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18th Century Cabinet Maker

What was it like working as a small regional cabinet-maker in the 18th Century?

Well it was most likely that the smaller provincial cabinet-maker employing perhaps three or four people, had quite a hard time, working from small workshops and using only natural light, pedal powered machinery and hand made tools.

It was only during the mid 1700s, when the affluent classes began to enjoy their increasing leisure time, that the cabinet-makers could sustain business and only in the main cities could they fulfil their potential. Fine furniture represented the trappings of status and a trip to London to indulge in a furniture shopping spree and to choose who they would patronise was a most fashionable activity of the day.

Smaller provincial firms worked in similar materials to the larger city firms but produced interpretations of the many directories being produced at the time, with a greater use of native timbers and a lesser use of allied materials, such as gilding and bronze work. Their furniture began to achieve a regional style of its own. However, the tools used for both makers were in most cases very similar. They were beautiful works of art in their own right and gave a great sense of pride to their owners. However, some tasks were not so sought after.

The sawyer's mate had the unfortunate job of standing within a pit beneath a newly felled tree and together with his master, produced planks for use by the cabinet makers and allied trades. Just imagine the working conditions in this aspect of the trade. The master, who stood on top of the log, was called the Top Dog and his apprentice stood beneath and was called the Under Dog. Both sawing away, pushing and pulling an enormous saw which spewed sawdust and bark all over the breathless Under Dog's sweaty, sticky face and neck. A thankless profession but always in demand.

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