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A cabinet is a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors or drawers for storing miscellaneous items. Some cabinets stand alone while others are built into a wall or are attached to it like a medicine cabinet. Cabinets are typically made of wood or, now increasingly, of synthetic materials. Commercial grade cabinets, which differ in the materials used, are called casework.
Cabinets usually have one or more doors on the front, which are mounted with door hardware, and occasionally a lock. Many cabinets have doors and drawers or only drawers. Short cabinets often have a finished surface on top that can be used for display, or as a working surface, such as the countertops found in kitchens.
A cabinet intended for clothing storage is usually called a wardrobe or an armoire, or (in some countries) a closet if built in.
Before the advent of industrial design, cabinet makers were responsible for the conception and the production of any piece of furniture. In the last half of the 18th century, cabinet makers, such as Thomas Sheraton, Thomas Chippendale, Shaver and Wormley Bros. Cabinet Constructors, and George Hepplewhite, also published books of furniture forms. These books were compendiums of their designs and those of other cabinet makers.
With the industrial revolution and the application of steam power to cabinet making tools, mass production techniques were gradually applied to nearly all aspects of cabinet making, and the traditional cabinet shop ceased to be the main source of furniture, domestic or commercial. In parallel to this evolution there came a growing demand by the rising middle class in most industrialised countries for finely made furniture. This eventually resulted in a growth in the total number of traditional cabinet makers.
Before 1650, fine furniture was a rarity in Western Europe and North America. Generally, people did not need it and for the most part could not afford it. They made do with simple but serviceable pieces.
The arts and craft movement which started in the United Kingdom in the middle of the 19th century spurred a market for traditional cabinet making, and other craft goods. It rapidly spread to the United States and to all the countries in the British Empire. This movement exemplified the reaction to the eclectic historicism of the Victorian era and to the 'soulless' machine-made production which was starting to become widespread.
After World War II woodworking became a popular hobby among the middle classes. The more serious and skilled amateurs in this field now turn out pieces of furniture which rival the work of professional cabinet makers. Together, their work now represents but a small percentage of furniture production in any industrial country, but their numbers are vastly greater than those of their counterparts in the 18th century and before.
SCHOOLS OF DESIGN
Early American Colonial
TYPES OF CABINETRY
The fundamental focus of the cabinet maker is the production of cabinetry. Although the cabinet maker may also be required to produce items that would not be recognized as cabinets, the same skills and techniques apply.
A cabinet may be built-in or free-standing. A built-in cabinet is usually custom made for a particular situation and it is fixed into position, on a floor, against a wall, or framed in an opening. For example modern kitchens are examples of built-in cabinetry. Free-standing cabinets are more commonly available as off-the-shelf items and can be moved from place to place if required. Cabinets may be wall hung or suspended from the ceiling.
Cabinets may have a face frame or may be of frameless construction (also known as European or euro-style). Face frame cabinets have a supporting frame attached to the front of the cabinet box. This face frame is usually 1½ inches in width. Mounted on the cabinet frame is the cabinet door. In contrast, frameless cabinet have no such supporting front face frame, the cabinet doors attach directly to the sides of the cabinet box. The box’s side, bottom and top panels are usually 5/8 to 3/4 inches thick, with the door overlaying all but 1/16 inch of the box edge. Modern cabinetry is often frameless and is typically constructed from man-made sheet materials, such as plywood, chipboard or MDF. The visible surfaces of these materials are usually clad in a timber veneer, plastic laminate, or other material. They may also be painted.
Cabinets which rest on the floor are supported by some base. This base could be a fully enclosed base (i.e. a plinth), a scrolled based, bracket feet or it could be a set of legs.
These feet can be secured to the bottom of the cabinet by having the leg base screwed onto the cabinet bottom. They can also be attached by means of a hole drilled through the cabinet bottom at specific locations. The legs are then attached to the cabinet bottom by a slotted, hollow machine screw. The height of the cabinet can be adjusted from inside the cabinet, simply by inserting a screwdriver into the slot and turning to raise or lower the cabinet. The holes in the cabinet are capped by plastic inserts, making the appearance more acceptable for residential cabinets. Using these feet, the cabinets need not be shimmed or scribed to the floor for levelling. The toe kick board is attached to the cabinet by means of a clip, which is either screwed onto the back side of the kick board, or a barbed plastic clip is inserted into a saw kerf, also made on the back side of the kick board. This toe kick board can be made to fit each base cabinet, or made to fit a run of cabinets.
Kitchen cabinets, or any cabinet generally at which a person may stand, usually have a fully enclosed base in which the front edge has been set back 75 mm or so to provide room for toes, known as the kick space. A scrolled base is similar to the fully enclosed base but it has areas of the base material removed, often with a decorative pattern, leaving feet on which the cabinet stands. Bracket feet are separate feet, usually attached in each corner and occasionally for larger pieces in the middle of the cabinet.
Modern cabinets employ many more complicated means (relative to a simple shelf) of making browsing lower cabinets more efficient and comfortable. Such means include (names may be heavily colloquialised):
The Lazy Susan, a shelf which rotates around a central axis, allowing items stored at the back of the cabinet to be brought to the front by rotating the shelf. These are usually used in corner cabinets, which are larger and deeper and have a greater "dead space" at the back than other cabinets.
Cabinet insert hardware
Other insert hardware includes such items as mixer shelves that pull out of a base cabinet and spring into a locked position at counter height. This hardware makes lifting these somewhat heavy mixers and mechanically helping with the process of positioning the unit for use. More and more components are being designed to enable specialized hardware to be used in standard cabinet carcasses.
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