WILLIAMSBURG, VA--The historic cabinet shop at Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum that brings to life the the furniture making trade that took place here more than 250 years ago. During Fine Woodworking's annual visit to Colonial Williamsburg for the Working Wood conference, we met up with Mack Headley, the shop's master cabinetmaker, for a tour of the busy shop.

Colonial Williamsburg Trade ShopsHeadley and his crew of apprentice furniture makers and two instrument makers use 18th century tools and techniques to recreate the daily grind of a busy cabinet shop that did business here between the early 1750s and the Revolutionary War.

"[The original building] looks to have fallen down sometime late 1770s, early 1780s" Headley said in an interview published on the Colonial Williamsburg Web site. "The last master cabinetmaker there joins the Revolutionary Army and doesn’t return from the war."

Today, the shop has been faithfully recreated and is open to the public with classes and demonstrations. It includes a show room of historic furniture and objects and a working shop packed with reproduction pieces made by Headley and his crew.

For more information about Colonial Williamsburg and to find a schedule of hours and events, visit them online at History.org.

The Colonial Williamsburg Video Series:
See more of the shop and learn how these craftsman use hand tools to reproduce furniture and musical instruments. Plus, go behind the scenes to see how the shop's period hand tools are made. 

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Touring the Colonial Williamsburg Shop

The living-history museum celebrates a time when furniture was built only by hand

 Touring the Colonial Williamsburg Shop

Subscription Required How They Did It: Dimensioning Lumber by Hand

Before power tools, 18th century craftsmen wielded handsaws and planes to four-square lumber for furniture

 How They DId It: Dimensioning Lumber by Hand

Subscription Required How They Did It: Before the Router

18th century craftsmen used an array of hand planes to plow grooves and dadoes, and profile edges

 How They Did It: Before the Router

Subscription Required How They Did It: Before the Bandsaw

Handsaws of all shapes and sizes were used to cut curves and rough shape furniture parts in the 18th century

 How The Did It: Before the Bandsaw

Subscription Required Antique Tools are Modern Made

Tool makers reproduce 18th century handsaws, plans, and marking tools for the historic trade shops at Colonial Williamsburg

 Antique Tools are Modern Made