In general, I like Shaker furniture. I like how it is constructed, and I like how it looks, and it is a style of furniture that works well in my house. Before I started constructing the Enfield Cupboard, I had only made two other pieces of true Shaker furniture, so my experience in building in the Shaker style is limited.
The Enfield cupboard on the surface seemed to be an attractive project that was relatively straightforward to build. I’ve so far spent about 12 hours on the construction and I can now say that this piece is not as easy to make as it looks on the surface. Firstly, there is case construction using dado/rabbet joinery. The face frame is constructed using mortise and tenon joinery. There are some decorative arches and curves. The mouldings are shop made and require miters, and the back of the case uses tongue and groove boards. Maybe the most critical part of the construction requires making an inset, paneled door. In other words, this cupboard is by no means “easy” to build. I had gone into this project with the mistaken notion that it would only require time to make. I underestimated the project, which I honestly never do, and I was wrong.
This cupboard probably falls into the “intermediate” level of construction for the reasons I described above. As there is nothing on this project that I can’t really handle, I consider myself an intermediate level woodworker. What would I consider “advanced”? I would call advanced any project that would require all of the major forms of joinery: dovetail, mortise and tenon, dado. An advanced project would have moving parts such as drawers and doors. An advanced project would also require some inlay work, as well as turning or carving, or both. An advanced project would also require the milling of parts to many different thicknesses. An advanced project will likely require several different finishing techniques. Most importantly, and advanced project needs to look like a piece of fine furniture.
My point is that this project is not an advanced project, but it is still a challenge, and it’s a bigger challenge than I thought it would be. I have to admit that this cupboard is going to take twice as long to build than I thought it would. That’s a big mistake on my part, and one I’ve always prided myself on not making. The humble Shakers and a humble piece of their furniture have managed to humble me. They’ve managed to accomplish what few people alive today can do. For that, I have to give them some credit.