Saturday, November 22, 2014

MWA Podcast Episode 64 - John Steffen

Show Notes:

Hello, everyone and welcome to this - the 64th edition of the Modern Woodworkers Association online discussion about all things woodworking. Today’s special guest is John Steffen of John Steffen Restoration. Before we get to him, let me introduce our usual panel. I'm Tom Iovino of Tom's Workbench dot com, and I'll be your host for this program.


This episode of the Modern Woodworkers Association podcast is sponsored by The Gorilla Glue Company - for the toughest jobs on planet earth.

What’s in the shop?
  • Chris
    • Sold his shop to the man
    • Spooning in the shop with the man
    • Building a tablet stand that will display coins Chris received from the man
  • Dyami
    • The Cyclone Has Landed
  • Tom
    • Planning a sleepy time bed build
    • Gotta start thinking about a hope chest for my niece Katie
      • Got a piece of wood from my trip up to Maryland a few weeks back from a tree she loved... going to inlay it into the lid
    • Did a video for the Gorilla glue sponsorship

Blog post that piqued our interest

Goings on in the MWA
  • David’s a vibrant MWA member, so what the hell . . . we’ll put this wonderful news in this section
  • Today, November 19, 2014, is Todd Clippinger’s Birthday. He’s many years old.

Main topic
  • John Steffen
  • You’re bio on your website mentions that your family’s been in the antique business for over 120 years. What is the history?
    • Grandfather had a store in England
    • Parents had stores in U.S.
    • Antique & New Furniture
    • The stores are not closed, but since 2000, they’re doing restoration
  • Describe your work at Steffen Restoration?
    • Start with pieces that are totally destroyed and falling apart.
    • Do re-finishing
  • Learned out of desperation
    • With the store, it was important to be able fix pieces
    • From there he learned woodworking
    • Went to England to learn finishes from a company that build and finished furniture professionally
  • Do you build new pieces, or just restore old pieces?
    • Mostly restoration due to customer demand
  • Is there detective work in figuring out how to restore a piece?
    • You have to be a furniture historian (conservator) in order to figure it out.
    • Start by studying furniture, then as you carefully take it apart, it will make more sense. Finally it will become habit.
  • Do about 500 to 1000 pieces per year
    • Works on about 5 pieces a day. As one piece is waiting (glue up, finish drying, etc), they move to another piece.
  • For shipping
    • They try to use their own trucks if possible
    • If a shipper is used, it is the customer’s responsibility
  • What’s your favorite type of piece to restore? What’s the most challenging?
    • Carving is the most challenging
    • His favorite are the simple pieces, shaker and craftsman
  • Using the RO 90. Sounds like your favorite sander. Do you like it?
    • I find it (and my RO 125) to be overly grippin in random orbit mode. Do you find that too?  Switched over to the Granat paper. It lasts the longest and doesn’t grab.
    • John uses the 6” Mirka RO sander. Does wet sanding with Bosch 6” Abralon sanders
  • John Steffen Restoration on Facebook

Community Conversation

Where can they find us
If you’re missing us already, you can subscribe to the show on itunes. Just search for the Modern Woodworkers Association. Once you’re subscribed, you’ll be sure never to miss an exciting episode. While you’re in iTunes, please leave us a 5 star rating. It helps our rank so others can more easily find us.

If you want to find out more about the Modern Woodworkers Association, be sure to visit, follow the MWA on twitter @MWA_National, like the MWA on Facebook or circle Modern Woodworkers Association on Google+. While you’re there, join the MWA Google+ community for project sharing, discussion and loads of woodworking banter.

I'm Chris Adkins of and @highrockww on twitter

I’m Dyami Plotke of I'm @dyamiplotke, that's @-D-Y-A-M-I-P-L-O-T-K-E on the twitters.

I'm Resident Shop Monkey, Tom Iovino of, and @tomsworkbench on twitter. We wish happy sawdust.


  1. Wow, thanks guys! I really appreciate the mention and the kind words!!

    1. No problem, Bob. Keep up the great content.