I'm trying to find out what would be the most efficient (or at least close to that) way to fabricate and assemble a cabinet case using a slider saw, construction boring machine, regular cabinet saw, edgebander and a case clamp.
The way my current cabinet cases are made can be seen on the attached pictures 1 and 2 (example of a base cabinet with one drawer).
It is somewhere in the middle of where I started some time ago and where I would like to arrive soon.
I use pocket holes on the nailers only if the side of the cabinet is visible after the installation, otherwise I just run the screws from cabinet sides.
I always use pocket holes at the front spacers, since I've made a jig to position them quickly and hold firmly in space while driving the pocket hole screws into them, so it's faster then driving regular screws from the "outside".
So, the goal is to avoid screws and to be able to assemble everything with only dowels and glue and than put it into case clamp. Maybe a nail gun for the cabinet back, but if possible would like to avoid that too.
Boring dowel holes for tops and bottoms and even spacers on the front of the cabinet is not a problem since the machine is made to do that in the first place. To accommodate it for drilling holes for front spacers at different heights I can move the vertical boring fence on construction boring machine to the back, and than use different spacer blocks to position cabinet sides for drilling the dowel holes where cabinet tops, bottoms and spacers need to be, without a need to actually adjust the machine's fence all the time.
But the challenge are holes for the nailers at the back of the cabinet. They need holes going in vertical direction.
I'm thinking of using 1/2" thick backs and avoid nailers all together. The joinery would be a combination of dado on cabinet sides and bottom and rabbet on back piece. The illustration of this is on the picture 3.
If you think this is ok, what kind of sheet material for the back would you recommend? It needs to be white to match the rest of the cabinet interior made of white melamine.
There is also another possibility that I'm not sure if it is worth considering; I have a ShopSabre 23 CNC which has a cut area of 30" x 40" and which I could theoretically use to drill all those holes for nailers and spacers and even 32mm holes for hinge plates, shelves and drawer slides, one piece at a time, but I didn't try it yet and don't know if that is something worth trying at all. I would need a bunch of different cutting files, for every wall cabinet height and every combination of drawers for base cabinets, so a lot of opportunities for mistakes.
I'm thinking that while I clamp the piece, load the program, wait till it finishes, unclamp the piece... I could put a holes template over the piece and drill those holes manually in less time.
Any suggestions and opinions greatly appreciated,
Efficiency can be improved by reducing the number of parts made, machined, handled, and assembled. For this, consider a 1/2 in back set in a dado 1/2" from the back of the cabinet. A simple cabinet thus has only 5 parts. This also has the advantage of allowing hanging cabinets using a 1/2" wall hanger.
My $0.02 dealing with your current setup would be the smallest case clamp you can land on and investing in a good horizontal/vertical construction boring machine with quick connect tooling. You'd leave it in horizontal 99% of the time unless you decide that vertical boring your parts on the small CNC is way too slow. Break down your ends oversize finish to size on the cnc and do all the boring, cut all other parts (stretchers and decks) on the saw and edge bore. Maybe consider fudging your software to run 5/8" backs so you can edge bore with the same setup as the rest of the box and do away all nailers. Other than squeeze bottle of water and pecking in dowels by hand it'd seem pretty mindless.
Ive had way to much headache with screws unless you run 3/4" material everywhere.
Shops that have optimum efficiency in producing cabinets do not use a nesting machine for cutting sheets. They use a beam saw to cut the sheets and then a cnc for machining datos, dowels, hardware and any other machining required.
Cut the sheets on your sliding saw and then use your cnc to cut the dato and drill the dowel holes in the face of the gables and then use your line boring machine to drill dowel holes in the ends of your top/bottom/rails. Case clamp them together.
I will agree with others that a CNC is great for smaller shops as it will cut and machine all the parts while you are doing something else.
Years ago we had a few people calling and saying that they couldn't open their drawers. It turned out that something in the drawer would get bumped and catch on the front rail. All the lower cabinets now have a full top just like the bottom, It is a little more material but I would say the cabinets are easier to build. We don't do that for sink units of course.
I would also second anything that James says, he always has great ideas.
I was leaning towards 1/2" back without nailers, but you just hit the nail on the head with that dado set 1/2" from the back. That way there's no need to cut rabbets on the backs and the possibility of using wall hangers is a huge benefit. I had that thing on my ToDo list for a long time, but somehow just forgot about it. Thank you for remanding me and providing the elegant solution at the same time.
Do you have on your mind any specific wall hanger cabinet hardware that fits nicely in that 1/2" space, or is it just some general french cleat type of thing?
Initially, I wanted to buy 5x10 CNC with ATC, but couldn't because of the lack of space. I was impatient to wait for another two years (when my current shop lease expires) without CNC, so I got the smaller one just to tinker with it in the meantime. I was not planning to use it for cabinetry, because it would be very inefficient to work on cabinet parts piece by piece. I would probably be ok to use it do drill mounting holes in cabinet sides for some hardware that may need more holes besides standard 32mm line drilling, but I'm really skeptical about using it for anything more than that in a day to day production.
The market I serve only cares about fast and cheap. That's why all is melamine and no manual finishing of any type, including veneering or laminating open ends or anything else. It's just a huge time eater for my production capabilities. Applied ends made of prefinished material is the furthest I go, because my customers are not willing to pay for more than that.
"Cheap" refers to customer's point of view, not on my profitability.
Without nailers at the back, everything seems much simpler.
So, the current plan is:
1. Cut everything on a slider.
2. Cut all dadoes on cabinet table saw. This will be much faster than using my small CNC for that one piece at a time.
4. Drill dowel holes on construction bohring machine, both vertical and horizontal.
5. Drill two lines of 32mm holes for hardware.
7. Put in a case clamp.
For start I can use CNC to drill 32mm hardware holes in cabinet sides, but most likely I'll get a dedicated two head line boring machine just for that.
If anybody has any objections or knows of something better than speak now (i.e. within next few days) or hold your peace for at least year and a half :)
It's stressful to introduce major changes in the shop every few weeks :(
What do you do for base cabinets that have drawer(s) on top and a pair of doors under it? Don' t you need something for the doors to bump against if you have no rails at the front?
Good morning Oggie,
Since you have a CNC router (even being a small one), you may want to consider the Cabineo connector by Lamello. It was designed specifically as a simple, robust CNC-only cabinet connector. Many of our customers who had full drill/dowel/case clamp production cells have switched to Cabineo. Cabineo is certainly more expensive than dowels, but the time savings of eliminating steps in the doweling process (and the amount of people required and capital machinery to run a cell) more than justifies the cost in many cases. The 'snowman' shape pocket may be drilled or routed, and the internal bolt simply mates with 5mm system holes. Email me if you'd like me to send you a sample, CAD files, etc so you can try it out for free. If you type in 'Cabineo' in Woodweb search window, you'll see more discussions about it too.
My cnc is very small one, working area is 30" x 40". I see it more like a prototyping tool rather than a production machine.
Real bottleneck would be using it to work on every cabinet piece one at a time.
Just putting the piece on it's working surface and clamping it takes more time than what it takes for construction boring machine to actually drill the dowel holes, or a table saw to cut dado for the back, not even taking into account changing cnc router bits, zeroing the Z-axis, loading the appropriate program and waiting for it finish.
When I get the big one, thing will be done differently.
My current machinery is:
1.Sliding table saw: for cutting parts.
2.'Regular' Cabinet saw: for dadoes and all other odd tasks.
3. 23 spindle construction boring machine that drills both horizontally and vertically.
5. Hinge boring and inserting machine.
6. Case clamp.
7. Floor drill press for general use.
8. Cabinet assembly jig: this is not a machine but a thing I invented to help me with case assembly while I was still doing it with screws. It has been invaluable to me, as any of the above machines, so I had to list it here out of respect for it :)
. That small CNC that I don't want to use for cabinetry :)
Only thing to complete frameless cabinet fabrication tool set is dual head line boring machine. Those holes theoretically could be drilled on construction boring machine, only I think constantly removing fences and 8mm drill bits for construction boring and replacing them with fences and 5mm drill bits for line boring on a daily basis is pointless.
Does anyone has any recommendation regarding those dual head line drilling machines? I'm also equally interested in what to avoid if there are any such.
For the question regarding 4x8 CNC: unfortunately no. The door is about 1.5 ft short for it to go through, and the 3 phase and single phase 230V electrical current capacity for the whole shop is around 100A combined, so it pretty much means if the CNC is working nothing else can be used at the same time.
But, if the things go as half as good as I was hoping for, I may leave this shop before the lease expires and just pay my way out of it, or keep it for storage in the meantime.
I would highly advise the double gang drill tub if you can get one cheap and guage all drillings off the bottom, saving a ton of time
The added 23 spindle to drill ends or deks/tops also saves a ton of time Keeping those 2 when eventually going to a flat table with get you miles ahead with one dedicated to wall cab drillings and the other to base cab drills for the tops/Deks/bottoms
In regards to the materials, we use strictly 3/4" melamine and 1/4" melamine thereby reducing materials/logistics and it saves us a ton of time Every thing is cut out of the 3/4 and backs bottoms is cut out of 1/4"
Hope this helps your line of thinking to move and use as storage is great as long as you have the work
An addition to the shop of a flatbed also brings dust collection, materials logistics, software and some scheduled maint to avoid downtime Get a machine with drill block, tool changer and vacuum pump
I don't think outsourcing the most profitable part of work is a smart idea.
The majority of my money comes actually from fabrication, and I would happily live without everything else that comes before or after it (sales, estimation, design and installation) if I could get rid of it.
I'm primarily cabinet maker, more self-employed than businessman and I suspect not so good salesman, so I'm trying to concentrate my efforts in areas in which I suck the least :)
I'm just playing devil's advocate, maybe time to rethink your business.
Maybe cutting and assembling boxes shouldn't be "the most profitable" part of your business
I'm somewhat biased, as I have a CNC router and I machine, edgeband dowel and assemble for several local shops. These local small shops do quite well and can sell and install more work than they ever could do without my services.
Just something to think about!
Cont'd....I be very surprised if you could build boxes cheaper than a shop like mine could supply them to you.
You could do more volume, would not have to invest in machinery and likely could still operate from the same size shop that you are in currently.
I totally disagree with Bob. That means that my entire business and quality control is reliant on Bob's schedule and how well his machinery is dialed in. What happens when Bob's cnc goes down or gets too much orders at once and his cnc operator quits. My entire business is in your hands. What do I tell my customers?
As the owner of your business you need to control the quality, schedule and the entire manufacturing as much as possible. Sure outsourcing certain things like doors makes sense. Box building is the fundementals of cabinet making and should never be outsourced unless you are so swamped and have no choice or really are just starting out in this business.
Obviously you can do whatever you'd like, I'm just throwing out some ideas.
I just ran some numbers for one of my larger shops I cut for.....over the last 5 years I supplied $337K worth of cabinet drawer boxes and drawers and I'm just a small 3-4 man shop.
There is no chance he could have sold and installed that much work without me doing boxes for him.
I understand the reluctance to give up the part of the job that we all like to do.
If it makes sense to out source cabinet doors, why does it not make sense to out source boxes?
Because if need be, you can install cabinet boxes without having the doors on hand. Any experienced veteran in the cabinet business knows exactly what I am talking about. Stone, appliances, etc can all be set without doors in many cases.
Also, doors require specialized equipment and tons of shop space with vacuum collection systems. Need to store matching solid woods, etc. Not worth the trouble for most smaller shops.
Slider saw, staples and screws and you can make decent boxes. Add a few used boring machines, edgebander and you are in full control of your production. When ready for the next level of manufacturing get a Cnc. Outsource as little as possible and keep the profits for yourself. The more control you have of your manufacturing the better you will be in the longer term.
I'm just trying to suggest some alternatives to the way we work.
That particular shop is a 1-1/2 man shop. That cost is mostly just labour to machine, band, dowel and assemble his material.
Boxes only. Not hanging doors, finishing, etc. Just melamine boxes.
I understand your position too.
However, making your own boxes limits you to the number of jobs you can complete in a given amount of time.
I'd much rather make 50% of $200K than 75% of $100K.
Are we in business to make cabinets or to make money?
"Because if need be, you can install cabinet boxes without having the doors on hand. Any experienced veteran in the cabinet business knows exactly what I am talking about. Stone, appliances, etc can all be set without doors in many cases."
I'll just reply by saying, any experienced veteran knows that if you aren't taking a complete kitchen, with doors for installation, you're wasting your time.
"I'd much rather make 50% of $200K than 75% of $100K.
Are we in business to make cabinets or to make money?"
And I would rather make 75% of 100K than 25% of 200K.
Everything depends on someone's concrete calculations, as well as personal aspirations and philosophy.
Here is mine.
When I cut, I cut around 10 sheets per day (that's just to say I'm currently not doing cabinetry full time, since there are some other things I spend time on, but soon I'll be back in the shop full time). Last I checked, outsourcing cutting in my area was around $30-40 per sheet.
So in three days outsourcing would cost me around $1K. That's just around monthly financing rate for a decent CNC that can cut not just 10, but at least 30 sheets per day. So, if I'm cutting more than three days in a month, or more than 30 sheets per month I see no reason why shouldn't I have my own CNC and reap it's benefits for free for the remaining 27 days in a month? Besides, it frees my workforce (whatever it is) from operating on construction boring machine and table saw, therefore just the edgbanding and assembly remains, so the calculation is even more favorable than suggested. Also, I'm saving time for not delivering sheet material to that other shop and not picking it from them, including all loading, unloading, edge-chipping and sorting that goes with it. Further more, I get to schedule, and therefore optimize, my time however I wont, compared to alternative.
Now, let's say I've oversimplified too much details (router bits, maintenance, software (which is anyway just $2.5 per day), electrical bill...), so let's introduce some margin of error to compensate for that and say that I'm wrong not just 100% but 200%. So, instead of 3 make it 9 days to pay for the CNC, and 21 to enjoy it for free (compared to outsourcing) and it still doesn't change the logic.
I don't know what's the story with your customers; are they not ambitious, are they not business savvy, or they've not developed a habit of using pocket calculator, but if any one of them figures this out, you're in trouble, the same way they would be in trouble if you decide to employ 2-3 (more? if you already have some) installers and an mediocre salesman and blow them out of the water, because if they are making good money selling your cabinets to end customers, what's stopping you to do the same?
I could swallow it somehow if some multi-million cabinet business opens a cabinet factory in my neighborhood and throws me out of business, but I wouldn't be not ok if one of my 1-2-3 shop man competitors buys $8 pocket Casio calculator, key in few of the above numbers and crush my business, and that's literarily where some of my peers that work with the same customers I do are now. Two years ago when I gave my price list for the cabinetry services I offered at those properties I was literarily an isolated island: I was not connected with the surrounding world and didn't know anything about anything and just calculated it as with what I would be ok. It turned out that other vendors working at the same properties had to lower their prices for 40-50% to be able to match new reality. Now they only make money on the installations because that's the only thing that remains after they match my prices and have to buy finished or RTA cabinets because they're not able to build their own. And it's a very thin margin, basically they just keep their installers working and making just enough to pay their salaries. And I know that because I know where they buy those cabinets and how much they cost. The only thing that still allows them messing with cabinetry is me not emailing new price list, where I could lower my price per cabinet for $40-50, what would make them working with a loss, and I would STILL BE OK.
Besides that, I'm not interested to be 1-1/2 man show till I retire. If I had few guys in the shop your single-cnc machine shop would not be able to deliver what I need. I'm willing to bet that 99% of the "shops" that outsource their cases are 1 or 1.5 man shows. And as far as I'm concerned, those are not 'businesses' but self-employed people. Just like I am now. I don't know for your customers from the example, but that is not what I aspire to stay.
I'm sure there are some (or maybe many) corners in this country where some 'outsourcing-savvy' cabinet guy is surrounded with numerous CNC shops ready to cut today, latest tomorrow morning, whatever he needs and in whatever quantity he needs, but that is just not the case in my area.
When I was outsourcing few times it was always "by the end of the next week" and was usually the middle of the week after that, parts were not square, scoring blade was set to wide and the edgebanding not even mediocre. Payment upfront 100%, and the answer to any complains about cutting results was always that everything was "within their specs".
I just don't think it's a smart idea in general, and in the long run, to have one's business depend that much on someone else's schedule and someone else's "specs". It's one thing when you depend on something that comes from Amazon or Home Depot - those will still be there after WWIII, but I don't want my business and consequently life depend on something that is 3-4 man shop. Please let no one be insulted, that's what I even think of myself and say to anyone that comes to work with me in my shop: "I'm just one guy, now I'm here, tomorrow - God knows why - I may not be, devise your plans accordingly".
Anyway, that's just how things look from my angle, and I may be - God knows why - partially or even completely wrong.
I think it does make sense to outsource all the components of say a kitchen for example. I only say this for smaller shops where there is limited equipment and space. I agree that some people are just in it for the money, others love doing a lot of the work and money is less important.
To me you would need to buy your products from big producers who get large discounts with material costs and large automated assembly lines for peak efficiency.
I honestly don’t see how buying a box from a 3-4 man shop would be that great. You are probably paying the same price for material as everyone else and you are not exactly cranking out boxes with that many people. It wouldn’t take much to build boxes in house for basically the same cost. If I am going to buy a product from you, it better be great quality and a lot cheaper than what I can produce it for myself.
"I honestly don’t see how buying a box from a 3-4 man shop would be that great. You are probably paying the same price for material as everyone else and you are not exactly cranking out boxes with that many people. It wouldn’t take much to build boxes in house for basically the same cost. If I am going to buy a product from you, it better be great quality and a lot cheaper than what I can produce it for myself.
I originally made the comment to the OP just to make him think outside the "box".
I'm not trying to sell my services to anyone here.
My shop provides a very high quality product.
I can provide an almost unlimited number of construction methods and any custom size.
I typically use dowel construction but can build your cabinet any way you would like it built.
My customers are fairly local shops and contractors.
Every business has a bottleneck and if yours is building boxes, why would you not sub that work out?
One of the guys I work for came to me and said I have an opportunity to supply about 20 kitchens for a builder that he knows. This guy is a very skilled cabinetmaker but, there is no way he could crank out 20 kitchens in the time frame that was required, especially in addition to his already busy schedule.
I built those boxes for him.
Could he have built them cheaper in his own shop, maybe but he didn't have the time.
By outsourcing the boxes to me he was able to make a profit on 20 kitchens that he otherwise, could not have done.
I understand if by outsourcing boxes to a CNC shop means that your going to be sitting around doing nothing, then by all means , build them in house.
If I was starting over, I would build very little in house. I would source as much as possible and put the package together and ideally have someone install it for me.
Isn't that what GM does, source parts and assemble them?
I wasn’t trying to be negative, just making a point that if Oggie was to buy from you and building boxes seems to be his bread and butter, then he would require those boxes to be a lot cheaper than he could produce.
I would agree with every thing you said. Have a wonderful day,
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