Want to Start Your Own Cabinetmaking Shop? Here’s How

After I running my own cabinetmaking shop for about three years, I happened upon a copy of Jim Tolpin’s “Working at Wood.” At the time I was struggling to keep my business going. I’m not a great salesman or accountant. My system was basic: One shoebox (really, a size nine boot box) for incoming bills and the lid of the box for bills paid. My paperwork was done on notebook paper. Not exactly a professional approach. But, my customers were understanding of my office organization because they liked my work, so the fact that I was using Redwing boot filing cabinets didn’t bother them too much.

Tolpin’s book was exactly what I needed. I copied the style of the quotaion form and bought a receipt book like the one he pictured. The bonus was the copious information about setting up a shop and the process of flowing work through the shop. I had the proper tools and equipment, I knew how to build cabinets and furniture, but I had a small shop. Sometimes the work got ahead of me and I found myself stacking and re-stacking cut piles of parts. I like small shops, so it was important that I learn how to work in one. Jim showed me how to do that.

The path of our lives will sometimes lead us in directions we would never have planned. I had my own cabinetmaking shop for more than five years. But the product going out the door didn’t have a big return for me profit-wise, so I closed the doors and went back to work in a large production shop. Then, about 10 years ago, I was offered the opportunity to edit woodworking books. I knew woodworking, and I had a college degree (albeit in music composition), which meant that I could build and read. So I was hired by F+W.

Here’s where my life made some unexpected turns. I got to know several woodworking authors, one of them being Tolpin. I told him that I had bought his “Working at Wood” book back in 1990 and he thanked me. I thanked him for writing the book as it had helped me get my shop organized. At this time, his book “Working at Wood” had been out for about five years and was selling well. I asked if he had the rights to the book and if he would like to redo it in color, add some material and in general, spruce up the look of the book. He thought that would be just fine, so he proceeded to add some chapters, rewrote the rest, took color photos to replace the black-and-white photos and we had all the illustrations redrawn in color. Oh yeah, we retitled the book – “Jim Tolpin’s Guide to Becoming a Professional Cabinetmaker.” We thought it more clearly stated what the book was about.

Jim Tolpin’s Guide to Becoming a Professional Cabinetmaker is your complete guide to choosing a location for your shop, getting the right tools, setting up shop, building shop fixtures, designing cabinets, how to flow the work through your shop, how to assemble, finish and install cabinets, how to structure your business, how to market, design and price your work and most important of all; how to sustain your business.

It’s on sale for 50 percent off in our store right now. Just $12.50. Click here.

– Jim Stack

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