Books for Cabinetmakers

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Forum topic by ScottyWes posted 05-30-2013 02:03 AM 1651 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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32 posts in 1830 days

05-30-2013 02:03 AM

Hey all,

I’ve built cabinets before but will be starting a business building them soon (I hope) so I have been doing some homework. These are the books I currently have on cabinetmaking and the cabinetmaking business but I was wondering if anyone had any other suggestions:

Bob Lang’s The Complete Cabinetmaker by Robert W. Lang (Excellent book)

Rodale’s Illustrated Cabinetmaking by Bill Hylton (Mostly exploded views of furniture projects)

The Complete Cabinetmaker’s Reference by Jeffrey Piontkowski (Not as useful as I had hoped, geared a little more to the DIY crowd)

Modern Cabinetmaking by William D. Umstattd and Charles W. Davis (the texbook!)

Cabinetmaking procedures for the Small Shop by Kevin Fristad and John Ward (Most useful book so far)

Also, for the cabinetmakers out there, what periodicals do you subscribe to?



18 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10385 posts in 3645 days

#1 posted 05-30-2013 02:12 AM

Most cabinet making books are targeted at industrial
arts students or hobby builders.

A couple of queries:

Do you intend to build face frame or frameless?

What’s your budget for specialized machinery?

What’s your square footage?

Jim Tolpin’s books are good. He is the real deal and
addresses business concerns head-on, though he is
keen on the one-man shop model and a bit idealistic.

If you’re looking to make a decent living, look at 32mm
cabinet making resources.

Woodshop News is good. You can get it free. I think
my subscription has lapsed. CabinetmakerFDM is good
too and you can get it free. Say you are a pro. These
are not journals that teach you how to build a bookshelf
in every issue. They are industry journals bankrolled
by advertising revenues from industrial machinery

Read – a lot. The business is not
easy and the best thing you can do is be informed
by guys who have been there.

P.S. no business is easy, but cabinetmaking has
a lot of discrete opportunities (pitfalls) to shoot yourself
in the foot, metaphorically speaking.

...financially speaking the term is “lose your shirt”.

View RPhillips's profile


1177 posts in 1833 days

#2 posted 05-30-2013 02:18 AM

I have a question, since you are obviously an experienced cabinetmaker, which book would you suggest for someone who has never built cabinets, but is looking too?

this be a good start? —> Cabinetmaking procedures for the Small Shop by Kevin Fristad and John Ward

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3544 days

#3 posted 05-30-2013 02:26 AM

I will give the easy answer and simply agree with Loren. I read woodweb and typically look to internet searches for answers when I get stuck.

-- .

View Loren's profile


10385 posts in 3645 days

#4 posted 05-30-2013 02:27 AM

There is a terminology issue with the word “cabinetmaker”.

Sometimes it means a person proficient in the industry
of planning, manufacturing and installing of stuff
like kitchen cabinets and hospital cabinets.

Sometimes it means somebody who knows all about
furniture making and can execute all variety or designs
but is not necessarily set up (in terms of specialized
machines) to build serious cabinetry at competitive

You will not go wrong with Tolpin. He is not a frameless
guy however (he does use some frameless concepts
in his books though).

Paul Levine’s book “Cabinets and Built Ins” has a lot
of innovative ideas for building great looking cabinetry
with minimal machinery.

View ScottyWes's profile


32 posts in 1830 days

#5 posted 05-30-2013 02:57 AM

Thanks for the suggestions guys. Loren, for the time being, I’m going to have to stick with face-frames because I just don’t feel right with the whole 32mm system just yet. My wife loves that look but I guess I’m a traditional kind of guy because I really the look of the raised panel, face-frame cabinets. The 32mm just screams Ikea to me. And I really don’t want to get into all the tooling for that, edgebanders and line borers and sliding saws and such. However, I’ve been looking at Jerry’s hybrid cabinets with 1/8” reveals and I’m starting to think I can pull that off as well. (Thanks Jerry!) In the end, I guess it will all depend on what the customers here really want. Tulsa is a relatively conservative area so I’m thinking the traditional face-frame style might sell better.

Budget right now is hovering around $5000, I’ll find out in a couple of weeks the exact amount I will be pulling from my 401K. If need be, I can probably do more. For the time being I’m in a detached garage, 16’ x 17’ so not a lot of space, although I have the entire space to use. I’m looking at several industrial properties for lease right now. Unfortunately I don’t have the space to just build a shop although that is the direction I want to go.

I want to stay small. Myself and my wife and a couple of guys I have known forever that can help when needed. Until I’ve completed the first several jobs I’m sticking with my current full-time job (mostly for the insurance for my kids.)

Jerry, you can relate right? ;)

Yeah, I’ve been meaning to get Toplin’s books as well as the book you suggested by Paul Levine.

@Rphillips—From the books I have thus far I would start with the Robert W. Lang book, Bob Lang’s The Complete Kitchen Cabinetmaker. Not sure if it is the best place to start, but from what I have it would be.

View Loren's profile


10385 posts in 3645 days

#6 posted 05-30-2013 03:02 AM

You’re incorrect in assuming “conservative” customers
will want face frames.

If you want to be a face frame shop, ok. It is not
as profitable. You may be able to get referrals
from frameless shops here and there.

View ScottyWes's profile


32 posts in 1830 days

#7 posted 05-30-2013 03:06 AM

Well, you know what they say about the word “assume” :) You are right, assumptions are bad business practice. I guess the better way of expressing my thought is, I pay a lot of attention to the cabinets in peoples homes in my area, and the vast majority are face-frame.

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2357 days

#8 posted 05-30-2013 12:24 PM

I will echo the Tolpin book suggestion. I’m not a pro, but I’ve been reading ‘Building Traditional Kitchen Cabinets’ by Tolpin after a few guys on here suggested it.

It’s the real deal, and goes into detail about more than just building a simple cabinet. Talks about the realities of running the business, making and pricing cut lists, etc.

I think I ordered mine from the internet for $.29 used or something ridiculous like that.

-- Steve

View helluvawreck's profile


31071 posts in 2864 days

#9 posted 05-30-2013 01:43 PM

We started out small and instead of kitchen cabinets we eventually got into outfitting hotels, motels, and nursing homes which is something else that you could get into if the kitchen cabinets didn’t work. It wasn’t long before we acquired all of the necessary production equipment. If I were you I would work toward acquiring what you need to produce both face frame and 32mm cabinets. However, I would be the first to tell you that most businesses that start eventually fail. A lot of times they just don’t have the capital to expand or to ride out the rough times. After many years we eventually got out of furniture and cabinets and into manufacturing molding. Which brings up another point – it’s good to be adaptable and be able to change directions if you have to if the market and economy changes.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Earlextech's profile


1161 posts in 2688 days

#10 posted 05-30-2013 01:58 PM

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Set: Three Step-By-Step Guidebooks to Essential Woodworking Techniques

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2359 days

#11 posted 05-30-2013 02:45 PM

If you don’t build frameless, you might as well pack it in before you start.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Loren's profile


10385 posts in 3645 days

#12 posted 05-30-2013 04:04 PM

You can outsource the cases and do frameless that
way. You can spend all your time designing, installing
and sanding doors.

Frameless is so silly fast and cost-effective when you
have the ability to do it. I use an edge press from
Europe – it edge bands with solid wood and heat
cures the glue in about 60 seconds. Super low
maintenance, unlike most edge banders. Hard
to find one, but a great tool. Terry Cain (rip) wrote
a good article on it called “Edgebanding with a Press”.
You can google it.

View cabmaker's profile


1730 posts in 2806 days

#13 posted 05-30-2013 04:49 PM

Scot, what area are you located ?

View ScottyWes's profile


32 posts in 1830 days

#14 posted 05-31-2013 12:25 AM

@Earlextech—I have the Tage Frid book about Joinery in that series. I look for the other 2 every time I hit up the used book stores. Excellent teacher.

@ Cabmaker—I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

@ helluvawreck aka Charles—Great advise. Although I have an idea in mind of the direction I want to go, it would be foolish to disregard other opportunities. I’m a realist, in the end, I will wind up making whatever I need to make in order to feed my kids.

Seem to be a lot folks favoring the frameless cabinets here… :) I’m not interested in having a big company that mass produces cabinets. I’m not looking for the easy way. I just want to be a one man (and one woman) operation that makes enough to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I don’t want to get rich. I’m not naive. I know most shops fail, etc. Right now I live a very modest lifestyle. I work in manufacturing and have a partnership with a buddy doing light carpentry work in the area on the weekends for spare cash. For the last 5 years I have worked 60 – 80 hours a week to live paycheck to paycheck. Before that I was in the Infantry. Before that I was an administrator in a large county-wide public library system (which I despised and will never work behind a desk again.) If I can maintain the same income I do now by operating my own small cabinet shop then I will be happy, no matter the hours, no matter the hard work, no matter the stress, etc. If I have to adapt to other things, so be it, I will be in a position to do so. The main thing is I will be doing it on my own terms.

Ultimately, if a customer wants faceless cabinets and I need the work, then sure enough, I’m going to find a way to build those cabinets even I have to drill all those little holes by hand and hot-glue veneer to the edge faces (just kidding.) Tage Frid was mentioned earlier and his philosophy was you should be able to woodwork with whatever you have on hand. I certainly understand the logic in focusing on one method or the other but I also see the logic in remaining open to building whatever you need to build in order to survive.

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1866 days

#15 posted 05-31-2013 12:45 AM

I’m not a cabinet maker… But I did just build and install my first cabinet. So what do I know?

I know I love to read this site.

In reading this thread, I did see quite a few experienced cabinet makers favor frameless cabinetry as a business model. I have to believe they are speaking (typing) in earnest. Keep an open mind.

Don’t let a few thousand dollars keep you from succeeding, and don’t bet the farm if you don’t have the gut feeling that you should.

A thousand is the new hundred.a dollar ain’t what she used to be, and still they are getting harder to come by.

Work is about the money. It’s a huge part of our lives, so we should try to do something we like. Making money at a hobby turns it into a job.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

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