The Cabinetmaker
by DJ & Rahsaan

Early Colonial furniture makers were called carpenters. They used the abundant supply of wood in the New World to build sturdy, simple furniture. Later they came to be known as joiners. By 1700 some English furniture makers came to the colonies calling themselves cabinetmakers. Only the best joiners were cabinetmakers. Some African American enslaved people were trained as carpenters or cabinetmakers. If you lived in Colonial times you might have asked a cabinetmaker to make your fine wooden furniture.

Some tools they used were:

  • Caliper - used to measure thickness and distance
  • Chisel - metal tool with a sharp edge to shape wood
  • Gimlet -  makes holes in pieces of wood
  • Lathe - machine for shaping wood
  • Mallet - special hammer used to drive the chisel
  • Saw - for cutting wood (there were many different kinds of saws)
  • Squares - instrument for checking right angles

To be a good cabinetmaker you had to know about the different kinds of wood, understand the different ways to join wood pieces, be good with math, understand angles and proportion. They also had to be able to make the furniture attractive.

Click on a trade below to read more about it.

Source: Fisher, Leonard Everett. The Cabinetmakers. New York: Benchmark, 1997.

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