moulding sticker shock

dave moen

Feb 14, 2005
Riverside, California
just doing some market research on a national franchise frame store; they wanted $400 for an 18x20 frame with a simple profile in laminated wood and the mdf product was not much less expensive.

what gives, why are people not working in real wood at those rates ... or is it just that hard to fine real wood frames these days?

or what is the problem with real wood and so few shops working with real wood these days?

thanks for your insights.

best regards,

dave moen
hi-hi-hi, you've just opened a can full of (wood) worms.

Baer is certain to be entirely for real, good wood in framing. Me too. But we are a powerless minority in face of today's popular trends. Fact is that good wood moldings are rare, expensive in most framers' minds and getting worse by the day.
Be aware that having access to good quality wood is just one of many steps in successfully selling wood moldings. Design, finish, consistency, production capabilities and reliability are indispensable ingredients here.

nope, that was the price offered. personally, i really prefer the look of real wood as it has the potential to stand the test of time. however, it really seems most people are using laminated moudlings.

just wondering if collectively people see a market for real wood picture frames, i guess in high-end markets - however, to me $400 for an 18x20 picutre frames; seems high-end to the average consumer... i guess i could be mistaken, but i think not at this point.

are there any manufactures of real wood mouldings out there?

thanks for your insights

best regards,

dave moen
There are many. (suppliers of real wood)

Although the moulding is usually the largest cost in a package, other things can come into play as well.

What kind of glass were they using? What kind of mats? How many? Specialty cuts? Mounting technique? And, what style and size frame?

Using "real wood" (or MDF for that matter)I could probably come up with a price from about $100 to thousands.

Cliff is right there are many of "real" wood suppliers out there. I even heard of a person looking to get into the business himself (wink-wink-nudge-nudge-say no more!) . Hope you do it too! Would you be offering closed corner, ready-built custom sized frames, or lengths of hand carved moulding?

I ask because as you know wood varies. Different runs of wood moulding can vary. Colors can vary, widths can vary, and when they vary too much then framers get fed up, consumers get fed up and seek other suppliers. (see Rosalyn's thread for just this side of the issue!)

Laminates don't vary. No knots either, wood grain the way you want it. That is the popularity of these options! I like wood, I like the way wood varies, but I too get frustrated when the painted white wood comes in with a "purple" tint to it. I understand it came closer to the centre of the tree but the customer ordered "white".

So keep checking prices, go to Custom shops. Go to Pier One. see what they are charging for frames, then think if you can produce it and sell it for 1/4 of that price! We double, triple or go seven times over your future price to us. You have to pay your suppliers, shippers, ad teams to get the wood/frames to us to sell.

Please keep thinking about making quality hard wood frames. It may be a good solid "cottage industry" for the people you are looking to help in the Philipines and Thailand. Your other thread asked questions about drying the wood, preparing the wood you didn't mention cutting, making the knives for your machines, or other business costs I can't even fathom (sp?) related to making moulding in a beautiful, <bold>consistent</bold> manner. for those questions contact Dave at Vermont Hardwoods and of course Cornell and Baer!

I am not lecturing, or being condescending. Just realistic and practical. I'd love to see the frames you intend to make make it to our shores. I hope you can decide whether you want cheap and affordable, or expensive and high quality. There's a market for both!

Good luck.
I can count on one hand how many MDF mouldings I have used in the past 16 years. And I can truthfully state that I have never used a polystyrene moulding in my shop. ........Ever!

Maybe the framers are so advanced in Riverside that they have come up with the perfect solution to making alot of money with the least amount of investment? :eek: I have worked with wood all of my adult life and I look on MDF and poly as cheap imitations of wood that have to be wrapped with plastic woodtone overlays to come anywhere close to resembling the real thing visibly.

That is my own completely biased opinion on fake wannabe's that are on the market today. whether it is a computer desk for $99 or a handbuilt frame for $400, it is a ripoff to the customer and they should be more aware of what they are spending their money to purchase. And I feel, personally, that I have an obligation to keep a certain level of quality in my materials and work if I am going to tout that quality to the buying public.

I blame this phenomenon on the sickness known as Wallmart-itis. It is common, very addictive, and without treatment can be fatal.
It attacks people of all ages from the tiny tots who are teethed on Chinese made choke inducing pacifiers to the elderly who live on a fixed income and can't/don't want to pay to have something of quality in their possession. Build them in a third world country for pennies and place a thousand of them on a shelf with a cheap price and watch them disappear!

It is the cause of the passing of good craftsmanship in this country and the extinction of guys who could build most anything out of a pile of boards or a woman who could hand make anything from a doilie to a quilt for their customers. So many irreplaceable trades have become a memory in the minds of some of us older people and one day you will see an occasional framer out there who simply won't give up and will die with the knowledge of his/her trade with nobody to pass it on to. We will take our rightful seat next to the blacksmith, the cabinetemaker, wheelwright, the mechanic who could diagnose most engine troubles by ear (and be right on the money most of the time), and so many other trades and crafts that were the foundation of the free enterprise system in this country.

OK, I'll get my cane and my tin cup and struggle down off this shaky soapbox now.

(Isn't it ironic what will trip somebody's trigger once in a while??)

It appears that Dave's groping for raw data with respect to his potential market. Whynot ;) help him?

I imagine that he'd be happy to learn from you a few things like:
-how much hard wood molding do you use?
-in what widths and price range is it available? What is missing and you wish it was available in the market?
-how is it best sold: in length, as ready-mades or custom frames?
-who are his American competitors?
-is exotic hard wood at premium?

I myself am doing sort of similarly structured business as the one Dave is aiming at and I can't stress enough how important making his home works is to him. So far it looks to me like he's got a solution (doing well by making good) first and is now searching for a problem (market) to suit it.
Well, would you help yourself by helping out a possibly future supplier of yours? Do you appreciate direct interaction with manufacturers themselves or perhaps you are just happy to passively accept what's being offered to you? Those are the questions. Dave seams to have a source and it is up to you to tap it and model its future output.
My experience is that many customers are sophisticated-enough to demand real wood, but few are sophisticated-enough to understand the variations in grain and color that are inherent.

That want absolute consistency from mother nature and they ain't gonna get it, so frustrated vendors are offering alternatives.

My family has been involved in wood, including exotic hardwoods that my grandchildren will probably never see, for four generations, and I love wood. But my own feeling is, if someone holds a frame in their hands and says, "Is this wood or is it plastic?" they don't deserve the real thing.

BTW, while technically laminates, I guess, I think some of the burl veneer mouldings from Presto, L-J and others are absolutely stunning.

Sometimes it's a question of attaching a beautiful, but structurally unsound veneer to a more secure substrate. Sometimes it's a matter of making the best possible use of a limited resource.

And, sure, sometimes it's a matter of economics.

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to seem 'em
Dave -
Another point to this discussion is the distribution of this particular product. Many times the framed art that you see in the BB's and furniture stores (and even the mom & pop frame shops) have passed thru several hands. It's this "channeling" that adds to the final cost of the product.

For example:
1 - Frame is mfg in some foreign country for $10 & the mfg adds 50% profit ($15)
2 - Frame goes thru a local facilitator who sends it to an exporter – in which now the cost of the frame is $33.75 – add in export fees, taxes, storage charges – your $10 frame is now $40.
3 – Frame is shipped to importer in USA – Shipping charges, import fees, taxes, customs regulations and storage fees – your $10 frame is now $80.
4 – Shipping container that held your frame (and other products) is found to contain a MDF eating beetle – entire container must be fumigated – Frame is now $100.
5 – Because the importer has exceeded his allotment of imported frames being brought into the USA (fair trade protection) the frame must remain in storage until the next allotment is available. Frame is now $150.
6 – Frame is sold to a large wholesaler who in turn sells it to a regional distributor (your BB) for $200.
7 – The BB adds in their cost of overhead (rent, franchise fees, employees, advertising, etc) and lists your $10 frame for $400 – this price also gives them a little room for discounting – maybe 25%.

I know I might have skipped a couple of points (sorry for the course in Economics 101) - but, this is roughly how the system works.

This is not necessarily so. For example, I am a European manufacturer and American Choice is importing and distributing my own product in exclusivity. Between my European factory and you, my client, there is nobody else to intermediate or share cost and risks but AC/me. Yet, quality and price was not the only thing to fuel my business. Incidentally, my first clients needed to see me around for a couple of years before admitting that I may be doing something right, if you know what I am driving at.

However, I admit that I am the exception confirming the rule above and, especially when dealing with lower tag - higher volume items, that rule can't easily nor profitably be broken.
Whynot (Cornel?) -
Yes, I agree that there are operations (like yours) that are very, very efficient in their business model. I was just trying to explain to Dave how (in some operations) there are a lot of others in-between the mfg & the retailer who get to "dip their beak" into the profits.
Yes Mike, it is none other.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Bob, there is something about your expirience at this chain that seems odd. Have you tried any other stores, chain or independant, to price the exact same order?

It sounds like you are new to this, or are not completely aquainted with the inner workings of a framing business.

Maybe you are developing information for a client of yours?

You are twice right. First, I am indeed Cornel and, secondly, international trade is most frequantly the work of many different people who are in it for making money, much money.
I have a feeling that Dave's been lucky to find you grumblers early in his endeavor, and probably he's hoping to learn and build his business around your needs. He may not know exactly how long till his thing will be up and running, but if it ever will... well... I guess that more grumblers than none would then be celebrating.
Picture Woods out in Colorado is a manufacturer that makes totally real wood frames. Their prices are very reasonable and the quality of the moulding is excellent. I believe that they plant saplings to replace the trees that they cut down.

Picture Woods Ltd.
5060 Chaparral Ct.
Boulder, CO 80301
United States
phone: (303) 530-4848
toll free: (800) 321-6522
fax: (303) 530-4040
Oh gosh Marjorie, I hope that is not a story that a Picture Woods rep is spreading to increase sales... I can't catigorically say it's false, but I'm sure that it is basically not true.

Let me use the example of Garrett Moulding, which is producing similar woods.

For 80 years you get to enjoy the fruit(cherries or walnuts) or sap (maple syrup) from the tree. Then about that magical age, the tree slows down production. At that time, the tree is harvested for its wood.

Lets take tree 21-473 from the Whittikar Cherry Orchards in Vermont. Tree 21-473 and 56 of it's brothers and sisters are harvested by a logger named Tom. Tom falls, scabs (removes limbs) and sizes (16'6" lengths) #21-473. He then arranges for hauling to the Taylor Mill outside of Falls, VT, where Tim Taylor buys the logs at $273 per 1,000 board ft, which Tom pays the hauler $125 per load and splits 60-40 with the Whittikers with the agreement that all "Slash" belongs to Tom, who will chip it down and sell the Cherry Chip @ $100 per ton to Weber Grilling Chips.

Meanwhile #21-473 is not 1,648 board feet of "Rip". (Sorry, we blinked and it DOES happen that fast at a good saw mill.)

Now that rip will sit stacked and stickered for about 3 months, untill it is ready for the kiln.

Tim Taylor doesn't own a Kiln, so he will sell the Rip to Kilian Redcheeks @ $340/1,000', who will kiln dry and flash surface three side over the next month.

About the end of the month, Kilian posts his stock on the exchange, where Bob Broker offers him $810/unit (a unit is a S3S Kiln dried 1,000 board feet of hardwood)

Bob knows that if he can get that unit, now in Coldknock, NY, to Atlanta, GA along with 40 other units of mixed hardwood, he can make 30-33% net.

#21-473 lumber lands in Atlanta dock and is reviewed by Saler Murtleson. The shipment is AA grade Cherry, just what Eathan at Garrett has been asking about. So Saler calls Eathan and lets him know that he can have this unit dropped at his dock by 3pm for $3,765.

And that is how that little cherry tree that survived George Washington made it's expensive way to Garrett Moulding.

But lets go back to the Whittikar Orchard. Once the root ball was removed from the ground (and sold to a wood turner artist), then a 6 year old cherry tree in a 30 gallon root ball or bucket, has been stuck in "retreated" soil fortified with root growth hormone, Vitamin B-12, epsom salts, compost and dog hair.

In two years that 15' tall sapling will be 25' with a 20' canopy and throwing about 200lbs of cherries, and rapidly on it's way to 5-700 pounds annually. That's the business. Not timber.

The "crop" is cherries, walnuts, and syrup... wood is a aftermath.

If we were talking pine for fir, then the story about "planting a sapling for every tree they cut", holds some weight as a good company thing, but has no validity with a moulding company.

The guys at PW or Garrett, don't know anything about raising trees, logging, sawyering, drying, or driving an 18 wheeler.... and probably they can't cut a good mat or glass...

but what they do know is making very good North American Hardwoods into beautiful picture frame mouldings. And when you buy from them, your dollars go towards keeping jobs in the United States. From the farmer to you delivering the frame to your customer. And that you can feel very good about.

Class dismissed. Sorry we ran over time.

Very entertaining.

However, I am not aware of a single hardwood whose story parallels the one you drew.

Cherry trees grown for the production of fruit make terrible lumber, and are rarely (if ever) made into lumber. Think about the qualities that make a good fruit tree - lots of low branches to hold fruit in easy to reach location. What makes a good lumber tree - a long straight trunk with no branches. In fact, the two are only slightly related. The fruit tree is Prunus avium, while the one used for lumber is a wild cherry, Prunus serotina.

Walnut trees for nuts versus lumber are a similar, but not exact same story. Most nut producing trees are the English/Carpathian Walnut juglans regia, while the black walnut (juglans nigra) is the one normally used for lumber. Often, english walnuts are grafted into black walnuts to get the hardiness of the black walnut and the larger, meatier nuts of the english.

Maple syrup does come from the same species as used for lumber. However, a stand of maples cultivated for maple sugar production will look much different than one cultivated for lumber production. For maximum sap flow the tree will have a very large, deep crown, with a short trunk, similar to the ideal fruit tree. Obviously, a grove with an end of lumber in sight will be grown so that it is very tight, forcing tall trunks with a small crown oly at the top. If a tree that has been tapped will be used for lumber you will loses the bottom 4-6 feet of log because of tap holes and the stains that they produce.

The common theme here is that for producing food the tree should be short and have lots of branches, while for lumber it should be tall and have only branches near the top.
Thanks, David for your very eloquent and knowledgeable response. I had seen Baer's response to my posting and decided to just let him pontificate and not respond.
Sometimes I wonder why I even respond to posts...but then I realize that there are many many people on the Grumble (including Baer) with outstanding and timely information that I find extremely valuable. Consequently, I guess that I'll just keep posting replies with the little knowledge that I have accumulated since I got "hooked" on framing with the idea that I just might be able to help a "newcomer" out. I also realize that I can sometimes take responses too personally...something that I really have to get over.
Anyway, thanks again. The information is definitely useful!

sorry for the dealy in responding, have been address some personal concerns over here. nice to be back, wow this website is adictive at times. there really is a great deal to think about. i have missed the insightful dialog!

well at this point, i have only talked with one of those national framing franchise stores. clearly, they fill a need in the market andi guess be very new to this indutry there is alot for me to learn.

i think one point to consider, was their time to market from order to delivery. coming more from a technology back ground and spending way to much time developing internet portals; i was suprised to see it would take several weeks for delivery.

assuming here, most of these stores use a central distribution and production or assmbly group. with the store focusing more on mounting more or less.

i wonder, if ready-made frames manufactures provide a similar distrution service for their clients. as this would seem to make sense, as its not realistic to stock every possible frame or moulding at the point of sale. i would think there have been savvy manufacutures address these challenges.

i hope to better understand the key price points and what are the challense for framers better. i seem to learn something everythime i am here reading.

best regards,

dave moen

[ 02-22-2005, 11:40 PM: Message edited by: dave moen ]
David N Waldmann, thank you for clearing that up for me. It has always been a bit of confusion on my part.

Out here in the west we have Calaro Walnut which is very tall and produces very strait grain, and then we have black and brown walnut trees which produce walnuts but are shorter (40-60) and are prone to very figured grain.

Only cherry trees that are fruit bareing that I can think of being large enough for lumber would be Queen Anne's and we had one down the street from us that was well over 80' and supposedly 100 or more years old.... don't sit in the tree for hours eating cherries and expect to do much for a few days.

So, wild cherry, hmmmmm

oops, just checked. this is the grumble not warped. my time is now up.

Thanks again David. Thats why I love the G.
Dave Moen,

If you are considering ready made frames then you most likely have to sell your product for a very tiny fraction of the retail price and be able to produce it in huge quantities.
For instance (and I know this is going to touch and trouble my grumble fellows) ten years ago I was offered at FrameOrama show, in NY, some 3 or 4 bucks @ hand made, hand gilded in genuine gold leaf standing photo frame of mine that was retailing for 80-100 bucks at that time. That was ten times less than what framers were paying for my frames. The importer would have "saved" my import-export and distribution pain, by taking the merchandise at the gate of my Romanian manufactory. In return I was to be producing those frames by the thousands (and never have time to learn that Earth was round).
Indonesians were selling 5" x 7" solid wood, rounded corners, 1" wide molding, finished wood easel back photo frames for $1.25 @ and I was asked if I could do better (!?!).
Merchants make money in this game, not the manufacturers. Making well by doing good or the other way around, huh?

just trying keep open as i complete some due diligence. i prefer the manufacture focus, however there can really be some challenges that must be address and overcome. i agree with your point to consider.

however, i do find similarities with other industries insightful for consideration. i was talking with some people in the garment industry about their market challgens. seems they generally follow the low price labor to provide reasonable quality to their consumers. the retailers, these days are doing more charge backs then ever. due to quality concens as consumers are looking for lower prices with good quality in most cases.