Glossary: Cabinetmaker -- Carpenter-- Craftsman -- Joiner -- Mechanic -- Artisan

This entry jointly treats Cabinetmaker together with Carpenter, Joiner, Mechanic, Craftsman. It's age-old, evidently, the concern for defining precisely the set tasks -- are each of them an "art" or a "craft" -- of practitioners of the six divisions of woodworking mentioned above: what is, basically, the same operation: constructing things from wood, whether buildings or furniture or collateral structures, such as outdoor garden or livestock appurtences. (Because of its over-generality in meaning, "artisan" is not treated below.)

Historically, joiner is a term used to distinguish the hierarchy of woodworkers, where it ranks above the carpenter and below the cabinetmaker.The carpenter is principally concerned with large work and with comparatively soft woods, while the joiner is, from the nature of the articles he makes, occupied principally with small constructions in the choicer and harder woods.

As examples, "joyned tables " and "joyned stools" indicate superior articles of furniture in contradistinction to common carpentry. Again, historically, the 16th- and 17th-century London civic companies of joiners and carpenters are distinct, and very jealous of each other's privileges, so jealous that the duties of each company are meticulosusly laid out textually. An account of their disputes, and the solemn trifling over trade-distinctions is detailed in Edward Basil Jupp's 1848 Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters of the City of London... ., London: Pickering. In Jupp's account, historically, it appears that carpenters only are allowed make such rough furniture as might hold in sockets or by nailing "without glue". On the other hand, the joiners have a monopoly on making

all tables of wainscote, walnutt, or other stuife, glued, with frames, mortesses, or tennants, or any other articles of furniture that require to be dovetailed, pinned, or glued.

Historically, the differences between the two crafts is not that of building, but the making of interior fittings, paneling, screens, galleries, doors and floors and also furniture. And, in keeping with the "joiner" label, all joints: The printed text of a London-based committee declares that all work with "mortesses or tennants'' or that is "duftalled pynned or glued" and "all sorts of Wainscott and sealing of Howses" (by Howses is meant paneling), and also

all carved workes either raised or cutt through or sunck in with the grounde taken out being wrought and cutt with carving Tooles without the use of Plaines,

is identified as joiners' work.

Here is more discussion of the historical development of Carpenter and Joiner

When carpentry and joinery are spoken of together, it is possible that the two words may not convey a distinctive meaning to every one who hears or reads them, and it may be serviceable to point out here in what the difference really consists. A carpenter, speaking generally, is an artificer who works in timber, a framer and builder of houses and ships, as far as wood may be employed in their construction.

The chief tools of the carpenter, properly so-called, are the saw, the axe or hatchet, the adze, the hammer, and the chisel; the joiner, in addition to these, requires planes of various kinds to impart a smooth surface and relief, by mouldings of various kinds, to his work.

Carpentry, then, means the art of cutting, framing, and putting together timber in the construction of buildings, or an assemblage of pieces of timber connected by being framed together, as the pieces of a roof, partition, floor, etc.

Joinery, on the other hand, is the art or work of a joiner; and a joiner is a mechanic who does the woodwork in the covering and finishing of buildings, or whose occupation it is to construct things such as tables, chairs, boxes, etc., by joining pieces of wood together.

The artisan who makes furniture of a more elaborate description is usually called a cabinetmaker, the term "cabinet" being applied to a piece of furniture consisting of a case or box furnished with doors and drawers.

It will be convenient for the purposes of this work to consider carpentry and joinery as separating naturally into two divisions, which may be described as (1) Simple Carpentry and joinery, Carpentry, (2) Ornamental Carpentry and joinery: the first corn- how divisible. prising all operations necessary for preparing pieces of wood and framing and joining them together, which may be performed by the ordinary tools of the carpenter ; the second, decorative work, and all such working in wood as may require the aid of special machinery of some kind or other to produce it....

When a man knows how to use the different tools employed in Carpentry and Joinery, and has learnt to perform the ordinary operations by means of which pieces of wood are framed together, he may be considered to have become acquainted with what may be termed the grammar of carpentry; and, as the simpler processes that come within the province of the house carpenter and joiner are now tolerably familiar to him, he may turn his attention to ornamental carpentry, which involves greater delicacy of manipulation and more careful use of the tools employed, and apply himself to the task of learning the principles of construction comprised in articles of everyday use that he sees about him; and, having learnt how they may be made so as to be as strong and efficient as it is possible to render them, to proceed to the repairing and the making of the articles themselves....

Source: Francis Chilton-Young, Every Man His Own Mechanic London: Ward, Lock, 1881, page 14.

Emergence of the "Cabinetmaker"

The cachet of what being a cabinetmaker means a the end of the 19th-century is captured by author and cabinetmaker Fred T. Hodgson, The Practical Cabinet Maker and Furniture Designer's Assistant, including in his longer full title

With Essays on History of Furniture, Taste in Design, Color and Materials, with Full Explanation of the Canons of Good Taste in Furniture Together with Many Practical Directions for Making Cabinet Work Generally, and a Number of Pieces of Furniture in Particular, along with Hundreds of Recipes for Finishing, Staining, Varnishing, Polishing and Gilding all Kinds of Cabinet Work:

In these days, specialization in "Furniture-making" has in a great measure robbed the trade of many of its charms, as well as its claims to the dignified position it once held. In the "good old times" every man who could hold up his head and say truthfully "I am a CABINETMAKER," meant that he had given long years of apprenticeship to every branch and every detail of the business. His assertion, when interpreted, meant "that he could take timber, saw it, plane it, mould it, glue it, veneer it, join it, carve it, finish it, and upholster it, all by hand." It meant a full knowledge of everything connected with the manufacture from the entrance to the yard and to that of the wareroom. What might be expected of such workmen, in the way of completeness and thoroughness, could be had for the hiring. Their experience was indelibly stamped upon their work.

Source: Fred T Hodgson, The Practical Cabinet Maker and Furniture Designer's Assistant Chicago: F J Drake, 1910, page 9.

Also, the label cabinetmaker is used in reference to woodworkers with skills in veneering, marquetry and intarsia, practices introduced into Britain in the 17th-century by the emigre Huguenots.

As a result, the term Cabinetmaking continues in use, however, down to the present, as a way of referring to what might be termed "high-end" woodworking. Example: The 1891 book, The Art and Craft of Cabinetmaking , by the cabinetmaker and journalist, David Denning:

The cabinetmaker fashions and forms the wood, joins the componets together, but -- except so far as they are necessary for construction -- has little or nothing to do with other materials. In this sense, he is a joiner, but to confound joinery or carpentry with cabinetmaking is a mistake commonly made.

A decade earlier, the cabinetmaker journalist, Francis Chilton Young, gave us his version:

"The carpenter frames and puts together roofs, partitions, floors, and other essential parts of the building. The joiner only commences when the carpenter leaves off, by supplying and fitting stairs, cupboards, furniture and other parts necessary, but not essential to, the building."

Sources: Francis Chilton Young, Every Man His Own Mechanic London: Ward, Lock, 1882; David Denning, The Art and Craft of Cabinetmaking London: Whittaker and Co., 1891.

Thus, today, at the dawn of the 21st century -- the Age of the Internet, cordless woodworker's tools, and "computed numerically controlled" (CNC) -- terms such as Cabinetmaker, Carpenter, Joiner, Mechanic, Craftsman obviously don't have the same meaning as, say, in the first part of 20th century or earlier. Today, Craftsman seems to be the term of choice in our woodworking magazines. Ordinarily such subtleties in the distinctions among the meanings of these terms would not get anyone's attention, but when -- in 1923 -- the writer of a woodworker's manual, Paul D Otter uses all these terms -- except Joiner -- we start to pay attention. Click here to check it out.

The Etymological Origins of the Term

As a label, Cabinetmaking does not appear in the everyday vocabulary until after the Restoration of Charles II, circa 1670.

According to Donald Smith, the label "cabinetmaker" is injected into the English vocabulary as a result of the invention of the "drawer" as a logical addition to the chest. Today, without thinking about what we are saying, we make reference to "chest of drawers". Back in 16th-century Tudor Britain, there are "chests", but drawers are not yet known.

Chests, as places to store things, proved their worth, except storing smaller, personal items, items that tend to get "lost" when stored together with many other items. That is, stockings are often difficult to find when they are mixed up with the larger items like men's pants and shirts. Remember, too, that in Renaissance Britain, men's pants and shirts are very, very different than pants and shirts are today. [image]

However, the invention of the "drawer" solves the difficulty of storing a number of small articles, handkerchiefs, belt buckles, suspenders, etc., but without losing them among the bulkier personal items mentioned above.

Chests fitted with small drawers appear in the mid-16th-century.

spice cabinet closed ca-1600
spice cabinet open ca-1600

As a rule, these chests of drawers have a door (or doors), where the contents of the cabinet are protected by one or two doors that can be locked shut.

These chests are called "cabinets". And, because typically they contain valuable possessions, considerable care is given to their construction (and decoration).

Because the drawer parts -- especially their dovetailed joints -- argues for using the harder woods creating a situation where the most skilful of woodworkers in hardwoods become known as "cabinetmakers".

Source Adapted from Ch 3, Donald Smith, Old Furniture and WoodworkLondon: Batsford, 1937.

More Historical Background on Cabinetmaker and Related Terms

Basically, Cabinetmaker is a woodworker who makes cabinets and the finer kind of joiner's work.

In her 1982 dissertation -- Westfield College, University of London -- Patricia Anne Kirkham writes that the term cabinetmaker is used immediately after the 1660 Restoration, when Britain placed Charles I on its throne, bringing an end to the lengthy, troublesome Interregnum of Oliver Cromwell.

An Adrian Bolte applied for the post of royal cabinetmaker' and it was used in the following year to refer to certain members of the Joiners' Company.

June 18, 1660, 92. Petition of Adrian Bolte to the King, for readmission to the office of Cabinetmaker, as he held it under the late King, who committed to him the keeping of the Royal staff, which he has preserved amidst all his troubles, and done many services to His Majesty's friends.

Source: Calendar of state papers, Domestic series, Reign of Charles II ..., Volume 1, edited by Mary Anne Everett Green and F. H. Blackburne Daniell, page 58

Later, in 1664, John Evelyn used the term in Sylva, while in 1667, Samuel Pepys referred to the person who made for him "a new inlaid table" as "a cabinetmaker." What spurred the "new craft" of cabinetmaker? Large numbers of foreign designers and craftsmen -- including Daniel Marot -- skilled in the new styles and techniques, not known in a Britain where the Oak tradition prevailed, emigrated from across the English Channel. (On the gradual replacement of white oak by first, walnut, then mahogany, read more here.) Christopher Wren, among other designers, helped not only restore, but to build up a class of public buildings heretofore never known in Britian.

What Spurred the "New Craft" of Cabinetmaker?

Large numbers of foreign designers and craftsmen -- including Daniel Marot -- skilled in the new styles and techniques, not known in a Britain where the Oak tradition prevailed, emigrated from France and the Lowland countries -- Flanders, The Netherlands -- across the English Channel. Christopher Wren, among other designers, helped not only restore, but to build up a class of public buildings heretofore never known in Britian.

While considerable time past before the term cabinetmaker entered the everyday English vocabulary, its usage reflected the improved standard of British cabinetmaking; for example, John Evelyn comments on the improvement in his 1680 book, The Whole Body of Antient and Modern Architecture , leading us to conclude that such a change must have come from the influence of the foreign craftsmen now working in Britain.

An example of a definite refinement of cabinetmaking standards is perhaps illustrated most appropriately by singling out the work of Gerrit Jensen -- probably of Dutch or Flemish ancestry -- who, in 1680, supplied furniture to the royal household. Jensen and others who emigrated across the English Channel introduced an elaborate type of cabinetwork that -- up to that time -- is not produced by native joiners. Jensen decorated his pieces with marquetry or boulle-work, both types of inlay, using either metal and tortoise-shell. We are helped in assuming that these refinements are from "foreign" sources by the fact that -- except for a William Farmborough -- all cabinetmakers' receipts have foreign names.

Source: Adapted from, Pat Kirkham, The London Furniture Furniture Trade, 1700-1870 London Furniture History Society, 1988.

Cabinet making is one of the fine arts and is by no means to be placed among the lesser ones. Among the things most treasured by the nations and holding prominent places in the world's museums will ever be found specimens of the art of the cabinet maker.

Source: Lamont A. Warner, "Good Furniture ", Art and Industry in Education New York: Published by the Arts and Crafts Club of Teachers College, Columbia University, 1913, page 87

Cabinetmakers work in solid wood, typically Hardwood, though Veneers of highly prized wood may be used for decorative purposes.

In choosing [one case] over another, the cabinetmaker has to consider ease of construction, appearance, cost, weight, strength and durability.

Source: Bill Hylton, 1998, page 84.

Carpenter

Usually carpenters are considered to perform processes in woodworking at a level of skill lower than the cabinetmaker. However, as "finish carpenters", carpenters can work at the same level of excellence as cabinetmakers; mostly carpenters engage in the initial stages of construction, activities that lead up to the point where a construction needs finishing touches; for example, finish carpenters takeover where Moldings for ceilings and banisters for stairways are precisely cut and mounted.

The "Introduction" of my 30-year-old copy of Willis H Wagner's Modern Carpentry: Building Construction Details in Easy-to-Understand Form (South Holland, IL: Goodheart-Willcox, 1976) includes the following:

Carpentry provides detailed coverage of all aspects of light frame construction; including site layout, foundations, framing, sheathing, roofing, windows and doors, exterior finish, and interior wall, floor and ceiling finish. Special emphasis is placed on the use of modern materials and prefabricated components in the application of interior trim, and the construction of stairs and cabinetwork. Also included is basic information covering post-and-beam construction, chimney and fireplaces, and prefabricated structures.

Craftsman

A person who practices a handicraft; an artisan, basically, skilled workmanship.

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the word "craft" has often been the subject of a tug of war between two groups in the United States:

(1) enthusiasts who argue for craft as a nonhierarchical, democratic activity, open to all and necessary in a world supersaturated with impersonal consumables; and

(2) sophisticates who think that "craft" is a pejorative term, too often associated with kitsch, macrame, stoneware pots, and DIY (do- it-yourselfers).

Some of the latter dismiss craft entirely. Others believe that a certain class of craft worthy of recognition as art has emerged and should be recognized as superior to "mere" craft.1

Source: Edward S. Cooke, "Modern Craft and the American Experience", American Art 21, No 1 Spring 2007, page 2.

Joiner

Not as widely used today, a joiner is an artisan who finishes woodwork in houses; the art of a joiner.

A Joiner is, as the OED shows,

A craftsman whose occupation it is to construct things by joining pieces of wood; a worker in wood who does lighter and more ornamental work than that of a carpenter, as the construction of the furniture and fittings of a house, ship....

The earliest use of Joiner the OED records is 1483.

Mechanic

An archaic term, Mechanic, Mechanician, bore reference to skill in artistic persuits. A practitioner of the principles of mechanics, as distinguished from the workman, is called a Mechanician.

The OED traces the etymological roots of mechanic to Old and Middle French mecanique, which dates to ca 1265. The term's roots, however, are Latin. In the box directly below, we see the erudite speculations in 1640 by the English poet, John Donne (1573-1631) about a "mechanic's" ability to use his "hands". (Donne was also involved in the politics of the religious turmoil of the era -- i.e., Protestantism vs Catholicism.)

(I found this Donne citation -- please understand that I am not a regular reader of poetry and/or prose of this period -- with a keyword search for "mechanic" in the JSTOR scholarly database American Seating Furniture, 1630-1730 --subscription necessary -- and turned up a review of Benno M. Forman's American Seating Furniture, 1630-1730: An Interpretive Catalogue, New York: Norton, 1988 by Philip Zea, Winterthur Portfolio 23, no 4 Winter 1988, page 281.

Ordinarily I would find such information interesting, and record it perfunctorily for an entry such as this on one on the evolution of the meaning of the term, mechanic. In this particular case, however, because Donne touches upon the notion that "work with the hand" can often "be spiritual", but "not in a religious sense", I saw a tie-in with my own claims about woodworking as a spiritual activity; click here for reading these details in my memoir.

When we see any man doe any work well, that belongs to the hand, to write, to carve, to play, to doe any mechanique office well, doe we determine our consideration onely upon the Instrument, the hand, doe we onely say, he hath a good, a fit, a well disposed hand for such a work, or doe we not rather raise our contemplation to the soule, and her faculties, which enable that hand to do that work?

Source: John Donne, The Sermons of John Donne ; edited, with Introductions and Critical Apparatus, by Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962, volume 7, page 222.

Another equally interesting account of the etymology of mechanic comes from the American historian Carl Bridenbaugh's Anson G Phelps Lectures, given in 1949, and subsquently published in 1950 as The Colonial Craftsman. (The Colonial Craftsman was later reprinted by Dover in 1990, the edition that I am using for this entry.)

Mechanic, according to OED, means a worker

... characterized by use of tools and the hands, ... [a] manual worker, artisan, and mechanical, i.e., concerning machines, or relating to machines...

Mechanic in Webster's New Dictionary 2d ed 1952,

... at or application of handicraft....

History of these terms

The more deeply you investigate all these terms, the more you become convinced that -- even since ancient times -- the meanings of these terms have been confusing.

The Oxford English Dictionary shows Cabinetmaker usage begins at least in 1681; the use of Carpenter is even older, tracing back to 1381.

According to my Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, Robert K. Barnhart, editor (New York: H. W. Wilson, 1988), page 230, Craftsman, one who practices some trade or manual occupation, traces back, "probably before 1200", in Layamon's Chronicle of Britain.

Ancient and Biblical Times

In tracing these terms back to Biblical eras -- see the box below -- one needs to use words from Greek, Latin and other languages, languages that do not use our alphabet. To abbreviate and, I hope, clarify, in the passge below from an 1869 Notes and Queries issue, I stripped out all but the essential English text. You can read the entire text here.

Joseph Of Nazareth:-- Joseph and Jesus are both described as carpenters (Matthew. xiii. 55, Mark vi. 3). Nazareth, where Jesus spent the largest portion of his life, is ill provided with wood, but abounds in stone, with which the houses there are now built. The word ... as used by Homer, comprehends any craftsman: --

"Who made him a bedroom, and a dwelling-room, and a hall."

"Son of the mechanic . . . who knew how to fabricate with his hands all kinds of curious works . . . who also had built for Alexander equal-sided ships."

So also as shipbuilders, ... Odyssey ix. 190. Homer mentions " a horn-polishing artist"; also "makers of war-chariots and cars (sic) embellished with brass; and finally artists in wood, Odyssey xvii. 384. In the times of Plato and Xenophon the word carpenter was often opposed to "smith"; Pindar had before them still further extended its meaning to matter of any art. But the most important point is to ascertain in what sense the ancient Jews used the word; this word we find in the Septuagint to be the equivalent of "cheresh", artist, craftsman, or workman generally, to which is appended the article in which he works, as wood or stone walls. The word "cheresh" alone is translated craftsman, as distinguished from the manger.

As we have no information respecting Nazareth in ancient authors, and as recent accounts represent the number of houses it contains as two hundred and fifty, we may infer that it contained still fewer before it became celebrated amongst Christians as the residence of Jesus. The answer... [is] therefore, that Joseph combined tho two arts of carpenter and stonemason, as well as those of wheelwright, joiner, cabinetmaker, &c. (I have no faith in the existing stone table as the one on which Joseph and Jesus actually worked.)

Source: T. J. Buckton, Notes and Queries , 4th series, IV, Sept 18, 1869, page 246.

In his 1959 English Period Furniture, even more usefully than Russell, I think, Charles H Hayward speaks of

Woodworking Epochs

Two tables by Charles Harold Hayward, the renowned English author of woodworking manuals, are spot on in capturing how eras of furniture styles historically reflect of the state of the art of woodwdorking technology.

furniture_making_from_hand_to_machine
One of the world's oldest artforms, woodworking has prevailed since everyman -- everyman is a term frequently used to designate the ordinary or typical human being -- first attempted to improve his lot on earth by producing objects designed to increase comfort and efficiency in a world sometimes inhospitable, sometimes fearsome, and sometimes dangerous. This everyman improved his everyday lot primarily by fashioning tools and other objects designed to create a means of making life on earth easier to contend with. On the upper left is a chart that sets out woodworking epochs from 1500 to 1900.

furniture_making_from_hand_to_machine2

In a nutshell, historically between 1500 and 1900, men who construct furniture in the English-speaking world morph from "carpenters" to "cabinetmakers" to machine operators, topics covered in Chapters 1:4 and 1:5 respectively. (Click here for a discussion of the distinction between carpenters and cabinetmakers.) Notice that Hayward adds the concept "Designer" to his equation, an idea that didn't occur to me as a logical entity until I thought about it contextually. Classic components of furniture design, especially the cabriole leg of Daniel Marot (1700) on chairs and tables, the Windsor Chair's majestic hooped back with elegant spindles and scooped anatomical seats (1740) bespeak of a departure from the purely pragmatic traditions of design that prevailed in ages before the Age of Enlightenment.

The carpenter, from earliest times until about 1550. Surviving pieces are naturally rare, are mediaeval (Gothic) as a rule, and of oak.

The joiner, from 1550 to 1660. Includes Elizabethan and Jacobean examples, mostly oak. The cabinetmaker (including the chairmaker, upholsterer, turner, carver, etc.), from 1660 to 1850. William and Mary, Queen Anne, Georgian, Regency, and Victorian, using oak, walnut, mahogany, rosewood, satinwood, and many rare woods as veneers. All come within his compass and fortunately he survives in our own age of the machinist (including the cabinetmaker and others tending to become assemblers of machined parts), 1850 to date, thus including late Victorian and Edwardian pieces, using a greatly increased range of woods, mainly in the form of veneers. (But, of course, there are still small workshops where it is possible to have a single piece made by hand.)

All these periods overlap to some extent and all these Craftsmen exist today, although the work they are now doing is often very different from what it was in the past.

1867

A good workman is known by his tools. A good workman may do a tolerable job with indifferent tools, but a beginner should never attempt to use any but first-class implements, or he will never become a first-class craftsman. If you use bad tools, and try to cast the blame of bad work on them, recollect that "A bad workman always complains of his tools." A really clever mechanic cherishes his reputation far too highly to allow his tools to lapse into an inefficient condition; therefore, next to his character, the honest workman prides himself, and justly so, on the superior quality of his tools.

We are well aware that our apprentices cannot all afford to purchase good tools, to the extent they will require them, at a moment's notice; and, indeed, it is questionable whether it would be advantageous for them to do so under any circumstances, as increased confidence will be acquired by making any one tool serve for as many purposes as possible, before laying it aside for another.

Many people imagine that when they have not a good set of carpenter's tools, the best plan is to purchase a box of so-called "Tools." Beware how you do this. Never buy a box of tools. A joiner's toolchest, if bought of a respectable manufacturer, may be all right; but we do not advocate the practice.

Purchase, or, if you like, make a tool-chest, and furnish it with the best tools, carefully selected from the manufacturer's stock. A young carpenter will do well to get some friend who has the requisite experience to examine the tools before purchasing. We will quote the average price of the best tools required for "Our Workshop;" our apprentices will then be able to judge of the qualities and prices offered "by the makers with whom they may be obliged to deal.

[A] misconception exists respecting the terms, carpenter, joiner, and cabinetmaker. Strictly speaking, a carpenter is the artisan whose duty it is to lay down floors, build roofs, and make other substantial frame-work, of which many examples may be found in the building trade. A thorough carpenter is a very clever fellow; in fact, he is a scientific man, an engineer in his way. Many of the most eminent builders were carpenters. Half the men who style themselves carpenters and joiners are really only the latter. A joiner begins where the carpenter leaves off. As soon as the roof, flooring, and other heavy work is finished, the joiner comes into the house, and fits the window-frames and sashes, doors, cupboards, shelves, etc., etc., which are essential to make a house habitable. All the fixtures being completed, our friends, the carpenter and joiner, leave the premises to the cabinetmaker, who supplies the furniture, without which we should not feel much tempted to make a prolonged stay in the house, however cleverly his able predecessors had accomplished their allotted tasks.

Source: Edmund Routledge, Routledge's Every Boy's Annual: An Original Miscellany of Entertaining Literature London : Routledge, Warre & Routledge, 1867, page 37.

1890

196 ["196" is a number for paragraph in Goss's classification schema]. It is the work of the carpenter to raise and enclose the frame of a building, to construct its floors and roofs, and to complete all parts which give stability to the structure ; the joiner makes the doors and windows, erects the stairs, and provides such interior woodwork as will finish the building as a habitation. A single mechanic may perform almost every kind of work required in the construction of a building, thus eliminating this distinction of trades; but for convenience in classification, we may imagine the work of the carpenter and that of the joiner to be quite distinct.

Source: William Freeman Myrick Goss, Bench Work in Wood , Boston: Ginn, 1890, page 143.

1964

Did Sir Gordon Russell appropriate his ideas in 1964 from the 1959 book by Charles Hayward, cited above in the epochs section? It's probably something that we'll never know, nor is it that important. At the time, both Russell and Hayward were "giants" in the British circles in which they operated. Russell had (and still does) received deserved kudos as a designer of furniture in the Arts and Crafts tradition. He started in the Cotswolds, the same workplace as Barnsley and other celebrated artisans. If Russell is correct, that "Craftsman seems to be a term that encompasses all of the other terms," he is simply reiterating what is a common understanding. In his guide to furniture designs, Looking at Furniture (1964), created for the neophyte and/or jaded connoisseur, the British furniture designer, Russell, has usefully delineated for us the eras in which the Carpenter, the Joiner, the Cabinetmaker, and the Machinist each flourished in Britian. True, because of America's late start, only the last two apply in the sense implied by Russell.

Nonetheless, Russell's definitions are interesting, especially the Machinist, because it is the impact of the machinist's operations, i.e, mass produced furniture, that is such a driver of amateur woodworking:

The carpenter, from earliest times until about 1550. Surviving pieces are naturally rare, are mediaeval (Gothic) as a rule, and of oak. The joiner, from 1550 to 1660. Includes Elizabethan and Jacobean examples, mostly oak. The cabinetmaker (including the chairmaker, upholsterer, turner, carver, etc.), from 1660 to 1850. William and Mary, Queen Anne, Georgian, Regency, and Victorian, using oak, walnut, mahogany, rosewood, satinwood, and many rare woods as veneers. All come within his compass and fortunately he survives in our own age of the machinist (including the cabinetmaker and others tending to become assemblers of machined parts), 1850 to date, thus including late Victorian and Edwardian pieces, using a greatly increased range of woods, mainly in the form of veneers. (But, of course, there are still small workshops where it is possible to have a single piece made by hand.)

All these periods overlap to some extent and all these Craftsmen exist today, although the work they are now doing is often very different from what it was in the past.

Sources:W F M Goss, Bench Work in Wood, 1895, page 143: Paul Noonan Hasluck, The Handyman's Book, London: Cassell, 1903; R J DeCristoforo, The Practical Handbook of Carpentry, New York: Fawcett, 1969; Willis H Wagner's Modern Carpentry (South Holland, IL: Good heart-Willcox 1976), page 3; Sam Allen, Making Cabinets and Built-ins: Techniques and Plans New York: Sterling, 1986, page 9; Richard L. Lemaster, "The Balancing act of Carbide Tools Selection" Woodshop News 21, 1 December 2006, page 30. Also Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's New Dictionary 2d ed. 1952; Edward S. Cooke, "Modern Craft and the American Experience", American Art Volume 21, No 1 Spring 2007 Pages 2-8.)