Necessary Equipment for a Start-Up Cabinet Shop

      Most respondents did not take the original poster seriously in this thread. But a few cabinetmakers did provide a list of basic equipment for a start-up shop.June 16, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I would like to know all the tools I will need to build custom cabinets.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
I've built custom cabinets for 25 years with a Record block plane and one of the Japanese saws that cut the wrong way. Really, that saw's the bomb! I've been lately eyeing a fancy Lee Nielsen, but I don't know. Choose your tool wisely, least you become one.

From contributor M:
Go to work somewhere, build some, and figure out what tools you need.

From contributor G:
How much do you want to spend?

From contributor D:
A contractor’s table saw and a router are a good start.

From Contributor K

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The best tool is yourself - if it isn't sharp, then...
I could build a cabinet with a handsaw if I wanted to spend a bunch of time, but I don't, so I've purchased equipment that has helped me speed up each step during the process. Experience is the best education. As much as I tell myself I'm done, I feel I'll never have all the equipment I'll ever need, something new is always around the corner. The point is cabinetmaking for a hobby requires very little equipment, cabinetmaking for a living requires much more than things you simply plug into the wall and hook up to air and dust collection.

From contributor D:
A Skil saw, drill, hole puncher, tape measure, electric sander and a few rasps are a good start as well.

From Contributor U

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I turn out about 10 to 15 kitchens a year. My shop is about 1000 square feet. I will go down the critical list. Material storage, completed product storage, assemble benches, Powermatic tablesaw with a 4x8 out feed doubles as a second bench. Milwaukee panel saw, grizzly 15 inch planer, shop fox 3HP shaper, chop saw, pocket screw jigs, palm sander, framing square, corded drill, two cordless drills, levels to install, kickers to hold uppers against the wall, high quality blades, bench top edge bander, three, four and eight foot bar clamps, a way to make adjustable shelves, (I use a plunge router with a 5 mil upcut bit and a collar and shop made jig) quality and affordable suppliers, and a way to deliver the cabinets to the job site.

From the original questioner:
I have been an interior trim carpenter for 15 years and have built many cabinets and built-ins, but when it comes to making the doors I have been having to use cabinet companies to complete. I am in the process of starting my own cabinet company.

From Contributor U

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That's how I got my start in the cabinet business. I started trimming in 1999 and have loyal group of contractors that I trim for and do the cabinets for each house. Cut ends for upper and bases, cut partitions, cut drawer sides and band shelves, and drawer boxes ahead of time to cut down on lead time and fill in the gaps between jobs the. Good computer software to provide a cutlist and visual of what your building is key.

From the original questioner:
Could you recommend a computer software to use to create visual?

From Contributor U

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I really can't tell which software would be best for you. There are several out there. Look on WOODWEB under software. It depends on your budget and skill level. Cabinet Planner, Cabinet Cruncher, Google Sketchup and Cabinet Vision are some names people use. I want to talk a minute about risk management and layout experience because the average set I build cost about $7000 to $10000. I don't charge by the foot I charge based on my cost, how long it's going to take. The first set I charged $30/hour. My cost on a $7000 set is about $2000 with no labor or shop expenses. The risk is measuring the sink out of center on the cabinet. Five-six hundred dollar mistake, a day to fix the cabinet and two weeks to get the doors. The other issue I have is bridging money gaps while waiting for the house to be ready. Paying labor, buying bulk materials for several jobs at once and waiting for a check. Some months I take 20 plus to the bank and sometimes I take no money to the bank for two months. Cabinets is a great business to start and you could get a shop up and running for 25 grand but there are significant risk associated. I would never tell someone not to chase a dream. Just make sure you think it through.

From the original questioner:
If I were to charge by the foot, do you know what the going rate for custom cabinets?

From contributor M:
Charge by the foot for a bare bones case. Charge separately for all components that go into it. Your market and cabinet type will greatly sway your pricing. You need to figure costs and do research in your area.

From Contributor U

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When you are trying to establish product standard go to some new construction open houses and see what other are doing. Lay it out and price it out see what you would need to make money on that job - materials, doors, install and your wage. Divide it out by the foot for bases and uppers to establish a base line per foot charge and add extras from there.

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