Start-Up Cabinet Shop Equipment Needs

      What machinery does a start-up cabinetmaking business need? Small shop owners describe their setups. December 28, 2005

Those of you who consider your operation small, what type of machinery is the minimum for what you do? I'm starting a one man shop, 2,400 square feet, and know what I would like to have to start, but am curious how the rest of you get by.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
I do a bunch of different stuff - cabinets, custom furniture, exterior doors and elaborate 18th century entryways, paneling, wainscoting and some moldings. What I have right now took me about 10 years to get. As I needed more machinery, I bought it.

I have:
3- 3HP shapers
3HP 15" planer
1 1/2HP 8" jointer
3HP 10" table saw
3HP 6" x 108" oscillating edge sander
3/4HP 16" drill press
3 routers
Router duplicator
8 1/2" sliding compound mitre saw
1 1/2HP vacuum
Tons of hand and small electric tools
And office equipment.

I have about 3000 sq ft, which is actually two 1500 sq ft bays side by side with a divider wall. One side is used for milling and the other is for storage of wood, finished product and spray room.

I have 2400 sq ft. I build plywood and melamine boxes, outsource my doors and finishing and mouldings. I own a slider, boring machine, bander, 2 hinge borers, drillpress, edgesander, air and electric tools, and a pocket hole machine. Total investment around 150K. I have an old forklift truck as well.

I have 1400 sf feet
full size sliding table saw( 3200mm)
edge bander
wide belt sander
edge sander
full size stroke sander
face frame table
pocket hole machine
CNC, 5' x 10'
full size large lathe (8' long)
3 auto hinge machines
radial arm saw
chop saw
2 drill presses
dust collector
shaper with power feed

There is no room to spare. Two machines are on casters. Sometimes I park a couple of motorcycles in the shop, too. It all fits, but I dream of 3000 sq feet.

I have what I call a great shop. Some people have told me they would give their right arm for it, and some people would laugh at it. If I were starting a shop from scratch and knew what I know today, I would get a decent vertical slider, A good edge bander, and a good line borer. I would not buy the fist shaper, jointer or planer. I would buy good doors for less than 30.00 each, use all pre-finished sheet goods, and have a very small spray room just for the doors, and build kitchens and bath cabinets only. A simple streamlined operation that worked for professional builders, and sell some to DIYers for a retail price.

I am a one man shop that builds cabinets, furniture and exterior/interior doors. My shop is 1600 sq ft with 300 sq ft of it being a small spray room. My tools consist of:

5HP 20" planer
3HP 10" cabinet saw
24" drum sander
6" jointer
2 dust collection machines
Drill press
Sliding compound mitre saw
Pocket hole machine
12' JLT panel clamp
16" band saw
7HP air compressor (mounted outside)
2 overhead air filter machines
lots of hand power tools.
Total investment of about $12,000.

You probably want to take a close look at your mission statement, and if you haven't got one, make one. Do you want to build cabinets only? Or furniture only? Or have a general woodworking shop (cabinets, furniture, and whatever else is made of wood)? The statement "I would not buy the first shaper, jointer or planer..." is quite telling. I think it comes down to defining your work in two categories - sheet stock and solid lumber. If you are going to build cabinets only, and limit yourself to frameless, you probably don't need *any* solid lumber machines - jointers, planers, shapers, etc. Heck, you probably don't even need a table saw or band saw. If furniture only, you don't need an edgebander, panel saw, line borer and so on (and these are expensive machines). If you plan a mix, you need to determine where the bulk of the work is - if only occasional cabinetry, you could probably do without some of the specialized sheet good machines, like edgebander, etc. If you can, let your work determine to what extent you need machines in either camp.

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