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.