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

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Forum topic by drilon4 posted 11-16-2017 03:45 PM 6603 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 1203 days

11-16-2017 03:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cabinet maker question resource trick tip jig cedar maple oak zebrawood wenge walnut willow purpleheart teak pine padauk mahogany cocobolo cherry bubinga basswood alder ash carving finishing joining refurbishing milling sanding shaping scrollworking sharpening turning veneering woodburning bandsaw biscuit joiner blade carving tool chisel clamp drill-driver drill press jointer lathe miter saw plane planer router scroll saw spray gun tablesaw arts and crafts greene and greene modern rustic traditional shaker victorian

hello, started installing cabinets as a business 3-4 years ago, installing with 3 of my brothers. We have a suppliers that build the cabinets and gets the contract for us and sub contracts the installing to us. We have been looking into starting to build the cabinets and are looking for tips on equipment and how to get jobs and where to bid. I live in Canada I the greater toronto area. Any help is useful, please help out and thank you.

27 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8997 posts in 3587 days

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

Fellow LJer has some valuable advice that’s worth your time:

May you have good fortune in your endeavors.

And Welcome to Lumber Jocks!

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118161 posts in 4587 days

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

View Rich's profile


6536 posts in 1600 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


11022 posts in 4658 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. 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”

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7 posts in 1203 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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7 posts in 1203 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


2859 posts in 1910 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


11022 posts in 4658 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


1844 posts in 1820 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

View PPK's profile


1844 posts in 1820 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


1293 posts in 2684 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


7 posts in 1203 days

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

Pete, thanks alot that actually helps.
great post

View DS's profile


3683 posts in 3431 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


2859 posts in 1910 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


9043 posts in 3853 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

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