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To start I have been a full time woodworker for 5 years now. I built just tables and other custom furniture. We have done okay for ourselves and I am ready to move into other areas. Custom Cabinets is high on my list. The issue is I am not sure how to even start as far as everything other than building the cabinets. Marketing, Pricing, etc. We have a formula for our current products but I don't believe it is going to work for cabinets. Tools wise other than maybe a shaper or two we are set. We have a large format CNC (brand new) plus all the other common equipment. Anyone else done this transition successfully?
I can't say that I have made the transition but if I had a new CNC and were going to get into making cabinets, I would purchase Mozaik software and learn to use it and setup to make some test cabinets. This can help you with material amounts and building the cabinets gives you an idea of time.
As far as cabinets go, I would look into an edgebander and nothing else. Buy all of your doors, drawer boxes, molding, and anything you can outsource. There are plenty of companies that specialize in these products and can make them a lot more efficiently than you can in your shop. This allows you to do other things that make you money like cutting and building boxes and having time to take on more projects. Even if it cost you the same to make a door as it does to buy it then you are breaking even. If you took that time and did something else that made you money then you come out ahead. Also use all prefinished plywood, this will save you huge amounts of finish labor.
Pricing you have to figure out on your own based on your time and overhead. Some people price by materials and labor, we price boxes by the foot and then add doors, drawers, and any extras.
"You have been a woodworker for 5 years, and we have done alright" How many employees does that equate to? The reasons I ask; you'll need a sales person, a good graphic guy or higher end software to do layouts and produce 3D images to show and present to customers, finishing cabinets will require more man hours than a few tables and furniture just because of all the area, you'll need a lot more space to inventory the cabinets until the customer is ready for delivery, the customers will be a lot less flexible about delivery dates, and you'll need an installation crew. Then add the tremendous competition, including IKEA. Custom cabinets used to be a huge selling point. Today with CNC manufacturing, any shop can make a fully custom cabinet with no special setups since it all is covered in the software. About the only thing you will be able to compete with is super special finishes. No idea if you have a great finishing person now. But, painted is very strong right now, so nothing special about that finish in any shop.
I made a successful start to my business. I had a good background in furniture making, then worked for a custom cabinet millwork shop after that for 10 years. It can be done, but a lot of it will depend on your market and what you want to do. I personally didnít do the sales person or cad/designer hires. I kept my operation small, one to two employees, and now itís just my wife and I. I found that seeking out the high end builders and architects, making a relationship with them, worked well for me. Just because a builder builds a five million dollar house, doesnít mean he cares about quality and craftsmanship. You have to really seek them out. You canít order all of your doors and expect a nice matching grain pattern and wide panel stock. This is one way you can take your furniture background and distinguish yourself. It also helps the architect and builders sell their jobs as they can educate the customer on what makes their products better. It takes time, but it can be done. I think itís a lot better than assembling computer made and boughten parts. What type of volume do you want to do?
Like said, you will need some decent software for a start. Outsourcing has large advantages and very few people can tell the difference between a $100 grain matched panel and a random match, especially ones that have been stained, not al all for paint grade or HPL. If matching is important to your customers, charge a lot for it since you will be making replacement parts way too often. Perfect in one person's eye is not in another's! A router and bander will allow you to make Euro boxes efficiently, No finishing required. There are fastening methods that allow finished ends as part of the box, all done on the router.