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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all, wondering if you small cabinet shop guys have ever turned down work because the size of the cabinet was too large?

I dont have any employees and Ive gotten used to manuevering things arround to make do but i just finished a job that was very difficult for me because of the size of cabinet. 6'Lx48Hx30"D.. 2 of those stack on top of eachother and another 18"Lx9'Hx30"D.

Im still learning this business and I enjoy the work but this was too much. had to buy 2 10' sheets and just handeling them was tough. Then I made a couple errors that cost me because I could only get 1 cut from a sheet being they were 30" wide. Transporting them I had to rent a trailor because they wouldnt fit in my 7' bed. This whole job has been like this and I understand now why sheets are 4x8 and cabinets are generally 23 1/4 deep or smaller. Do you guys ever try to take on a job like this by yourself? I now Im not.
 

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I just finished building an Entertainment Center. The two display cabinets are 4'0" wide, 6'3" tall and 22" deep. The center cabinet is 5'9" wide, 6'9" tall and 25" deep. I built it all by my self. I did need a little help lifting it a couple of time. But for the most part I built all of it. I would do it again and I built it all at home. I posted a couple of pictures of it in my gallery if you are interested in seeing it.

Jim
 

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I frequently build furniture larger than my shop can handle,
I just build them in multiple pieces.
I figure if I can't move them comfortably up my stairs
than I need to be able to break them into smaller components
that can be reassembled.
That makes it easier for my customers too.:icon_cool:
 

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Forgotten but not gone
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The largest thing I ever built was a bookcase for a law firm. If you have ever worked for attorneys . . . . . whew. It had to be all one unit. It made no sense at all but that was that. I wasn't getting the job unless I agreed to build it in one unit and get it up the 1/2 story fisrt floor.

I had to have a boom truck (small crane) to load it on a flat bed trailer and set it in front of the law firm outside. From there, I employed a number of Egyptian pyramid-building techniques. Mainly a ramp and alot of (paid) slaves.

The lawyer died about ten years ago and the building - one of the oldest on our historic town square is falling into ruin. The bookcase is still proudly holding thousands of old, dusty, outdated law books.

I knew the attornney quite well and know his son even better. We both agree the bookcase ought go the way of the wrecking ball when the time comes because neither one of us wantes to try and get it out.
 

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To answer your original question

I ain't smart enough to turn anything down. If size/weight is a concern that I think they may have overlooked, I'll bring it up but if they still have their hearts set on a behemoth, I do not insist. Just add another zero. Fortunately, my sons are in and out frequently enough I can enlist their assistance when necessary.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Ya? well I installed them today and man, what a fiasco. Floor to ceiling and my measurements were off!! Partially because at 30" depth the ceiling height changed 1/2" and another was my toe kick being 1" to tall (the ol 1" trick). Easy fix, just cut the toe kick right? Yep but thinking it would fit and trying to put it in place I dammaged it beyond repair.

Had a friend help me lift and when it did'nt fit, we were stuck with a 200 lb. cabinet on our shoulders.. It slipped and enough said.

Sad thing is now I have made very little on this job and if I had employees? I would be paying them with money out of my savings. Im sure the customer is wondering if I know what I doing. I enjoy this trade, I just wish I can nail it down to a science that actually puts money in my pocket.

Ive worked for years doing finish trim but cabinets for me is more enjoyable. I worked in a cabinet shop for a few years and there really was no worry. If you made a mistake, just build another because with a large shop the cost can eaten up by a contigency.. If you make a mistake in your own small shop that doesnt have the financial freedom to make mistakes. You just lost.

Thats a different subject though but i think I learned my lesson. Too big=big problem
 

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Cabinetmaker
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Frank; been there,still am:yes: However; First; make your toekicks a seperate ladder frame,an inch yep that damn inch worm :} too high; set it, level it then scribe that inch off, attach it. Now you only need to make square boxes to set on to it, a few screws thru floor of cabinet and done. I ALWAYS break down my cabinets into smaller components for ease of install and handeling. For me if client insists on one pc unit and it is too large for me I pass, the why you just learned.:icon_smile:
Also I always put crown on top, yeah you make top rail wider,cabinet ya ready? that damn INCH shorter that lowest point, ez on ur back and works like a charm.
 

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I just finished building an Entertainment Center. The two display cabinets are 4'0" wide, 6'3" tall and 22" deep. The center cabinet is 5'9" wide, 6'9" tall and 25" deep. I built it all by my self. I did need a little help lifting it a couple of time. But for the most part I built all of it. I would do it again and I built it all at home. I posted a couple of pictures of it in my gallery if you are interested in seeing it.

Jim
:thumbsup: Nice work dude.
 

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johnep
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In theory one of the cpty progs will give a cutting list from your measurements. You then take all the bits and put together on site.
Thats exactly how our conservatory was built by one man. Of course if your measurements are out then you are in trouble. Design your cabinets with adjustable bottom plinth and top rail to take care of uneven ceilings. For width have a piece to to fit to size and this will be ok.
Have found the fitters of custom windows and furniture always have a moulding at side attached to wall to cover small gaps.

Someone on this forum must be a kitchen and fitted bedroom installer and will know all the tricks.

Conversely, lets hear your worst nightmare stories of confusion between mms and inches etc. After all even NASA confuses kgs and lbs.
Loved the entertainment centre.
johnep
 

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Ya? well I installed them today and man, what a fiasco. Floor to ceiling and my measurements were off!! Partially because at 30" depth the ceiling height changed 1/2" and another was my toe kick being 1" to tall (the ol 1" trick). Easy fix, just cut the toe kick right? Yep but thinking it would fit and trying to put it in place I dammaged it beyond repair.

Had a friend help me lift and when it did'nt fit, we were stuck with a 200 lb. cabinet on our shoulders.. It slipped and enough said.

Sad thing is now I have made very little on this job and if I had employees? I would be paying them with money out of my savings. Im sure the customer is wondering if I know what I doing. I enjoy this trade, I just wish I can nail it down to a science that actually puts money in my pocket.

Ive worked for years doing finish trim but cabinets for me is more enjoyable. I worked in a cabinet shop for a few years and there really was no worry. If you made a mistake, just build another because with a large shop the cost can eaten up by a contigency.. If you make a mistake in your own small shop that doesnt have the financial freedom to make mistakes. You just lost.

Thats a different subject though but i think I learned my lesson. Too big=big problem

My first shop was an 8'x10' shared area. Part of working out the "how-to-do" is in the planning. I had a law office library that was all just bookcases. Access to the 5th floor was by a tight staircase or an elevator. What I came up with was to make loose toe kicks, which solved the problem of standing up tall cabinets. The actual cabinets were all in finished pieces. It all assembled from flat pieces right in the room starting from one end to the other.

This statement: If you made a mistake, just build another because with a large shop the cost can eaten up by a contigency.. If you make a mistake in your own small shop that doesnt have the financial freedom to make mistakes. You just lost.

What does that say? For anyone that has employees this thinking doesn't do the employer any good whatsoever. Gives you something to think about when you hire someone.
 

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The moment you feel like you need to hire someone

slam your hand in a car door to clear your mind of all distraction. If your workload is such that you need help, consider taking on a junior partner, or raising your prices, or both. There is no way that a person without a fully vested interest is going to care about cost or quality as much as you do. Secondly, you can not legally deduct rework from the hired mans pay but you can charge it against a partners share. Think about that for just a minute.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thats very true. There is a definite line between surviving and having room for mistakes. Thats why I can't afford an employee because if I bid a job accurately and he makes a mistake, (or I do) I lost considering I don't have a full schedule to absorb it.

On a different subject though..

Ive been researching a lot on this field and have spent many hours thinking if this is the right avenue for me. I simply don't have the resources to continue. Cost of labor/materials is highly competitive. So much so that I can't compete. I had a vague idea of my competitors prices and last week I learned a lot about my competition. CNC machines = low labor cost and perfect cuts! Mass quantity (or over seas) purchases on material make their prices actually lower than mine! Unless I work for dirt cheap wages no body would prefer my cabinets over the perfected low cost cabinetry I'm seeing.
Its really a sad thing if you think about it. The market is littered with beautiful cabinets made dirt cheap. Constructed very poorly yes, but the majority of consumers are not educated on hardware or joinery.
Even if you advertised "top of the line hardware" people don't even know what that means. Working a lower profit with higher volume of sales is something you can't just make happen with 1 dude in a shop who loves what he does.
Im not saying any of you make bad cabinets or are up to this scale but Im sure you agree with me that competition is a ruthless game. I envy all of you guys who fallowed your dream and made it happen. I wish I could keep my shop but I have to go get a regular job to make ends meet.


The absolute only ways I could continue are (1) if I had the funding to buy the equipment to stay competitive with my labor cost and had the leads for the material. (2) Had a client that took the risk with me and gave me a big contract. or (3) Had a large enough clientle to work with my income and invest wisely. It's really a case of finances though. Ive been scrapping to make this happen for exactly 1 year I made 35k last year. This year much less.. even had to take money from my personal checking to cover bills.
A nice fat 1 mil would do me. Hell, even 50k would put me in contention. Good luck to you all :no:
 

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johnep
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Sorry to hear your story as this is exactly what has happened in the UK to virtually all our manufacturing. You can only survive by operating in a niche market. Perhaps bespoke furniture for discerning wealthy clients or in areas where no foreign competition.

Great bulk of furniture in UK is chipboard in flatpack assmbled by customer. Real wood is now a rarity. I was putting up some outside shelving yesterday using rough sawn battens. these were stamped 'pensylv' so presume imported from USA.

johnep
 

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If you made a mistake, just build another because with a large shop the cost can eaten up by a contigency.. If you make a mistake in your own small shop that doesnt have the financial freedom to make mistakes. You just lost.

Frank, I just can't get over this statement. No shop really has the financial freedom to make mistakes. The costs have to come from somewhere.

Until you experience the havoc that employees can create, think about what kind of employee you were, or will be. I could go on for pages about how much time was spent in training, how much money was lost in theft of tools and supplies, how many customers were lost because of employee contact, and in the end they will leave you for 25 cents an hour more.

Your client base expectation is on the wrong end of the scale. You should be looking for the high end work. Those clients are not interested in "cheap" or "production" cabinetry. For those jobs, proving yourself is a necessity. You should keep an album of your work, and have a good list of references that will be glad to talk with a perspective client.

And last but not least, is that your work has to be of the quality to get those kind of jobs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Cabinetman

Sure they do. Large shops can make mistakes because, well they are large! Contracts assure a workflow. Im defining financial freedom in business as an investment that is not going to be a gamble. If your plan is to make say 3k profit per month and your well above that. You can invest and expand through employees or whatever you wish. If your profit is below that, your gambeling and a lot of companies do that.
It sounds like you have had some bad employees. If your to the point where you can't see the theft or bad impressions to customers maybe you need a manager?
I know some employees are good and some are bad.. Ive never had the financial cushion to hire one myself. My 5 year old neice and my mom were the only employees Ive ever had an I still owe my niece 3 dollars! :laughing:
 

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Cabinetman

Sure they do. Large shops can make mistakes because, well they are large! Contracts assure a workflow. Im defining financial freedom in business as an investment that is not going to be a gamble. If your plan is to make say 3k profit per month and your well above that. You can invest and expand through employees or whatever you wish. If your profit is below that, your gambeling and a lot of companies do that.
It sounds like you have had some bad employees. If your to the point where you can't see the theft or bad impressions to customers maybe you need a manager?
I know some employees are good and some are bad..

Frank

Large shops don't re-coup from mistakes like you think. I started out working by myself, and have been at it for 37 years. I've had up to 27 employees. I'm very familiar with pretty much all the problems a shop can have. Its a "been there done that". There's no replacing yourself in the shop completely. Sure, there have been "shop foremen", "managers", and "project leaders". I always had the hopes that I could clone myself, but that is just a dream. No one can have the same interest as you do.

Selling out part ownership is a sell out. You've got to take guff from someone that only has his money in mind. What was created as a heart, soul, and blood livelihood becomes a business transaction. The individuality gets lost in the paperwork. Fortunately I survived the turmoils of "keeping it all together". About fifteen years ago decided that I was happier working by myself and have actually gone back to the roots of what I love the most (except for my wife).:smile:
 
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