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Becoming a Cabinetmaker: An Overview of Cabinetmaking

Lobo Model BS-0202, 20 Inch Heavy Duty Band SawCabinetmakers (a.k.a. bench carpenters) specialize in cabinet construction. To construct cabinets, bench carpenters use the following woodworking tools, among others: hand clamps, planers, CNC routers, various power saws, jointers, and chisels. Cabinetmaking involves several crucial tasks, the most common of which are:

Inspecting and matching wood stock concerning color, grain, and texture.

Verifying cabinet dimensions and specifications prior to production.

Marking part dimensions on stock prior to using power saws or routers.

Cutting wood stock to the correct dimensions and specifications.

Reinforcing joints prior to the finishing process.

Monitoring the installation process using levels and measuring tapes.

Sanding and trimming surfaces/joints prior to the finishing process.

Required knowledge

Because bench carpenters make products that have an emphasis on aesthetics and precise construction, they require the following forms of knowledge:

Design knowledge of cabinetry design, with the ability to express design principles in the form of blueprints, drawings, and models.

Mechanical knowledge regarding the maintenance and operation of new and used woodworking machines.

Mathematical knowledge, including knowledge of statistics, algebra, geometry, calculus, and arithmetic.

Production/processing knowledge, including knowledge of raw materials, cost control, quality control, and production processes.

Required skills and abilities

Bench carpenters need skills and abilities that meet the demands of their occupation and work environment, particularly:

Manual dexterity for grasping objects and assembling products.

Arm and hand steadiness for making precise measurements, cuts to wood stock, and guiding wood stock into machines.

Near vision for seeing the fine details of wood surfaces.

Far vision for noticing details of assembled products from a distance.

Good reaction time to visual and auditory signals.

Adequate body strength to lift, push, pull, and carry heavy loads.

Job statistics

As of 2008, 132,000 bench carpenters are employed in the U.S., with a projected growth rate of 7% to 13% between 2008 and 2018. As of 2009, the median annual wage for bench carpenters is $29,570 ($14.22/hr.). Most bench carpenters have a high school diploma or the equivalent. To learn more about becoming a bench carpenter, contacting a trade school that offers bench carpentry training and shadowing cabinetmakers at a woodworking company are good options.

Other considerations

With experience, some bench carpenters earn double their occupation’s median wage, especially when they work as independent contractors specializing in custom cabinetry. While most homes and businesses contain mass-produced cabinetry, the demand for custom cabinetry remains strong. In fact, many bench carpenters that produce custom cabinetry eventually expand their business as demand for their cabinetry grows. Fine cabinet craftsmen can maximize their income by working in or around areas that feature luxurious homes and by using the Internet to advertise their services to a large audience.

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