Price cycling

It’s been a while since I posted last but it’s been a very busy time and things have moved forward with Muck N Brass rather quickly I’m happy to say.

I want to talk about how I approach the tricky subject of pricing for Muck n Brass products. To me right pricing is the most important part of my business.

First there’s the the straightforward bit, the costs, obviously there’s the cost of the base piece to be upcycled and the materials, transportation or delivery and until I move into my new workshop and store I’m working from home so don’t have any overheads. Once I’ve totted up those I use a standard multiplier to come up with my guide retail price, basically using a cost plus method of pricing of course remembering that other costs like ebay fees and paypal fees have to be taken into consideration.
I do this to give me a rough idea of where to start with the price and then refine it using a number of other factors, which can include thinking about the demand for and scarcity of a piece, the buyers; who they are and their ability/willingness to pay, and the competition.
My aim is to sell each piece within a month, I’ll come to the thinking behind this later but in order to achieve this the most important thing is the right price.
To give an example a 6’6” long Nathan sideboard might cost the same as a 4 drawer Shrieber chest and so using my cost plus calculation the resulting price of each might be £200 but knowing that fewer customers have room for such a large sideboard and that there is always a great demand for chests of drawers I would price the Nathan sideboard at £195 and the Shrieber at £225.
Now back to the reasons behind my aim of trying selling each piece within a month. Like every other businesses cash flow and storage space are supremely important but in my business with every piece being a one off , my sales are driven by online traffic and social media, newness and originality and it’s a virtuous circle, newness drives traffic and sales and sales allow me to get new projects to upcycle and so creates the newness which drive traffic and sales. For example one new piece posted on Instagram can translate to over 200 views on my Etsy store which in turn would generally create 2 sales. Which gives me the opportunity to start some new projects.

Returning to cashflow and those fees it’s time for a rant Etsy charges 3% and I get my money within 2 days, ebay and paypal fees together come to roughly 10% and I get my money instantly but I came across a site which claims to support small upcycling business but charges x% and it takes 21? days to release the seller’s funds. Nuff said.

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Less is more. Or is it?

It was exciting to go to an actual house clearance and see some pieces in situ worth buying and renovating.  It felt like I was in a special place.  The secret garden but this one was full of old furniture.  Furniture heaven.  The only problem was getting all 6 pieces home, and which one to start first of course.  My mind was full of ideas but I was left feeling like Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate factory, where he was over come by his gluttonous ways. Only I was over come by my furniture haul and ideas.   It was on the third piece I worked on from that gluttonous furniture hall that I realised something.  Underneath this mass of dirt, damp and down right neglected piece was some beautiful untouched wood with stacks of character.  It took me some time to see this as I spent a whole day releasing the drawers from the body of the chest (hammers, drills and a swift kick) and then another half a day trying to make them fit again.  The wood was swollen, smelt like an old mans wardrobe and hadn’t seen daylight for some time.  I thought “I don’t always have to do my usual painting and covering up” I could try and get the lustre and life back into the wood.  I also thought it would save me a lot of work sanding, undercoating, painting and varnishing seeing as I had another 3 pieces yet to start work on.  Famous last words as they say.  It seems there is a lot more to treating and caring for wood.  Sanding, dying, oiling and more sanding.   I spent the best part of 3 days repeating these tasks.  And there really was blood, (kicking those drawers open) sweat (sanding) and tears (the cost of wood treatments).  Until “The” moment.  The moment reminiscent of finding your lost phone.  The moment you win more than a quid on a scratch card.  I could have easily had slept next to her all night so she was the first thing I saw when I woke up. (Apparently I used to do that with new shoes as a kid.  Yet to be proved).  I felt as proud as the day Alfie didn’t pretend I was his aunty in the school playground for a change.  There were “hallelujah’s” screaming from everywhere.  Although I started this particular project thinking I was cutting time and effort, it turned out the complete opposite.  That said it was the most rewarding piece I’ve ever worked on and I was struggling not to keep her.  She went to a new home in only a day and I wasn’t  surprised.
After 1
After 2
After 3
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My rules of recycle.

Before sharing my upcycling highs and lows I thought I would share with you my “Rules of Recycle”  These have all been learnt through personal hands on experience and making mistakes.  I’m not sure if I would have been so open to the information if were offered from some wise old man as I usually like to learn the hard way and this I did.

Rule 1.   Check for labels, makers marks or branding.  Its not until you sell a rare piece of Ercol, G Plan or something similar not knowing what it was that you get into the habit of checking and googling first.  I’m not saying other pieces of later years aren’t worth upcycling but its worth knowing what you are dealing with. Look for its quality, wood? MFD? Veneer? If its a chest of drawers does it have wooden runners? dovetail joints?  The quality of construction is key.  We’ve all heard the term “Polishing a turd”.

Rule 2.  Space?  Do you have the space to house the renovation before, during and until you sell it?  I started with small pieces that could easily be a part of the furnishings at home until they sold.  I did start to increase their size without really being aware of it until one day it was like a game of Tetris trying to get into bed.  The kids would come home and start to make comments of how the house was changing everyday.  I was selling a piece and then quickly replacing it with something else. 

Rule 3.  Try before you buy.  Well that’s if you’re not winning great items on Ebay.  Just recently I took on 6 chest of drawers from a house clearance.  Great I thought.  Until I got them back and tried to open the drawers.  They were swollen and damp and needed a few good blows with a hammer and some patience while they dried out.  They were all worth it in the end and I still would have bought them if I had known about it before but it might have put a few people off so be aware.

Rule 4.  Don’t vandalise!  Be sympathetic to every piece.  Just because its old doesn’t mean we can go and paint and paper it and leave no room for upcyling years down the line .  Using harsh glues and adhesives for papering a piece could damage the wood and be very difficult later on if someone should wish to re purpose. 

Rule 5.  Last but  not least have fun.  I love every part of it now.  Many a time ive stuck to things I know how to do well, but be brave and try something new.  Like transferring images to wood, Papering and getting to grips with natural woods.  All exciting stuff 😉


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Turning trash into trend.

Welcome people.

So after a very hectic few months upcycling some fabulous pieces I have given in to the pressure and started a blog.  I’m hoping by this you will get to see and love what I do and possibly inspire some of you to take up your own upcycling furniture design.  I will do my best to keep you informed of all materials, hints, tips and even tell you about the mishaps and pit falls on the way.

I’ve always had a passion for upcycling and redesigning furniture.  Just recently it started to grow into something much bigger.  After creating a few unique pieces for my home I started to get a few requests and commission work.  Once I got over the “precious stage”.  What I mean by that is the stage where you cant let it go and find fault in it so much that you don’t know when to stop working on it to perfect it, you don’t believe its good enough for anyone, I was amazed at how much pleasure I got from recycling, renovating and then rehoming all the projects.

I have rules about what I do.  No vandalising for a start.  I see this a lot with upcycling.  Just because a piece of furniture is vintage, retro or just plain old doesn’t mean it will look better painted or papered.  With a bit of loving a perfectly good set of 1960’s original Ercol chairs can be brought back to life with wood dyes and oils and painting I feel should be the last option.  Upcycling any piece of furniture should be thought about carefully.  Think about who might want to upcycle or renovate it in the future.  Using harsh adhesives with paper may cause problems or even damage to the piece in a few ears to come.  I try and work with the piece and am sensitive to the cause.


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