What to Include in a Written Job Proposal

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People have different opinions about the need for contracts or written proposals. “I never use a contract,” said one furniture maker I know when I asked him about this 20 years ago. “Contracts will only get you in trouble, because they’re part of the world of lawyers.” Another friend, this one a general contractor, uses a contract for every job—and his is about 10 pages long.

In my business, I use a written proposal that functions as a contract. I based the wording on my contractor friend’s example, which was drafted by a lawyer, but mine is much shorter and less formal, as befits my work—it’s vastly less complicated than, say, orchestrating the construction of a multi-story addition to a house, with all the permits, structural considerations, and subcontractors such work entails.

I write up a proposal for virtually every job I take on, even (OK, if I’m honest, especially) for friends, because the last thing I want is to lose a friend over a misunderstanding. It’s not that I love paperwork. I just know the value of agreed-upon boundaries, managing expectations, and having a written record. I’ve lost track of how many times I have referred to a proposal while working on the job to which it applies.

I am not a lawyer, so please do not regard the following as legal advice. It’s intended as a guide to the kinds of things a proposal should include.

So, what’s in my proposal?

I date the proposal and print it on letterhead. I prefer to go over a proposal in person with the customer and have him or her sign it and give me a deposit during the meeting. When that’s not possible, my second choice is to print out the proposal and send it to the customer with a stamped, addressed return envelope. Make it as easy as possible for people to say yes and get the job confirmed. When circumstances demand that I submit the proposal by email, I make that clear in the proposal and ask the customer to print out a copy, sign and date it, then return it to the address on the letterhead.

I include the customer’s name and address. For built-in work, I note the address to which the work will be delivered, as it may be different (for example, people sometimes commission work for a house where they’ll be moving after the work has been completed).

I state the entity making the proposal (that’s me—or you). I include any contact information not on my letterhead.

Next I state the scope of work and any significant details.

Unless certain dimensions are critical, I state that any dimensions I cite are approximate.

For jobs that are part of a larger scope of work, such as kitchen cabinets, I make clear that my proposal covers design, fabrication, delivery, and installation of the cabinets (or any combination of those that applies in your particular case) and give the customer an idea of the kinds of things I am not going to include, to avoid assumptions that could cause problems down the line.

If I haven’t yet done drawings, as in the sample below, I state what I am proposing to make. If I have drawings, I can often simply refer to them—“per the scale drawings we discussed on DATE and our email correspondence.” I call out any specific details that are important, such as specialty hardware or finishes.

I always state the basis of my charges. If I’m doing the work for a fixed price, I make that clear. In this case it’s a good idea to add that any changes to the plan must be made in writing and may have a bearing on the final charges. If I’m charging by the hour, I make that clear. I cannot overemphasize the importance of making clear to your customers the basis of your charges. In time-and-materials proposals, I also state explicitly that the actual charges may be higher or lower than my estimated charges. I also point out that the job will be subject to sales tax per my state’s law.

My business insurance agent advised me to add a note making clear that once any part of my work has been delivered to the job site, insuring it will be the responsibility of the customer. (This advice resulted from a dispute between insurance companies over who was responsible for the destruction of an insured contractor’s work that had been partially completed.)

Some of my clients are lawyers. None of them has had a problem with my proposal. It may well be that no contract is iron-clad, but at least if you and your customers have agreed to a set of conditions in writing, you’ve reduced the potential for unpleasant disputes.


NR Hiller Design, Inc. (hereinafter, “I”) hereby propose to design, build, deliver, and install cabinetry for your kitchen. Although my proposal is for cabinets only (and excludes any estimate for demolition and waste removal, counters, appliances, tile, walls, etc.), I will provide what guidance I can with other aspects of the kitchen remodel as you may wish.

Based on our discussions, I estimate that to build and install the following cabinets would cost between $X and $Y, excluding cabinet painting:

West wall
Upper cabinets: 13” overall deep; four glazed doors on right-hand cabinet and two glazed on the left, with two paneled doors at the south end of the kitchen. Matching end panels for the cabinet sides flanking the window in the west wall.

Base cabinets: One cabinet to left of sink with two banks of drawers (three drawers high for the left bank, four drawers for the one immediately to the left of the sink); sink base with two doors; a cabinet with four drawers for the north end (two top drawers side-by-side, with two full-width drawers below, resembling a chest of drawers).

East wall
A base cabinet approx.. 15” wide will be on each side of the stove. Each cabinet will have one drawer above one door. One finished end panel for the exposed side of the north cabinet.

General specifications

  • Kicks will be recessed, with the cabinet face frames extending to the floor at the end of each cabinet run.
  • Doors and finished end panels will have an ovolo-type molding on the inside edges of the frames and finished panels. The top row of drawer faces will be flat; the lower drawers will have frame-and-panel faces to match the style of the doors.
  • Doors and drawer faces will be inset.
  • Doors, drawer faces, and face frames will be made of paint-grade maple with hardware to be decided.
  • The upper cabinets will have a simple cove molding over a thin piece of flat trim where they meet the ceiling, following the precedent of the existing trim where the uppers meet the bulkhead by the window.

I would be happy to prime and paint the cabinets on a time-and-materials basis, but you can almost certainly have that work done by a painter at lower cost. I would be glad to provide a referral if you’d like one.

Please note that insurance coverage for all materials delivered to your house, even before the job is completed, will be your responsibility under your homeowner’s policy.

Schedule and payments
I can start design work in APPROXIMATE DATE. As my schedule stands, I anticipate being able to deliver and install the cabinets between DATES and will do my best to work with your preferred schedule—i.e., delivery in STATE ANY DATE YOU HAVE DISCUSSED AS REALISTIC. Due to the ever-present possibility of unforeseeable circumstances, I cannot guarantee delivery and completion dates.

Here is how I work: I start by building the cabinets and do not fit the doors or drawers until after the cabinets have been installed. This helps to ensure a better fit, which is especially important with inset doors and drawers fitted to close tolerances. Once the casework is installed, you can have the stone fabricators measure the space, which enables them to get started on counters while I fit the doors and drawers.

After the doors and drawers are fitted, the doors and drawers are removed and their hardware is taken off. At this point the cabinet faces, doors, and drawers can be primed and painted. When the paint is dry, I return to replace the hardware on the doors, then complete the final installation of doors and drawers with catches, knobs, etc.

Charges will be made on a time-and-materials basis at the rate of $X per hour for design (which may include but will not necessarily be limited to: meetings, consultations by phone or email, research into products, drawing, and so forth) plus materials (such as blueprint-size copies, should they be needed). If you hire me to build and install the cabinets, I will credit you $15 per hour for all design hours paid for up to that point. (My current shop rate is $Y per person-hour.) Actual charges will be based on the number of hours spent on all work done on behalf of your job, plus materials at my cost—i.e., without markup—and may be lower or higher than estimated. Sales tax will be payable on the “manufacturing” portion of the job as required by law.

To confirm this job, please return one copy of this proposal, signed and dated, with a preliminary deposit of $Z. A deposit equal to 50% of the estimate for cabinetry (which I will be able to estimate more closely after we meet to discuss the scale drawings) will be due a couple of weeks before I start building. Interim payments will be due on request, with the balance of charges and sales tax as required due on substantial completion.

Respectfully submitted,
Nancy R. Hiller for NR Hiller Design, Inc. (via email)

I have read, understood, and hereby accept the terms and charges proposed above. I hereby authorize you to proceed with the work described.

Signature Date


Nancy Hiller is a professional cabinetmaker who has operated NR Hiller Design, Inc. since 1995. Her most recent books are English Arts & Crafts Furniture and Making Things Work, both available at Nancy’s website.

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Tool news: ShopBot Tools Launches “Subscription CNC”

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Photo: Courtesy of ShopBot

From ShopBot:

ShopBot announces the launch of its Subscription CNC program, emphasizing a simple, straightforward service that makes it easy to put a ShopBot CNC tool to work for your business. For one monthly payment, Subscribers can put a Handibot® Smart Power Tool, ShopBot Desktop, ShopBot Desktop MAX, or ShopBot Buddy® tool into production and access ShopBot’s world-class team of trainers, web training resources, and in-house support. There are no shipping fees and no cancellation fees. Subscription terms start with a minimum three-month commitment.

Making CNC technology and tools accessible to everyone has been a commitment from ShopBot Tools since first starting in 1996. ShopBot continues to believe that even the ‘little guy’ should be able to successfully employ the capabilities of CNC—making small- to medium-size shops competitive in today’s market.

The ability to cut, drill, machine, and sculpt with precision and repeatability is not just for big companies any longer. CNC lets you produce things that cannot be made effectively by hand. The progress of modern mechanization makes the technology much more affordable, easier to master, and practical. Subscription CNC now makes it possible for just about anyone to access.

“This is a service of a special kind available to individuals, companies, schools, and groups interested in having production assets at hand without distraction. When the subscription has served its function for you, and you’ve developed the resources and confidence for an investment, then you can cancel the subscription and build-out with equipment—now with a better understanding as to what you need,” Jeanne Taylor, ShopBot’s Director of Sales and Marketing, explains. There is no long-term obligation or cancellation fee. Subscribers can trade-up or down on tool size as necessary.

Subscription CNC is not a sale or a financed-sale. Subscription CNC is different from leasing. Lease and rent-to-own programs are good, but they create a sales transaction rather than a partnership. ShopBot has 20+ years of experience in providing CNC tools to businesses and individuals alike—something that is readily apparent by the success of over 10,000 ShopBotters. “We know how to deliver the goods, the tools, the training, the support, and the resources to be productive and creative,” adds Taylor.

Subscribers will be shipped new or ‘good-as-new’ tools. ShopBot will continuously refurbish and recycle tools within the program and after these tools become heavily used, they will be offered to communities in need. Prolonging the life-cycle of products is the best way to get a full life out of all the things we make.

ShopBot Tools Founder and CEO, Ted Hall summarizes, “Just like a traditional tool sale, we take responsibility for delivering tools that work and keep working. Subscription CNC is a new kind of accessibility that can help a small shop, program, a group, or an individual jump-start their work. It is our plan for making CNC even more obtainable to anyone who wants to make use of it.”

Visit the ShopBot website for details on ShopBot’s Subscription CNC program: www.shopbottools.com/SubscriptionCNC

About ShopBot

ShopBot Tools celebrated its 20th year in 2016 and continues to live their mission of making digital fabrication tools widely accessible and user-friendly. ShopBot’s CNC routers deliver the power, precision, and reliability of tools traditionally costing thousands of dollars more.

ShopBot is one of the largest producers of digital fabrication equipment for small-to-mid sized manufacturing, DIY, and education markets. The company also provides unparalleled support for its user community with forums, production support services, and specialized training classes. All ShopBot tools are designed, built in, and supported from ShopBot’s Durham, NC headquarters.

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Tool news: Grizzly Releases Models G0890 & G0891 15″ Fixed-Table Planers

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From Grizzly:

G0890—3-Knife Cutterhead Model

G0891—Helical Cutterhead Model

Machine Highlights:

(see attached PDF for model number reference and website for full specifications)

  • 3 HP, 230V, 12A, single-phase motor, and magnetic switch with thermal overload protection.
  • Workpiece capacities: 15″ max width, 6″ max thickness, 3⁄16″ min thickness, 6″ min length.
  • Headstock raises and lowers for thickness adjustments; fixed table height allows for permanent infeed/outfeed roller setups.
  • Twin gas struts provide lifting assist for easy headstock height adjustments.
  • Feed rates: 16 and 28 FPM for a smoother finish or higher production rate.
  • CSA certified.
  • Weighs approximately 302 lbs.

The Model G0890 is available for $1395 and the Model G0891 is available for $1795; both are covered by a one-year warranty. Free Shipping (lower 48) for pre-orders before July 31, 2019

For more information call 1-800-523-4777 or visit www.grizzly.com.


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Modeling Continuous Curves Across Parts in SketchUp

It’s not unusual in furniture design to have curves that run continuously across different parts. You can see this in furniture such as a Bombé dresser or this Louisiana Creole Table designed by Greg Arceneaux.

Creating this continuous curve in the shop is fairly straightforward. Assemble the parts and fair the curve. In SketchUp it’s a little different, though. Well, at least it is if you’ve used separate components for each of the parts. I had to do this recently when I created the model of Philip Morley’s Modern Dining Table for the plans. The process isn’t very difficult and it can be made easier with a few shortcuts.

The same basic process can also be used to transfer geometry from one component to another. In this video I’ll show you how to do both of these things.

This is done with native tools although I used a couple of extensions when I drew the curves for the leg and apron. Those extensions are Bezier Spline and TIG-Weld which are both available from Sketchucation. There are several other extensions that could be used for these operations, too.

I hope you can find something useful to take away from this.


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Forums Are Back on Fine Woodworking!

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I’m not going to lie. I never thought I’d see the day that Fine Woodworking brought forums back, and featured them on the homepage no less! For the past few years, woodworking forums have become little more than a punchline. I have been as guilty as anybody. But there is a new reality in the online woodworking community—people are getting burned out by social media and are starting to curb their enthusiasm for Instagram and Facebook. For many, myself included, keeping up with social media has started to feel like a chore. I have found myself mindlessly scrolling when I should be paying attention to my family. So about a month ago I deleted the apps from my phone and have found that I spend my time more wisely. I still check both frequently on my computer at work (it is my JOB!) and I keep Instagram installed on my iPad for times when I do want to scroll mindlessly, but now I use social media more deliberately and I enjoy it more.

OK, fine … so what?
Well, all of this social media hate aside, there is something fundamentally wrong about relying on social media as our only form of online woodworking community—it’s temporary by its very nature. When you post a question on Instagram, it may be answered thoroughly and quickly, but that does nothing for someone in the future with the same question or problem. There is no good way of searching for what you want on social media; you’re just fed what has happened. The strength of a forum is that it becomes a searchable record of conversations, one that anybody can benefit from, whether they have 5 followers on Instagram or 5,000.

Yeah … but what about the spam
Forums inevitably become a depository of spam, and Fine Woodworking’s old forums were as bad at filtering out spam as any other. We’re excited about the new back end that not only makes tagging spam easier for us, but also should filter out a lot of the spam automatically.

I’m excited about the rebuild of our forums here and I’m hopeful about the rebuilding of the community here on FineWoodworking.com.  With some luck and hard work we’ll have a strong community in no time, one that helps beginners and experts alike, and one that is welcoming to all. That’s my goal, and I hope it’s yours as well. So head over the forums*, and post a question or a comment. All we ask for is one thing … don’t be a jerk.

*The forum should also be in the menu at the top of the website. If you don’t see it, check the “more” button.

edit!- We created a form for users to submit feedback regarding the forum without posting it directly to the forum. Let us know what you think.

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Modeling Live Edge Furniture in SketchUp

Live Edge furniture is very popular in our area. The local sawmills are quite busy millin these irregular planks for tables and benches. In the video below I’m showing a way of modeling these complicated shapes in SketchUp. After importing a photograph of the plank, it requires some tedious line and arc trace over work. Then a plug-in helps fill-in the live edge faces.

It all starts with a photograph and below is the one I’ve used for this example. I import the photo to SketchUp (as an Image), then straighten and size the picture. A red line down the red axis on the centerline, helps to rotate the photo to it’s proper position. Also I use the length of that red line to size the picture to full size, based on the exact length of the plank.

The next process is tracing over the live edges using Arc and Line Tools. As the plank is too long for the planned bench length, I’m also placing vertical lines where the cross-cuts are located on the plank. After tracing the edge shapes, I’ve created two faces, an upper and lower, and made them separate groups.


Here are the two faces (upper and lower) of the traced-over edges. They are separated by the thickness of the plank. Note there are no faces on the edges of the plank. For a piece of straight lumber, these edge faces would be automatic, but not so easy on a live edge.

To fill in the faces on the irregular edges, I used a free Plug-in – Curviloft by Fredo, available on the Extension Warehouse. There are several routines in this Plug-in and the one to create these edge faces is called Skin Contours. The video shows how I use this in SketchUp.


Here is an idea on configuring this live edge seat into a Bench for shoe handling near the front door. The shoes will be placed on the lower shelf.






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Bowl of Fun

Last weekend, I was a temporary bachelor. I probably don’t need to tell you that meant — I was going to make a mess woodworking. Earlier in the week, I had scavenged a big chunk of box elder wood with some red stains running through it. (Very cool-looking wood, but it smells like a diaper that needs changing.)

On Saturday, after a bit of preliminary chopping and cutting, I decided to carve a replica of a dough-kneading bowl. Of course, I was doing this from memory, no picture or plan … but how hard could it be?

Now, when I say carving, I do not mean that I grabbed my German-made gouges and a fancy mallet — I grabbed an angle grinder and some carving cutters. At the end of a couple of hours, I had a bowl … looking antique and rustic.

Then I got busy cleaning up the mess!

Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

Metabo HPT Joins Gen T

Metabo HPT Joins Gen T

Late last month, Metabo HPT (formerly Hitachi Power Tools) announced that it has joined Generation T (“Gen T”), a national movement launched by Lowe’s Home Improvement to address the widening skilled trades gap. Together, the contributing sponsors of Gen T seek to drive enrollment in skilled trade training and build a pipeline of skilled trade workers to offset the anticipated gap of 3 million jobs by 2028.

One key component of the movement is a first-of-its-kind national skilled jobs marketplace, available on the Gen T website, that connects people to prospective apprentices.

“Metabo HPT is proud to be a part of this movement, and we are excited about how we can support strengthening our key trade customers,” said Joe Leffler, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Metabo HPT. “Helping drive awareness in support of our future tradesmen and -women throughout the country is vital.”

Metabo HPT joins more than 60 Gen T organizations across the country who are helping to facilitate the education and training needed to populate the skilled trades industry, close the job skills gap and shape a new perception of the skilled trades.

“The success of Generation T begins with a collaboration among our many partners who are using their voices to bring the professional trades back: back to education, back to the American economy and back to a place of admiration and respect in our society,” said Jennifer Weber, executive vice president of human resources at Lowe’s. “We believe the professional trades are an essential part of America’s future, and we’re committed to opening the path to those who relish the challenge of creating something out of raw materials and take pride and satisfaction in mastering the skills required to do it.”

Weber says Lowe’s has seen the success that can result from empowering people with a skilled trade by enrolling more than 1,350 of its employees in the Lowe’s “Track to the Trades” program.

Lowe’s introduced Track to the Trades in February 2018 as a workforce initiative to provide career alternatives and financial support for Lowe’s associates interested in pursuing a skilled trade. Apprenticeship programs include carpentry, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and appliance repair. As a part of this program, Lowe’s also helps facilitate job placements at the company or within its national network of contractors.

Learn more about Metablo HPT by visiting metabo-hpt.com. For more information about Generation T, please visit WeAreGenerationT.com.

RYOBI® 18V Powersource Inverter

RYOBI® 18V Powersource Inverter

RYOBI’s 18V ONE+™ POWERSOURCE turns 18-volt DC battery power into 120 volts of alternating current, creating an on-the-go outlet for power wherever you need it. Providing 150 watts (1.25 amps) of continuous output, this inverter will power and recharge small electronic devices like laptops, tablets and cell phones. The POWERSOURCE is also equipped with two 2.4-amp USB ports andan on-board LED light. It will accept any RYOBI 18V ONE+ slide-on style battery.

The RYOBI 18V ONE+ POWERSOURCE (model RYI150BG) is sold bare, without a battery or charger, for $79.97. RYOBI covers your purchase with a three-year limited warranty. Find it at Home Depot stores or online.

Using Toggle Clamp Wedges

Using Toggle Clamp Wedges

It’s a hassle to change the setting on the threaded posts of toggle clamps in order to adjust the rubber bumper’s clamping pressure. When workpieces are too thin for the current setting, I simply insert a small scrap wedge between the rubber bumper and the workpiece to fill the extra space — no need to go looking for my wrenches to adjust the clamp.

– Willie Sandry
Camus, Washington