What is a Cabinet Maker and What Do They Do?


What is a Cabinet Maker and What Do They Do?

Interested in woodworking? If you’re considering a career in cabinet making–or want to add-on to an existing skill set to broaden your career opportunities–you may be interested in the qualifications required, cabinet making courses, and potential experience needed to get you there. Further still, there can be a lot of confusion about the differences between a cabinet maker and a carpenter–so we’re here to dive straight in.

Specialising in the design, construction, and installation of detailed woodwork, cabinet makers are specialty woodworkers who can help design built-in robes, bathrooms, kitchens, furniture, coffins, and more. Applicable to residential, commercial, and industrial projects alike, cabinet makers can create tailor-made wood works, refinish existing pieces or antiques, and help with measuring and installation. A great option for property owners who want specific cabinets, furniture, or storage solutions, residential and commercial building projects are just two types of jobs that cabinet makers may choose.

Wondering what the average day and projects look like for a cabinet maker or how their career differs from a traditional builder? Read on.

What is the Job of a Cabinet Maker?

From custom measurements to production and installation, cabinet making is a hands-on art form that sees a wide range of tasks through the day from manual labour to computer-assisted design. Often responsible for the entire design process, a new project for a cabinet maker can involve every step from plan drafting and drawing to measures, timber selection, manufacturing, finishing, and installation.

Traditionally working with clients from the beginning of the building process through to completion, cabinet makers will often require access to the intended installation site to begin drafting solutions that will fit the area and meet the client’s functional needs. From there, plans are drafted, iterated, and finalised to specification before material selection will come into play. Only after this pre-production process is completed will most cabinet makers move to the manufacturing stage.

Relying on power tools, manual labour, and computer assisted design (CAD) technologies alike, the exact specifications and accuracy required by the everyday cabinet maker are immense. If you’re interested in balancing creativity with high-quality, hands-on projects, cabinet making may just be for you.

What is the Difference Between a Cabinet Maker and a Carpenter?

We appreciate that a builder or carpenter may be interested in moving into the woodworking space–and vice versa. That said, there are a number of differences between carpentry and cabinet and the pathway to certification varies.

Among the commonalities between the two trades, the average carpenter and cabinet maker will both:

  • Work with wood and timber on furniture making and structural projects
  • Have both the practical and academic knowledge needed to safely design projects from timber selection and calculations through to production and installation
  • Work alongside home builders, property developers, and other trades teams

Where the differences lie between the two trades includes:

Cabinet Makers

  • Traditionally have significant expertise in timber and wood selection that far surpass the basic materials needed to get a structurally sound job completed.
  • Can design and produce detailed woodwork and designs into their projects from crown moulding through to custom-made wood etching.
  • Focus on traditionally smaller, more detailed wood projects like bookcases, kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, built-in desks, and coffins.


  • Focus on larger, more functional and structural projects like staircases, framing, and decking.
  • Have more experience working with structural timbers in place of speciality materials.
  • Traditionally focuses on a wider project from home building to commercial offices in place of the smaller, more custom-made projects installed into the final space.

Where carpenters are more involved at the top-level of the project–including the entire home build or commercial office fit out–cabinet makers focus on smaller, more detailed projects that are traditionally installed in the wider structure. To do so, they require a deeper understanding of more exotic woods, design and detailing, how to custom-design woodworking plans, and project installation.

What Tools and Applications Does a Cabinet Maker Use?

Moving away from larger, structural projects, cabinet makers will rely on a number of tools to help create the detailed design work they’re known for. Relying on manual tasks, power tools, and computer-assisted design alike, some of the more common tools and applications a cabinet maker will use in the course of a day include:

  • Saw tables, drum sanders, electrical wood cutters.
  • Drills, staplers, jigsaws, and laminate trimmers.
  • Joinery tools including nails, wood glue, tape, screws, fasteners, and dowels
  • CAD technologies–using software to design project plans and increase the accuracy of specifications

Using the above, a traditional day-in-the-life of a cabinet maker may include:

  • Preparing plans from hand-drawn sketches through to computer-assisted design
  • Working with clients to finalise plans and organise cost quotes
  • Selecting and preparing raw timber and materials
  • Designing, measuring, marking, cutting, and shaping wood
  • Trimming, connecting, reinforcing parts
  • Fitting locks, hinges, catches, and shelves
  • Transportation and installation support
  • Repairing damaged cabinets and refinishing existing or antiquated pieces

How To Know If Cabinet Making Will Be For You?

Beyond time on the job, hands-on experience, or a practical course, there are a few basic skills and interests that a tradesperson should have if they’re interested in a cabinet making career. These interests include:

  • Enjoying manual work–there is a lot of hands-on manual woodwork involved in the trade. If you love being in a wood shop, this could be the career for you.
  • Work with extreme accuracy and a high attention to detail. One of the key differences between carpentry and cabinet making is the level of details and custom work often required to complete the project. If you have the patience and attention to detail needed to complete hand-drawn sketches or fine wood etching, you’ll likely enjoy cabinet making.
  • Equipment and technology. Woodworking has come a long way since the past. If you’re open to working manually, with hands-on power tools, and software when needed, you’ll likely enjoy the variation that comes with cabinet making.

Lastly–being able to confidently handle the calculations, measurements, dimensions, material specifications, and installation requirements of cabinet making is a must. Speak with a Skill360 representative if you’re concerned about the level of mathematics and engineering needed to successfully complete the Cabinet Making course.

How Do I Become a Cabinet Maker?

Most new tradespeople will transition into a cabinet making career by undertaking a 3-4 year apprenticeship under the guidance of a local employer and Registered Training Organisation (RTO). With most programs requiring both on-site and off-site training and assessments, some courses may require further training outside of the normal scope of the program for successful completion. Like we said–it’s a detailed career!

If you’re interested in the Skill360 MSF31113 Certificate III in Cabinet Making course and want a better understanding of all of the assessments required or how cabinet making differs from carpentry, reach out to one of our friendly team members today.

Skill360 Cabinet Making Courses

A cabinetmaker career is a physically demanding, rewarding career that balances creativity with hands-on manual labour. Whether you’re interested in refining your carpentry skill set or want to know more about how to become a qualified cabinet maker, Skill360 might be right for you.

With excellent opportunities for on-site training and assessment, every student who completes the course will be able to confidently enter their new trade with the skills and experience needed to navigate the job. Interested in applying for our program? Connect with our Student Support representatives to learn more about the Cabinet Making program today.

Skip to content