Help With Everyday Letterpress Pricing

Hello Letterpress Community

I need help finding some kind of pricing guide for commercial letterpress work.
I recently put a windmill in my garage with my offset press after losing my job of 38 years to Digital Printing. (the craft is going away)
Most of my work is for other printers,(Numbering Perfing & Die Cutting)
But I am getting request for some 2 sided Kraft envelopes with a zip lock closure Printed 2 sides and small tags ect.
In my previous job I did not see final pricing as the jobs came through and I do not want to either price to high or to low
I have no problem with the offset pricing there are plenty of estimating books and programs, but have not been able to locate anything on letterpress except pricing on high buck Wedding Invites & Business Cards. I’m just looking for pricing on down & dirty everyday letterpress work.
any help would be appreciated.

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You must charge what your time is worth. There is not one schedule of charges for any type of work. There is probably no advantage to the customer for envelopes printed by one method over another. Just make certain you bill enough to cover your materials, fixed costs and your time at the rate you wish to charge.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

As mentioned above, you need to get paid a reasonable rate. “Well just what IS that?” is your question.
A) pay yourself. if you are good, efficient, you can make money. your problems, mistakes, are not the customer’s fault
B) pay the premises. rent, heat, insurance, electric, coffee, Etc.
C) pay the machine. maintenance, oil, repairs, time cleaning, Etc.
These things go into account for the cost of a job. price yourself accordingly. there really isn’t a set price menu, as all of our expenses vary by region. IE a $25,000/yr job in Eithiopia is prob perty good. In Chicago, or Hawaii, not so much.
I hope this kind of helps. but, if you break down, just what it really costs to produce a job, it can be very enlightening.
We all want to give a good deal. show passion for our expertise. but, this stuff costs us money to do.

I’m retired so I can work for “cheap”. But I don’t work for free. I figure my time as a skilled Printer at $105.00 per hour. That is my “labor” charge minimum. That is on an offset press. I would say it would be the same for a Windmill. However, printing kraft envelopes can be a real bitch. Small lifts of no more than 250. I should point out that I work out of my garage - not much overhead. But the garage is heated and air conditioned - more cost to be considered. I do have in fact a “Letterpress Price Guide” - it’s 35 years old but can be updated for inflation. I’ll get back on this…

Getting back to this discussion, I found one of my Letterpress Guides - I will try to find the other. It is only 20 years old - yikes. A example is Crash Number with one machine - 1000 sets of multi part forms is $42.50. 3000 sets is $77.20, 5000 sets is $111.80. - twenty year old pricing. I think I will rethink my $105 per hour! Just kidding… so hang onto your Windmills my friends. Meanwhile, six months ago I installed a Xante digital printer in a spare bedroom - but that is another matter…

Gil, that wouldn’t be a Franklin Guide would it? I used their price lists for letterpress numbering, etc. I soon realized their prices weren’t nearly high enough. I recommend an older edition of ‘Printing Estimating’ by Philip Ruggles. There’s a second edition paperback on Amazon for $4.49. His book was helpful when I was just starting out years ago. That and sitting down with a printer friend to figure what my actual costs were.

As Eric was saying, it all depends on the region your in. I think these guides are obsolete now. I’m sure you realize that digital printing has come a long ways. I’ve lost a lot of numbering work because they not only print, but can print and number at the same time for the same price. That’s multi part NCR with muti colors.
Most of my work is printing odd size pre made envelopes, die cutting, foiling and embossing. However, it won’t be long until this is gobbled up with technology.
One thing technology can’t take away is the fun and love of running these old presses.

For many years when I operated a weekly newspaper I priced printing jobs out of “Franklin” which is about the dumbest way to do it.
John Henry’s advice is right on but I would add that you should also make some profit, so add that in too. I priced jobs for a commercial printer for more than ten years in the 90s and regardless of what sophisticated system you might adopt, it all comes down to the basics as outlined by John.

There used to be a proper profession: Printers Estimator.
The British federation of Master Printers provided training courses and a proper book to show you how. Still got my copy - did it for a few years! Vastly too much for your
needs but the principle was that one first found out every tiny or large cost you face, rent, rates, lighting, heating, phone bill, repairs to roof, you name it, and ended up with a single total annual cost. Divide by how many hours you work a year and get an hourly rate Then how fast the operation incl make-ready and wash ups, and there you go. So many hours at so much an hour. God! thats over simplified, but you get the idea. .,. In passing there used to be a recognised progression in the office side of the trade, Office Boy, Cost on individual jobs clerk, Estimating,
then maybe a Rep or maybe Works Managers dogs body etc etc I did ‘em all! PS dont forget solvents and outwork.

Wow! I really like this discussion. It does not matter whether we print for fun or profit. Our stuff like presses and metal type or machine composition costs bookoo bucks to do. We do not have the advantage of a University Subsidy to do our printing. Meanwhile, onward. To bppayne - yes I found the price list and it’s from Franklin Estimating, circa 1991. Very nice Letterpress Guide. But I thought the prices were actually “too high” at that time! An example of a handset 22 pica line of type in 1991 was $1.80; 45 picas was $3.60. A plain jane Lino slug in 10 point was 69 cents per square inch. We need to continue this discussion on pricing our work whether hand fed or mechanical fed letterpress.

To Brian: We work with a technology that has come and gone. And so you are right on for your comment about working with our antique technology - we all love it!