Built for Speed: Efficiency and Production Trimming part 1

If you’re doing production trim and general finish carpentry, it’s all about efficiency. Developing systems to speed up processes while still putting out a good product sets you apart from others in the market.┬áThe biggest time-sucks doing to trim work are moving from your cut station to the work, setting up a cut/beveling the saw, changing tools, and moving material. Every time you’re digging through a tool box, rearranging stacks of trim boards, beveling your saw, or anything else other than cutting or nailing, you’re losing money, I’m going to show you how to streamline all of these processes. Here’s how I tackle trimming a whole house.

Setup a game plan

Every house I trim, I approach the same way:

Set the cabinets–that means all of them.

  • Set every cabinet in the kitchen, butler’s pantry, wet bar, vanities, pre-built mudrooms, etc. This has several advantages:
  • Gets the cabinets out of your way
  • Less likely to damage them while moving things around
  • Allows time for replacements of any incorrect cabinets or damaged doors
  • Gets ready for plumbing and electrical final (and gets them out of your way)

I’ll do a future post on setting cabinets. It’s often the most demanding task on these jobs.

Coffers and Crown

  • Do it now before there’s a bunch of trim and tools in you way.
  • Pre-build blocking.
  • Measure every run and cut.
  • For crowned coffers, build the whole frame on the bench, then fit into place!

Hang the doors

  • Stock every door (with a helper ideally)
  • Hang and case every door
  • Trim all your shims

Case the doors

  • Measure all your casings
  • cut, glue and clamp every casing **pre-assembled on a bench and stacked against the wall in order**
  • stock every casing (ideally with a helper, carrying them in pairs
  • Fix any out of plane drywall or mud build up
  • Run air hoses to top floor, furthest room
  • Nail off casings, starting top floor, furthest room, and work your way back out.


  • Make a story pole with stock heights for each cleat. Write the material thickness your using for each.
  • Walk closet to closet with your story pole and a stud finder. Label each closet with a letter or number. Mark each height and any non-standard features. Mark center of each stud.
  • Measure every closet with a laser and framing square. On the framing square, put painters tape on one leg at each shelving depth. Measure the back of the shelf, check for square, notate variance at the shelf depths (1/4″ out of square at 2 inches is way different than 1/4″ out of level at 12″). Make a note of front and back dimensions and which sides are out.
  • Cut all your cleats and put a clamp around the stack (like an irwin quick grip). Profile edges as needed.
  • Stock cleats in each closet.
  • Nail them off. Put a torpedo level on the top of the cleat, level it off your mark, nail to every stud. Put the clamps on your story pole and take them back to your cut station.
  • Cut and stock shelving, labeled for each closet, each position, clamped together with a quick grip clamp.
  • Nail off shelving, bulkheads, angle bracing, closet rod supports.


  • Measure the whole house. Cut and stock a room at a time. Nail the whole house.
  • Splices get a butt joint, glue, and biscuit.
  • Outside miters get an accurate angle measurement, pre-assembled with glue, collins clamps, and left to dry.
  • Inside miters are coped or, for 1E1, butted, but never inside mitered.

Windows and jambs:

  • Box in windows at the bench, pre-assembled with pocket screws and glue.
  • Cut all casings at once. Apply 4-sided “picture frame” casings to boxed window assemblies before mounting.
  • Jambed openings are built with boxed windows. Bypass doors are done with windows.
  • Aprons and sills are measured and cut all at once, then leveled and nailed off. Apron miter returns are done at the bench and micro pinned.

Miscellaneous Millwork and Stairs

  • The fancy stuff. Do it last so it doesn’t get messed up as you move all your materials around and other subs do their thing. This is your reward for schlepping baseboards for weeks.

Organize your material

Stack your material the way you trim!

Stack it this way. Set up or build your racks, then load it in the opposite way.

Stack it this way. Set up or build your racks, then load it in the opposite way.

trim lumber rack for on site storage

trim lumber rack for on site storage

IKEA Kitchen: Floating Shelves to Match Your IKEA Cabinets

I had a client with a kitchen layout recently that did not fit neatly into IKEA’s available stock options. After some troubleshooting, we were able to come up with a solution: floating shelves. Using stock components in Bodbyn Grey, we were able to create color-matched shelves that reclaim unused space above the windows and doorway.

By mounting cleats to the sides of the shelf with wide headed cabinet screws and construction adhesive such as PL Heavy Duty, the weight bearing is significant! Add plywood ribbing for added strength to prevent bowing, and you’re left with a “stock” looking Bodbyn floating shelf with enough interior cavity to mount any of their lighting systems.

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn grey, assembled view

ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn grey, assembled view

exploded view, ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn

exploded view, ikea kitchen floating shelf bodbyn