Melody Am­sel-Arieli

In­ves­ti­gates the elab­o­rate craft of th­ese skilled wood­work­ers

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - MASS OBSERVATION -

Cab­i­nets ev­i­dently orig­i­nated in the 1500s, when cloth­ing com­prised much of a noble woman’s worth. It was then that crafts­men fur­nished wooden clothes chests with doors and draw­ers, for stor­ing fash­ion ac­ces­sories like gloves and scarves. By the El­iz­a­bethan era, well-off house­holds also boasted writ­ing desks, cup­boards and buf­fets. Yet the term ‘cab­i­net maker’ was not part of ev­ery­day lan­guage un­til the fol­low­ing cen­tury.

Mas­ter de­sign­ers and crafts­men, in­clud­ing Thomas Chip­pen­dale and Ge­orge Hep­pel­white, trans­formed fine wood into at­trac­tive fur­ni­ture in the mid-1700s, us­ing sim­ple hand tools. Their well-bal­anced de­signs and out­stand­ing work­man­ship in­flu­enced pro­duc­tion for years to come. ( You can find out more about hand tools in Wood­work­ing Tools, 1600-1900, by Peter C Welsh, on guten­berg.org/files/27238/ 27238-h/27238-h.htm).

Fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of more ad­vanced tools such as lathes, bench planes, ratchet braces and cir­cu­lar saws, the fur­ni­ture trade even­tu­ally sep­a­rated into two dis­tinct ar­eas: fancy cab­i­netry and gen­eral cab­i­netry. The term ‘cab­i­net maker’ first ap­peared in the mid-17th cen­tury.

Mak­ers of fancy cab­i­nets, who com­bined in­nate skill with artis­tic taste, prac­ticed wood­work­ing of the high­est or­der. Yet their light, fine, hand-crafted, por­ta­ble cre­ations – crib­bage-boards; tea-cad­dies; ladies’ work-boxes and glove, gun, and pis­tol cases – were scarcely re­lated to the fur­ni­ture

Gen­eral cab­i­net mak­ers cre­ated ta­bles, wardrobes and side­boards

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