) will draw a higher dollar clientele.
 

Kburr

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Joined
Jun 20, 2017
Messages
20
Location
Georgia
If you are just starting out with making pens I think you should count on at least one day of your time per pen. . Of course, there are many factors to consider, and one of the biggest factors is the type and quality of finish you put on the pen.

Another factor is whether you adopt some mass-production techniques, and if you do, how you implement and sequence the individual operations.

For example, assuming you start with square cross-section blanks, will you first turn all the blanks round, then cut all blanks to length, then drill all the holes, then glue all the tubes, then trim all the lengths, then turn all down to the appropriate size, then do the shaping on all pieces that are intended to be the same size and shape, etc, etc.

Selling price ? . If you buy the pen kit for X and the blank for Y, then some people will tell you that you should sell the product for A times X + Y, where A ranges from 2.5 to 4 depending on how much you value your time, how much you estimate you spend on expendable supplies, the market you are selling into, whether you are selling at craft fairs, online, or whatever, etc., etc.

There are so many factors and variables it is difficult to give a definite answer.

If you check on Etsy you will see prices ranging (for the "same" pen kit) by at least a factor of 2 and the same will be true if you look at individual websites.

Of course, you have to factor in what it costs you to rent space and tables at a craft fair, and what it costs you to pay the subscription and maintence fees for a website.

When it comes to buying pen hardware kits in quantity, every vendor does their pricing a little differently.

For buying, the best pricing quantity discounts, in my opinion, are at www.ExoticBlanks.com on the kits that they "specialize" in

You can get some bargains by shopping around and asking each vendor what their discount would be for your proposed quantity.

Be sure you consider quality of hardware kits and be assured that you won't get the best quality by buying from the vendors which have the biggest slice of the market pie.

You have to figure out all these things for yourself and you have to try kits from various vendors unless you get to know others in your position who have gone this route before you and who are willing to divulge the trade secrets that they have learned the hard way.

Pen-making may be the one field of manufacturing and marketing where there are so many variables and uncertainties and where individual experiences can be so different.

I am no expert by any means, but if you want to ask me questions I will be happy to try to give you honest answers from my point of view. Send me specific questions, one or two at a time, in a PM (private message).

I know I speak for everybody on IAP in extending a hearty welcome to you as a new member. . There is lots to be learned here, and there are many, many very helpful people.

Good luck !! . Hope to hear from you !!
Thank you!! That was very helpful! An estimate has been sent to customer! Fingers crossed!!
 

Kburr

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Joined
Jun 20, 2017
Messages
20
Location
Georgia
Add in the blanks that will blow up, and the kits you may have to replace. I did a 100 pen order once, now I tell people that I don't discount for bulk orders, I charge extra because it gets boring

When you get this order done, imagine how much your skills will improve with all of that practice.:smile:
Ahh, thanks for the reminder!! I will be sure to make extra blanks/order extra parts!
 

Kburr

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Joined
Jun 20, 2017
Messages
20
Location
Georgia
The bulk discounts should begin AFTER you establish a reasonable price. Reasonable for some are two times the kit price plus extras and time. For others 3 times.

Here are costs beyond the components:
Finish it costs to finish
Sandpaper,
lathe
wood
resin costly.
casting molds
tools of different kinds
TIME.

Bulk orders are good but in reading past posts from others here, bulk orders take the joy out quickly, and it becomes WORK. You have a family and they will need your time but when you contract for bulk pens, a deadline can ruin the fun. It sure helps when you know that you are getting PAID well to make up for the time working instead of spending the extra minutes with family.

Equipment costs; material costs; your time is worth considerable. I noticed your casting and it shows your experience. That is a $10 - 15 pen blank in itself if you bought it.

The custom logo on top, that is at least a $10 item, maybe more. Then the tooling to get it inserted without ruining the pen cap. Don't sell yourself short on pricing. For someone relatively new, you have talent that is worth more than what you are stating. From long past posts, several have said it is HARD to raise prices to reasonable value once a low price is established. One more thing, not sure where in GA you are located, but the Atlanta, (along with a couple of other famous tourist areas) will draw a higher dollar clientele.
Thank you. That explains a good bit. I used your information to the best of my ability. I'm okay with doing work. We make our own blanks. I want to make sure I'm cutting them a great deal and cutting out the competition, witnout hurting myself or the value of my product. Any amount of money, small or large, is beneficial to my family at the moment. As long as we have cost covered and are making a profit, it will be worth it. I'm not out to get rich of someone. I live in Athens. My customer is in California. I looked at quite a few pen distributors in Cali, no less than 300 and 400 for some of the styles I'm creating! Scares me a bit. I've sent an estimate that I'm comfortable with. Hoping for the best! Thanks, again!
 

Chasper

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Location
Indiana
The kits you show look like Triton's to me, you should be able to buy them for under $20 in quantity. If it is a Jr Statesman, then a Triton would be an equal quality, lower price alternative. You can get them from Exotic Blanks.

If you are planning to replace the ornamental finial above the clip on the cap, that will be your biggest challenge. For a standard Triton I would price a quantity of 100 at well under $200 each, with the custom logo/finial I would add $50-$75 each, once the casting is set up to manufacture you can buy them for a few cents each, but you may pay several thousand dollars for the initial tooling. Also you should probably provide a wood box for each pen. if you could make the customer happy with the logo engraved on the box instead of pressed into metal on the finial, you would avoid 90% of the headaches this project is going to create.

I do several orders in the 50-100+ range every year, you will develop volume related efficiency. Some suggestions for maintaining quality with volume production:
1. Buy 2-3 drill bits in each of the sizes needed. Keep your bits cool when you are drilling dozens of the same blank, switch to a fresh bit frequently.
2. Get multiple sets of bushings, measure them carefully about every 10 pens. Nothing worse than having 100 turnings completed before you realize that you wore your bushings down after the first 25. I've done that.
3. Start with 10% more kits and 20% more blanks than you need, you will sacrifice a few along the way
 

Kburr

Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2017
Messages
20
Location
Georgia
The kits you show look like Triton's to me, you should be able to buy them for under $20 in quantity. If it is a Jr Statesman, then a Triton would be an equal quality, lower price alternative. You can get them from Exotic Blanks.

If you are planning to replace the ornamental finial above the clip on the cap, that will be your biggest challenge. For a standard Triton I would price a quantity of 100 at well under $200 each, with the custom logo/finial I would add $50-$75 each, once the casting is set up to manufacture you can buy them for a few cents each, but you may pay several thousand dollars for the initial tooling. Also you should probably provide a wood box for each pen. if you could make the customer happy with the logo engraved on the box instead of pressed into metal on the finial, you would avoid 90% of the headaches this project is going to create.

I do several orders in the 50-100+ range every year, you will develop volume related efficiency. Some suggestions for maintaining quality with volume production:
1. Buy 2-3 drill bits in each of the sizes needed. Keep your bits cool when you are drilling dozens of the same blank, switch to a fresh bit frequently.
2. Get multiple sets of bushings, measure them carefully about every 10 pens. Nothing worse than having 100 turnings completed before you realize that you wore your bushings down after the first 25. I've done that.
3. Start with 10% more kits and 20% more blanks than you need, you will sacrifice a few along the way
Wow, thanks. I purchased one Statesman for a little over $35 yesterday, to turn a sample pen. I will definitely check out the Tritons! Are they similar in quality? What is the difference in the Statesman and the Jr. Stateman other than size?

My significant other, is a machinist so machining/milling the finials won't be a problem.. We hope. I did quote them boxes just in case! However, I didn't think about offering it as an alternative to the finials. I'll be sure to give them that option as well. Although, I dont think it will effect the price any.

I ordered a kit, at the same time, that comes with several drill bits and bushings for the Stateman kit. I'll be sure to get extras! Thank you, for the advice on maintaining quality and efficiency as well! I truly appreciate the help!! I sent an estimate to customer, yesterday. Praying it works out!
 

vtgaryw

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Jul 24, 2012
Messages
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Location
Milton, VT
The only real economies of scale we enjoy in pen making is marketing (maybe some bulk product cost discounts too) - even with a duplicator, we don't save much time when producing multiples of the same pen. The "discount" would reflect a percentage of your customer acquisition costs. That is for you and the buyer to agree upon. And after all of the calculations, one is still stuck with what the buyer is willing to pay. You have the right not to sell, but the buying decides what the product's cash value is.
Actually, I have found that the time savings from making duplicates of the same pen can be fairly substantial. Assume that your setup and tear down (and cleanup) time is pretty much the same whether you're making one of a given model or 10 of that model. Then when you amortize this over a larger batch, it's not hard to achieve time savings in the 25 to 40% range.

Gary
 

Charlie_W

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Nov 16, 2011
Messages
5,093
Location
Sterling, VA USA
The kits you show look like Triton's to me, you should be able to buy them for under $20 in quantity. If it is a Jr Statesman, then a Triton would be an equal quality, lower price alternative. You can get them from Exotic Blanks.

If you are planning to replace the ornamental finial above the clip on the cap, that will be your biggest challenge. For a standard Triton I would price a quantity of 100 at well under $200 each, with the custom logo/finial I would add $50-$75 each, once the casting is set up to manufacture you can buy them for a few cents each, but you may pay several thousand dollars for the initial tooling. Also you should probably provide a wood box for each pen. if you could make the customer happy with the logo engraved on the box instead of pressed into metal on the finial, you would avoid 90% of the headaches this project is going to create.

I do several orders in the 50-100+ range every year, you will develop volume related efficiency. Some suggestions for maintaining quality with volume production:
1. Buy 2-3 drill bits in each of the sizes needed. Keep your bits cool when you are drilling dozens of the same blank, switch to a fresh bit frequently.
2. Get multiple sets of bushings, measure them carefully about every 10 pens. Nothing worse than having 100 turnings completed before you realize that you wore your bushings down after the first 25. I've done that.
3. Start with 10% more kits and 20% more blanks than you need, you will sacrifice a few along the way
Wow, thanks. I purchased one Statesman for a little over $35 yesterday, to turn a sample pen. I will definitely check out the Tritons! Are they similar in quality? What is the difference in the Statesman and the Jr. Stateman other than size?

My significant other, is a machinist so machining/milling the finials won't be a problem.. We hope. I did quote them boxes just in case! However, I didn't think about offering it as an alternative to the finials. I'll be sure to give them that option as well. Although, I dont think it will effect the price any.

I ordered a kit, at the same time, that comes with several drill bits and bushings for the Stateman kit. I'll be sure to get extras! Thank you, for the advice on maintaining quality and efficiency as well! I truly appreciate the help!! I sent an estimate to customer, yesterday. Praying it works out!
The Statesman and Junior Statesman are two different size pens of the same design. A number of pens are available in Jr or full size.
Costs will be different as well as what you should charge for these. Make sure you and your customer are on the same page as to what they want and as to pricing before diving in.
The full size pens use larger tubes, drill bits, bushings, and will need a larger blank.
Good luck!
 
Last edited:

Kburr

Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2017
Messages
20
Location
Georgia
The Statesman and Junior Statesman are two different size pens of the same design. A number of pens are available in Jr or full size.
Costs will be different as well as what you should charge for these. Make sure you and your customer are on the same page as to what they want and as to pricing before diving in.
The full size pens use larger tubes, drill bits, bushings, and will need a larger blank.
Good luck!
Okay, I figured but wanted to make sure!

A Jr. should still be much wider than a slimline would be, correct? Customer wants wider/fatter blanks. I'm hoping they will be satified with the jr sample, I'm creating. But I have no problem going to full size if that's what they decide they'd like instead. I would have to adjust quote though, obv.
 
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magpens

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Location
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
Yes, a finished Jr. is at least 50% fatter than a slimline.

The market for Jr. sizes is much better than the market for full size.

Full size pens are more like "achievement trophies" or family heirlooms ... not so much functional pens because of their size ... great for pen makers getting artistic !
 

eharri446

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Marietta, GA
There are a couple of places where you can buy precut pen blanks in lots of 100. However, they are not your fancier types of wood. I have bought Granadillo 3/4 X 3/4 X 5 blanks with some white sap wood for $25.00 a hundred. Or you could get 100 without the sap wood for $29.00.

The place that I buy from also carries Yello Heart for $39.00/100, Mango at $24.90/100, Goncalo Alves Tigerwood at $59.00/100, King Cocobollo at $119.00/100, or Teak at $25.00/100.

Shipping will run about $40.00 for a hundred blanks.

For more information check their web page at: https://www.diamondtropicalhardwoods.com/
 
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