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Blog entry by Sparky977 posted 03-20-2008 05:52 AM 1326 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So what do you do when the economy is tanking all around you, new home construction is dropping like a rock, and everyone seems to build things shoddier and cheaper? Why, start up a new cabinet shop of course! Hmmm, I sure hope this is a good idea in the long run. . . :)

I trim houses for a living. I’ve grown up around the building industry, as my dad is a general contractor. As a child, I always just assumed that I would be in construction, like my dad. There really wasn’t any question. I loved framing houses. It was my favorite part of building. Toward the end of high school, I started having different ideas. I went to college, and started toward a major in Engineering. HA! That lasted 4 weeks. I changed majors a couple times (youth pastor, psychology) and worked for my dad during the summers. My dad and I are very much alike, and as a “know-it-all” college student, we butted heads a lot, until I finally walked off a job site swearing that I was done with construction.
I ended up working a couple different factory type jobs, driving a forklift. Moved to California. Got a desk job. It ate me alive. I’m just not made for offices! After I lost that job, I did some odd jobs in construction before finally having to move back to Michigan, basically begging my dad for some work. Ahhh, humility.
He just happened to have a cottage to remodel, but was getting into doing a lot of commercial construction and was going to turn the job down until I came back. It was my first experience of really doing most of the work myself, and I loved it. It just felt natural to be building. Over the next few years, I realized how much I enjoyed trimming. The attention to detail awakened something in me. And I haven’t looked back. I started my own business in 2005, S & L Construction, Inc. My dad had me trim the houses he contracted, and soon realized I wasn’t letting him near the trim part of the houses. :) I love my dad, he is an amazing contractor, but he isn’t as picky as I am on trim. That was a weird revelation to come to.
About a year and a half ago, he slowed way down as the Michigan economy really started to crumble. Fortunately, his painter had given my name to another contractor in the area who was looking for a quality trim carpenter around his age. He is building VERY nice homes, and it was very exciting when he asked me to trim for him. I had to step up my game. I’ve now trimmed 2 houses for him, with a few odds and ends stuff here and there. We had talked at the beginning about me eventually building cabinets, but I couldn’t afford to get a shop up and running (a new baby tends to limit that sort of thing). So I figured that maybe in a couple years or so. Well, in the course of these two houses, we ran into more issues with the cabinets we were installing. Its a brand that used to be top notch, but they have gone downhill fast as they got larger and skimped more and more on the materials they use to build the cabinets. Finally, Brian and I were fed up. He was wanting to get into a higher level of homes, and so custom built cabinets were really the only option. He had a building that he used to have a store in, but was just sitting unused and empty. So it is turning into a wood shop! I just built a mantel there today (will put some pictures up soon hopefully). Also today, we had our plywood delivered for the first batch of cabinets for the next house. Tomorrow, I will start cutting the sheets down with my Festool TS 55.
As it is a new shop, and still in progress of being put together, there are still a lot of tools and benches and other things missing. We are getting an 8” Steel City jointer, and a 15” Steel City Planer in the next couple weeks, when I will have to start dimensioning the maple for the face frames. For right now, another local shop is making our doors and drawer fronts. We hope to get a shaper later this year in order to do that ourselves also.
We are hoping that even if home sales continues to decline, people will still have a desire for quality cabinets if they remodel.
Our cabinets will truly be custom. No basic box sizes squeezed into a kitchen with a bunch of fillers. We plan on building sections of cabinets, as opposed to a bunch of boxes just screwed together. I want the cabinets I build to last, so that 50 years from now, the homeowner will be refinishing their kitchen and will admire how well built they are. We won’t have any extra wide drawers with 100 lb. Blumotion drawer guides, but only 1/4 inch plywood for the drawer bottom! Yeah, thats one of the disgusts we had with the cabinets we were installing. Unbelievable.
So anyway, I’m a little nervous as I move into this new direction. Its exciting to be going where I had hoped to go, but really scary stepping out there. I’ll just try to put my best into every part of it, remember to measure twice, cut once, and to always wear my safety goggles when using the power tools.


20 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3863 days

#1 posted 03-20-2008 05:57 AM

I hope it works out for you Sparky. Sounds like you have the drive and determination to make it work.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Pretzel's profile


93 posts in 3713 days

#2 posted 03-20-2008 07:12 AM

Welcome to Lumber Jock’s

It’ll be tough, gut it out, I work pt as a Machinist & concrete finisher, (my own investments). When things got slow I started building cabinets & furniture 6yrs ago. I’ve noticed, while doing my taxes, my w/w is doing very well for a 2-man shop. Hang in there. lots of luck to you.

-- Pretzel L8agn

View Splinters's profile


190 posts in 4151 days

#3 posted 03-20-2008 07:26 AM

Good luck Sparky and welcome to lumberjocks… can do it…..

-- Splinters - Living and Loving life in the Rockies - -

View cajunpen's profile


14575 posts in 4033 days

#4 posted 03-20-2008 07:26 AM

They say timing is everything. I wish you nothing but the best and hope your timing is right.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3742 days

#5 posted 03-20-2008 09:47 AM

Hi Sparky

Welcome to Lumberjocks. It sounds like you have a plan and desier to make it work. Good Luck!

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3790 days

#6 posted 03-20-2008 11:47 AM


I wish you nothing but the best. Too often we are the obstacles to our success. We are simply afraid to let go of the safety tether in order to venture out onto a new but untried path. You have taken a bold step in this direction and, given your determination and desire for success, you are following your dream.

Congrats on the new space and new tools as well. It is always an exciting time, whether you are a pro or a hobbiest, to put new tools into service.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 3848 days

#7 posted 03-20-2008 12:01 PM

sparky , i can very much relate to your story ! good luck

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4128 days

#8 posted 03-20-2008 02:01 PM

isn’t it exciting to look at how your life has unfolded. Congrats on accepting the opportunity!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 3700 days

#9 posted 03-20-2008 02:47 PM

Sparky, all the best on this venture! Here’s a little ditty that my old man always said, “There’ll be trials and tribulations in everything you do but hard work and persistence will always see you thru!”. Feel free to use it if you ever need it. It’s a bit corny but it has served me well all these years and got me up and back in the game quite a few times… and still does. ;)

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3930 days

#10 posted 03-20-2008 03:37 PM

Well, Sparky, I think you have a very good chance of making it work very well. The key is the contractor you are working with. When the economy is down the rich keep on going. The Great Depression made a lot of rich people richer. With his reputation and your own contacts you will have plenty of work. That is an enviable position to be in. It sounds like you build the same quality cabinet I do. I wish I had your contacts but I don’t. Make sure you let people know what they are getting. I ask people if they have in mind to remodel every 5 years. If they say yes I send them to Lowe’s. There is no point putting a $2000 vanity in a bathroom so it can go to the dump in 5 years. Of course, if they have the money I won’t turn it down. I think you will find that modular construction is a must. you have to be able to pick up the boxes and move them. If you make them too big it’s always a 2 man job and that costs money. I will say there are some very good door and drawer companies out there. It is a lot cheaper to out-source doors and drawers than hire people with all the problems that come with that. There’s also the time. It will all come together.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4282 days

#11 posted 03-20-2008 03:58 PM

Good luck. I’m just finishing a batch of kitchens. I’m in a situation much like yours, but I didn’t change enough so I’m done with deal. Good luck!

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3956 days

#12 posted 03-20-2008 04:59 PM

I wish you all the luck.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4282 days

#13 posted 03-20-2008 06:24 PM

Charge enough! Guess I needed to change too!

View HallTree's profile


5664 posts in 3735 days

#14 posted 03-20-2008 07:06 PM

Welcome Sparky! I love post like your’s. You will find there are a lot of woodworkers here that are willing to help. Looking forward to see your progress on the shop and comments. Have fun and work safe.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3842 days

#15 posted 03-20-2008 10:47 PM

It’s an election year. In virtually every election year some stimulation is done to the economy to make it look better. Your timing might be very good, as housing seems a likely area to stimulate.

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