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Cheap seat setups for drilling operations for cabinets?


Active member
Hello all,

As it turns out my shop is more or less a furniture building outfit these days and I am not setup so well for producing typical bookshelf/carcass construction.

I just got a sort of rare cabinet job on a boat with a residential like runs of base cabinets with lots of doors, drawers and shelves.
Cheap seats way to setup for cup hinges and shelf pin holes?

I sold off the hinge drilling machine I had in the shop as it was not seeing any use and I never have been setup for gang drilling for shelf pins.

Are there any reasonably small machines for hinges or just find a Blum press type?
Gang drilling for shelves?
I should have kept the damn hinge boring machine but it was a big machine and collecting dust..
I guess I can just inlet steel shelf standards and skip the pins if I need to though the rest of boat has pins.

looking about here is a good dodge I didn't know about for the shelves:

Shelf standard makes superior step-and-repeat drilling jig

I have to do 20 shelf uprights so that wouldn't be too painful..
(and no- I am still no CNC router in shop..)


stephen thomas

Active member
I do have an all whistles and bells 50"+ manual/air cycle gang drill.

However, my kitchen-type hinge jobs are so sporadic, (by choice, previously) that i've always drilled hinges on a DP with a fence and stops. That is, i used to agree to a kitchen or similar about once a year or 2, or until the pain of finishing wore off from the last one.... So it was volume work per job nonethless. Screw holes in the door hinges are done with a VIX bit. No further drilling in manmade panels. For hardwood frames, it might take a deeper finish drill. I have some simple drill jigs for the screws in the box. But usually just set a couple try-squares, maked and drilled.

For shelf pins, It seems i have to modify installations and new built-ins on site as often as provide new work in the shop.
A few decades ago, i laminated 2 layers of cabinet ply, 8' long x about 2-1/2" wide (width somewhat dependent on how far you choose to space the holes from back and front corners of box). I drilled and spaced it on the milling machine on (your choice of centers: 32mm, 1-1/4", or ???) for 1/2" drill jig bushings. I did not buy the commercial product, though that is an option. I ran off a bars-worth on the turret lathe to match my preference for shelf pins dia and pressed them into the plywood. Over the years, this 8' stick has gradually been cut into shorter pieces to work in short boxes. Since there is no need for pins within about 9" of the floor and 10" of the ceiling, a relatively short stick with a tacked on bottom extender works fine. Perhaps with a top-extender as well to wedge down against.

The back edges of the stick are chamfered to clear corners in the box. The thickness allows the depth to be set by drill projection from the drill motor chuck. (chuck hits bushing each hole). I grind the bits to a sheet-metal lip, so there is no tear out. The stick is pressed sequentially to drill in each corner of the box; with wedge(s) and go-sticks to register it. Much faster than it sounds once in a rhythm.

You did ask about cheap and low space. These processes, for me, have also, perhaps surprisingly, included "fast"; considering a shop where 32mm type boxes are not the primary output.



Active member
Gotcha- thanks.
I used to do the custom kitchen cabinets/bookshelves thing and commercial cabinet build outs but that was decades ago.
I feel sort of dumb when I get anything close to that work now.
I don’t have suppliers for the hardware or the shop setup for miles of base/top cabinet runs or even remember the tricks to build that stuff fast.

I think Blum makes a smallish multi spindle rig for cup hinges I will look into it.
The damn machine I just dumped was beautiful- five spindle head on it plus a pneumatic throw and table clamps.
But- I hadn’t used it in years.

Maybe you are right- just setup a fixture on the drill press and call it a day- it’s not that many doors.


For low volume cup hinge boring I use the Hettich jig. Are you not interested in subbing out the carcass parts?

richard newman

Active member
+1 for Stephens drill bushing jig! The holes don't even have to be accurately spaced on a mill, layout with a scale will do, so longs as the jig is positioned identically for each cabinet side.

I've make bushings from O-1, cheap and easy. Victor Machinery Exchange has relatively inexpensive bushings.


Active member
+1 for Stephen’s drill bushing jig.

If you make a one about 3’ long you can extend it pretty far by pressing in two pins to stretch its reach for even an eight foot cabinet. You can also make more off the one original. Four is a good number to clamp one in each corner all at once and start drilling.

I bought bushings cause they were cheaper and easier than making them.


New member
I don't have any sorted out methods without cnc as I have never really made any cabinets without one...

Anyway, here is an less expensive hinge boring tool: Universal hinges boring system | CMT Orange Tools

CMT also has a 5 spindle drill head for 32mm spacing designed for a drill press as well if you want to do 5 holes at a time. Standard 10mm shank drills are used in it. I think you can get Amana carbide tipped for under $20 each depending how big you want.

If you had someone within range of you to sub out the case work, it would potentially make life much easier. Then you aren't breaking down full sheets and spinning your wheels dealing with that. You could be doing the drawer boxes, doors and fronts while they took care of the cases.

I have 2 shops that I cut sheet goods for on my machine. I can usually do app 30 sheets worth a day including labeling for them and getting them on a pallet ready to haul to their place. This is just cutting out nests that they provide the drawing, I am not edgebanding etc as they do that in house. It makes it easy for them as I have a forklift to handle a full bundle, no need to hand carry singles, I drive it over to my scissor lift and drag a sheet off it to the router and the cut parts go onto a pallet. Neither of these guys has a lift so just getting the material in to there shop turns into a bit of a job.

If you were to find a shop with a cnc panel saw and router/machining center, it would be even faster as the saw makes even shorter work of making little rectangles out of big ones.

There is a catch, for it to be faster overall, you need to have worked with them enough for both parties to know what you need. As in, are you going to build like they do? Or do you need to train them on how you want to build? I have worked with both of these guys for many years, so it is a pretty low level of input needed from them after they give me a digital drawing file.


Active member
Thanks- all good input.

Re- subbing the cut work out.
I don’t have a local shop I work with and on this one I am already out of time.
These clients are snow birds who dropped in fast for boat show and are headed south post haste.
I will be cutting parts on Monday.

That is perhaps a needed solution though.
I have a small shop when talking shifting sheet goods.
I couldn't survive as a typical cabinet shop in this space- there just isn't room for building lots of boxes, panels and drawers.

re-CNC router

I have been told a couple of times that I could bring in a router and lose the table saw.
I couldn't but I do wonder how well a router would work out for processing sheet.
How is the tooling these days- can hardwood veneer finish ply be chopped up and not tear up the face veneers?
I am almost always on teak which is sort of brittle- are you working out feed direction with grain orientation when chopping sheet or is that just not needed with the tooling used?

I do consider the one more shop expansion which would permit bringing in a large router but... this late in the game I am not sure if the capital expense is what I want to do.
Likely though is going used and trying a less than full sheet machine and seeing how it works out.

Looking at that Orange tools machine above- another thing I really should have done is to cut out the spindle of the boring machine I just dumped and kept it- I easily could have rigged it to work on a drill press and been a decent setup without eating shop space.
Boy- if we all could keep all the crap till needed...

At this price dicking around with gear is not worth it.
Thanks- I might go this route:

CMT333-4595 Hinges for 45/9.5 Blum, Salice, Hafele and Hettich - Boring Bits - Amazon.com

This guy takes it apart a bit:

Euro Hinge Boring CMT-333 Review and Upgrades. Save Yourself Thousands! - YouTube

I have to get up to speed on hinge brands and pick an available system.
Any advice on hinges?
I have the typical problems- flexible for face frame or not, overlay or not, various opening angles etc.

I ordered the CMT333 head for 45/9.5 and a set of bits- thanks for the tip.
I think I might do the shelf standard tip for the pins.

Thanks all
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New member
I would not replace the table saw with a cnc. I have both and will keep both. Unless space is in such a short supply, like say a tool room on a ship, I wouldn't consider it. They aren't the same even though there are a few things that they overlap on.

I have a vertical panel saw that I use but not all that often as I do end up nesting parts on sheets. It is just easier all around if I am doing more than a few cuts. I do use it when I need the narrow saw kerf or it is something relatively simple. Most of the time though, either the drawing file is provided with all the parts already nested, or I am drawing up the whole project anyway so it is really easy to just nest the purely saw parts in with all the rest while I am at it. I tend to get very good yield this way also. But, I am not going to use my router to rip lumber or all the other misc stuff I do on my table saw.

As for cutters, yes there are plenty of options for cutters to leave a very nice finish on the top and bottom as well as the edges. For parts I want both top and bottom nice I use a compression bit. Some call them and up/down bits. They are made in such a way that the top portion of the bit has the flutes pushing the chips down while the bottom is pulling the chips up, hence the name compression.
These are really good for full depth cutting. If you want to do a dado or rabbet, you would want a downshear bit, it pushes the chips down only, so it is great for partial depth work where you want the top face perfect, but it will blow out the bottom if you try to go all the way through. There are also upshear bits that are just the opposite, they pull the chips up, so they are best for evacuating chips and will leave a nice face on bottom, but can chip or blow out the topside. They can also physically lift the part off the table if not held well and you push it too hard. Each has it's pros and cons and I would suggest having all 3 on hand.

There are also roughers in both up and down shear and I have seen some plywood specific compression bits too. Roughers are awesome, they look similar to a metal working rougher endmill and leave a grooved edge, but they really do hog the material away and leave the finisher for just finishing. They also last a long time. I set up a shop almost 2 years ago running a 1/2" dia rougher in solid wood cutting guitar bodies running all operations at a min of 50/week and I have yet to need to get it resharpened. It did cost $180, but it reduced the cycle time by half on a few programs.

As for the type of machine I'd suggest; I'd have 4x8ft and a toolchanger minimum. From what I have seen, the guys that get small tables are either not serious and or are making things like guitars only. A person can do good work with a half sheet machine, but it is like everything else, you will find you regularly need or want to cut something 49" + long etc. Also, the difference is literally only 4 more feet, you still have all the same width and accessories with a 4x4 machine without near the capacity. If you have the option a vacuum table is also well worth the money.
For the toolchanger, if you get a machine that you have to change tools manually, it adds enough time to it, you will honestly find yourself going back to old methods. Think about cutting a cabinet part with shelf/hinge holes, a dado for a back and perim cut. That is likely 3-4 tools needed assuming you route the hinge cup vs drilling it.
You can do this a couple ways, either change tools for each part individually as you run it, or setup so you can run one tool on all the parts, then switch tools and run them all again and so on.
I used the cabinet part as an example, but it is similar on solid wood parts too. I use a rougher any time I can as the tool pressure is very low so my workholding can get sketchy without much consequence and it is much faster cutting. So even if I am only blanking out a part for radius molding that gets finished on a shaper I use 2 cutters.

Grain direction; if solid wood, I still use standard methods of cross grain first, if sheet work I mostly just cut the full perimeter at one go without concern for grain direction. If the veneer proves to be a problem, then cutting sequence can easily be changed to fix it.

As to new or used machines, I think the biggest reason to buy new is to get the training with it and you can stipulate a turn key package before you sign off on it. There are alot of things up front to decide on and learn before you get to the machine and the better companies will have the path from start to finish laid out for you. Of course you do pay for it, so the price is high. If you can figure things out on your own or with help from forum friends etc, used is a really good way to make it happen.

Just a FYI in case you don't aleady know-

CNC basic work flow: You need to draw the thing on the computer (CAD software), then you need to program it, which means putting toolpaths on the drawing you made (CAM software), then you need to run the toolpath program through a post processor. The post is just a machine specific program that takes generic toolpath info and translates it into actual code that your cnc can read. This is a specific program that only works with your CAM software and your cnc machine. You can get one from someone else if your combo is popular enough, but most times it needs to be written for you and depending on who you get the software and machine from it can be free or cost alot. Once the code is posted you can then run it on your cnc.

Depending on which path you go down, some of these steps are obviously separate, or they can be rolled into what acts and looks like 1 or 2 steps, either way all these steps are happening to get the cnc to go.

I know it can be overwhelming but figured you should at least have an idea as to what to research and be aware of. Skipping a step like the post processor can turn into a big hurdle and cause some long delays if you don't know to ask about it up front. Feel free to contact me if you want to ask any questions.


Active member
Thank you very much for writing that out.
Honestly that learning curve seems like the biggest hurdle to me.
Just the part of assessing used machines pushes me out of my depth as I don’t know what flavors of controls are out there and what level represents a minimum threshold to be useful.


New member
Absolute cheapest for shelf pins is a strip of pegboard and a hinge bit.

Kreg makes an affordable jig for hinge drilling.


Although it's not an even comparison to a cnc router for wood, I had a lot of the similar concerns regarding the learning curve to getting started when I got my cnc plasma table earlier this year. Learning to use the software was a lot easier than I was expecting and most basic operations you'll be able to pick up in no time. Drawing your own parts with increasing complexities would be where the learning curve goes up, but there's so many forums and companies with great tech support that even if you get stuck you can usually get quick solutions.

If you're interested in seeing how the software and post processing works you're welcome to experiment on my plasma table. My shop is in Owings.


Active member
I may take you up on that.
I am fluent enough with CAD and have been using it for years.
Getting from my dwg. files to tool paths..
Now that is a mystery to me lol.


Sure, feel free to PM me anytime I'll send you my shop address. I'm here all the time, weekends too. If you're already fluent in CAD I can't imagine you'll be held back by much once you familiarize yourself with the software.



Active member
Well I got on the boat yesterday as the owners got all the heaps of stored gear out of where the work is happening.
So this is a gut out and reline a long section of hull with cabinet runs port and starboard.
I am really seeing for the first time just how handy a router would be for a job.
To match the rest the interior I have to go with face panels on carcass while the doors are all full radius corners set flush.


Lots and lots of template work to radius the inlet cuts and the corresponding door panels.
Its like the damn Stone Age in my shop lol.

If I had the router I could make quick time of all the cut work and move right on to hardware.
Plus the job has a number of transverse bulkheads which have to be tabbed to hull and floors which have to be scribed in a tabbed.
All of it could be loaded into a drawing to drive the cut package.

I looked over the construction methodology- everything is CNC cut on boat and has quick build features like indexing tabs to aid alignment.
The builder is having whole boat packages cut and I imagine the interiors are going together fast.
The interior design reflects the power of CNC with all the free use of radius- while making it a PITA to follow behind with a table saw..

I have one remaining potential for expanding the shops footprint which would gain 3’x15’ along one wall.
That would be enough to fit a 4x8 router and still keep needed workspace in shop.
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Active member
I am really seeing for the first time just how handy a router would be for a job.
Lots and lots of template work to radius the inlet cuts and the corresponding door panels.
Its like the damn Stone Age in my shop lol.

Suspect your thinking is about a table to layout and manually route flat material. If your actual direction is CNC, which really makes short work of duplication of parts, you might want to take a field trip and find a shop that has CNC rounters and is experienced on duplicating small quantities. One shop I have dealt with for sheet metal flats can do the job with a simple template and one or two measurements or even a drawing sent via email.

Anyway....you might find this interesting and they must be fairly close to you.....A Boatbuilder Reviews CNC Machines: The good, the bad, and the glitchy


Active member
CLC is right beside the Roberts where I exchange gas cylinders.
I peek in and see that current router going through its paces when I’m there.

Nice article- My modest shop really pales in comparison to the volume of parts those guys are pushing.

I am stuck at that first iteration he describes- thin ply templates and bearing bits.
Most all of my work is one offs so I am doing template work for everything that comes in the door.

I have been setting aside some funds for the next largish shop purchase which I figured was a work van like the Mercedes Metris bought new.
I guess I could push that towards a used router and vac setup.
10-15k wouldn’t give me too much pause.
Double that and I doubt I would do it.

I guess the list would be-
Useable software for non expert.
Usable vac table for nested parts of sometimes smallish size.
Tool changer.
Able to run the whole shooting match off a 20 hp Phase Perfect.
A width footprint which isn’t huge.

I can probably shoehorn something into the shop but I am no doubt missing some fine detail like feed path to load sheets..


Active member
"I can probably shoehorn something into the shop but I am no doubt missing some fine detail like feed path to load sheets.."

Sawdust. Add sawdust to your list.
Had the money, spent some time with the machine manufacture, knew the market for the item, ---- And then it got spoiled with the question:

--Sawdust and what's your plan to deal with it. (dust mitigation and disposal)
Game over. Of course alot depends on scale of production, facility and layout, number of employees, and such. Now I leave wood and polycarbonate routing to those who have all their ducks in a row--or so they tell me.

Keep it small, fly under the radar, and everything will be A-OK.


Active member
I haul the barrels of dust/chips to the dumpster.
I can keep doing that.

Well I got in the CMT widget and a set of Amanda bits for it so that’s progress anyway.


New member
I see you have been using some cad, how do you go from a takeoff on the boat to a good usable drawing? That is the hiccup for me, the only thing I know to do on my budget is to make a template and take a picture and measurements, then trace/draw it in cad, then cut a test on the router. Do you have a quicker way to get a digital file? Talking about curved pcs..

One thing the article mentioned that is worth pursuing is that the software is probably more important than the machine once you have the fundamentals covered and you are comparing machines with the same features.

Then next biggest thing is service on a machine. I'd suggest digging deep on which company has the service and then find one of theirs used. A shop I work with bought a Taiwan built machine and I had some problems with it. Their only support is in NC, the tech told me if it came down to getting him onsite it would be $5k with all the travel etc. You have to pay for all the expenses of course and it takes time to travel, so it is not like they were taking advantage, it just costs that much to make it happen. We decided to fix it ourselves..

Like any other machines, if you can find a high end machine that is now old but not worn out, it will likely have more support and nicer components on it.

As for floorspace, you will want some staging area for the material. I picked up a scissor lift that is setting next to my router, I can slide the sheets on the table without having to pick them up fully.

Most moving gantry machines are barely wider than the table on the narrow dimension. It does depend on where the toolchanger is though. The changers at one end of the table, the gantry is app 12-18" wider than the table. If it has a ride along changer that is on one end, it will grow that amount. Length is similar, it is only longer than the table by the amount of the tool changer or if they build into it a parking spot to get the gantry out of the way for loading. Moving gantry machines have a considerably smaller footprint than a fixed bridge moving table. The main reason to go fixed bridge is higher rigidity or you find a good one cheap and just deal with it's size.

Vacuum pump can be almost anywhere. The longer the hose to the table though, the less power/efficiency it will have. If you can put it on the other side of a wall to reduce noise and heat at the router it makes life better. There are different types of vac pumps, regenerative blowers work, but are extremely loud, like put it outside in a shed loud. They are cheaper to buy and are honestly probably cheaper to run over time. If you need ultimate vac power, I'd go with a vane pump.

Little parts can be made without throwing them, you just have to use some tricks and possibly do some 2nd op stuff. I can help you on that if you ever need it.