Day 30: Index Card Docks, Batch F

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!

24 Comments

  1. Ray Peeples 2 years ago

    On the making them part… I see cutting the slot on the length of lumber first. A table saw could do that in about a minute. I would pre sand or plane the stock before hand to save finish time. Next would be to cut to length on a power miter saw, about 3 minutes start to finish. Last finish sand, stamp,number and use a hand rubbed wax/stain finish!!

  2. Author
    Dave Seah 2 years ago

    Thanks Ray! I’m thinking that as an upgrade, something like the MicroLux Tilting Arbot Table Saw might be the way to go, as it has a thin-enough kerf. I could use a regular mitre saw for cutting to length. Though I really just want to buy a JointMaker Pro with their fence system :) That’ll have to wait a while!

  3. Paul Brazdzionis 2 years ago

    Have you seen card bleachers from Levenger.com? I have one and love it. Might inspire a twist for you. Best wishes for success for you.

  4. Author
    Dave Seah 2 years ago

    Paul: Yes, I’ve seen those. That’s the first thing I looked at before making my own. I wanted something that was more on a per-card basis, because I was using it for a single card at a time. But something like that would be cool for the Task Order Up! index cards. Thanks for bringing up the card bleachers again…good to be reminded of them!

  5. Yvonne 2 years ago

    If I were to buy one of these I’d want a natural / light finish rather than a stained / dark finish. Something that gave the impression of being oiled rather than varnished or lacquered. In other words, a simple finish to compliment the simplicity of the design and to avoid the sensation that it was “too good to use”. :)

  6. karen 2 years ago

    i could see it being useful for having in different rooms as a note stand or picture frame. Great for recipes or reminders in the kitchen. It’s quite versatile. If I did not know anything about it and saw it in a store i would not pay more than $15 for it . But seeing the journey surrounding it and the face behind it I will pay up to $50. A coat of oil on it would be nice, but no varnish necessary.

  7. Christopher Robin 2 years ago

    Sooo, pricing’s hard. If I knew I was supporting something like public radio or a charity I’d say up to $50. If I were buying it in the store, $3-5. From an unknown vendor making it by hand, maybe up to $10 if the piece really felt right. Add some sort of personalization, or artwork, from an artist I liked and wanted to support? Mmmm upper end of $35 perhaps? I would expect most of the cost to be in the time cost of the design. Paying for “learning curve” or improper tool time isn’t something that excites me. I’d also consider paying the premium cost for some add on that came with a block. Like an index card with a personalized, handwritten note of encouragement.

    But that’s all if I had it in hand and could judge then and there I would be happy with it. Having several to pick from would help too.

    I personally like knots and distressed wood. Dark red or ebony stains. High contrast grain patterns are attractive. I’d likely use the block as a fiddling toy, so a smooth surface with a bunch of interesting features/distress

    While it’s not being fiddled with it would keep mementos or photos. Maybe act as a temp document holder wher turned on end. But as a special piece, it would mostly be reserved for special things.

  8. Christopher Robin 2 years ago

    Oh, of note, make sure to protect your lungs. Wood dust can be worse than coal dust in ways. Wear a respirator if you’re working with power tools or in a closed space.

    http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/wooddust/index.html

  9. Nancy 2 years ago

    Would love one for a single tarot card!

  10. Lynn O'Connor 2 years ago

    I’m ready to purchase!! Well you know that. I would like a few of them in dark cherry (same color as my levenger’s three drawer in box on the desk/table in front of me (also in a sort of dark cherry, maybe slight big lighter, a mission style table. I can take a picture and send it to you. I have the levenger bleacher, but it’s bigger than is reasonable (I also see clients and students in my home office, the room in which I’m working much of the time, and the mission (low) style table is mostly cleared off except for i3 tiered inbox and a pen holder and stapler. I can’t have the bleacher (also in dark cherry) out when I’m seeing people. But a few of these –one or two at most– would be fine to have out. It’s an item I don’t really “need” and it’s a sign of my tendency to collect things (too many things) but I would use it. I need to be reminded all day of things I forget –yes I have them written in Omnifocus, and yes I have them listed on my ETP (now I’m using the new dated mini (half letter size) ETPs clipped into my personal size planner pad which is for the whole week). Still I “forget” and having a card (index size, maybe using the Behance (sp?) orange or blue/green index cards, or levenger’s index card (with my signature/name etc on it, I use them as business cards, I have no other business cards, these are great and serve multiple purposes) sitting in a one-card block sitting in front of me– might be really helpful. I can see from all of us wanting different “finishes” etc what a pain in the a this would be for you. But I’d pay for it, at least $30 plus mailing, no doubt about it. Sure if I saw it in a store I would not pay much, but given the client-specific nature of this, I would pay more.

    Come on, in your spare TV time or something, how about making me one :-). I’d send on some extra $$ to support the artist (we can discuss this on the phone), you know that. Smily face again. What about it?

  11. Rita 2 years ago

    David, I really like these card holders. I have not had a chance to really review it, however, I would think $19.95 range would be a good price point for me. I also like the F006 finish the lightest.Just a preference thing, I like the lighter look – appears cleaner, crisper.

  12. Betsy 2 years ago

    I agree with Christopher Robin’s ideas about pricing. The 35 dollar range seems reasonable for a hold-in-your-hand memento of thirty days of exploring, learning, building, and sharing. I’ve absolutely loved seeing your email and reading your posts every day this past month. Withdrawal is sure to set in soon. As far as finish goes, I vote for as smooth and soft as possible – nothing extra shiny or sticky. I’d like to see the grain and even trace it with my fingers – sort of like a labyrinth. Flaws are expected – we’re human after all. Thank you.

  13. Stephen P Smith 2 years ago

    I’d pay $19.95 plus S&H for a pair of them (in a regular production piece, limited editions like this, I’d bid as high as $30 plus S&H)…though I would almost rather have a “trapezoidal” block, taller in the back than in the front, with two card slots about 1/2″ apart…

  14. Author
    Dave Seah 2 years ago

    What great feedback! Thanks everyone! You are all now in the queue on the dock catalog page the priority list. I’ll do my best to accommodate all suggestions.

    I especially appreciate the “artist support” comments. I’m motivated to make these the best I can! Please feel free to update here with further requests or suggestions.

  15. Mark 2 years ago

    I would buy three at the $20 price……one or two at a higher price. If you offered more options then the price I would pay would probably rise also. Blonde butcher block would be oh, so nice.

    Why not try a DIY Kickstarter type funding experiment? If you decide not to make them, will you open source the deign?

  16. Mark 2 years ago

    ….that should read, “…open source the design”.

  17. Lynn O'Connor 2 years ago

    Hi again. I looked at our line up and saw it doesn’t say my preference for finish. I the docks (I’m assuming 2 of them) it to blend in, as unnoticeably as possible, with “dark cherry” Levenger inbox and an almost as dark low mission style table. I’m not sure how Levenger does their finish (there is a finish however) but if you just look at their desk top wood inboxes in dark cherry (I Have the 3 tier, or pull out drawer kind –or for another example, their bleacher in dark cherry– you have it, exactly what would work for me. Obviously these are going to be “customer-specific” since we seem to want different looks etc. Anyway, go ahead, and we will probably all throw in more to support the artists (:-)

    And also –I too really enjoyed your month of one item per day, it was terrific and fun for many of us.

  18. Boyd 2 years ago

    I love the idea. As for finish, the more natural looking, the better–perhaps just oiled or a light stain. I would put it on my desk to hold a Bible verse of the day/week on an index card. I’d probably want one for my wife as well. She also might like to use it in the kitchen as a recipe holder. As a hand-crafted David Seah original, I’d consider a price up to about $30.

  19. Ilze 2 years ago

    I would love one too. :) As for the price range, 15-20$ seems right to me, even though I’d most likely still want/buy one if it was higher. It seems great for holding various kinds of inspirational or personal productivity related notes, cards etc. A Tarot card is one of the possible uses for me, too. As for the finish, I’d probably like it more on the natural side (oiled, perhaps, or another kind of light finish).

  20. Rob (EOD Oswald) 2 years ago

    I just saw your post from the other blog page. These would make really handy gifts for guys in my office–a nice mahogany stain or dark cherry, with pinholes inserted for a pin to be ’embedded’ into the front face (an EOD badge, which I can send you a picture later). I’d pay $10-15 for a short 4×6″ card holder, or even $20-25 for an 8×11″ paper holder. . . if some corresponding holes might be poked in at the appropriate angle. I could find wire to hold up the sheet. . .

  21. Author
    Dave Seah 2 years ago

    Thanks Lynn, Mark, Boyd, Ilze, Rob!

    Regarding open-sourcing the design: They are blocks that have a slot cut in them at an angle…I think just about anyone could make these. Though I suppose I could make a cool blueprint and distribute them. Wish I was still doing the PRODUCT A DAY challenge now so I’d have an excuse to make one!

  22. Author
    Dave Seah 2 years ago

    I updated the card dock page too with updated information.

  23. Keenahn Jung 2 years ago

    Hey David, long time reader of your blog. I’d gladly pay $35 for one of these, $50 would be stretching it. This is taking into consideration my desire to support your work and not really reflective of what I think the actual block of wood would be worth. I would use it as I do use index cards extensively in my workflow, but it would mostly be a conversation piece. Of course, I have been known to buy crazy thiings like this knight templar helmet pen cup: http://www.hisnibs.com/pen_cups.htm

    Keep up the good work

  24. Dan Boschen 2 years ago

    David- I didn’t see any mention of the material besides wood (may have missed it), but I think these would be great with a hard and dense wood such as ebony or hard maple. There are lighter ebony’s that have great multi-colored grain features and would have a great feel. A poor choice I feel would be wood that is light and would dent easily.

A message from Dave:

I really believe we all benefit when we share our own perspectives on common experiences. It would be great if you added your own anecdotes and comments, even if you don't necessarily agree with the premise of the post; that's just good conversation in my book. The house rules are "treat each other with kindness and respect" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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