Investigates the elaborate craft of these skilled woodworkers
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