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Jean McClelland: Primitive cabinetry can be valuable and useful

May. 19, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Back in the day before indoor plumbing was a natural ingredient to every well-equipped home, a kitchen had some fairly well rudimentary pieces.

Most shelving and storage was probably built on the premises and its quality fairly well depended on the talent of the individual carpenter. If a person was fortunate he or she had a dry sink that served the same purposes as our sinks do today.

Primitive cabinetry on today's market is varied and interesting. There are the reproductions and then there are the true blue antiques. Either is in most folks price range and it is just a matter of preference as to choice. One thinks in terms of handmade vs. machine made when considering primitives because both are available.

Most primitive cabinetry, according to expert Dorothy H. Jenkins, was made to be thrown away. These pieces were used until the owner could afford something better so not a lot of money was devoted to their construction.

Be that as it may, many of us would still like to own a genuine primitive for the nostalgic hominess it invokes in a household. The rough-hewn wood and soft colors along with the history they have seen make them very appealing.

Included in the cabinetry of the well-equipped 19th Century kitchen would have been the dry sink that very much resembles a basic kitchen sink today. The major difference would have been no water intake or way of disposing of it. There would have been a metal lined sink well that often held a large pitcher and washbowl. Below the sink area would have been shelving to hold towels, soap and other kitchen needs. Sometimes the shelving would have doors to hide the contents and sometimes they were open.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution most cabinetry was put together by dove tailing it one piece into another. Often these dove tails were carved by hand so there would be no uniformity in the spacing to the really older pieces. Uniformity would have been for later pieces that were machine made.

Antique primitive cabinetry covers several centuries, so it would be up to the individual as to what style they are seeking plus how much they want to spend on a farm cabinet.

A good place to just see what primitive cabinetry appeals to you would be our own local Heritage Farm Museum and Village. They give daily hours and more information is available on their website, www.heritagefarmmuseum.com. Go take a look and enjoy the day.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.