This is my ‘broadcast booth’ where I tell a short list of subscribers how I do things.  How I charge for things.  How I think about the things I do.  Now, I’ve hit the wall and want some feedback from anyone getting and opening these frequent babbles about hand-engraving Calligraphy with a dental drill.

A few days ago, a woman called and asked if I could do two gold shot glasses.  Told her I could.  She brought them and I asked some questions.  Here’s what I learned:

• They are hand-made.  Solid gold.  No plated stuff here.  Heavy.  The real deal.

• Made as a 50th birthday gift for a close friend of the couple giving them.

• The giver’s secretary…my contact… told me they gave them to someone to hand-engrave them.  I saw a photo.  Block letters poorly done.  Words were too large for the pieces.  The givers’ names were twice the size of the recipient.

• They had the pieces melted down and recast.  No idea what that cost.

• They HAVE to be sent FedEx to Los Angeles by 5:00 this Friday.

• The cost of the two, hand-made pieces:  $17,000.  Yes, $8500. each.

It will take me about 90 minutes to do the layout, engrave it on flat glass for layout purposes, and engrave the pair.

What should I charge?

Use the comment block and let me know.  Time is short.  She brings them back tomorrow morning for pick-up tomorrow afternoon.

email your reply to if you’d rather.




  1. Noreen Surma August 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm #


  2. Terry August 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    $300. Tell us what you actually DO Charge.

  3. Roger Wolford August 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    I say $400 for both. Do you have to dial down the PSI for the soft gold? I would be scared my carbide would go too deep.

  4. Dave August 5, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    I was just about to suggest the same price as Noreen. And I want to see what it looks like too!

  5. Dave August 5, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    At least you won’t have to mess with Rub ‘N Buff. Haha!

  6. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Dave…..The engraving may be no more than the wine bottle but the Rub ‘N Buff may be thousands!

  7. Chris Grunch August 5, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    You have the luxury of knowing what they cost the client. A. you could find out what it would cost to recast them and charge that amount. B. Charge a flat 10% of the purchase price of the item. or C. Charge what your normal, going rate for engraving, regardless of what the client paid for the item. They are one of a kind and they came to the right person. They obviously are not concerned about cost, so do at least 10%.

  8. Keith Tuten August 5, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Keith Tuten August 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    They have very expensive taste. To have Ken Brown do the hand-engraving, they have chosen the best that there is. Figuring on some knowledge I have retained, my guess would be $1300.00 And that includes the best Tequila to calm the nerves. As for me, I couldn’t do it, as I couldn’t afford two new ones. Elaine said $2800.00 Best wishes Man of Steel…

  9. Von August 5, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Makes you wonder what they paid for the first engraving that was not good. So you are doing them a big favor plus you want them to come back with other jobs. So I think 500.00 dollars per glass, with the ideal that you may get other jobs and your work is going to be seen by a lot of great prospects. So 1,000.00 dollars all together. Thanks Von

  10. Donna August 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    I would first find out how much it would cost to melt them down and recast… a jeweler?? In the even you made a mistake (not likely!!) you certainly could not replace them but could perhaps have them recast. Even if the mistake was on only one cup, chances are you would not want only one cup melted, etc…..they might not look identical. You certainly could not charge the value of the cup but you need to charge enough to CYA! 🙂

  11. Brian Keelean August 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    Ken, I would charge whatever your hourly rate is, plus a rush fee of 10-20%. Is there any difference in what you charge for a $2000.00 bottle of wine or a $20.00 bottle?

  12. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Brian…I never charge rush fees. I feel I charge enough routinely and so if I can do it in the rushed time frame, I don’t add more. Yes, there is definitely a difference in $20. and $2000. bottle charges. A big difference.

  13. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    We talked briefly about the remote possibility of a re-cast. That simply is not an option. Time sensitive delivery. Doors locked. Phone killed. Total silence. A shot of courage from my favorite Champagne bottle, and I’m off and running. My business insurance has a hefty deductible but I could handle that in case the sky fell.

  14. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    I’ve arrived at a formula. We’ll see if the old boy can afford it. Considering the retail value, a grand for both is too little. We’ll see.

  15. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Thanks, Keith. Amazing how numbers are all over the board; thought that might be the case but wanted some opinions and thoughts.

  16. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Good suggestions. 10% of $17K might be a cardiac-maker for the rich dude giving the pieces. On the other hand, when you can give a couple of shot glasses (golds) at 17 grand, what’s another 10%! You wouldn’t put Western Auto tires on your Bentley.

  17. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    Dave, actually there’s no color to be added. He’s already put enough green in it to shine like diamonds.

  18. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    Dave….If I get the job, I’ll tell the fee and show a photo.

  19. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

    Roger….I won’t dial down the PSI, I’ll use an ‘experienced’ bur if I get the job.

  20. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    I can promise you it will be 110 degrees in the shade in December in Minnesota before I’d do them for $300.

  21. KenBrown August 5, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    Noreen……I know you’re in the high-rent district in your part of the country but how did you arrive at $2500.? Would that be YOUR fee for the job. By the way, I didn’t mention, each has 8 words in 4 lines.

  22. Mary Jardine August 5, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Knowledge and ability partnered with risk, would equate to a reasonable 10 per cent. $1700.

    My thoughts are with you.


  23. Jim Cummins August 5, 2014 at 9:40 pm #


    With your skill, experience, great reputation and urgency of the matter at hand, I would charge $1,000 per shot glass. That is very reasonable for the quality of work and the master piece it will be.

  24. Carolyn Timmerman August 5, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Dearest Ken,

    Having had the opportunity to see you engrave 3 pieces on-the-fly so to speak back during Class 11 (the cylindrical clear glass vase for a wedding, had a quotation, 2 names & the date, a rocks glass for an Asian business man who was staying @ the same hotel & wondered what you were doing-you engraved his signature in like 3 minutes-including explaining to him that you wanted him to sign his name on your MAGIC tape, & a small bottle of wine that you engraved in a spiral without hesitation!), I have no doubt you could knock this ate blindfolded, eating a ham sandwich. Must be why I grovel at your feet. I don’t think you take the cost if a piece & figure your fee. You have 3 steps, I think you’ll charge $250- & accept the hug when she throws her arms around you, overcome by the beauty & grace you have just placed in her hand….<3

  25. Carolyn Timmerman August 5, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    Hmmmm….reading all the comments reminds me I’m just a country girl…must be low country to boot!

  26. anitamazaa August 6, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    I think you should charge what they charge for the work you do … is often the most honest and fair … and if the owner of that piece will reward you if thinks fit …. that’s my opinion … I think a work in stone or gold costs the same …… do not you think ???
    That’s my humble opinion ….

    Creo que deberías cobrar lo que cobras por los trabajos que haces con frecuencia…es lo más honesto y justo…y si la dueña de esa pieza sabrá recompensar si cree conveniente….esa es mi opinión…Creo que un trabajo en piedra o en oro tiene el mismo costo……no te parece??? Esa es mi humilde opinión…

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