Cabinetmakers build and repair wooden cabinets and high grade furniture using a variety of woodworking machines and hand tools. They receive wooden components from wood machinists and assemble the pieces, adding doors, drawers and locks.

Cabinetmakers build and repair wooden cabinets and high grade furniture using a variety of woodworking machines and hand tools. They receive wooden components from wood machinists and assemble the pieces, adding doors, drawers and locks. The work of cabinetmakers involves handwork and a traditional woodwork approach, although they may also work with electric and pneumatic tools. They work with wood as well as modern materials such as melamine. They usually work in workshops or on sites where cabinets have to be installed.  Computers may be used to design furniture, or programmed to operate machinery.

Cabinetmakers’ work is varied. They discuss projects with customers, draw up detailed specifications, study plans and blueprints of designs and then plan the order of operations. They need to estimate the amounts, types or costs of needed materials.  They then plan the methods or operations for shaping or assembling parts, based on blueprints, drawings, diagrams or oral or written instructions. They mark outlines of parts on paper or timber according to specifications and match materials for colour, grain or texture, giving attention to knots or other features of the wood. They set up and operate machines such as power saws, joiners and mortises to cut and shape wood. Timber is cut to the right size and shape and parts of joints trimmed to ensure a snug fit, using hand tools, such as planes, chisels or wood files.  Holes are drilled for the insertion of screws or dowels, by hand or using boring machines.

The various parts are then fitted, glued and clamped together to form complete units. The articles are sanded down and in some cases stained, then finished off by installing hinges, catches and drawer knobs.

Some cabinetmakers repair or alter wooden furniture, cabinetry, fixtures, panelling or other pieces, while others may specialise in working only with a particular type of wood, e.g. kiaat.


How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Grade 8 Certificate

What to Study

Registration with a suitable employer is required.


There are various paths to becoming a qualified artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.

Learners must all receive training in occupational safety and first aid, fire-fighting and preventative security measures. Learners study everything about the installation, maintenance and repair of all electrical equipment. They must also become familiar with municipal legislation relevant to electricity supply and consumption.

The Furniture Production Unit of the FITB in Johannesburg offers the following courses for advanced training:

  • Diploma in Furniture Production: 2 year full-time course for matriculants. TVET Colleges such as Cape Town
  • Certificate in Furniture Production: 3 month course for employees already in the industry.


  • furniture manufacturers
  • cabinetmakers
  • kitchen manufacturers
  • building contractors
  • woodwork workshops
  • self-employment

There is a high demand for this craft.

Further Information

Contact any of the above.

Getting Started

  • try to obtain holiday or part-time work as a helper to a cabinetmaker
  • arrange to speak to a cabinetmaker and ask to observe him at work
  • get information about learnership programmes in your area