|A crew of carpenters building a barn about 1895 using the timber |
framing technique. Note the heavy, sawn timbers.
|Three men and a helper around 1910. They have been framing a house using |
dimensioned lumber and nails. By this date they are likely using platform framing rather than balloon framing.
|An engraving from A panorama of professions and trades by Edward Hazen (Philadelphia, 1837). Although purporting to show carpenters, this looks to be three house joiners working in their shop.|
Hazen noted that:
"Carpentry and joinery, however, are so clearly allied to each other, that they are commonly practised by the same individual."
There were more opportunities for tradesmen to specialize in house joinery and develop their skills to the highest degree in larger cities with many high-style homes. Furthermore, the trades were regulated according to English guild traditions in large cities like Philadelphia or Boston during the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. These inherited guild regulations required specialization and adhering to one's practiced trade, meaning joiners joined, carvers carved, turners turned (that is. used a lathe to make spindles) and carpenters built buildings. Later, as the demand for buildings grew and the country was flooded by trained immigrants, many of these regulations were ignored and tradesman worked wherever doing whatever they could to earn a living.
The Cabinet Maker: Hazen tell us:
"It is the business of the cabinet-maker to manufacture particular kinds of household furniture, such as tables, stands, bureaus, sideboards, desks, bookcases, sofas, bedsteads, &c., as well as a certain description of chairs made of mahogany and maple. Many of the operations of this business are similar to those of the carpenter and joiner, although they require to be conducted with greater nicety and exactness."
The cabinet maker makes furniture (sometimes called movables, or things that can be moved from room to room or house to house). The cabinet maker works at a bench in a shop and makes the finest work using smaller saws, chisels and gouges, moulding planes and other special tools. He often finishes and sometimes upholsters his work, although in larger cities these operations were frequently done by other tradesmen specializing in these crafts.
|Three cabinet makers working in their shop. Note the figured veneer |
on the wardrobe's doors. The man standing next to the wardrobe appears
to be polishing the finish with sharkskin or glasspaper.
During the 18th century craftsmen began making stylish furniture using exotic woods such as mahogany, rosewood and satinwood along with figured veneers. They also began building casework (or furniture such as sideboards made from various box-like components ) using new joinery techniques such as dovetails. This distinguished the work of the new cabinet maker from the common joiner. In fact, the French work for cabinet maker is ébéniste, or a worker making high-style furniture using exotic ebony.
Thereafter, the craftsman who made basic furniture and other pieces from pine and common wood species was called a joiner, the craftsman who made decorative pieces for buildings as well as doors and windows was called the house joiner, and the elite craftsman who made high-style furniture from mahogany and veneer was the cabinet maker. These distinctions were somewhat blurred in the United States (especially for the common joiner) where the absence of a strict guild system prevented craftsmen from protecting their distinct trades from encroachment of other wood workers. However, these distinctions are illustrative of some of the different types of wood workers and how their trades were practiced in the 19th century.