Estimating Time to Finish One Free-Standing Wood Cabinet

      Finishing one piece of furniture can be surprisingly time-consuming. September 27, 2008

If given the item below fully assembled as is, how long would it take you to lightly sand to 280, and clear coat with 2 coats of waterborne, sprayed? There are three shelves inside to finish and the whole interior needs to be clear-coated including the drawer box, inside and out. I am hoping to get some suggestions as to what order others would finish this and what sort of time frame others would think it would take to do the above. Thanks for any suggestions.



Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
Eight hours - minimum shop time charge. We could actually get it done a whole lot faster, but we would charge the eight.

From the original questioner:
What order would you spray?

From contributor M:
We would also charge that out at eight hours. Like Contributor L said it would get done in less time, hopefully while you are finishing other cabinets.

From contributor L:
Depending on the size of your shop get the doors started. We use beds of nails on something this small. Seal the back of the doors and then flip and seal front. We would then lightly seal the top, bottom, interior, and yes the back. Mist the front and sides - let it get tacky and wet it again. Give one hour twenty minutes and scuff the whole thing. Start at the doors, bottom, back, top interior and light mist the exterior and wet it again.

From contributor J:
Four days in my shop and bill for eight hours minimum. We do a lot of this as home owners bring us doors all the time.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the replies. I was figuring it will take me about eight hours by the time I disassemble what can be and account for sufficient dry time between waterborne coats. I am using a Graco Delta XT conventional sprayer and have the compressor set at 40 psi. Do you think that's too much pressure to control overspray when doing the inside?

From contributor B:
Please tell me you guys would be doing the work as a bid, not as an hourly. Because if you're arbitrarily adding time on to a job to pad the bill, that would be pretty unethical.

Contributor L - eight hour shop time minimum? That's by far the highest minimum for any job shop I've ever encountered. Is that common in the finishing industry?

From contributor L:
Contributor B - it takes eight hours of room up, it takes handling and paperwork costs money. If they do ten a month I'll save them some money. But look at it this way, is it taking eight hours of booth up?

Recently, a board member of a church we are doing casework on asked me how we got such a flat smooth finish without roller or brush marks. I showed her the process and we are going to do furniture and some cabinets at her house. It is worth a lot to her and a lot of others not to have the roller and brush marks so common on projects. Another remark from her was the depth of the stain and how we were able to keep the finger prints and smudge marks off the finished product. With all due respect I don't really care what others charge, I know what works for us and we have got to stick to it.

From contributor M:
Contributor B, by your remarks I take it you do not do finishing. If I quote eight hours and it only takes four I still charge eight hours. If I quote eight hours and it takes me twelve, I still chare out eight. If it is time and material, I charge my hourly rate of $50/hour and material plus 15%. I do not think this is unethical. Eight hour minimum for finishing is not uncommon.

From contributor T:
Finishing is very time consuming. I take it there is no color to be added to the piece? Even for those of us that do finish, we seldom consider the time it actually takes to finish a piece.

I just sprayed one coat of lacquer on a bed. From mixing my finish, tacking the piece, cleaning the floor around it, spraying it, checking the spray out for errors, putting up and cleaning my gun and catching my breath, we're talking at least thirty minutes. That’s only one coat in the middle of the process. It's very time consuming and those of us who don't do it exclusively usually don't realize it. I agree with all of the above about shop time. I guess you could get a hack finish job done in a few hours!

From the original questioner:
I have finished this piece. Two coats of clear, 20 sheen waterborne, and scuff sanding between coats. With disassembly, sanding, spraying, cleanup and re-assembly, plus the material cost, it has taken a total of 7 1/2 hours actual time. This was the first time I had sprayed something that was already assembled, so I would think it took me a longer time than it should have. Thanks for all of the input. It's always nice to receive feedback on a topic.

From contributor L:
Thanks for the time log. Do you have a pressure pot? What material did you spray? Did you use a sponge sand block between coats? Or do you use paper? What do you do mainly?

From the original questioner:
I was using a Graco Delta XT gravity feed system which I found very awkward for getting into the insides of the cabinet. The product being sprayed was Aquacryl Premium Waterborne Lacquer 25 sheen and a quick sanding with 280 sanding sponge between coats to scuff.

My main work is building cabinets, vanities, etc. but I have been asked to do a lot of this finishing so I went out and purchased a 2 1/2 gallon pressure pot with a Lemmer conventional spray gun. Now I can adjust the pressure to the gun more accurately and keep bounce-back down considerably and spray in those tight places at any angle. I'll be starting a couple more pieces after the long weekend so I'll also be keeping track of actual time spent on each of those items. One is a tall six drawer dresser and I believe the other is a four drawer dresser.

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