Cabinet Maker and Furniture Maker

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects
Openings 5 years to November 2019: 5,001 to 10,000
Salary Range
Median weekly earnings: $921 to $1050 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Cabinet makers and furniture makers' handiwork can be seen in households, offices, banks and shopping centres all over the world.

There are currently around 1,600 cabinetmakers employed in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the manufacturing industry. Most persons in this occupation are male and most are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a younger age profile with approximately a quarter of workers aged 45 years or older.

TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Cabinet Maker and Furniture Maker

Accredited (Award)


  • Is cabinet making any different from furniture making you might well ask? Well, there's a real difference according to the Light Manufacturing Industry Training Council. So much so that only recently, two separate trades have emerged from the original cabinet making occupation. Cabinet makers build, repair and install furniture or fixtures made from either wood or wood substitutes, including mass produced flat panels destined to become kitchen cupboards and other furniture items. They require an in-depth knowledge of equipment such as computer numerically controlled (CNC) routers, multi-borers and modular construction. Furniture makers use predominately 'traditional' wood working skills and knowledge of timber features and frame construction to produce items ranging from custom-built fine jarrah furniture to volume production solid timber furniture. And don't think that technology has bypassed this woodworking trade! The outdoor furniture sector is heavily reliant on CNC technology too.

    Practical and Manual

  • There are a small number, 33% of Cabinet makers & Furniture makers that have no post school qualification, however the majority 60% have either Certificate III or Certificate IV.

    In such a competitive market it is important for you to obtain the best possible advantage when looking for work. TAFE SA offer the following courses that may help you gain employment in this occupation: Certificate III in Furniture Finishing, Certificate III in Cabinet Making, Certificate III in Furniture Finishing (Wood Machining). Pathways include Certificate I Program in Trade Pathways, Certificate II in Construction Pathways, Certificate II in Furniture Finishing or Certificate II Program in Construction (Wood Trades).

    Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA such as Furniture Making or Furniture Restoration. Check the website for the full list of short courses.

    SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

  • Cabinet makers and furniture makers may specialise in particular areas such as reproduction of antique furniture, kitchen fittings, bedroom suites, office furniture, dining suites, shop fittings and occasional furniture.

    Some jobs will involve after hour's attendance such as installing shop fittings. For those cabinet makers working in kitchen installations there would be a need to work on site, measuring and installing the cabinets. There is currently a shortage of skilled cabinet makers and this looks likely to continue over the next few years. Opportunities for furniture makers could be affected by the Government's recent decision to cease all logging in old growth forests. However the furniture industry is receiving financial support from the Federal government to adapt to these changes.

  • Centuries old craftsmanship furniture makers are involved in creating custom-designed furniture using hand and power tools and machines such as routers, sequencers, planers, drills, saws and sanders. Its not unusual for them to be involved in all aspects of the job, including designing and working from specifications (drawings), giving quotes to customers, selecting and cutting the materials and fitting and assembling the components by gluing, clamping, nailing or screwing pieces together. They may also do the final sanding, polishing or staining of the wood and any intricate carving and inlay work. These precision craftspeople are highly skilled in their trade, being able to transform the unique grains and knots featured in a piece of speciality timber into an article of beauty. Many pieces are sent all over the world. Before that it was used for wood chip timber. People need to learn it is a living and breathing thing and if you're going to cut it down people should use it to its advantages.

    Cabinet Makers can also use traditional wood working methods to build and install kitchen cabinets, wall units, built in robes and display cases for both commercial and domestic markets. However, there is an increasing trend towards using technology and automated production processes, especially with the emergence of the flat panel sector. Some businesses don't use any handtools in furniture making, only airtools in assembly. The majority of shops nowadays are automated, working with machinery rather than hand tools to produce mass-produced furniture or flat panels (manufactured boards). The focus is on computer know-how and the operation of machines, not the precision skills mentioned above, though some businesses incorporate elements of both styles in their factories. Using CAD/CAM (computer aided design and manufacturing) systems, machines can cut out, drill and rout in one pass. A CNC router can groove wood in shapes with a single or multiple spindles. Even in the machining area, the most economical way to cut boards is worked out using an estimating package.

  • Cabinet makers and furniture makers must enjoy practical and manual activities. They should be able to follow written instructions and work to a high level of accuracy. They also need to be able to make mathematical calculations, have good communication skills as well as good hand-eye coordination. As they would be working in different environments with dust and chemical, they should be free from any allergies that may be triggered by these substances.

  • Every factory works differently. Some produce cutting lists in the office and this generates a work program to go to the machinist (who can be a cabinet maker) and then to component preparation areas and finally to the assembly area. We use technology such as multi-borers, CNC controlled routing and computerised beam saws. The building part is becoming less and less important, says a proprietor of a flat panel, furniture manufacturing business.

    With such a difference in the focus of the two types of trades, its important to choose the one that best suits your interests and talents. More opportunities certainly exist in the field of CNC technology and flat panel production, though there are niche markets for working with specialty timbers from the South West. Those working in traditional furniture making must demonstrate an aptitude for woodwork, have a good sense of aesthetics and an eye for detail. Individuals working in the computerised field need to know about computerised technology and machinery and be prepared to learn new systems. There is enormous scope for people to specialise in programming. A down side to the computerised production process is the fact that you may not be involved in manufacturing an item from start to finish and the work may be repetitious. The work in large flat panel shops can be repetitive and if you're constructing thousands of drawers an element of repetition will be a factor to consider. Cabinet makers and furniture makers can be found working in medium to small enterprises specialising in either fine furniture, the project home market, refurbishment of bathrooms or kitchens, or banks and shopping centres fit outs. Opportunities also exist for work overseas on commercial building projects. Experienced cabinet makers can get work as supervisors or leading hands.

    Further information:

    Cabinet Makers & Designers Association
    Phone: 1300 767 738

    Furnishing Industry Association of Australia Ltd
    Phone (02) 4340 2000

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online