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As the name would suggest, a cabinetmaker is someone who creates built-in cabinets, as well as fine wood furniture. A cabinetmaker will build to a customer's specifications, providing the customer with original drawings of what the finished product will look like. Various woods, materials and styles can be used.
Before the art of industrial design came to be, cabinetmakers were responsible for the entire creation process of a piece of furniture, from its initial conception to its shape and colour all the way to final production. Some of the more famous cabinetmakers like George Hepplewhite, Thomas Chippendale and Thomas Sheraton even authored books about the art of furniture making, featuring their designs and compositions.
What is the difference between a carpenter and a cabinetmaker? While both professions master the art of working with wood, it is the cabinet maker who goes one step further by focusing on the finer details of the wood and what one can do with it. It is this attention to detail that distinguishes them from carpenters. Carpenters concentrate on much larger projects, such as framing a house, building a deck etc., while cabinetmakers focus on detail work, more complex building materials and the construction of furniture pieces and cabinets used within a house.
Cabinetmakers work with 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. They work with wood glue, nails, screws, dowels and other fasteners to create finished furniture and cabinets.
Measuring the client's interior space accurately is imperative, whether it's for making kitchen cabinets that fit perfectly within the space available, or making a piece of furniture with exact proportions. Creating drawings for the client of what the finished piece will look like is necessary in order for the client to visualize and proceed with the project. Before starting any project though, it is necessary for the cabinetmaker to prepare a list of what project materials, tools and type of wood that he/she will need. This is something that will not only save a cabinetmaker's time, but will help to keep the project within budget for the client.
Cabinetmakers can work in either a commercial or a residential setting. They can be self-employed or employed by furniture manufacturing and repair companies, construction firms or cabinetmaking contractors. There are other venues as well, such as crafting wood interiors for boats, planes, or hotels. Nearly all of the work is done indoors in large, well-lit and well-ventilated areas.
Cabinetmaking has a rich historical background and adopts a multitude of influences. An aspiring cabinetmaker should familiarize himself with these schools of design. Cabinetmakers receive the majority of their training while on the job, but they can also obtain relevant and necessary skills through community college courses, vocational schools and universities.
This training covers a wide array of instruction, including computer operations for creating designs and drawings, woodworking skills such as joinery, assembly, installation, frame making, finishing and polishing. Some of these programs allow the student to graduate with a certificate or an associate's degree, and other programs offer apprenticeship opportunities upon graduation.
Aside from the technical prerequisites, a cabinetmaker also requires other skills, such as precision, patience, perseverance, dedication, and pride of workmanship. A project, depending on the skill of the carpenter and the difficulty in making a particular piece, may take a couple of days or stretch up to weeks or months at a time.