Guide to... furniture making and cabinetry
Why do a course in furniture making?
Quite apart from the satisfaction you can gain from making something yourself, you can save a lot of money by having the skills to create furniture that would otherwise be above your budget. Having the skills to produce an object that will adorn your home is something that will stay with you throughout life, giving you the opportunity to be surrounded by high quality and unique products - or simply furniture that exactly suits your needs.
Furniture making is useful, satisfying, enjoyable and could improve both your life and the lives of everyone around you. The real question here of course is ‘why not do a course in furniture making?’
Cabinet making is not just about cabinets, it includes chairs, shelving and all wooden furniture. You might also hear talk in the industry of an ‘Ebenist’. This is the french word for cabinet maker but is sometimes used in the UK.
How wood is joined together is an essential part of furniture making and a good way to assess the quality of a piece of work. Bear in mind that Chinese and Japanese cabinetry , which is extremely advanced (having been around for several thousand years helps) often uses joints that do not require glue or nails.
Tools of the Trade
In a cabinet-makers toolbox, there are many wondrous items. However the tools below are common to any one involved in building an item of furniture.
Router -used to ‘rout out’ wood to make a decorative edge.
Set of carving chisels
Set of bevel edge chisels
Set of Mortice chisels
Classic claw hammer
Try and mitre square
Fourfold wooden rule
Once you’re well under way and know you will be making furniture for life, you might enjoy a good drool over ‘The Ultimate cabinet-maker’s Toolbox’ as prepared by Benchmark.
THOMAS CHIPPENDALE 1718-1779
The cabinet maker and father of 9 children, Thomas Chippendale is perhaps the most famous of British furniture makers. The ‘Shakespeare of English furniture’ was born in 1718 in Otley, Yorkshire to a family of wood workers. Chippendale moved to London as a young man, earning his living as a journeyman [apprentice] cabinet maker. Chippendale was the first ‘tradesman’ to publish a scollction of his designs and the work. Brilliantly original, ‘ The Gentleman and Cabinetmakers Director’ published in 1954 and containing 161 ‘elegant and useful designs of household furniture’, was an immediate sell-out. Chippendale’s name has since been adopted by the whole genre of furniture inspired by the designs in his Director.
Not content purely with furniture design, Chippendale enjoyed full renovations of large country houses such as Harewood House in Yorkshire, where his most famous piece, the Diana and Minerva commode, an exquisite creation of exotic woods, ebony and ivory can still be viewed.
From master cabinet maker and designer to entrepreneur and interior designer; Chippendale, and later his son Thomas Chippendale Jnr employed round 50 craftsmen at their workshops in Covent Garden London and ran a great line in the wholesale importation of valuable French mirror glass.