One of the most popular activities in woodworking is making and selling small items like cutting boards. But it can be a grind and you may feel like you’re doing a lot of work for the amount of money you’re making. In this article I’m going share everything I know about making and selling cutting boards from design to workflow and pricing your work to improve your cutting board sales. Then I’m going to explain how none of that matters unless you’re doing one thing right. Alright, let’s dive in.
CUTTING BOARD SUPPLIES I USE AND RECCOMMEND
*I use affiliate links, please see details on my disclaimer.
►4 oz Aluminum Tins – https://amzn.to/2PS1q0V
►Beeswax Pellets – https://amzn.to/3PfRxGj
►Mineral Oil – https://amzn.to/3ASteKn
►Mineral Oil (gallon) – https://amzn.to/3aQsY3I
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►Turkey Baster – https://amzn.to/2ShjYZN
►1/2 cup Measuring Cup – https://amzn.to/34PkdxK
►Digital Angle Gauge – https://amzn.to/34pEHxU
►RevMark White Marker- https://amzn.to/2DwEgpT
►Titebond III Wood Glue – https://amzn.to/37FSFhd
►Glue Scraper – https://amzn.to/2OIRULC
►Parallel Clamps – https://amzn.to/2KYgua8
►Forrest Woodworker II saw blade – https://amzn.to/2OlOL5n
►Freud Heavy Duty Ripping Blade – https://amzn.to/2qQI1Dz
►Foam Brushes (for applying glue) – https://amzn.to/37IBeN2
►Spray Bottle (for applying water) – https://amzn.to/33um1fi
►Sanding Disc Cleaner Stick – https://amzn.to/3app8hQ
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►Gorilla Grip Shelf Liner(for sanding)- https://amzn.to/2WZtn9C
15 Ways to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
OK, the first thing I want to talk about is where to sell your work because this is going to be just as important as what you’re selling. One of the easiest ways to start selling is doing it locally at craft fairs and farmers markers. Typically, this is going to cost you a nominal entry fee to display at the event and you’ll need to spend a little time and money building out a display booth and you’re on your way.
Your pool of potential customers is relatively small. Events like this are typically attended by people in your local area and depending on the economic climate where you are, it can potentially limit the amount that a customer can spend on your product.
Another problem is these events are often going to have more than one booth selling the same kind of product. This puts your direct competition in the same room as you to compete for those customer dollars.
And also, these events are usually geared toward very transactional impulse buying. People who don’t know who you are, looking to get something they didn’t really need and they want to spend the least amount of money possible.
Tip #1 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
Although selling locally is a great place to start, my first tip is to take your business on line. We all live in a big interconnected world these days and I think that’s a good thing. It’s also good because your pool of potential customers is much, much bigger.
When you first start looking for places to sell online you’re most likely going to explore using Etsy. That’s the first place I sold my boards. Etsy makers it very easy to set up your own shop, set up your products and take customer payments.
But while Etsy has the potential to expose your product to a wider customer base, it has too many similarities to selling at a local event.
Just do a search on Etsy for cutting boards. There are 250 pages of results before my search tapped out! How are people ever going to find your products in all that mess?
Not only that but you’re also competing with businesses who aren’t really small businesses like you. They can make products by the 1000s from a full-scale production shop and sell them for ridiculous low prices that you can’t (and shouldn’t) try to compete with. And even if someone did manage to find you in all that noise, check out what Etsy will do to you. They will show your competition’s listings right on your product page! That’s nuts! Talk about hard to sell!
Tip #2 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
So tip #2 to improve your cutting board sales is get off ETSY ASAP and Set Up Your Own Shop.
To do this you have a couple different options. You could build your own website using platforms like Squarespace or WordPress. Both allow you to make impressive websites and give you the ability to sell products and make customer transactions.
Or you could leverage selling platforms like Shopify that let you build sites specifically for selling product. Either way you’ll have complete control over branding and the look of your store and most importantly your customer is only going to see YOUR PRODUCT.
And here’s a pro tip: Selling online means the customer can buy a product FIRST, and then you build it versus selling at a craft fair where you have to build everything up front and hope a customer buys it. That’s a key advantage in developing efficient work flows!
But because your website is not ETSY and doesn’t have a million visitors a day, You will need a way to drive customer to your site in order to sell to them. Just… hang on to that thought because before we get there I want to talk about WHAT to sell.
Tip #3 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
Tip #3 to improve your cutting board sales is to create recognizable designs or something that is identifiable with your brand.
You don’t have to necessarily invent something totally new, just something that can make your work stand out when compared to the competition. There are a couple different ways to do this.
One way is to play with unique and contrasting colors. I loved putting highlights in my boards using exotic wood species that created bright red, yellow or purple pops of color. In addition to selling traditional woods like walnut, maple and cherry, most hardwood dealers will sell exotic woods like purple heart, bloodwood, paduak and yellow heart.
These woods ARE more expensive, but since they are often used only as accents you won’t increase the overall material cost that much, but you will increase the wow factor by a lot.
Another thing you can do is play with design elements. This was one of my most popular selling boards and it has this awesome under bevel cut all the way around the bottom.
Not only is this a design feature because it adds a visual interest to the board but it adds a functional feature as well because you have this built-in finger grip no matter which direction you pick it up.
Tip #4 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
OK Tip #4 to improve your cutting board sales is when designing your boards, consider how labor intensive they will be.
There are some ultra-intense and very awesome cutting board designs out there but they tend to require a lot more steps to build them and more steps means more labor and time involved which you need to bake into the price of your work.
This US Flag cutting board was one of my more popular designs but it takes a lot of steps to build. It’s end grain which requires more than one glue-up and it has to be assembled in multiple sections and it also has this wooden star inlay, which, just that process alone is multiple steps.
I ended up having to price these at around $350 just to cover all the labor involved and even then, I finally quit making them on a regular basis because they interfered too much with my production process.
Tip #5 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
And Tip #5 to improve your cutting board sales is Give your customers plenty of options.
One thing you should never do is assume what your customer wants. Make sure you offer your boards in different size options. I would offer a board like this in five different sizes from 12×12 up to 24×30. I even sold these little 8×10 bar boards. Aww aren’t they cute!
This gives you the best chance to make a sale because the customer has both a range of size options as well as different price points to meet their budget.
And here’s another pro tip: Larger cutting boards sell for more money but take very little extra labor to make.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say you have 2 boards, one 12×18 and another one 20×24. You feel pretty confident you could sell that first board for $175. You figure you could easily sell the second for $250 since it’s almost twice the size.
For the first board you’ve calculated the cost of materials to $30 and for the other, since it’s twice as big, materials will be 60 for that one. You calculated your labor cost for the first board to be 100. Since the second one takes a marginal amount of effort more, maybe 15 more minutes of sanding, the labor comes out to 115.
So, if we do the math on the first board and subtract materials and labor from the price you see the profit on this board is $45, which is a 35% profit margin.
But for the second board your profit shoots up to $75 or a 43% profit margin.
So, if you only made one board today, which one would you want to make?
Oh, and one other thing is to have a way to take custom requests. Sometimes even if you offer a range of sizes, your customer may have a very specific space they want to fit and giving them a way to request that might just earn you a sale.
Tip #6 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
Tip #6 to improve your cutting board salesis to add value by offering “Extras”.
There are some great ways you can make your product stand out and make some additional profit as well. You can offer features such as finger holds, juice grooves or even rubber feet as add-ons to your boards. If I were you, I would never just build these into your boards without a request, don’t assume the customer will wants those things. Give the customer the option to add those things onto their order.
Always remember that adding these features also adds labor to the cost of the board. You can decide whether you charge an additional fee for each feature, or if there’s enough margin built into the price of your board you can offer them as free upgrades to entice your customer to buy!
Another thing you can offer are complimenting products like this. This is a homemade wood conditioner made from beeswax and mineral oil. You can make this a lot cheaper than you can buy it and make a pretty good margin on it. It’s a great way to show the customer you care about the products you’re selling and want to make it easy for them to maintain it.
I have a whole video on how to make this and where to get the tins so be sure to check that out if you want to do this yourself.
Tip #7 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
When it comes to making cutting boards your largest expense is often NOT materials. It’s your labor. So, you need to figure out how to keep your labor costs to a minimum. This mainly has to do with your work flow, but it doesn’t stop there.
Tip #7 to improve your cutting board sales is develop efficient processes.
In most cases it’s not very efficient to build one cutting board from start to finish before moving on to the next board. There’s glueups, sometimes multiple and that takes some waiting while things cure. You also don’t want to be ripping lumber at the table saw and throwing sawdust everywhere at the same time another board has a fresh coat of wax that’s drying.
What I found that worked best for me is to do work in batches. If I have orders for five cutting boards then I’m going to cut all my rough lumber at the same time. Then I’m going to do all my works at the planer and jointer. Then I’m going to do all my glueups at the same time.
And a pro tip here: Make your glueups the last thing you do before you close shop for the day. That way the glue is drying when you’re off with your family or getting some sleep.
Another important thing is If you’re doing finger holds or juice grooves create custom jigs or setups to make those as quick and accurate as possible while maintaining safety.
Tip #8 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
And Tip #8 to improve your cutting board sales is to consider tradeoffs in materials and labor.
Most of the time rough lumber like this is cheaper than pre-surfaced lumber. But buying pre surfaced means you don’t have to do any work with a jointer or planer. I have a video that explains how to make simple cutting boards with just a few tools and I’ll drop that link in the description below. Depending on prices it may be cheaper to buy pre surfaced and save the labor expense. Especially if you haven’t yet made the investment in a jointer or planer. Figure out what is available in your area and do what’s best for your current situation.
Tip #9 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
Tip #9 to improve your cutting board sales is to consider automation as fast as your business will allow.
If you already have an established business and are serious about taking it to the next level or you’re a beginner and have some extra cash then investing in a CNC or laser engraver is a must.
If I had to choose one to buy first, I’d go with a CNC and here’s why. CNCs will benefit your cutting board business in a number of ways. They unlock your ability to further differentiate your product by adding custom engravings like names, logos or other personal touches. But they can also be set up to cut your juice grooves and finger holes.
This will reduce your labor cost and also decrease the likelihood of making a mistake and damaging your product. My business really took off once I began leveraging my CNC for this kind of work.
Tip #10 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
OK, so you’ve stuck with me this far, now it’s time to deliver some bad news. Your work, it’s not special!
Even if you’ve taken everything I just told you to do and put it into practice, there’s thousands of other people who’s work is just as good or better than yours. If you every want to separate yourself from the pack and command those high prices for your boards you need to leverage the one thing those other guys don’t have, YOU!
The one thing you need to invest your time and energy in the most is your brand.
And so tip #10 to improve your cutting board sales is get good at selling you and your brand.
The key to Increasing the price of your boards is to increase the demand for your brand and you can decide what that brand will be. You could have a logo, something recognizable and memorable or your brand could just be you yourself.
The main thing is create a brand that you can attach to your work so people can remember it and speaking of people, you need to find where they hang out.
Tip #11 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
Tip #11 to improve your cutting board sales is to change your approach to social media.
You need to stop being a consumer of content and become a producer of content. Create brand accounts on apps like Instagram and TikTok and keep those separate from your personal accounts. Don’t get me wrong, you want to share yourself and what you’re doing on your brand accounts, but you want to keep it focused on your work and your brand.
I spent a couple years building a brand presence on Instagram before my business really became serious. I would post multiple times a day with content related to what I had going on in the shop. I made myself present as often as I could in front of as many people as I could.
Make sure your content isn’t just showing the finished product. Show people the process! Make them appreciate what goes into creating your boards. These days there’s no better way to do that than with video. People LOVE watching you work.
Also, share yourself along the way too, let people know who you are. Anything that helps people build a strong connection to your brand will get them more invested in it. This is going to be the fuel for the engine of your business and it’s going to allow you to start charging more for your work than you thought possible.
Tip #12 to Improve Your Cutting Board Sales
And so, Tip #12 to improve your cutting board sales is test your pricing.
As your brand grows, demand for your product will also grow and this is where you can get away from the simple calculations of a profit model and start really testing your brand power. If you find that you have a high level of demand for your boards at your current price, then raise your price and see what happens.
If you raise your price and demand still isn’t slowing down, then raise your price again. Keep doing this until you find a good balance between the amount of work you are doing and the amount of profit your generating.
Always ask yourself the question would I rather sell two boards for $100 or one board for $200.
OK, so I want to tell you about one example that taught me this lesson better than anything else.
A few years ago I had someone reach out to me about making a larger custom board.
This was at the very end of the holidays and I had been through the ringer getting all my orders made and shipped in time for Christmas and I was tapped out physically. I didn’t want to make anything else the rest of the year.
So, the quote I gave this person was high enough that I thought they’d get the hint that I didn’t want to make it for them.
It was way more money than I’d ever charged for my work.
But the customer didn’t go away.
They accepted my quote and when I explained that I was sure I couldn’t deliver it before Christmas they said that’s OK. Make it for me in January.
And so I realized at that point, they were paying the price because they wanted a board from ME even though they could have gone somewhere else and gotten just as good a product from someone else for a lot less money.
They had been following my work on Instagram for a while and loved watching what I was trying to create and that’s what they wanted to be a part of in their own way.
And that’s the most important thing I know about selling cutting boards or really anything.