A cabinetmaker, as the name would suggest, is an individual who engages in the activity of conceptualizing, designing and constructing furniture. They are usually considered synonymous with bench carpenters, although they have a particular specialization in cabinetry. Aside from building and designing cabinets, cabinet makers have the added task of installing them.
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Before the art of industrial design came to be, cabinet makers were responsible for the entire creation process of a piece of furniture, from its initial conception to its shape and color all the way to the final production. Some of the more famous cabinet makers like George Hepplewhite, Thomas Chippendale and Thomas Sheraton even authored books about the art of furniture making, featuring their designs and compositions.
One might ask, "what is the difference between a carpenter and cabinetmaker?" While both professions master the art of working with wood, it is the cabinet makers who go one step further by focusing on the finer details of timber and what one can do with it. This attention to detail distinguishes them from carpenters, especially in the concentration of internal fixtures such as tables, kitchens and book shelves. Aside from the focus on particular details, cabinet makers target their expertise more toward working with complex building materials and elaborate constructions. These include a vast array of tools like a good saw table, drum sander, and dust extraction system. They also carry with them a selection of hand tools like laminate trimmers, cordless drills, finish staplers and jigsaws. On the other hand, carpenters tend to place more of their efforts into large-scale projects, and from this experience they gain enough expertise to become builders. The determining difference between the two professions, aside from the project's magnitude, would be the cabinet maker's necessary care in constructing complex, durable yet delicate structures.
This career is something to consider when one particularly enjoys keeping their hands busy.
The job entails a wide knowledge and skills in the use of various tools and machines. Products are very specific when it comes to measurement and sizing, so one must be very meticulous and take extreme care in handling projects. Cabinetmaking has a rich historical background and adopts a multitude of influences. An aspiring cabinet maker should also familiarize himself with these schools of design. He must be educated in the numerous skills ranging from sanding, sealing and staining wood all the way to polishing products. Traditional cabinetmaking also involves creative design and woodwork, which may pose a challenge in lifting heavy objects and standing for long periods at a time.
Aside from the technical prerequisites of the job, choosing to become a cabinet maker also requires patience, perseverance, and dedication. A project, depending on the skill of the carpenter and the difficulty in making a particular cabinet, may take a couple of days or stretch up to weeks at a time. Responsible time management is essential to any would-be cabinet maker, as the duration of a project is solely dependent on his or her own discretion.
Of course one does not simply decide to become a cabinet maker and have it suddenly become so. Like most professions, some measure of training and education is required in order to begin this career. Cabinet makers receive the majority of their training while on the job, but they also obtain relevant and necessary skills via community college courses, vocational schools and universities. This training period covers a wide array of skills, including computer operations for creating designs and drawings. Students also learn woodworking skills such as joinery, assembly, installation, frame making finishing and polishing. While some of these programs allow the student to graduate with a certificate or an associate's degree, other programs offer apprenticeship opportunities upon graduation.
A cabinet maker's workplace may vary greatly, but they may often find employment in furniture repair shops, furniture stores and construction companies. On a project and commission basis, they may get hired for venues that require large amounts of furniture that need to be particularly customized. A library, a new house, or a school classroom are some examples, although possible work venues are not limited to these.
Although cabinets are mass-produced today, there is still a fairly high demand for specialized cabinet makers. Depending on the geography, level of skill and educational attainment, the salary for a bench carpenter or cabinet maker may vary.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment rate for woodworkers is expected to increase by six per cent between 2008 and 2018. This growth is a bit slower than average, attributed to the slow economy and automation in wood products, Thus, highly-trained individuals and those that specialize in a particular kind of skill have better opportunities than the ones who do not. In May 2010, it was reported by the BLS that an average annual wage of $31,790 was earned by the 84,170 bench carpenters and cabinet makers working in the United States.