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Getting started with your own custom furniture

The "fine print" of buying furniture from us

©2013 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA


You can't find the type of furniture you want at a store, whether because of size, features, or quality, so are ready to consider a piece of custom-built furniture. How do you get started?

The first step is to share your ideas and desires. The features you want. Pictures from magazines, or rough sketches, are a good way to show us your ideas. The dimensions of the space to be filled. The style. Straight or curved pieces. Trim and decorations. Kick-space, base, or feet? Round (turned) legs or straight (tapered). Inlays of wood, stone, or tile. The type of wood and finish. What other furniture will be nearby? Special features that you would like, such as hidden or locked compartments.

If you like a special construction detail, let us know. Do you want edges rounded? Corners rounded? We often use "half blind" dovetail joints on drawers, but we can cut through dovetails, French dovetails, or use other types of drawer joints. Be sure to consider the details discussed in our Frequently Asked Questions.

Ballpark cost

We publish the prices to reproduce furniture that we have previously built, so browsing this web site should give you a good idea about the cost of our work. If you cannot find something similar to your needs, we will give you a ballpark estimate for your planning (That ballpark may be as simple as "bigger than piece x, simpler than y, with three more drawers, therefore cost around ...") That ballpark estimate isn't a quote, unless you want something exactly the same as we have done before.

If you have a budget or time constraint, please let us know. In our planning we normally try to share ideas you might want to consider, but if they will drive the cost too high or take too long, we will not waste time on these options. If we cannot meet your budget or time constraints, we will let you know quickly, and part friends without wasting more of your time or ours. If we can do your project for less than your budget, we hope you will be so happy that you come back for more.

Although we do not have a showroom, you are welcome to come to our home to meet us, see the shop, and see a few pieces that we have made for ourselves. This might be a good time to look at samples of wood or other details that are required before the proposal can be completed. If you prefer that we come to your home, there is a minimum $50 fee (or $2 per one-way mile if you are farther away), plus hourly charges for exceptionally long visits.

Detailed Design

As a furniture maker, I need a pretty detailed design and material cut-lists before I can calculate the final cost. I must be confident that the design will be strong and durable as well as meeting your needs and fulfilling your dreams. If you or your architect or designer bring the external sketches, there is still a lot of work on the internal structure and material list before I can give you a firm price. I make notes and informal sketches, but don't normally do "pretty" drawings unless you require them (at your expense). Therefore I charge a minimum of $200 for the "design" required to prepare a proposal with quotation. This is not a price increase or new charge - just that it is now collected "up front," to cover the first part of the work that has always been required prior to the formal proposal. The design fee is applied to the initial 50% deposit. (This fee is a charge for customizing our experience for you - the design itself remains our property. If you want us to do a design for your exclusive use, we can negotiate an agreement and the fee.)

If we see that our final proposal will cost more than 20% over our rough estimate, or if we will exceed a budget that you told us about in advance, we will immediately stop work on the proposal and offer to refund your design fee, with no further obligation on your part. You may ask us to continue, with a new rough estimate of costs. After you have our proposal, we will make minor adjustments without extra charge, but may need to charge an extra fee if there are major changes.


We will provide you with a detailed description and price quotation. We interpret your payment of at least 50% of the cost (or the amount of deposit specified in our proposal) as your acceptance of the proposal and these terms, and an authorization to proceed. At that point we "fix your place in line," and may begin purchasing the materials, even if most of the work won't start for a while. The balance is due when the furniture is ready for delivery, plus sales tax for items picked up or delivered in Texas. Our schedule may vary because of the availability of materials, weather (we spray outdoors), or unanticipated issues with other projects. Since everything we build is custom, our time estimates are only very approximate, but we will keep you informed of our progress.

We need to be able to deliver the work promptly when it is complete - we need the room in our shop for the next project. If you aren't the person who writes the check (such as a business or non-profit organization), we must either have the entire payment in advance (same satisfaction guarantee applies), or you can have two checks issued before we start, each for half the total cost. You may hold the second check until the work is ready to deliver.

If the furniture must be built to fit a particular space, the proposal will probably be made from your preliminary measurements. When you are ready to proceed, we will normally plan on a visit to confirm the exact dimensions, and make any minor adjustments required. We will expect the 50% deposit during this visit if not already paid.

Much of our furniture is built so that knobs and handles are not required. If you would like to choose knobs or handles, we will be glad to install them if they are available in our shop when the item is being built. If knobs are required, and you haven't provided knobs of your choice, we will provide simple knobs or handles of our choice.

If your project uses glass... glass shops provide many options, and if the item is to be shipped, including glass dramatically increases shipping costs. In addition, there are constantly changing safety regulations about the type of glass for various uses - we are not expert on those requirements. If you want a glass door (or other glass feature) we will gladly build and finish the door, ready for you to take to your glass shop. Most glass shops now install glass using a transparent silicone glue that doesn't require wooden strips, but if you would like the wood strips (and the traditional brass nails) we will provide them on request.

If your requirements change after we begin, we will work with you to incorporate the changes, and will adjust the price accordingly, up or down. If you change your mind, we will try to find another customer for your piece, or another use for the materials we have purchased for your project. When we have used the materials or sold the piece, we will refund your initial payment, less the cost of reselling the unit and the cost of any changes required by the new buyer.

We do not have a large workshop or warehouse, so if you want several pieces of furniture, we will deliver or ship them as completed. If the furniture must be shipped, we will be glad to arrange multiple shipments, or will be glad to rent local storage space (at your expense) until the additional pieces are complete and the whole order may be shipped together. We will provide pictures when each piece is complete, and as usual, expect payment for each piece as our work is done. We invite you to "visit" the work in process, as well as any completed pieces in storage.

Signing the work

Normally we hand-sign our work, in at least two places on each piece, with something like "Custom made for John and Mary Doe by Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas, March 2013." If you prefer to not have any inscription, or not have your name in the inscription, or have it inscribed as a gift to someone else, please let us know in advance. We normally place one signature in an obvious location like the back or bottom of a cabinet, and another signature on a hidden structural member, where it is unlikely to be painted out by a burglar. If you would like a "display" inscription, such as a little brass plate on the inside of a door, we suggest having one made at a trophy shop.

We expect to be able to put pictures of the pieces we build for you on this web site. We appreciate the opportunity to return to take pictures when the bookshelves are loaded, or the bedroom set is in use, or have you send digital pictures for our use.


If we build a small piece that fits in a normal car, we expect you to pick it up, unless other arrangements have been made.

If you are in the local area, and if you have larger pieces or multiple pieces that fit in our vehicle, we would be glad to deliver it to you when it is complete. We expect you to provide help unloading and placing the pieces. If we require additional facilities (it is too large or too heavy), delivery is your responsibility. You may bring a truck and helpers, or hire a mover, and we will cooperate and help any way we can. If you are outside the local area, be sure to consider delivery issues for remote customers. (If you are out of state, the savings in sales tax may take some of the pain out of the cost of shipping by common carrier.)

We are not licensed contractors, so cannot install anything that must be attached to your house. We build free-standing furniture! We will be glad to cooperate with your contractor(s) but the deal is with you, not a contractor.


We are confident in the quality of our designs and workmanship and are sure you will be pleased also. We deal with real wood, so there will be minor flaws in the material. We work by hand, so you may find evidence of our work. But if you are disappointed in the overall quality of the work when you receive it, we will provide an immediate refund. If the item fails in normal use, we will work with you to make it right. We want you to be thrilled, not merely satisfied.

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