Estimating The Cost Of Manhours In Handwork

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.

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