Day 30: Index Card Docks, Batch F

From the 2013 Archives Challenge, Making Products 24 Comments

Index Card Docks
Can you believe it, it’s the last Product-A-Day challenge piece! I wanted to make something with my hands, so I returned to the Index Card Dock project from last June.

If you’re not familiar with them, they’re something I made to make index cards more visible on my desk. Here’s a picture of one I’ve been working on for my friend Colleen, trying different finishes and then sanding them off again, which is why I still have it:

Colleen's Dock
While I still don’t quite have the finishing process right yet, I’m nevertheless putting 12 docks into production for eventual sale. It’s an exercise in process management and accounting!

Tracking Time

For this first production run, I wanted to track my time of production to figure out what my “baseline” is. I’d worked out a lot of things already (see my making journal), but I didn’t know how long it would take from start-to-finish.

The results were somewhat sobering: to get to the ready-to-finish state for 12 pieces, it’s taken 290 minutes, or around 4.5 hours broken into two sessions. Session 1 was cutting. Session 2 was sanding.

First JigFirst Jig ResultsSecond Jig

Second Jig ResultsSanding ResultsSanding Results

NumberingStamp Results

There are some notable inefficiencies: two hours to make 23 cuts is a long time, and power tools would cut that to mere minutes. My sanding technique still needs refinement too. I discovered by accident that using my sander, I could start with a much lower grit than I had been using, which would save time. Likewise for the “pre-slot inspection”, choosing WHICH side to receive the slot to hide small imperfections. I’ve put this all into a spreadsheet, along with the time taken per step, so I can analyze this later.

Session 3, which I haven’t done yet, is finishing. The wood finishing would probably take another 90 minutes to two hours spread over a week, but the finish I ordered (an old-style wood finish for furniture) hasn’t yet arrived.

Pricing Conundrums

I want to sell these things, but how much should I charge? My process is pretty simple conceptually but it juggles a lot of details.

First, let me start by calculating how much a dock costs based on time + materials. That calculation, if I’m use my design rate for time, would be around $400 for time and materials for 12 docks, or about $30 a piece using the current process. I am pretty sure, though, that I could get the time of production much lower, which would lower the cost of production when using myself as (expensive) labor. However, I haven’t even gotten into staining and finishing parts yet, which are sure to add more to the cost of production.

The final price, if I were to engage in wishful thinking, would be to mark-up the calculated cost by some percentage. I have to take cost of fulfillment labor, packaging, e-commerce infrastructure, and shipping + shipping materials too. Argh.

I would also have to think about what the market would want to pay. Personally, I would be hesitant to pay a lot of money for a block of wood with a slot in it. These card docks are very simple, and I could probably have them produced in bulk by a local woodshop with a planer, a cross-cut saw, a table saw with a rotating arbor, and a belt sander. That may come to pass, but for now I don’t have a local wood shop in mind.

So instead of pricing the product now, I’m going to treat this as an artisan project. I’ve numbered and cataloged each of the 12 index cards under production on this index card dock catalog. The quality of each individual dock varies slightly, and I will be grading them as they move through the finishing stages.

How to Get One

You can’t get one yet. I don’t feel that I can pre-sell these, because the process is in flux.

However, I’m going to try an experiment.

My immediate goal is to learn how to make really-high quality wooden blocks that people can purchase as a functional desktop keepsake. They are very pleasing to hold and fiddle with. So perhaps there is also a “collectible” or “support the artist” element to the pricing. Each one is numbered; maybe 100 years from now on The Antiques Road Show, one of these “original production run Index Card Docks from David Seah” will net your descendants some bonus cash if I become famous! In the very worse case, though, your index cards won’t fall over anymore :)

So although you can’t buy them yet, you CAN suggest finishes and indicate interest. Leave a public comment on this post, tell me what you’d realistically pay for something like this, whether you’d like it natural or stained, and how you’d use it; you’ll be contributing to the artisanal provenance (or something) of each piece. I’ll keep notes on who said what, and when it comes time to release these docks into the wild you’ll be notified.

Intrigued? Leave a comment publicly on this post. No emails! It’s a public experiment! You may want to also bookmark the dock catalog page:

Enjoy! Thus concludes the 30 days of product making! Thanks for following along! :)


This article is part of a series in which I am challenging myself to create a new product every day for the month of February. The Challenge Page lists all the products in one place. Check it out!