Cabinetmakers - What They Do

Cabinetmakers use a variety of woods and laminates to construct and repair wooden cabinets, furniture, fixtures and related products. They are employed by furniture manufacturing or repair companies, construction companies and cabinetmaking contractors, or they may be self-employed.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Study plans, specifications or drawings of articles to be made, or prepare specifications
  • Mark outlines or dimensions of parts on wood
  • Operate woodworking machines, such as power saws, jointers, mortisers and shapers, and use hand tools to cut, shape and form parts and components
  • Trim joints and fit parts and subassemblies together to form complete unit using glue and clamps and reinforce joints using nails, screws or other fasteners
  • Sand wooden surfaces and apply veneer, stain or polish to finished products
  • Repair or restyle wooden furniture, fixtures and related products
  • May estimate amount, type and cost of materials required.

Job titles

  • cabinetmaker apprentice
  • cabinetmaker
  • furniture cabinetmaker
  • custom wood furniture maker
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of a four-year apprenticeship program or A combination of over four years of work experience in the trade and some high school or college courses in cabinetmaking is usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
  • Trade certification is available, but voluntary, in all provinces and territories.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified cabinetmakers upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.

Essential Skills


  • Read instructions for hardware installation and adhesives which appear on product labels. (1)
  • Read faxes or memos from customers, such as provincial government departments, concerning contracts. (2)
  • Read job specifications which may come in book form to find out the requirements of the job, such as the types of fasteners and caulking required. (2)
  • Read Workplace Hazardous Materials Information (WHMIS) materials and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to understand the hazards of chemicals such as glues, adhesives and solvents. (2)
  • Read health and safety materials, such as instructions for wearing an air-fed face mask. (2)
  • Read "invitation to quote" documents, which may be 5 or 6 pages in length. (2)
  • Read trade magazines to review advertisements for special tools or jigs. (2)
  • Read manuals for pieces of equipment, such as the vacuum press. (3)
  • Refer to reference books, integrating information to see the best way to construct a certain type of table. (3)

Document use

  • Complete checklists relating to safety precautions. (1)
  • Use a chart to check angles on compound mitres. (2)
  • Refer to tables on labels, which explain the proportions for mixing products. (2)
  • Refer to sketches or photographs of a piece of furniture, such as a table, in order to draw their own adapted version. They scale the photograph and sketch to scale. Sketches include circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, ellipses and angles. (2)
  • Indicate mitred corners on drawings. (2)
  • Interpret a drawing for a built-in wall unit and panelling to derive a materials list, a cutting list and a layout plan. (3)
  • Refer to assembly or shop drawings and blueprints to check details. (3)


  • Write a list of the tasks to be accomplished during the day. (1)
  • May write notes to accompany a sketch they have prepared so that other workers will understand it fully. (1)
  • May write notes to themselves to record how they carried out specific tasks which required new skills or which had elements which were different from the normal. (1)
  • Make entries in appointment calendars. (1)
  • Write a cutting list outlining the number and dimension of pieces to be cut and the sequence in which they should be cut. (2)
  • May write price quotations to customers, with detailed job specifications. (3)
  • May write proposals to customers to outline their qualifications and to convince them to award a contract. (3)


Money Math

  • May add items for invoices and calculate taxes such as GST or HST. (1)
  • May schedule appointments with customers, allocating the appropriate time slots on an appointment calendar. (1)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Measure wall lengths and heights, mouldings, door measurements and cuts on boards or other building materials. (1)
  • Measure the correct angle in a mitre. (2)
  • Calculate the quantity of wood required for a counter, combining the amount of each piece. (3)
  • Do precision fitting of pieces around a table top so that they fit exactly. (3)
  • Calculate the number, size and shape of pieces required to make an edging on a round table. (4)
  • Lay out curves for the finished ends of a cabinet, using a compass. (4)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate the amount of adhesive required for proper coverage on laminated materials. (1)
  • Schedule the time and cost required to complete a project efficiently. (2)
  • Estimate the amount of hardware to get or how many sheets of material to order. (2)
  • Estimate the time and labour costs it will take to complete each stage of a project and to bring it to completion. (3)

Oral communication

  • Talk with suppliers to order goods and receive deliveries at the shop. (1)
  • Communicate with colleagues and apprentices to coordinate tasks, such as determining who will use what tools when. (2)
  • Interact with clients to explain how a piece is crafted. (2)
  • Instruct apprentices in how tasks are done, e.g., how to iron on a pre-glued edging, how to trim with a chisel, how to set up a jig for multiple duplication. (2)
  • May discuss shop drawings with draughtsmen. (2)
  • Interact with subtrades such as plumbers and electricians to plan the sequencing of tasks. (2)
  • May participate in safety meetings. (2)
  • May communicate with project managers and designers to convince them of changes which would make designs more effective. (3)


Problem Solving

  • May find that equipment, such as a belt sander or a thickness planer, breaks down. They call in a repair person immediately or rent another piece of equipment. (1)
  • Use problem solving strategies to work out the steps to follow when building a piece from a photograph. (2)
  • May find that several laminated sheets in an order arrived damaged. They talk to the customer to find out if the customer wants to substitute a different material or wait until a re-order can be completed. (2)

Decision Making

  • Decide how long glued pieces will stay in the press. (1)
  • Decide which tool will work best to complete a detail. (2)
  • Decide what procedures to use to build a piece. (2)
  • May make design decisions, such as what type of leg to use on a table. (2)
  • Decide priorities for the delivery schedule. (2)

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Cabinet makers may plan several weeks to several months in advance. They coordinate their work with other trades, such as plumbers or electricians. Disruptions from rush jobs or phone calls may be frequent, after which they return to their planned work schedule. There may be considerable variety in work activities, since many cabinet making shops take a variety of projects, calling for different materials and specifications. (3)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember formulae and standard measurements, such as the height of a cabinet or vanity.
  • Remember standard allowances for openings - e.g., the drawer should be 1 inch smaller than the opening.
  • May remember the stock numbers of commonly used materials, such as plastic laminates.
  • Remember customers┬┐ names and faces and the details of their past orders.

Finding Information

  • May contact suppliers to get information, such as at what pressure the sprayer should be set. (1)
  • May call on experts, such as community college instructors, to get guidance on what chemicals would react best with Honduras Mahogany to give a rich colour. (1)
  • Look in catalogues and supplier brochures to get information , such as the allowances for hinges. (1)
  • Refer to manuals and reference materials to learn how to carry out various procedures. (2)

Digital technology

  • Use word processing. For example, they type proposals. (2)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacture or machining. For example, they can use specialized programs like Cabinetware and 3d Architect, to design and produce dimensional lists. (CAD/CAM, Car-CAD, equipment with numerical control controlled by computer). (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Cabinet makers generally work independently, although they may work with a partner to carry out certain tasks such as fitting hardware, cutting or trimming. They may work in a team setting with other cabinet makers, apprentices and supervisors.

Continuous Learning

Cabinet makers learn continuously on the job, through on-the-job training and through courses such as Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training and first aid. They may attend manufacturers open house and supplier seminars to learn about new materials and methods. In addition, they may view videotapes sent by suppliers. Licencing courses are available for cabinet makers to authorize them to apply certain types of products.