Cabinet makers build cabinets or other pieces of furniture by cutting, shaping and fitting pieces of wood. They use different kind of power and hand tools, such as lathes, planers and saws.
The duties of a cabinet maker include, but are not limited to:
- Cutting wood to specified dimensions using hand tools or power saws such as a circular saw or table saw
- Installing cabinets by drilling holes in walls for screw placement and securing cabinets with screws
- Repairing or replacing damaged cabinet doors or drawers, including replacing broken hinges or knobs
- Installing cabinets in new construction projects
- Customizing cabinets with specialized features such as glass doors, pull-out shelves, or other features
- Choosing the materials needed to construct cabinets, such as wood veneers, plywood, hardwoods, or MDF (medium density fiberboard)
- Measuring and marking lines on cabinets to indicate where they should be installed
- Installing cabinets in existing construction projects by screwing them into place
- Installing new cabinets in kitchens or bathrooms, including cutting holes for plumbing or electrical fixtures if needed
The following job titles also refer to cabinet maker:
maker of kitchen cabinets
hand crafted furniture maker
hand crafted furniture fitter
hand crafted furniture builder
maker of chairs
maker of settees
craftswoman cabinet maker
maker of beds
manufacture of storage units
craftsman cabinet maker
hand crafted furniture constructor
furniture design and maker
Cabinet makers typically work in woodworking shops, where they use a variety of hand and power tools to create cabinets, furniture, and other wood products. They may work long hours to meet deadlines, and the work can be physically demanding.
Cabinet makers must be able to lift and move heavy pieces of wood and stand for long periods of time. They also need to have good hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity to be able to use the tools of the trade.
Cabinet makers typically need a high school diploma. Some employers may prefer an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in woodworking or a similar field. Courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry can assist cabinet makers in their work.
Most cabinet makers learn the specific skills and techniques they need for their role while on the job. Training may last for a few weeks to a few months, depending on the company and the role. Training often includes instruction on safety, the use of power tools and the specific techniques and methods the company uses.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Cabinet maker is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Cabinet maker career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to cabinet maker.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of cabinet maker. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of cabinet maker with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of cabinet maker.
- Furniture trends: The latest trends and manufacturers in the furniture industry.
- Woodturning: Process of shaping wood on a lathe and its types, namely spindle turning and faceplate turning.
- Technical drawings: Drawing software and the various symbols, perspectives, units of measurement, notation systems, visual styles and page layouts used in technical drawings.
- Construction products: The offered construction materials, their functionalities, properties and legal and regulatory requirements.
- Sanding techniques: The various sanding techniques (such as gang sanding), as well as the different sanding papers necessary for which surface.
- Wood products: The various wood products such as lumber and furniture, their functionalities, properties and legal and regulatory requirements.
- Types of wood: Types of wood, such as birch, pine, poplar, mahogany, maple and tulipwood.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of cabinet maker.
- Join wood elements: Bind wooden materials together using a variety of techniques and materials. Determine the optimal technique to join the elements, like stapling, nail, gluing or screwing. Determine the correct work order and make the joint.
- Create smooth wood surface: Shave, plane and sand wood manually or automatically to produce a smooth surface.
- Repair furniture frames: Repair dents, cracks or holes and replace broken parts of furniture frames.
- Apply a protective layer: Apply a layer of protective solutions such as permethrine to protect the product from damage such as corrosion, fire or parasites, using a spray gun or paintbrush.
- Sand wood: Use sanding machines or hand tools to remove paint or other substances from the surface of the wood, or to smoothen and finish the wood.
- Design original furniture: Master and develop industrial aesthetics through ongoing research of new shapes, adapted to the function of the objects the research deals with (domestic objects, urban furnitures, etc.).
- Tend boring machine: Tend a boring machine, monitor and operate it, according to regulations.
- Clean wood surface: Use a variety of techniques on a wood surface to ensure it is free of dust, sawdust, grease, stains, and other contaminants.
- Create furniture frames: Construct a strong frame out of materials such as wood, metal, plastic, laminated boards, or a combination of the materials for furniture.
- Design objects to be crafted: Sketch, draw or design sketches and drawings from memory, live models, manufactured products or reference materials in the process of crafting and sculpting.
- Operate drilling equipment: Operate a range of drilling equipment, pneumatic as well as electrical and mechanical. Tend drilling equipment, monitor and operate it, according to regulations. Safely and efficiently drill holes using the correct equipment, settings, and drill bits.
- Apply wood finishes: Use a variety of techniques to finish wood. Paint, varnish and stain wood to improve its function, durability, or appearance.
- Operate wood sawing equipment: Operate various machinery and equipment to cut wood in different sizes and shapes.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of cabinet maker. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Organic building materials: The types and processing of organic materials to build products or parts of products.
- Engraving technologies: The characteristics of various materials and methods used to engrave something on a surface.
- CAD software: The computer-aided design (CAD) software for creating, modifying, analysing or optimising a design.
- Furniture industry: Companies and activities involved in the design, manufacture, distribution and sale of functional and decorative objects of household equipment.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of cabinet maker. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Pass on trade techniques: Pass on knowledge and skills, explain and demonstrate the application of equipment and materials and answer questions about trade techniques for the manufacturing of products.
- Engrave patterns: Engrave and print designs and patterns onto a variety of surfaces.
- Handle delivery of furniture goods: Handle the delivery and assemble the furniture and other goods, according to customer’s needs and preferences.
- Clean furniture: Remove dirt, marks and other unwanted material from furniture.
- Manipulate metal: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of metal.
- Apply colour coats: Spray colour coats onto vehicle parts, operate painting equipment and leave freshly sprayed vehicles to dry in a temperature-controlled and dust-proof environment.
- Fix minor scratches: Fix minor dents and scratches on the surface with touch-up paint or scratch remover.
- Stain wood: Mix ingredients to create a stain and apply a layer to the furniture to give it a specific colour and finish.
- Carve materials: Carve an object out of a material such as wood, or give a specific shape to a material by carving it.
- Manipulate glass: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of glass.
- Dye wood: Mix the powder dye with water and/or liquid dye and any other necessary ingredients to create the desired colour and apply it to the wood.
- Sell household goods: Sell household devices and goods such as microwaves, blenders and kitchen supplies in accordance to the client’s personal preferences and needs.
- Create mock-ups: Create small scale designs of furniture for industrial or architectural purposes.
- Use cad software: Use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimisation of a design.
- Use substitute materials: Process materials other than wood such as particle board or MDF.
- Sell furniture: Sell pieces of furniture in accordance to the client’s personal preferences and needs.
- Repair furniture parts: Repair locks, pegs, braces, frames or other parts of furniture.
- Decorate furniture: Use techniques such as gilding, silver-plating, framing or engraving to add specific decorations in the material of the furniture.
- Prepare furniture for application of paint: Set up furniture for standard or custom paint job, protect any parts that should not be painted and prepare painting equipment.
ISCO group and title
7522 – Cabinet-makers and related workers
- Cabinet maker – ESCO
- Woodworkers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Cabinet Maker Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
- Cabinetmaker | Careers in Construction
- Featured image: Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash