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Oh to be the Child of a Cabinet Shop :)

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Forum topic by , posted 06-07-2014 04:31 AM 1355 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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,

2387 posts in 3015 days


06-07-2014 04:31 AM

Growing up I recall working hard in a family owned 2 acre garden with a hand pump well for watering. Some of our tools/machines were smallish and maybe even primitive by today’s standards with regards to gardening. I recall watching the sun set on our daily work. While I grew up in a hard working household, not afraid to get their hands dirty while making a living, I did not get that awesome sensation of being a child of a Cabinet Shop.

Fast forward to now, and as I wind down for the evening, I reflect on my wife and children and their lives in the midst of our shop duties. In fact my wife, nor did my children, necessarily choose this life, correct?

I don’t intend on putting a negative spin on this at all, or any woe as me feeling. Let me preface what I am getting ready to write by indicating I would have it no other way, both my wife and I absolutely love what we do. The rewarding experience we feel when high end results are achieved are difficult to describe. The happiness you feel when you achieve success, it is just simply amazing.

Tonight, my 8 year old daughter fell asleep on the assembly table while we ran molding from rough stick to finish. My 6 year old begging to close the shop. Since the molding needs to be on site by 10 am Saturday, my wife and I will open shop at 5 am and wrap up loose ends to meet that deadline. We are wrapping up a large project, 170 LF. With our space and large amount of doors/ drawer faces, we did the doors/DF in 4 groups. We now have the last group (35 upper doors) that need to be on site by Tuesday and we will make that deadline, and they will look perfect / flawless. But it will not happen without some very heavy hours, and too a very large part, thanks to my wife, Justine Nettrour. And a special thanks to my children for enduring the long hours around our shop, as they will learn life as the child of a Cabinet Shop will be challenging and rewarding, all at the same time.

My wife and I will deliver those doors on Tuesday, we will install the doors and tie up remaining tasks, take pics and at the end of the day, we will admire the beauty. We will wonder just how that beauty came to be, being somewhat amazed that we actually produced those cabinets and feeling a sense of pride of accomplishment, and a ton of exhaustion at the same time. It will most certainly be a late day returning home. Our children will be at a baby sitter on that day until mid evening.

And… On Wednesday we get to shift gears as we have other projects in process nearing completion as well. So if one would think that we could catch our breath after Tuesday, that would be a mistaken thought.

Our last project, the one I recently posted on my projects page, we completed a few weeks back on a Saturday night at 7 pm. My daughters were present on that day and were extremely irritable and my wife and I were so exhausted, it was even hard to look at the cabinets at that time due to exhaustion. I recall I even shot myself with the nail gun that day and that just never happens.

This summer will be filled with my daughters asking their daddy when they will have a special time, and in the midst of this grueling shop schedule, I will make the time they need to be children while enjoying time with their mommy and daddy :)

Just a glimpse of being a “Child of the Cabinet Shop”.

-- .


21 replies so far

View Loren's profile

Loren

8315 posts in 3116 days


#1 posted 06-07-2014 04:37 AM

They’ll appreciate it when they’re in college whipping out built-ins
and crown moulding installs for tenured professors instead of
waiting tables.

Long hours… my dad taught me to work fixing up apartments
and houses. I don’t like long hours any more than you do
but the competence of knowing how to build and fix stuff
is priceless.

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,

2387 posts in 3015 days


#2 posted 06-07-2014 04:39 AM

Loren, you are just too funny. I have grown to really appreciate your input. When I make it back to CA in the future (for a visit), I will be looking you up so you can meet us…

-- .

View realcowtown_eric's profile

realcowtown_eric

565 posts in 1405 days


#3 posted 06-07-2014 04:51 AM

wasn’t there a neil young song, maybe buffalo springfield oops sorry it was Crosby Stills Hash that went….

Teach your children well,

here is the inspirational link…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztVaqZajq-I&feature=kp

To me, a child falling asleep on an assembly table is far more preferable than them falling asleep watching screens and sleeping with a wifi transmitter next to their brain. ....

Teach your children well. Use big words. Years ago I read that the single most early indicator of a childs success in school was their vocabulary.

Curious road ahead buddy. hopefull not to many downturns.

-- Real_cowtown_eric

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,

2387 posts in 3015 days


#4 posted 06-07-2014 04:54 AM

Thanks Eric,

I remember that song. That is a good old song, I like it. Thanks.

-- .

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1646 posts in 1785 days


#5 posted 06-07-2014 01:11 PM

Sounds familiar. One great thing about owning a small shop is that 40 hour work weeks become child’s play (no pun intended). It’s better to learn to cope with the 80 hour week than become one of those annoying people that gripe if they have to stay 30 minutes past quitting time.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

23214 posts in 2334 days


#6 posted 06-07-2014 02:39 PM

It sounds like ya’ll have a wonderful life. It’s a nice story.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Loren's profile

Loren

8315 posts in 3116 days


#7 posted 06-07-2014 03:34 PM

You guys all subscribe to Cabinetmaker+FDM right?

There was an article on outsourcing.

I haven’t figured it out myself but I’ve read about furniture
makers who clock in at around 40 hour weeks by being highly
specialized and do well with it. I can totally see how this
level of specialization (Windsor chairs or whatever) is neither
as scalable as a cabinet operation nor as flexible.

I also read an article awhile back about a guy doing impressive
business doing frameless commercial jobs working modest
hours alone and sometimes with his teenage son. It was
all about panel processing and I think there was no finishing
or sanding because it was all melamine and laminate processed
using a beam saw, CNC and an edgebander and sent out flat
packed on pallets for assembly by outside installers.

Just what’s on my mind regarding work/life balance for a
woodworker. The True32 guy is big on balance too.

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1646 posts in 1785 days


#8 posted 06-07-2014 05:30 PM

I read Woodshop News but not the others.

Good balance is achievable and yes, outsourcing is definitely one method. We made pretty good hourly rate on a pew retrofit by outsourcing all the milling and most of the sanding. Joinery, final sanding, finishing and install were our responsibility. Milling a thousand board feet, gluing it into panels and sanding it flat just isn’t one of our specialties.

The downside to outsourcing is of course, the loss of a portion of income. Here’s where good marketing is needed because once portions of a job are outsourced, it’s important to increase the jobs going through the shop. Unfortunately good marketing either takes money or time so that’s 20 hours a week added to my schedule.

My ultimate goal is to work no more than 50 hours a week on average but that has to wait a little while. We still need to purchase a lot of equipment, save for a building and get marketing up to speed.

To make things even more complicated, we’re in the middle of product development for specialty items and it’s consumed hundreds of hours over the past year and drained thousands from the bank account. We’re trying to wrap most of that up this month and get it launched. If that works, we might actually be able to dial back the hours by the end of the year.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View Loren's profile

Loren

8315 posts in 3116 days


#9 posted 06-07-2014 05:32 PM

Cabinetmaker+FDM is free. I don’t take Woodshop News currently.
They are kind of similar.

I’m working on proprietary designs too… it’s very time consuming
to develop something both really cool and difficult for competitors
to knock-off.

Proprietary products make lateral comparisons difficult for
consumers though, so it’s one way to develop “price elasticity”.

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1646 posts in 1785 days


#10 posted 06-07-2014 05:37 PM

On the positive side, the more difficult, expensive and time-consuming it is, the harder it will be for others to follow. Few small shops have the equipment or expertise to pull off what we’re attempting and bigger companies won’t bother because the niche is too small for them.

At least that’s what we hope.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View ,'s profile

,

2387 posts in 3015 days


#11 posted 06-08-2014 12:16 AM

I have enjoyed reading the posts from JAAune and Loren. Wanted to respond earlier but I was on a job site.

I agree, I would love to have a 50 hour work week consistently. I think it is possible. I think maybe even 40 hours but not sure of that. I am anxious to get a CNC up and running in the shop because much of what my wife and I do will be able to be cut right on a CNC router. Such as our past job with 70 dovetail drawers, or our upcoming job that has 80 dovetail drawers specified. Two of our next 3 (sold) jobs on schedule are specified as frameless cabinets, one is face frame. I can see where a CNC and an edgebander will make those frameless projects a real snap to complete since we do not build doors and drawer faces in our shop. We do our own finish work but we have become very efficient at that as well so it really does not take us as long as before.

-- .

View gfadvm's profile

gfadvm

14940 posts in 2158 days


#12 posted 06-08-2014 01:31 AM

Jerry, I know all about long hours and hard work but being able to work with your wife and kids around you is something that many of us are envious of. I’m betting those kids grow up to be responsible, productive adults.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View huff's profile

huff

2828 posts in 2753 days


#13 posted 06-08-2014 02:12 AM

Jerry,

As you know, I enjoy following your progress in business and alway read your post, which I enjoy. I also enjoy reading what Loren and JAAune have to say because they both seem to have a handle on their businesses also.

It sure is easy now that I’m sitting on the side-lines to give advice, and sometimes I feel like I’m sticking my nose in others business and should not post comments anymore…..................but than again, you know me, so I’d like to throw a few ideas in for food for thought.

Time managment is always a balancing act with the small shops, but one thing you may want to take a few moments to consider is, who’s dictating your 60,70 or 80 hours a week?

1. Is it simply because you’re that busy at the moment and going to grab all the work you can asap?

2. Is it because that’s the only way you can make ends meet, so you really don’t have a choice?

3. Is it because you’re not allowing enough time for each project to work reasonable hours and also not allowing any time slots for any fill end small projects that may pop up?

4. Are you allowing someone else to dictate your scheduling?

5. Can you or do you want to maintain this type scheduling for the rest of your career?

The reason I ask these questions is not for me, but for anybody that’s trying to make a living as a woodworker.

I’ve been there and done that and struggled with all the above. I’d like to share a little story with you and others; I’d been in businees about 10 years and working those kind of hours when my first wife was diagnoised with terminal cancer. My wife was home schooling our youngest son and wanted to continue to do so as long as possible.

My hours increased even more during the next 6 years while trying to run my business, constant trips to doctors and hospitals, helping with home schooling, taking over household chores, taking over the bookkeeping end of our business and trying to spend as much time as possible with my wife.

My wife died when she was only 50 years old; my son had one more year to go in high school and I felt it would be a disaster if I put him in public school at that time, so my son and I worked out a schedule to finish his last year continueing being home schooled and prepare him for college and for me to continue to run my business (and it was more important than ever to have a successful business).

It was that time of my career that I realized that it was up to me who and how my time was going to be dictated and it didn’t take long to figure out I had been going about my business totally wrong when it came to time management.

Don’t get me wrong, I still worked more than 40 hours a week, but no more 60 or 70 hours and nobody told me what hours I was going to work. Actually this is when my business became the most profitable and I started to really enjoy my woodworking again.

JAAune put it so well when refering to having to change or step up marketing if you can start outsourcing more of your work. If you free up some of your time, you can more than make up what you have to spend for outsourcing if you market effectively.

Too much focus is put on marketing to generate more business, but marketing should not only get you more business, but also better business. That’s how to make money.

One day I’ll tell you about my son’s senior year and how he earned an A+ in economics. lol.

As always, best of luck.

-- John @ http://www.thehuffordfurnituregroup.com

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1646 posts in 1785 days


#14 posted 06-08-2014 03:00 AM

Jerry, I think you’ll be one happy cabinet-maker once you get those last couple pieces of equipment. It sounds like the biggest hurdle you’re facing now is keeping the jobs on schedule.

I’m curious though as to why you choose to build your own drawer boxes? I’m paying an average of $50 for a finished, dovetailed box done in hard maple so making my own seems unattractive. For an extra three dollars I can get it notched and drilled for under-mount slides. I’d have to knock out a box an hour to make it worth my while and I can’t figure out a way to do that without investing in specialized equipment.

As Huff mentioned, the time saved by outsourcing might free enough time for you to improve infrastructure. Perhaps you could master CAD in preparation for that new machine or spend time hunting for a bargain edge bander at an auction.

Thanks for the compliment Huff but I’m not quite on top of things yet. I’m still studying and practicing the marketing aspect and have just barely started to see the effects. About two hours a day (reason for 80hr weeks) go into researching new internet marketing techniques and practicing new skills. Copy-writing is currently my main focus and I’ll soon be attempting to learn cold-call skills. I keep hearing about churches undergoing renovations and need to figure out how to make contact with them in a manner that engages their interest.

The good news is that after about twenty tries, a reporter from a major media provider finally took interest in one of my pitches. Should result in an article about the business being published soon.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View huff's profile

huff

2828 posts in 2753 days


#15 posted 06-08-2014 03:46 AM

Jerry,

That’s funny that JAAune asked about outsourcing your drawer boxes. That was the first componet I outsourced when I decided to go that route. He’s right; you can get a solid maple dovetailed drawer totally finished and even notched for an average of $50.00/drawer.

I looked at my $55/hr shop labor rate and realized I couldn’t acquire the lumber, size, sand, dovetail, assemble, final sand, notch for drawer slides, spray sealer, sand and top coat in under an hour and that didn’t include materials.

I even outsourced complete jobs for a few years. I had 5 different “one man” shops that each had their own special talents and I would outsource the complete build to them. I did the marketing, selling, designing of every project that went through my shop, and did all finishing and every installation, but I would outsource the build to others to my quality control.

The beauty of that; they have their own shop, their own equipment, their own insurance and I wasn’t paying any of them unless they were building for me. That was too much managing (babysitting) for me so pulled it all back to my shop after a few years and started outsourcing different things.

The main reason I wanted to do all my own installations was simple; I’m the best PR man for my business and the best salesman, so I was marketing while installing! Repeat business was a very strong part of my business.

It was not uncommon to have customers that I did anywhere from 4 to 8 large projects, usually talking about their next project while I was wraping up their current one.

JAAune; marketing can be so frustrating at times because we don’t see instant results most of the time, but hang in there and continue to find new and different ways to market and in time you will see it all start to come together.

That is great news about a major media provider finally taking an interest and doing an article about your business. That can be a real boost for your image as a business.

-- John @ http://www.thehuffordfurnituregroup.com

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