Moulder Operator Skills and Pay

Feedback on the going rate for moulder operators in different parts of the country, and thoughts on how to earn at the top of the scale. December 30, 2007

I will be going to school soon for cabinetmaking and millwork. I was wondering how much moulder operators make and where most of the jobs are available?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor R:
I am curious about this too. I am a grinder operator and moulder operator with experience and training. What is this job paying out there? I know it depends on the area, so let's hear it. I need to know if I am underpaid!

From contributor J:
I believe a moulder op gets an average of about $15.00-$17.00/hour depending on experience and location. A grinderman usually gets a couple bucks more. If you have to choose, go with the grinding job. A grinderman has to know how a moulder works to be efficient. A moulder op doesn't have to know how to grind knives to be efficient. Hence, a couple bucks less.

From contributor U:
I believe a well rounded moulder operator should know how to make templates by hand, grind knives, set up and operate the moulder with no supervision. You should be cross trained to do each other's job if you have that advantage. The more you know, the more you're worth. It does depend on the region of the country you're in and the quality of the product you're putting out. I would agree with contributor J. In Utah some of the better mills are paying $18-25 per hour with about 7-10 years experience. Keep in mind these guys can whip out a template quick, grind the knives, and make the finished product with no supervision.

It's such a vague question, so don't go demanding your boss pay you between those numbers until you have proven yourself. Call around within a 300 mile radius of where you live to see if you can get a feel of what wage is common for the region you're in.

From contributor O:
Down south they tend to pay closer to the $14/$15 range, but I have been told by mill owners that that is because they rarely have qualified people. In the middle of the country operators get paid around $17/$18 with decent experience. In the northeast you can get about the same, more with grinding experience. That is what it is all about (experience). Once you get into management, you can expect more, even if you are only managing a small crew of helpers.

From contributor U:
I have done a lot of work in several markets around the country and I think you are just about spot on when it comes to the money. Of course, it is very regional and dependant on the local economy.

I can tell you that when you go into a shop looking for a millwork/millwork supervisor position, you should have a few things together for your own benefit:
- Research the company the best you can. If you can find out the type of equipment, footages produced, personnel/level of training, etc. you will be that much farther ahead.
- Know the company you are walking into and if there are missing pieces that you need, you may be able to collect the knowledge before you get there and be that much more impressive when you interview and/or start the job.
- Know your market. The last place I did millwork was in Southeastern Michigan. The area was booming even if the state as a whole was not. Even if you are not an economic genius, you can see if there are a lot of houses going up, you can see if they are in the general market your prospective company caters to, and you will see if the work will last (often times, as the economy changes, the millworker becomes less and less important).
- Know what you are capable of. Take the time to be able to project what you can and cannot do in a realistic fashion. If you are in a custom millwork facility, know that you will lose time with short orders, know the people you are counting on, and the people that are counting on you. If your employer comes to you and needs realistic projections for production, be able to provide it.

Remember, you are more than a machine operator, you are the central manufacturing point for the millwork coming out of that facility. If you don't know how to do these things, ask around. A lot of people on this forum and other places can help with the training needed to accomplish these things. The short version of this is: be well rounded.

I have made a living around the country doing millwork and moved as often as needed to get the work that was desired. If you are able to do so, there is millwork in every corner of the country and you will have a blast traveling and working around it.