Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Local News

December 15, 2011

Antique furniture turns into lifelong hobby

CENTERVILLE — For one retired teacher, a hobby that started as a change of pace from teaching has lasted decades and salvaged countless pieces of antique furniture.

John Holeman, who worked as the band director at Centerville High School from 1965 to 1988, said he first started refinishing antique furniture in 1965 to give himself something to do that was completely different from teaching.

He said he learned how to work on the antique furniture through a combination of watching other people, reading refinishing books and experimentation.

It was a “ ‘learn while you earn’ sort of thing,” he said.

At first, Holeman worked on furniture for his family. He outfitted his daughters’ rooms with a variety of antique pieces and, over the years, filled his house with them. Now, he gives pieces to friends, sells pieces he buys and works on pieces that people bring to him. He said he looks for antique pieces at garage sales, estate sales, consignment sales and auctions.

The woods he most commonly works with are oak, walnut, maple, pine and cherry, he said. These woods were readily available at the time most of the pieces he works on were first made, between about 50 and 150 years ago. He said oak is the most popular.

Holeman said most of the antique pieces that people contact him about refinishing are furniture that has been in the family. He said one that particularly stuck out to him was a round oak table that had claw feet with glass balls larger than baseballs.

“It was her great-great grandmother’s piece, and she wanted it preserved in the family,” he said.

Holeman said some antiques should not have their original finish stripped off. Sometimes he tries to talk people out of having pieces refinished. However, if the owner really wants to have it done or if the piece needs major repair, he is willing to do it.

One time, Holeman said, he brought a kitchen cupboard in pieces from the farm where he grew up in Grundy County. He drove it down to Centerville in the backseat and trunk of his car and took it into his basement.

After refinishing and reassembling the kitchen cupboard, he discovered it was too large to fit through the doorway of basement workroom. So, he enlarged the door to be able to get the cupboard out of the basement.

Holeman said he has started to avoid doing some of the most intricate and time-consuming pieces, like spindle chairs. He said it is difficult to refinish spindle chairs because he does all his stripping by hand.

Stripping by hand takes much longer than dip stripping but is better for the furniture, Holeman said. He said the main problem with dipping the furniture in tanks to strip off the old finish is that it weakens the glue in the joints so that the furniture often has to be taken apart and re-glued. He said he sees this problem occasionally when customers bring him pieces that have been dip stripped.

“It is much quicker than hand stripping, but with hand stripping you get a better finished product,” he said.

Text Only
Local News
  • Earth Day activities at Morgan E. Cline City Park Kids will get to learn about guerrilla gardening with seed bombs and making recycled art during Earth Day activities at the Morgan E. Cline City Park in Centerville on Saturday, April 26 from 9 a.m. to noon. Appanoose Ecovision is sponsoring the free

    April 23, 2014

  • Drug take back set for Saturday, April 26 On April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Appanoose County sheriff and the Drug Enforcement Administration will give the public its eighth opportunity in three years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired

    April 23, 2014

  • A.C. history by Enfys McMurry April 23, 1922: Seven days after its installation, WDAX joined with The Centerville Journal for a broadcast concert featuring all-local artists. More than 1,000 people packed 12th Street from Maple to the Square. They watched Jack Porter operating h

    April 23, 2014

  • 042314 CCC Meeting Photo 2 Council moves to vacate land The Centerville City Council at City Hall Monday voted to move forward with the process to vacate a tree-filled ravine located between North Fifth Street and West Maple Street, or Highway 2 that was originally platted to be a continuation of West Jac

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Blood drive seeks donors The next Centerville Community Blood Drive will be held Tuesday, May 6 from 12-6 p.m. at Grace Tabernacle Church, 914 N. Park St. in Centerville. Anyone interested in donating can schedule an appointment online at or by call

    April 23, 2014

  • Monthly immunization clinic is on Tuesday The regular monthly immunization clinic will be held Tuesday, April 29 from 1-4 p.m. by appointment only at the Appanoose County Public Health Office at 209 E. Jackson St. in Centerville. Childhood immunizations available include DTaP, Polio, MMR, Va

    April 23, 2014

  • Healthy Appanoose: Week 15 The 15th week of the Healthy Appanoose Challenges are printed below. The free program can be joined anytime throughout the year. Log in at the Centerville-Rathbun Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at to record challenges completed.

    April 22, 2014

  • Waterworks to proceed with project The Centerville Municipal Waterworks Board of Trustees during their March 27 meeting approved a resolution that orders bids, approves plans, specifications and form of contract for the 2013 water system improvements project associated with the street

    April 22, 2014

  • A.C. history by Enfys McMurry April 22, 1910: This was the day when the Interurban service between Centerville and Mystic began with a special dedication run. On board were the 165 bond subscribers in Centerville and Mystic who had made the Interurban possible. Among the group we

    April 22, 2014

  • Moravia mayor signs proclamation Moravia's mayor signed a proclamation at the Tuesday, April 8 City Council regular meeting declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Mayor Irene Brooks talked about the many ways sexual assaults can affect people everywhere. The council made

    April 22, 2014

  • Audit exposes deficiencies The Centerville Municipal Waterworks had double-digit increases in both receipts and disbursements for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, according to an audit released recently by Des Moines-based CPA firm Faller, Kincheloe & Co. PLC. The aud

    April 22, 2014

  • Open burn ban lifted Pursuant to Iowa code and at the request of Mike Lamb, representing each fire department having all or part of their fire districts within Appanoose County, the open burning ban for Appanoose County was lifted effective Monday, April 21 at 4 p.m. Op

    April 22, 2014

  • Morgan Cline In Memory of Morgan E. Cline

    In Memory of Morgan E. Cline
    August 26, 1932 to April 20, 2014
    Morgan Cline passed away peacefully in his home in New Jersey Easter morning. He will be remembered as a great and gracious man and will be greatly missed. More information will be shared as it is received.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Open burn ban lifted

    Pursuant to Iowa code and at the request of  Mike Lamb, representing each fire department having all or part of their fire districts within Appanoose County, the open burning ban for Appanoose County will be lifted effective today at 4 p.m.

    April 21, 2014

  • 042114 Family 25 years as business owners Today marks the 25 year anniversary of husband and wife Jerry and Cathy Whisler, of Centerville, becoming self-employed. Jerry called it kind of a fluke as he and Cathy became owners of a business they knew nothing about. That was in April of 1989 an

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads

The Iowegian wants readers to think about rental permit fees. The Centerville City Council has conducted two working sessions and a third one is planned in order to get a feel for the public's appetite about raising rental permit fees from charging a landlord $25 every two years to charging a certain amount per rental unit per year. So, the question of the week is, "Are you in favor of Centerville increasing rental permit fees?"

A. I'm in favor.
B. I'm not in favor.
C. I'm not sure.
     View Results
Iowegian on Facebook