In another thread (Building Kitchen Cabinets), one post referenced a
particular author and web site. I viewed the sample the author provides of
his book and in it, he states that he is a master cabinetmaker. I have no
argument with that but am wondering what organization in the US has the
right / authority to bestow the title of master cabinetmaker?
Would seem that to be called a master cabinetmaker, there must be some form
of testing, certification or review by a recognized organization that
confirms your work meets the degree of craftsmanship required to be
considered a master. I can find numerous references to "master
cabinetmakers" but nothing on how that title is achieved.
Alternatively, a master cabinetmaker was just one who was the master
of their own cabinet shop, employing journeymen and having
apprentices. You needed to qualify in the eyes of your own master to
finish your apprenticeship, but what you did after that was just up to
the depths of your pocket. There wasn't (in many countries, at least)
any formal distinction between journeyman and master, other than their
In the UK today, you could join "The Guild of Master Craftsmen" who
have an awful reputation as an organisation for cowboy plumbers, with
no real oversight or quality standards.
Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
Thought for certain that if anyone, the Brits would make a ceremony out of
it and we'd be calling them "Sir Master Cabinetmaker"... But I think your
answer is probably the derivative of how the title being used today. The
owner (master) of the shop used the title to distinguish his ranking -
versus being one of those poor apprentices and that over the years, the word
master became associated with "quality craftsmanship" - whether it really is
or not is a different story as you pointed out.
Thanks for the Far Side of the story.....
IIRC, John was at one time in charge of a big cabinet operation ... perhaps
that was his job title.
Hell, if an insurance company can call you a "Professional Insurance Claims
Expert", who's to say a cabinet company couldn't call their head man a
master cabinet maker?
In John's case the proof is in the pudding. Build a kitchen cabinet box
using his method and good materials and you have a stout, well made box that
will last a couple of lifetimes. Want to change the doors and drawer fronts
out a couple or three times in the next 10 to 20 years for a different look
and style? Go ahead, they will be as solid as the day they were installed
... but don't try that with a lot of cabinets being put in homes today.
Not everyone needs that kind of craftsmanship, but those who appreciate the
difference, and build them like that, don't mind John taking the title.
You're reading something into my original post that wasn't there. I am not
attacking the author nor questioning his capabilities, simply used the
expression he stated and asked how it's achieved. Note I didn't use his
name since I'm not trying to discredit him in any manner.
After doing some searching (and prior to posting my question) I noted that
Frank Klaus, Thomas Nisbet, Edward Jorgensen, Kyle Kinser and others are
referenced as master cabinetmakers but no reference as to how they achieved
that status. Hence my question. Not a slam or a dig at the author but I
used it since it was a recent post and thought it would be fresh in
everyone's mind and thought it might be good to know how one gets to be a
master cabinetmaker. My initial thought was perhaps they studied in England
or France or somewhere they may have a recognized program that does bestow a
legitimate title because the title is achieved through mastering techniques
and being measured against specific criteria.
When someone states they're a professional of some sort or a master
whatever, then I tend to ask for credentials and look for supporting
evidence that they know what in the hell they're doing and can prove it in
some fashion. It may be through some accreditation program, years of
apprenticeship and self-study or even just day-to-day experience but can
show end results that exceed expectations.
So no matter how good John is or isn't, wasn't the issue.
Nope ... I was just remarking on what may well be someone's rationale for so
It never crossed _my_ mind that you were "attacking" anyone ... perhaps the
feeling is coming from within? ;>)
In Germany there is such an organisation, the "Handwerkskammer", which
holds courses and takes the exams. To become a master cabinetmaker
("Schreinermeister") one has first to work several years as an
apprentice, take courses, take an exam and to build a "masterpiece".
Without the "Meisterbrief" (the formal diploma) you are not allowed to
work on your own in that profeosion; this ruling is a relic of the
medieval laws that were created to protect the members of the guilds.
Nowadays it is still held up by claiming it protects the customers
from bad work, especially in crafts like carpentry, plumbing or
electrical installation, but it also applies to crafts where a danger
from sloppy work is hard to imagine, like woodcarving or basket
By the way, the courses neded for the "Meisterbrief" include some
economics, to make sure that one is able to have a sucessful workshop
There is no legitimizing agency in the United States that confers the
title of "Master Cabinetmaker." If you can afford to have business
cards printed up with your name and "Master Cabinetmaker" linked to
it, no one can force you not to do so, regardless of your skill level.
The term is often self applied to indicate mastery of one's craft but
it has no basis in objective standards.
In days past it indicated the owner of the shop who employed
apprentices and journeyman level craftsmen and who was the "Master" of
his business in the way a ship's captain is "Master" of his ship.
(please don't turn this into a thread about marine licensing.)
The term "Master Carpenter", as used to describe Norm on TOH, is a
theatrical term meant to designate the lead carpenter in a theatrical
production and has the same descriptive function as terms like,
"Grip", "Key Grip", etc. In theatrical work he would be the "Master"
of the other carpenters involved in the production.
Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker
Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania
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