There were few true cabinetmakers in Upper Canada before the 1820s, but with the expanding population of the province came wealth, and in many of the homes of the larger settlements, a greater refinement of taste. As a result, cabinet shops became established in many centres, and while the craftsmen continued to make a wide variety of things, from window sashes to cradles and spinning wheels, they also made to order many finely finished pieces of dining room, drawing room and bedroom furniture. On a more serious note, the cabinetmakers also made coffins, and in years when there was an epidemic, were kept very busy. Like the blacksmith and shoemaker, the cabinetmaker provided an essential service to the Village.
In the early days, the furniture that was produced was plain, consisting mainly of bedframes, chairs, tables and shelves. As settlement increased from 1820 to 1850, there was a growing demand for household furnishings. Waterpowered sawmills made it easier for cabinetmakers to purchase high quality wood. In the beginning, cabinetmakers copied pieces of furniture that had arrived from England with wealthy settlers. As time went on, styles were influenced by settlers from other countries, and cabinetmakers became increasingly proficient at crafting more elaborate designs.
By the 1860s, the quantity of furniture being produced in the factories of the larger centres and sold by retail merchants was undercutting severely the custom-made furniture business of cabinet shops such as this. A number of cabinetmakers continued to serve those people who were accustomed to having personal attention and to their pieces of fine furniture being made to order and repaired.
The cabinetmakers's shop at Upper Canada Village is the workshop of a skilled craftsman who restores and keeps in good repair the finer furniture of the Village collection. His tools are of 19th century origin or form: They include a foot powered lathe, a mortising machine and a wide variety of molding planes and other small hand tools. True to tradition, the cabinetmaker will make his own tools as a job requires.