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View drilon4's profile

Transitioning from a cabinet installer to a cabinet maker, could use some start up tips.

by drilon4
posted 11-16-2017 03:45 PM


27 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

8593 posts in 2875 days


#1 posted 11-16-2017 03:57 PM

Fellow LJer has some valuable advice that’s worth your time:
http://lumberjocks.com/huff/blog/36598

May you have good fortune in your endeavors.

And Welcome to Lumber Jocks!

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

117532 posts in 3875 days


#2 posted 11-16-2017 04:27 PM

View Rich's profile

Rich

4150 posts in 887 days


#3 posted 11-16-2017 05:27 PM

Adding to the Jim Tolpin suggestion made by a1Jim: Jim Tolpin's Guide to Becoming a Professional Cabinetmaker

Jim rambles on a bit, but I find his books to be useful.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Loren's profile

Loren

10477 posts in 3946 days


#4 posted 11-16-2017 05:47 PM

A lot depends on the work you want to do.
There may be room in your market for another
shop that builds face frame cabinets. If you
want to build frameless cabinets however,
prepare to invest in some exotic equipment.

Woodweb.com has a lot of archived discussion
threads on various aspects of the cabinet
business. Try Googling terms like
“cabinet design software woodweb” or
“starting a cabinet business woodweb”

View drilon4's profile

drilon4

7 posts in 490 days


#5 posted 11-16-2017 05:48 PM

thanks for the tips and help, I’m trying to start building in my garage as i have not started renting out a shop yet. I’m looking into getting into commercial first as it’s the simples to make cabinets for aka like box cabinets, what are some good table saws that aren’t too big nd bulking that I can get to start off with?

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drilon4

7 posts in 490 days


#6 posted 11-16-2017 05:50 PM

Loren, frameless cabinets are what I’m getting into as a start.

View 000's profile

000

2859 posts in 1197 days


#7 posted 11-16-2017 05:58 PM


Loren, frameless cabinets are what I m getting into as a start.

- drilon4

Start looking for an edgebander, frameless cabinets need a lot of edge banding done to them.
I have an SCMI Basic 2 (3 phase) that has worked well for me for over 15 years.
You can get by with smaller hot air banders if you need to.

View Loren's profile

Loren

10477 posts in 3946 days


#8 posted 11-16-2017 06:06 PM

Look into the Schmitt32 line boring system. It’s
inexpensive to get started with it and it does
things shelf pin jigs can’t.

If you won’t be buying a sliding table saw, take
a look at the EZsmart track saw system and
Festool. Frameless is mostly about panel processing
except for wood doors and drawer faces, which
you can outsource. Getting cuts straight enough
for edgebanding can be a real challenge on
a regular table saw without a sliding table. Track
saws, while they have their issues, at least cut
pretty darn straight.

Edgebanding capacity will be a limitation on the
jobs you can do. 3mm pvc banding is difficult to
manage if you don’t have an expensive machine,
but it’s the best banding for commercial work.

Edgebanders are complex machines. New ones are
pricey and buying a used one is a bigger risk than
many other types of used machines.

View PPK's profile

PPK

1310 posts in 1107 days


#9 posted 11-16-2017 08:44 PM

In my experience, it’s hard to compete with the box cabinet makers (there are a lot of them). They quite simply can do it faster and cheaper. However, there usually seems to be demand for custom cabinet makers. You know, the guys that’ll build a 14-3/8” wide cabinet that’s 23-1/4” tall to fit in somebody’s space, and that matches an existing style. You get the point. Custom. Otherwise, I’d think that you’ve got a good deal just installing box cabinets sourced from the “big boys.”

So, if you choose to do a shop setup, it really doesn’t take that much. I’m only giving advice on face-frame cabinets; I don’t have much experience with Euro.

-Good 52” tablesaw
-Drum sander up to 24” capacity
-Panel saw is nice, but not necessary
-Couple/few routers, and a good router table for making the doors
-Few random orbital sanders and a belt sander
-An edge sander really makes life easier
-Dust collection
-Drill press is nice, but not completely necessary. Boring hinge holes and shelf pin holes is easier/faster with one.
-A planer. 12” lunch box planer works fine for the start. Otherwise a 15” one with helical cutter head.
-A way to spray finishes, as well as a 60-gal. air compressor.
-Obviously some drills, a couple trim nailers/staplers

Did I miss anything big?

I won’t get into what brands/types of tools, it all comes down to what suits you best, and it goes JUST like the Chevy/Ford/Dodge/Toyota debate. You get the point.

I have all the stuff listed above, save the panel saw, and to be honest, I’ve been acquiring tools for many years, but have kept track of values. I’d say to get all that stuff started purchased, you’re looking at a good $20K if starting from scratch. In USD anyway.

-- Pete

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PPK

1310 posts in 1107 days


#10 posted 11-16-2017 08:45 PM

Hah! I just saw your post about wanting to do frameless cabinets. Sorry, disregard everything I said ;-)

-- Pete

View Texcaster's profile

Texcaster

1286 posts in 1971 days


#11 posted 11-16-2017 09:00 PM

I haven’t built kitchen cabinets or bath vanities in a very long time. If a job came my way today, I would buy the white boxes from IKEA and just make custom doors, drawer fronts, and benchtops. Not only are the boxes cut and edged, the good hardware is most likely better priced than I can buy it. These are modular boxes and you might need to make a few custom ones to suit the room, even then buy extra boxes to cut down.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View drilon4's profile

drilon4

7 posts in 490 days


#12 posted 11-16-2017 09:27 PM

Pete, thanks alot that actually helps.
great post

View DS's profile

DS

3082 posts in 2718 days


#13 posted 11-16-2017 11:10 PM

When getting started, don’t be afraid to outsource things that are beyond your current setup.

You can outsource edgebanding, for example, until you’ve expanded and can afford a decent edgebander, (and a place to set it up).

There’s very few things you can’t get outsourced at first.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View 000's profile

000

2859 posts in 1197 days


#14 posted 11-17-2017 01:50 AM

You can outsource your cutting to size until you can afford a descent table saw.
You can outsource your shelf drilling machine until you can afford a descent line boring machine.
You can outsource your doors and drawers,
You can outsource your finishing until you can afford a spray rig.

You might as well just order pre fab cabinets until you can afford everything you are going to need,
beyond your current set up.

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

8755 posts in 3140 days


#15 posted 11-17-2017 01:50 AM

My thoughts are somewhat different,

I’ve sent an email re: Jim Posts books. In today’s market it’s going to be difficult to do what you are thinking about. That’s why you should explore these texts albeit a bit dated.

The folks who appear to be successful as one man type shops usually make very specialized art type cabinets to high end markets. To me that means seeking out architects and builders that cater to specialized clientele.

Huff’s writings are indeed helpful especially as a guide to starting out. wish I’d have read that information before venturing out as your doing.

All the best in your journey!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

1143 posts in 793 days


#16 posted 11-17-2017 02:01 AM

This may be unpopular, but——I think if I were going to start a cabinet business today, I’d look to outsource as much production as possible. It just makes better business sense to source doors, drawers, knock down casework, etc. from shops that have invested huge piles of money to specialize in those things. The real value add is right where you are already experienced- installation and customer service. You just need to add the sales side (and that can be outsourced too).

It may be fun and interesting to make boxes, but if you set that aside and evaluate it from a business viewpoint I think you will find that you can outsource your components cheaper than you can make them yourself and not have to staff up to run a shop, worry about keeping people busy, deal with all the environmental issues associated with finishing, etc.

In today’s market, a business model based on outsourcing as much as possible just makes good business sense.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View pontic's profile

pontic

674 posts in 906 days


#17 posted 11-17-2017 02:19 AM

Seeking out architects is the best way initially. You will be competing with the CNC boys as well. Carving particularly large scale projects is usually what they want. If you can add this to your offerings then you can make a pot of money on just one project if it is commercial.
when I do casebuilt work or frameless as others call it. I use furniture grade plywood. I have dadoed in shelf clip frames or just dadoedin shelves no hole drilled. Hinges are a pain but homemade jigs make them manageable. Ok I’m rambling so I’ll shut up.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

117532 posts in 3875 days


#18 posted 11-17-2017 05:37 AM

I agree the information is dated Tom but will still do the job for small-scale shop. Most small-scale shops can’t compete unless you specialty work like you said but that usually takes years to establish.

View Rich's profile

Rich

4150 posts in 887 days


#19 posted 11-17-2017 05:54 AM

Great ideas here, but I have to suggest that you go back to a1Jim’s and my posts #2 and 3. Jim Tolpin writes in great detail about how he streamlined his processes to be able to provide a truly custom product from a one-man shop.

I think you have to be able to stand out from the crowd. Otherwise, stick with what you’re doing if it works.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

8755 posts in 3140 days


#20 posted 11-17-2017 06:12 AM

Jim,

I am in agreement with you. Even pulled out my professional Cabinetmaker book from the shelf. It’s relevant. And it is hard to compete with the quality of colors and finishes even from the box store? It does take talent tostand out as well as drive to compete. and nothing will beat perseverance.I get construction magazines and industry books from time to time, and that is where the money is.

If there is a niche then drilon4 needs to find it.

I’m rooting for him/her… LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View drilon4's profile

drilon4

7 posts in 490 days


#21 posted 11-17-2017 04:57 PM

I will not stop doing installs completely , I want to be the guy that makes the cabinets and also installs them. lots of general contracts always tell me to build my own cabinets I will profit. I don’t want to rent a shop or big equipment right away till I get some jobs to build. meaning that I’m trying to do small jobs where I can build the cabinets in my garage. thanks for all the tips.

View DS's profile

DS

3082 posts in 2718 days


#22 posted 11-17-2017 05:18 PM

I suppose a lot depends on what your business goals actually are.
A two-man shop in a small space with basic tools can produce very nice custom kitchens and make a decent living. Relatively low overhead, relatively inexpensive equipment expenses and only two wages to be paid from the proceeds.

Design, sales and installation of outsourced cabinetry can be scaled up quite large and quite quickly if you have the clients. A close friend was doing $25M in gross sales per year this way, not too long ago. (He started from his 2 bedroom apartment.)

What I consider a mid-sized shop, $1M to $5M gross sales per year, is a tough model to make money in and it takes a lot of fiscal discipline and focus to not lose your shirt. Expensive equipment, expensive real estate and expensive labor can get the best of you if you aren’t paying proper attention, or, if your market shifts and you don’t shift with it.

I wouldn’t go into something like this without a clear definition of what your success looks like and a step by step plan of how you are going to get there. The ABC’s of building cabinetry is almost secondary to this business objective.

I wish you the best of luck going forward.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View pontic's profile

pontic

674 posts in 906 days


#23 posted 11-17-2017 11:44 PM

Yes the ABC’s are indeed almost secondary. They will be secondary when you get large and buisy. Cash flow management will be the common thread throughout your business life.
I think you will enjoy using your creativity in designing your works.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View drilon4's profile

drilon4

7 posts in 490 days


#24 posted 11-17-2017 11:52 PM

well basically, what my plan is. start up with doing someone work for my garage and than moving onto my kitchen. I have everything but I’m still looking for a good sized table saw that is great for cutting sheets that will be bought from a supplier that are 8ft by 8ft. than I plan on getting word out that I’m building cabinets maybe for friends that are g.c. than hopefully getting into small commercial jobs. it will be me and 3 others brothers doing this so, we will still keep the install going until we get too busy to go out nd install our selves so money is always coming in.

thanks for all the help and tips everyone.

View Loren's profile

Loren

10477 posts in 3946 days


#25 posted 11-18-2017 12:31 AM

You can get a 9 or 10 ft. sliding table saw with an
outrigger. Those big panels will be awkward and
the saw will take up a lot of space but it will handle
the work.

Altendorf, SCMI and many other makes are available.

View MT_Stringer's profile

MT_Stringer

3183 posts in 3529 days


#26 posted 11-18-2017 01:02 AM

Working out of a garage is gong to be crampy, for sure. How do I know this…well, that is what I have done for the last few years. No place to store the cabinets…have to do the finish work outside.

You need a good table saw. You need a way to break down sheet goods.
You need a way to drill shelf pin holes.
You need a good pocket hole machine if you use those.
More is better and faster is great.
Table mounted router and one for hand held use. Several if not more. I have 5.
I learned quickly to outsource the cabinet doors. The company I use has several options including profiles and material. Paint grade or stain also. And since they are less than 100 miles from me, free delivery.

Good luck.
Mike

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Jobsworth's profile

Jobsworth

2 posts in 491 days


#27 posted 11-18-2017 01:15 AM

, Ive recently retired and Im looking for whats next. Ive been woodworking as a hobby for the last 23 years.

William Benitez has a book out Starting and Operating a Woodworking Business.

Its pretty generic but gives some good tips. I got mine in Ibooks

He also has a free “readers Digest” version called Woodworking business quick start guide. That is worth getting.

I recently took a furniture repair and touch up class through furniture repair products, they had a Mohawk finishes rep there instructing how to do different types of repairs. He said that There is a lot opportunity in that line of work, there are lots of need for touch up and repair peolpe. So if your interested hook up with hotels, moving companies, furniture stores etc.

Wish ya the best

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