ulloa_josh

Observations of working in a "pro" cabinet shop

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Apologize if this belongs in the going pro section but thought it might be a good discussion for the community. Yesterday was my first day working in a professional cabinet shop and the realities/ observations were pretty shocking. Pretty much felt in danger every minute I was there, and have decided not to go back. Anyone here in the trade? Is this really what it's like?

Some highlights from my shift that ran from 4pm to 4am because units had to be installed next day:

Boss had 4 empty beer cans on desk when I walked in and continued to drink for remainder of night.

No hearing protection, safety glasses or respirators

No guard or splitter on table saw. Oh and ts was frequently left running!

No jointer or planer.

Way undersized dust collector for ts and wide belt sander.

Free hand cutting on the ts, cutting boards on end (ie: tenons), cross cutting long narrow boards using the rip fence.

Witnessed two kickbacks

Not a single push stick in the place

Boss nearly had spinning router bit to face contact when he plugged it in and switch was already on.

I think that sums up most of it. The experience left a pretty bad taste in my mouth and the decision not to go back was especially hard because we need the income. So how many of you would have stuck around? Was this just a bad shop or typical of what's out there?

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I really hate to judge, but from what you describe, this is a mishap waiting to happen (or two or three). Despite the best personal safety habits, anyone can get tripped up in a vulnerable environment. If your senses are tingling, I think you already know the correct answer.

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Apologize if this belongs in the going pro section but thought it might be a good discussion for the community. Yesterday was my first day working in a professional cabinet shop and the realities/ observations were pretty shocking. Pretty much felt in danger every minute I was there, and have decided not to go back. Anyone here in the trade? Is this really what it's like?

Some highlights from my shift that ran from 4pm to 4am because units had to be installed next day:

Boss had 4 empty beer cans on desk when I walked in and continued to drink for remainder of night.

No hearing protection, safety glasses or respirators

No guard or splitter on table saw. Oh and ts was frequently left running!

No jointer or planer.

Way undersized dust collector for ts and wide belt sander.

Free hand cutting on the ts, cutting boards on end (ie: tenons), cross cutting long narrow boards using the rip fence.

Witnessed two kickbacks

Not a single push stick in the place

Boss nearly had spinning router bit to face contact when he plugged it in and switch was already on.

I think that sums up most of it. The experience left a pretty bad taste in my mouth and the decision not to go back was especially hard because we need the income. So how many of you would have stuck around? Was this just a bad shop or typical of what's out there?

Sounds like you were watching me run my ts at home!

:D :D :D

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I wouldn't have gone back. For two reasons, actually...obviously that place is totally unsafe, that's enough alone. But no jointer or planer in a cabinet shop? Huh? That tells me they have no interest in quality or craftmanship...reason number two. I'd rather flip burgers than work there. Well, maybe not. But I wouldn't wanna work there.

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. But no jointer or planer in a cabinet shop? Huh? That tells me they have no interest in quality or craftmanship...reason number two.

Any shop that only makes frameless or buys pre milled doesn't need a jointer and planer. It very common for box shops. They don't maker doors either thus why they are called box shops.

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Apologize if this belongs in the going pro section but thought it might be a good discussion for the community. Yesterday was my first day working in a professional cabinet shop and the realities/ observations were pretty shocking. Pretty much felt in danger every minute I was there, and have decided not to go back. Anyone here in the trade? Is this really what it's like?<br />Some highlights from my shift that ran from 4pm to 4am because units had to be installed next day:<br /><br />Boss had 4 empty beer cans on desk when I walked in and continued to drink for remainder of night.<br />No hearing protection, safety glasses or respirators<br />No guard or splitter on table saw. Oh and ts was frequently left running!<br />No jointer or planer.<br />Way undersized dust collector for ts and wide belt sander. <br />Free hand cutting on the ts, cutting boards on end (ie: tenons), cross cutting long narrow boards using the rip fence.<br />Witnessed two kickbacks<br />Not a single push stick in the place<br />Boss nearly had spinning router bit to face contact when he plugged it in and switch was already on.<br /><br />I think that sums up most of it. The experience left a pretty bad taste in my mouth and the decision not to go back was especially hard because we need the income. So how many of you would have stuck around? Was this just a bad shop or typical of what's out there?
<br /><br />Clearly this is NO professional shop. The no jointer planer thing is common for box shops. Leaving the saw running common most box shops will only turn the saw off at break time. I cut all my sheet goods for a order without turning off the saw. Router? Who uses a router table in a cabinet shop. Many don't use guards and most don't use splitter. Riving knives are just starting to become a used item. As far as beer goes that a company issue. 4-4 shift? What are we talking about here a warehouse illegal sweat shop.

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I visited a lot of pro shops and saw many different approaches, some clean, some dirty, some made me proud of the craft, some made me run away.

In the forum we see that this craft (and business) shows many different approaches for a particular situation, joint, or project.

Generalizing is not the best practice. Don't let one bad experience turn you away from the business ...

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Most pro shops would have a sliding table saw. The conventional TS is used for smaller cuts.

Not really. Most shops run standard saws. They are faster than sliders. The big boys use conventional with air tables. Factories us rip machines. Sliders are a small shop machine and more geared towards small custom shops without the manpower.

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You need to weigh how you view your boss and what you can learn working there. Do you have the opportunity to do all aspects of the work, from the first cut to the finished piece? If so, then you have a better chance to learn than in a large production shop where you are assigned to a station, only cutting stock to length, or cutting screw pocket holes, day in and day out.

No guards, welcome to production work. But it sounds like you understand what to watch for, and how to work safely. If you need a push stick, pick up a scrap from in front of the saw before you start the cut (that’s what we did). Get some PPE and see if the “first day shock” of production work is the same on the second day.

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I understand the no guard/ splitter thing and I wouldn't be upset if that were the only issue. I think a decent owner would be willing to install something like the mj splitter. At the same time, I think a decent owner would want to run a safe shop and already know about such things. The lack of jointer was a concern because solid wood was being cut without a square edge.

The 4pm-4am shift was a surprise. I thought I was just going in for a few hours to help with some staining.

I'm going to call it a learning experience and I did learn a few things. I wasn't too impressed with the finished product but it was interesting to see how fast stuff can be made. Also, maybe woodworking as a career isn't for me. I enjoy it as a hobby and doing the occasional commissioned piece.

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I'd say if you enjoy woodworking as a hobby don't go work in a cabinet shop like that. Nothing can kill the joy in something faster than doing it in an unsafe environment where quantity trumps quality. I don't know how much that job pays, but there have to be less dangerous ways to earn an equivalent paycheck.

One other thought. If you continue working there I wouldn't be surprised if you found that attempts to wear PPE or operate safely are met with derision by those who are used to working the way you witnessed.

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Good move getting out. I would have called OSHA too.

OSHA regulations only apply to establishments with 10 employees or more. At least that was the law a few years ago when I took an NCCER certified safety training course.

Just an interesting fact.

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Think about all the safety practices we use today that weren't used 20 or even 30 years ago. Same goes for tomorrow. There are undoubtedly many things we do today that people will think are downright barbaric in 30 years. Safety is 100% relative. My point being that safe work practices are a good thing but no amount of safety gear, equipment, and techniques can make up for not paying attention to what your doing.

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Beer on the bosses desk in plain sight of the employees would have had me out the door from the start. What kind of person do you want to work for. Now a few AFTER work is anoter thing.

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power tools and 4 beers on the desk? I'd have been gone by 5.

Barbaric... cheap shop doesn't even but a full 6-pack

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OSHA regulations only apply to establishments with 10 employees or more. At least that was the law a few years ago when I took an NCCER certified safety training course.

Just an interesting fact.

The rule is one or none. Sole proprietor with one inc with none because you are one.

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I should have timed this better for safety week :)

Appreciate the support and advice you all have given.

One thing I keep thinking about is, why is there this blah attitude towards safety and best practices among the skilled trades. I realize I'm making a huge generalization as I've only worked in this one shop and saw a few others while handing out resumes. But if you're a shop owner, why not keep up on safe practices and educate yourself. Does anyone rip the seat belts out of their cars because they're a "pita and I've been driving with out'em for 20 years and never been in an accident."? Maybe a slippery slope I'm going down.

Anyway, it's done, I'm not going back and tomorrow the search for employment begins again because there has to be something better.

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