Cabinetmaker – National Occupational Analysis (NOA)

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this National Occupational Analysis as the national standard for the occupation of Cabinetmaker.

Occupational Analyses Series

Disponible en français sous le titre : Ébéniste

NOC: 7272

Designation Year: 1989

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Red Seal Exam Self-Assessment Guide – Cabinetmaker

Use this self-assessment tool (PDF, 895 KB) to rate your own understanding and experience with the tasks of the trade that are on the Red Seal examination.

General Information


“Cabinetmaker” is this trade’s official “Red Seal” occupational title approved by the CCDA. This analysis covers tasks performed by cabinetmakers whose occupational title has been identified by some provinces and territories of Canada under the following names:





























Cabinetmakers build, repair, finish and install residential and commercial cabinets (including hardware), wooden furniture and architectural millwork using a variety of woods, laminates and other products. Cabinetmakers read drawings and specifications, and prepare layouts. They also set up and operate woodworking equipment, both power and computerized, to machine wood products and composite materials. Cabinetmakers use various power tools and precision woodworking tools to perform their work. Cabinetmakers sand and finish the surfaces either before or after assembly in some shops. They also apply finishing products.

Cabinetmakers are employed by millwork contractors, furniture manufacturers and general contractors. They may also be self-employed. The products they produce may be production or custom-made pieces. Production pieces are made in large quantities and according to a standard design. Custom-made pieces are often from one-of-a-kind designs and are not mass‑produced. Some cabinetmakers specialize in a specific type of product, such as custom‑made furniture, stairs or cabinet doors. In large cabinet making shops using high-tech, computer-controlled equipment, cabinetmakers may specialize in one or two functions. A working knowledge of the design principles, functional requirements, and traditions associated with furniture building is also advantageous in many areas of the cabinetmaker trade.

Cabinetmakers primarily work in a shop environment, but they may also work at locations where the products are installed. While the working environment varies according to employers and locations, cabinetmakers are often exposed to workplace health and safety risks such as high noise levels, sawdust and chemicals. There are risks of injury involved in working with woodworking machinery, portable power tools and hand tools.

Key attributes for people in this trade are good eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, mathematical aptitude and good conceptual skills. Cabinetmakers require a high degree of accuracy, and good eyesight to select woods and look for imperfections. The work may require lifting of heavy materials.

This analysis recognizes similarities or overlaps with the work of carpenters and painters/decorators.
With experience, cabinetmakers may act as mentors and trainers to apprentices in the trade. They may advance to supervisory or design positions or may set up their own shop. Some may choose to specialize in areas such as stairs, veneering or finishing.

Occupational Observations

Cabinetmakers must continuously adapt to changing trends, product demands and processes that are introduced by the market-driven industry.

There is a shift in the types of woods and materials used for cabinets and architectural millwork products. Some wood and wood veneers that were previously available are in short supply, resulting in increased cost or difficulties in obtaining them. Man-made or reconstituted materials are entering the market, filling the gap. Cabinetmakers are working with a greater variety of materials. This results in some modification to processes both in the shop and on-site.

Clients are requesting a wider variety of features and accessories such as tall cabinets to accommodate higher ceilings, innovative hardware, recycling centres and counter top materials.

The green market is growing, increasing the demand for non-toxic, user-friendly and eco‑friendly products such as water borne finishes, adhesives and recycled materials. These are usually identified in specifications, but can increase application preparation and completion times, and the cost to the end user. There is greater emphasis on waste reduction and recycling. New guidelines are being put in place by standards organizations and regulatory agencies.

There is constant improvement in the tools available to cabinetmakers to complete their daily tasks. These include cabinet jacks, laser levels and cordless tools. Tools and equipment are becoming smaller, more compact, efficient and user-friendly.

Due to advances in technology, computerized equipment is becoming more commonplace. Often, shop drawings are computer-generated and are integrated with the computerized equipment. This results in better quality products, greater efficiency and productivity, and shorter lead times. Also, this technology allows cabinetmakers and customers to view products in a three dimensional format prior to ordering and manufacturing.

There is an increase in specialization in the trade with many cabinetmakers working exclusively on operations such as Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machining, solid surfacing, finishing and stair construction.

There is increased government regulation regarding safety in the workplace and more enforcement of standard operating procedures. There is a trend towards more personal responsibility for safety and education on the part of cabinetmakers. They are also becoming more responsible for the safety of less experienced workers.

Essential Skills Summary

Essential skills are needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways.

A series of CCDA-endorsed tools have been developed to support apprentices in their training and to be better prepared for a career in the trades. The tools can be used independently or with the assistance of a tradesperson, trainer, employer, teacher or mentor to:

  • understand how essential skills are used in the trades;
  • learn about individual essential skills strengths and areas for improvement; and
  • improve essential skills and increase success in an apprenticeship program.

Tools are available online or for order.

The essential skills profile for the cabinetmaker trade indicates that the most important essential skills are document use, numeracy, and problem solving and decision making.

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the competency statements which support each subtask of the trade. The following are summaries of the requirements in each of the essential skills, taken from the essential skills profile.

Cabinetmakers use reading skills to read manuals, instructions and details of job specifications such as material lists. They read health and safety materials and WHMIS documents, in order to maintain a safe work environment.

Documents that cabinetmakers work with include material lists, instructions and work orders. They may also consult and interpret drawings and sketches. They complete checklists relating to safety precautions.

Cabinetmakers write lists of materials and instructions. They may write notes to keep records of job specifications for themselves, others and clients. They prepare layouts and shop sketches to guide assembly and installation.

Cabinetmakers use numeracy skills to accurately measure and calculate required building material. They may also estimate time, labour and skillset for a project. The ability to perform unit conversions and to convert between imperial and metric measurements is important. The knowledge of basic geometry is essential.

Cabinetmakers use oral communication skills to discuss job details with colleagues, apprentices and clients. They also coordinate work with other trades.

Problem solving skills are used by cabinetmakers to anticipate and deal with situations such as materials arriving damaged or unplanned machinery breakdowns. They also problem solve when they need to create a custom piece. Cabinetmakers use their decision making skills when dealing with various issues such as work priorities and procedures. Cabinetmakers plan and organize jobs. They must recall standard mesurements, stock numbers of commonly used materials and standard allowances for openings.

Cabinetmakers may work independently or with others. They coordinate their work with other workers on-site including apprentices, journeypersons, foremen, supervisors and workers from other trades depending on the size of the work site and the type of work.

Computer-aided design (CAD) software is often used by cabinetmakers for specifications and drawings. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software may be used for controlling machinery and machine tools to produce work pieces. Cabinetmakers may also work with CNC machines. They may use computers or digital devices to conduct research on a product or to communicate in a production environment.

There is an ongoing requirement to learn and gain experience while working as a cabinetmaker. Applications, materials and processes are continually changing and skills need to be kept up to date. Certification courses are also available to authorize cabinetmakers to use and install certain types of products.


The CCDA and HRSDC wish to express sincere appreciation for the contribution of the many tradespersons, industrial establishments, professional associations, labour organizations, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, and all others who contributed to this publication.

Special acknowledgement is extended by HRSDC and the CCDA to the following representatives from the trade.

  • Steve Cates - Saskatchewan
  • Edward Dalton - Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Norm Falk - Manitoba
  • Clayton Loeppky - British Columbia
  • Michael Race - Nova Scotia
  • Scott Reeb - Alberta
  • Tom Savage - Prince Edward Island
  • Maureen Steeves - New Brunswick

This analysis was prepared by the Labour Market Integration Directorate of HRSDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this analysis were undertaken by employees of the NOA development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division. The host jurisdiction of Alberta also participated in the development of this NOA.

Comments or questions about National Occupational Analyses may be forwarded to:

Trades and Apprenticeship Division
Labour Market Integration Directorate
Employment and Social Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 6th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0J9