View Full Version : How to Hire a Cabinetmaker Tutor

Matt Hunsaker
04-05-2017, 12:03 PM
So here is the deal: we are embarking on a major remodeling project and I'd like to handle as much of it myself as possible. I have all the tools necessary to make my own kitchen cabinets (painted shaker style) and would really like to do so. Only problem is that my wife does not think my skills are up to snuff. She's got a point - I have no training and most of my projects look like high school woodshop rejects. She has said that I can build the cabinets so long as I hire a professional to make sure I am doing it right and to help me with my technique.

I expect that most cabinetmakers would not want to get involved in such an endeavor, as their time would be better spent actually building stuff for their clients instead of helping some hack. Any ideas on how I might approach this? In other words, how I can find a good cabinet maker and how I might frame this proposal so that it is worth his or her while?

Rick Potter
04-05-2017, 12:11 PM
Two suggestions.

1. Put your location in the post.

2. Replace the word 'professional', with 'experienced hobbyist'. It would take a pro more time to show you how than to build it. Why would he want to cut his pay?

You might have better results.

Larry Edgerton
04-05-2017, 12:27 PM
A couple of points...

Put your location in the post.

Look to a retired cabinetmaker, not one struggling to make a living in an ever more automated world. Who has the time?

Matt Hunsaker
04-05-2017, 12:35 PM
1. Location is Dallas, TX area.

2. I know how to build them; I am just looking to hire someone who can work with me for a few hours to help me shore up my precision and technique and to take a look at my plans to see if I've done something ludicrous. I'm not looking for someone to shadow me the entire time. For my wife's peace of mind, I'd prefer someone who does it for a living and not a hobby. I'd expect to compensate them so that it is more than worth their while.

Matt Hunsaker
04-05-2017, 12:36 PM
Look to a retired cabinetmaker

Any ideas on where to find such a creature? Craigslist? Local lumberyards?

Mel Fulks
04-05-2017, 12:48 PM
I would break it into two parts. The first would be a plan. Then a way to go about it. So maybe two different consultants. Many commercial shops get the doors made by outside suppliers, obviously that route simplifies.

jack duren
04-05-2017, 1:27 PM
You'll end up losing more than you'll gain. Sub out the cabinets...

Matt Hunsaker
04-05-2017, 1:33 PM
You'll end up losing more than you'll gain. Sub out the cabinets...

It's not an economic decision - I really want to do this myself for the joy of it and to use it as an opportunity to learn and develop my abilities.

william watts
04-05-2017, 2:39 PM
I used a business that advertised handy men for hire when I installed widows on a rental house. They employ experienced people from the different trades that work on a on call basis. I used them to do exactly what your asking about, the person they sent was knowledgeable and was able to assist lifting larger windows and pretty much over saw the whole operation. It was a good experiance all around, and it did save a few $.


Chris Padilla
04-05-2017, 3:02 PM
Seek out local woodworking groups, gatherings. Go to woodworking shows. Find great woodworking websites and be an active poster so folks get to know you (BTW, great start posting here...keep it going) and you may end up meeting local folks/hobbyists. Go to woodworking stores (Rocklers, Woodcraft, local shops, lumber yards) and talk to people. You may run right into someone who can help you or know someone who can help you. I suppose you could toss an ad in Craigslist: it's free so why not. Seek out opinions on great books. Do some serious web searching on the topic. Do some serious searching within Saw Mill Creek. I've had a handful of folks I met here on SMC over to my house or me visiting them. You can learn a lot.

I don't wish to be a wet towel on your desires here but building a whole kitchen worth of cabinets is a daunting task. And you sound like you are relatively inexperienced. How about just building one cabinet and see what you think? Then imagine doing that 8-14 more times (or whatever). Then there are all the decisions you need to make for drawers and sliding hardware. On top of that, kitchens can have all sorts of fancy hardware to make life easier like fancy setups for corner cabinets to get use of all the space. What about all the moldings? What about lighting and plumbing? There is handle/knob hardware. Will the refrigerator have a wood door on it? What about all the finishing (stain and clear)? Who is making drawers? Drawers can take a long long time to make. Doors can take a while to make, too. If they get fancy, they will take longer and require special bits/tooling, perhaps.

Like I said, make ONE cabinet and judge from there. In the last 3 years, I've completely gutted our master bathroom and my daughter's hall bathroom. I built the vanity for both of them. Building one vanity took me a couple months. I'm an experienced hobbyist with lots of tools. But I also have a full-time job and full-time daughter and full-time dog and I'm fussy about how I build things (over-engineer...make 'em last...hardwood edging on every piece of plywood edge...box joints for all drawer boxes, etc.).

All rooms in my two-story, 2000 sqft, 4BD/2.5Bath home have been redone except for one. Can you guess which one? hahahaha: Kitchen! Guess who is building the cabinets? Not me!! My marriage would not survive the ordeal and I have an incredibly patient wife but the kitchen is just too much work for one person...one hobbyist. Even a pro will have help to build such pieces in the guise of major automation, farming/sub'ing out various aspects, and/or a few extra hands. Plus that is all the pro does: builds cabinets. He will work on cabinets 8 hours+ per day for 5+ days per week. How much time will you put into them?

Building kitchen cabinets is not the place to hone your ww'ing skills or test your marriage. Kitchens are incredible stressful on everyone even when you plunk down $60k to hire someone else to do everything. Start small. I've been in my house since August of 1999. The first room I did was the downstairs 1/2 bath. I gutted it and redid everything in there. That was my first cabinet I built. I don't even remember how long it took me but the bathroom was out of commission for at least 8 months. It was a hassle not having a downstairs bathroom but it was survivable. How long can you survive without a kitchen? 8 months is quite a long time and I'm being over-optimistic that you could get it done in that amount of time. :)

Steve Jenkins
04-05-2017, 3:35 PM
Come to the next meeting of the North Texas Woodworkers Assoc. (NTWA. Org). We meet on the third Tues of every month. Our membership runs from newbies to pros with over 35 years experience. Give me a call if you like.

Von Bickley
04-05-2017, 3:43 PM
You'll end up losing more than you'll gain. Sub out the cabinets...

I agree with Jack. Kitchen cabinets should not be a place to develop new skills.

Bruce Wrenn
04-05-2017, 8:53 PM
Before embarking on a cabinet making journey, get hold of a copy of Danny Proulx's book "Making Your Own Kitchen Cabinets." His techniques are simple (butt joints) with an overlay face frame attached with pocket screws. Remember only the inside of the cabinet is seen, except for end panel, which is also an overlay.

Matt Day
04-05-2017, 8:55 PM
I know my local Woodcraft hosts a series of cabinet making lessons (not free), and our local continuing ed program at a high school offers a class too.

Hiring a cabinet maker to show you the ropes isn't the way to go. For one thing he's got different equipment setup to bach the stuff out, not a pokey home shop where it takes time to set everything up.

Also, you say you have everything you need, exactly what do you have?

Good luck. I'd like to build out too, but the previous owners put in a nice set of cabinets - a blessing in disguise I think (at least for a dad of two toddlers).