How long do you wait for a paycheck?
I haven't read this particular thread in it's entirety. I read the start, here and there, and the last post. This thread duplicates many before it. I will ask everyone here how long do they wait between the time they work and the time they get paid?
A reasonable shop rate for the investment most quality cue builders have in workspace, inventory and equipment would be $100-125 an hour. When he selects two shaft blanks at the 80-90% stage they will already have an hour apiece in them having been turned eight to twelve times. The butt wood has been in inventory with that cash tied up for several years or more, often much longer. Perhaps by mutual agreement of customer and cue builder a top quality butt blank was purchased. A good blank is pushing the price of some completed cues by unknown or little known builders.
From the time the cue butt is in blank state and the cue shafts are in 90% state, the cue builder will put in about twenty hours, not counting inlays or rings. This twenty hours will generally be spaced out for from a month to a year or more depending on the state the wood was in when the builder started. Fancy ornamentation can take five times that long or more and even some of the seemingly simple things can add many hours especially when added in as a change after the cue is started.
Any solid builder out there that sells a cue under two-thousand dollars is giving a better deal than a custom cabinet builder or most other woodworkers. A better deal than the man that works on your air conditioner or lawn mower, a better deal than pretty much any small shop you can name with the same investment in shop space, inventory, and hard earned expertise. It is also reasonable to expect to pay a surcharge for talent that doesn't apply to a skilled craftsman. Many cues are a work of art. Other artists aren't paid purely for their technical expertise and neither should that be more than the starting point in calculating the price of a cue.
If a solid cue builder wants a third to a half down to pay for his inventory and the fact he may be a year away from getting paid in full for the work he is doing today I'd give it to him without a murmur. I have done just that dealing with other builders.
If you don't trust a cue builder enough to give him a third to a half down, why the hell are you dealing with him?
I built a cue shop, bought lathes and other tooling including CNC, bought wood to get my river of wood started, did some minor work but never built the first cue for anyone else. I just didn't need the headache. I made the mistake of putting my shop next door to a short run jobshop machine shop. I could walk next door with no investment, not dealing with toxic fumes that play a part in the death of many cue builders and other wood workers, and make more than I can building custom cues. No customers calling twice a week just to visit on the phone, no fighting with suppliers botching my orders, none of the headaches of running a small business.
Every customer with work in progress thinks that they should be free to call and talk fifteen, thirty minutes, or longer whenever they are in the mood. A few dozen customers doing that and there is no time left to work but a customer gets highly indignant if told someone doesn't have time to talk. They would really crap a brick if phone time was added to the invoice! Then there are the dreamers. They will call and talk an hour daydreaming about a cue they will never have built, can't begin to afford. A few weeks later they will call with a whole new idea for a cue, equally beyond their means. They are just enjoying their fantasies on the cue builder's time.
If I added them up I have owned about a dozen small businesses. That is the reason I don't build cues. Too much business experience to step into that snake pit! If I ever take a notion to build any I'll build then on spec and offer them after they are built. Not likely to happen though, lost my river of wood in a hurricane.