Furniture Maker jobs(Also known as Cabinet makers)
Furniture makers design and craft individual pieces of furniture and storage cabinets such as chairs, tables, dressers and wardrobes. They may also restore antique items of furniture. Furniture is an essential part of our daily lives. It is what we sit on, eat and work from, where we store our clothes and possessions and where we sleep. Aesthetics has always demanded that furniture must not only be functional but also beautiful. Each decade that passes is marked by a unique style or set of styles in furniture design, and when enough time has passed that ‘look’ nostalgically comes back into fashion, this time as ‘retro’. Further back, antique pieces of furniture can be valued at tens of thousands of pounds with painstaking restoration work preserving them for years to come. Different countries espouse contrasting approaches to the solutions of design, comfort and functionality, and thus furniture becomes something more than just a means to an end. For some it becomes a statement of their approach to life, their morals and beliefs; for others, furniture is a simple affair of comfort and choosing the right colour scheme to go with the rest of their house. On its inception, furniture making was a hands-on trade involving long hours creating individual pieces to demand. These days, however, the vast majority of furniture making is done in large factories with the use of industrial machines operated by far less skilled technicians. Here the role of the furniture designer is much more important than the furniture makers. The invention of flatpack furniture means that lower storage costs can be passed on to the customer along with some of the construction work involved. Nevertheless, there will always be demand for beautiful and unique pieces of furniture, and thus the most skilled aspects of furniture making, although in decline since the industrial revolution, will never become extinct.
SalaryThe salary for a furniture maker depends vastly on the amount of work he is able to produce, his level of skill and his reputation.
- Novice furniture makers start on around £12,000 per annum
- Experienced furniture makers earn between £15,000 and £32,000 per annum
- Furniture designers running their own company can earn in excess of £40,000 per annum
ResponsibilitiesIn his day-to-day operations, a furniture maker could do any of the following:
- Consulting with clients to find out their needs and begin working towards a concept
- Drafting a design on paper
- Sourcing wood from specialist suppliers and timber merchants
- Working with the wood, cutting, edging and shaping according to design plans
- Assembling the piece and affixing parts together
- Treating the wood with polish to protect it and finalise aesthetics
QualificationsMany furniture makers work on an apprenticeship basis and learn their skills on the job. There are a number of qualifications available at college relating to furniture making, design and restoration:
- NCFE Level 1 Award in Creative Craft using Furniture Crafts
- City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Furniture Production
- City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Furniture Production
- City & Guilds Level 2 NVQ in Making and Installing Furniture
- City & Guilds Level 3 NVQ in Making and Repairing Hand-Crafted Furniture and Furnishings
SkillsAs a furniture designer, the following personal attributes would come in handy:
- Attention to detail
- Creative flair
- Patience to work with great care
- Naturally good with your hands
- An analytical mind for problem solving
- The ability to work alone or as part of a small team
- Ability to follow instructions closely
- Mathematical ability to work out quantities from a design draft
Working ConditionsFurniture designers work from a workshop or studio which houses the tools and workspaces necessary for the job. It could be a large workshop or factory set up to produce hundreds or thousands of identical pieces a day with many people operating several pieces of industrial machinery. Restoration work and high-end, one-off bespoke pieces are likely to be hand crafted in small workshops using rudimentary tools to achieve an authentic look. In the factory setting, 39 hours a week is standard with shift work being common. Smaller outfits may have less regular hours with overtime necessary to complete particular deadlines. There is also the additional work involved in travelling to see clients in their houses and to source wood. The work can be physically tiring as it involves long stints standing up, and a high level of concentration is required when working with dangerous tools and machinery as well as sensitive materials. The industry is mostly male dominated but this is changing with many women becoming qualified in recent years.
ExperienceAny experience working with your hands, such as basic DIY or model making, would be beneficial. Most experience, however, is gained on the job and furniture designer qualifications all involve a good deal of hands-on work. A common way to gain experience in furniture making is to work for free or very low pay at the outset.
EmployersThe biggest industries employing furniture designers are the shopfitter, kitchen and furniture industries. Aside from this, there is work available in smaller, specialised workshops. After a few years' experience, some furniture makers choose to work for themselves and build up a client base through word-of-mouth recommendations among friends and contacts.
Career ProgressionAn apprentice furniture maker may go on to become a supervisor or teacher after many years of experience. However, the job does not generally lead onto other career paths as it is highly specialised.
Adam Gaarder, 20 years old, is a recently qualified furniture maker looking for work in London.