Just got a job as a woodworker (mainly custom cabinetry) Looking for advice!

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Forum topic by Targidrade7711 posted 06-29-2020 11:35 PM 1059 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 12 days

06-29-2020 11:35 PM

Topic tags/keywords: advice cabinetry skill learn equipment

Hello! I’ve been looking through this forum and just made an account today. Thanks for having me (:

I just got a job for a contractor that will mainly be building custom cabinetry, but also trim work etc. I’ve had some experience in construction and know enough to get by, but I’m pretty much a beginner.

They know this and are willing to train me, but I would love some help learning some of the different (less common) tools and techniques that I might come across. Any advice or resources you could point me towards would be much appreciated!

I’ve always wanted to learn woodworking as a hobby and this is a great opportunity for me to turn it into a craft.

Thanks in advance, I hope to be pouring through this forum for all the great information here! *edited for clarity

14 replies so far

View SMP's profile


2132 posts in 683 days

#1 posted 06-30-2020 12:05 AM

I’m confused. Do you need to buy tools or be using the contractor’s tools? I am guessing they have a panel saw, table saw, probably a sliding compound miter saw, etc. I’m guessing to start you will probably be making cabinet carcasses which are about as simple as can be. Then probably making face frames , using a chop saw and pocket hole jig? I guess first thing is fond out which tools you will be using and what you will be making to start.

View Targidrade7711's profile


2 posts in 12 days

#2 posted 06-30-2020 12:50 AM

Thanks for the reply. They have all the tools in the workshop. I’ll get a better feel for what equipment they have that I might not be familiar with when I start in a week. But I wanted to boost my knowledge going in so I don’t look like a complete fool. I really want to build a career out of this.

Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll look into those. Literally the only thing which you listed that I’m familiar with is the miter saw lol. I don’t even know what it means to be a sliding compound miter saw. This is how ignorant I am (:

I’ll look into all of those and see if I can find the basics on them. Thanks again, truly appreciated.

View Axis39's profile


239 posts in 374 days

#3 posted 06-30-2020 12:52 AM

I’ve always liked the stuff that Gary Katz was publishing and talking about a few years ago. He’s got a lot of really good info for trim carpentry!

I was a trim carpenter and cabinet builder for 25 or so years (on and off as the market allowed), and worked in construction for 10 years before that as well. Now, I’ve left the jobsite and am working on finer woodworking stuff. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away. I’ll answer any I can (feel free to PM me as well).

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

View Rich's profile


5621 posts in 1367 days

#4 posted 06-30-2020 01:28 AM

This pretty much sums it up:

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

View HerringImpaired's profile


66 posts in 486 days

#5 posted 06-30-2020 04:53 PM

I took a job as a supervisor in a cabinet door shop after being a weekend woodworker for 30+ years, and quit after about 4 months. About 40 employees total, we made about 300-450 Hardwood doors a day. I quickly realized that this was a production shop, and had little to no bearing on the type of woodworking I enjoyed.
You said they do custom cabinetry. That may be completely different from the job I had. If I had the opportunity to do custom stuff that wasn’t off the shelf production, it might have been different. As it is, it wrecked me for woodworking in my own shop for a year or two…..
Good luck! I hope your experience will be better than the one I had!

-- "My greatest fear is that upon my demise, my wife will sell my tools for what I said I paid for them."

View JackDuren's profile


1236 posts in 1737 days

#6 posted 06-30-2020 05:07 PM

You just need a tape measure and a pencil. The rest will Come in time…

View Bill_Steele's profile


708 posts in 2509 days

#7 posted 06-30-2020 05:55 PM

To get a head start I would study the construction of cabinets. Try to get to know the proper name of the parts (e.g. rail, stile, face frame, etc.). Get familiar with what different variations look like (e.g. face frame vs frame-less OR inset vs. overlay etc.).

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile


1684 posts in 324 days

#8 posted 06-30-2020 08:47 PM

You just need a tape measure and a pencil. The rest will Come in time…

- JackDuren

Yes! And there is no need for a 25ft tape measure in a cabinet shop. A razor knife to sharpen the pencil will be useful also, and for a 100 other uses.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: Because cheese isnt a healthy source of cheese, I will use grated cucumber to top off this raw food vegan pizza.

View JackDuren's profile


1236 posts in 1737 days

#9 posted 07-01-2020 12:15 AM

You just need a tape measure and a pencil. The rest will Come in time…

- JackDuren

Yes! And there is no need for a 25ft tape measure in a cabinet shop. A razor knife to sharpen the pencil will be useful also, and for a 100 other uses.

- wildwoodbybrianjohns

Sure there is… there easier to find

View shipwright's profile


8562 posts in 3575 days

#10 posted 07-01-2020 12:40 AM

I wouldn’t worry about getting tips from the forum actually. It is entirely possible that your inexperience was a factor in your hiring. Different builders have different ways of doing things and maybe a “clean slate” is just what this one was looking for. He said he could train you (I read this “train you the way I do things”) so go in with an open mind and let him.
When I had my shipyard I always hired “helpers” that I could train myself. A couple ended up in the apprenticeship program and became actual shipwrights. The others ended up just as good but without the paperwork.

Just an opinion.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Foghorn's profile


519 posts in 164 days

#11 posted 07-01-2020 01:05 AM

As per Shipwright. Apprenticing under experienced journeyman or those with equivalent experience will result in you garnering the right skills.

-- Darrel

View Woodknack's profile


13397 posts in 3157 days

#12 posted 07-01-2020 07:55 AM

My Drill Sergeant used to say: be where you are supposed to be, be there on time, and be there in the right uniform. They are hiring you to be a cog in a machine, learn what they want you to do and do it to the standard they want it done. Don’t worry about anyone else’s business and at the end of the day go home and forget about it. I have a buddy from HS that owns a cabinet shop, does pretty well, and knows nothing about woodworking except how to make boxes out of plywood and doors to fit them. He can name 3 woods, maple, hickory, and oak, because that’s what he sells. Some cabinetry shops don’t even build, they order flatpacks, assemble and install. So your job may have very little to do with woodworking and be more like a factory job.

-- Rick M,

View LeeRoyMan's profile


1189 posts in 504 days

#13 posted 07-01-2020 01:23 PM

My advise is a little different. You will get the experience you need to do the woodworking part.

What you need to absorb is the business.
The tooling, the scheduling, the production / work flow, the whole process of how they make the business work.

These are the things that will enhance your knowledge for yourself if you ever decide to take it that direction.

-- I only know what I know, nothing less, nothing more -- That doesn't count what I used to know..

View Robert's profile


3748 posts in 2258 days

#14 posted 07-01-2020 01:38 PM

I know you’re excited, but let them train you. A production shop has developed its own methods and work flow.

My advice is concentrate on safety and don’t worry about taking a ribbing for it.

If you want to look at a couple guys who really know stuff about trimwork, check out CarpentryTV and Insider Carpentry.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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