I’ve worked in no less than three cabinet shops. Some would call that lack of commitment, I call it learning. I’ve known that I wanted to work for myself for a lot of years. Grinding it out at various places of employment has offered me plenty enough opportunity to learn methods of work I knew I would need. And spy on them I did…
Two of the shops I worked in catered to commercial interests. The one residential shop on my list was a very unpleasant experience. Not at first, as I was already trained and ready to go to work. I was led to believe I could use my own methods, and any recommendations I made would be welcome. No and no.
It was my spokeshave that started it. I was responsible for making drawers and shelves. The shelves were plywood and had a 1/2″ stick of solid wood attached to the front edge for strength. Rather than break the long edges on the front with the 4′ belt sander, I started using my spokeshave. Some of the shelves would be warped because of the cheap plywood they used and I couldn’t get a good roundover with a straight belt. My process was a tad slower, but I never had a shelf come back to me from the finish room for touch up. In the end, it made me faster.
My “unorthodox methods” were not welcome, and before long, neither was I.
I did not learn anything about joinery or craftmanship from any of these employers, as I hoped I would. I already knew more about woodcraft than most of the folks I worked for (and with). However, I did learn quite a bit about mass production methods and cut list management. In the end my experiences were valuable, but not in the way I thought.