CCT News Post



The Evolution of Mill Cabinetry: Over A Century To Present Day
Peter J. McGuire, at the age of seventeen, started an apprenticeship at Haines Piano Shop in New York. Recognizing the poor working environment, it wasn’t long before McGuire led a fight against low wages and sub-standard conditions.
Published On: Tuesday, January 29, 2019

AUTHORED BY: EUSTACE EGGIE III, PRESIDENT, KEYSTONE+MOUNTAIN+LAKES REGIONAL COUNCIL LOCAL 252

Peter J. McGuire, at the age of seventeen, started an apprenticeship at Haines Piano Shop in New York. The conditions at this shop were very difficult, long hours and low wages. Recognizing the poor working environment, it wasn’t long before McGuire led a successful fight against low wages and sub-standard conditions at Haines. When first starting at Haines Piano Shop, he began as a mill-man, which was a lower classification than cabinetmaker. During that time the cabinetmakers were responsible for the conception, as well as the production, of every piece of furniture.  

As the Industrial Revolution approached, steam power was introduced as a new option in cabinet making tools. Cabinet making became more and more popular as the middle class wanted sophisticated furniture. During this time period, “power tools” were driven by belts from a common overhead shaft that consisted of several wheels and pulleys. The shaft was driven by a steam engine, which was usually located in the basement or similar area. 

While belt powered tools became the standard, they had serious drawbacks too. Most specifically, they lacked any protection, or guard, to prevent bodily injury. As a result, these engines were later replaced by electric motors, which proved to be more reliable and efficient. Following suit, manual hand tools commonly found in a cabinetmakers tool chest were also replaced by hand power tools. These tools can be viewed and appreciated today at the Carpenters Museum located at 1803 Spring Garden St. Philadelphia, PA.

Fast forward to present day, the appearance of a cabinet shop has taken on a whole new look. Projects are no longer done by paper and pencil. Mill cabinet shops rely on computer operated machines powered by software specifically written for the craft. Once information is transmitted, pieces are accurately produced and ready for the cabinetmaker to assemble. With a more competitive edge, shops can now complete larger jobs quickly and on-budget.  

The mill-cabinet shops signatory with Local 252 range from little technology to almost completely automated. When millwork is fabricated by a Union Shop, it’s guaranteed that it will be installed by Union Craftsman on the jobsite. 

So, remember: “ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE UNION LABEL” on millwork you install.


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