ELGIN MAN EARNS MASTER CRAFTSMAN HONOR
By Bill Rautenstrauch
Observer Staff Writer
ELGIN The day of the master craftsman, dedicated to quality and laboring alone in a small shop, isn't dead and gone.
A few, like Elgin's Marc Stauffer, carry on.
Stauffer, a third generation woodwright who works in a small shop adjacent to his house on Birch Street, recently was named to the Guild of Master Craftsmen, an international trades association based in East Sussex, England.
It's a high honor, one that validates his work and the long decades he has spent learning how to do it.
"I applied for membership in the guild because I want people to have more than just my word for it that my work is of the highest quality," he said.
Stauffer, who builds early American furniture reproductions, submitted a portfolio of his work to the guild for consideration.
"The guild's been around a long time," he said. They promote integrity, quality and service in several different trades," he said, noting that Rolls Royce is a member in the automotive trade division.
The selection process was rigorous, Stauffer said.
"A committee studies your portfolio and checks your references. After you're accepted, they monitor your work for quality."
Stauffer, 45, learned the woodwright's craft from his father, Carl, and a few wise old woodworkers he met while growing up in the Bend area.
"My mother worked in a rest home, and sometimes there were woodwrights staying there.
"I would go over and spend time with them, and bring them pieces I'd done. Often, they gave me assignments to do," he said.
Stauffer and his wife, Teena, opened their own woodcraft business in Bend in 1979.
They had a growing family, and there weren't enough orders for furniture to provide a living.
They branched out into refinishing and repair, an activity that remains a business staple today.
"I have learned a lot about furniture building from refinishing antiques. It's given me a good idea of what works and what doesn't," Stauffer said.
In 1989, the couple with their seven children moved to Elgin, continuing in their business.
They stayed busy refinishing furniture, while he honed his skills as a builder.
"We've been very busy with the refinishing," he said. "Most of my woodworking business has come through word of mouth. Now that the kids are older, I'd like to do more of it."
Today, Stauffer does his work with a combination of power tools and hand tools. It wasn't always that way, however.
"When I first started learning, I did everything by hand. My father always said that power tools are a wonderful thing, but you need to know what they can do, and what they shouldn't do," he said.
He builds furniture ranging from tables and chairs to chests and cabinets. Some are made of hard woods, others soft.
"The type of wood doesn't necessarily determine quality. If the work is poor, a piece made of hardwood might break if you drop it. And if the work's right, a piece made of pine won't," he said.
Stauffer said he is finding more customers these days who are interested in owning quality furniture.
"I think people are starting to look at the trade again, and at having this kind of work done. I think more are interested in owning an heirloom piece of furniture that will last generations," he said.