John Terpstra was born in Brockville, Ontario, a small city on the St Lawrence River, to parents who had recently immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands. The family moved to Edmonton when he was five, then returned to Ontario and settled in Hamilton when he was twelve.
After high school John attended a small liberal arts college in Chicago, where he met his wife, Mary, and eventually graduated with a BA degree in English Literature from the University of Toronto.
By the time his degree arrived in the mail he and Mary were living in Hamilton, having spent the previous three years in Toronto, with a year in between living with Mary’s family in her hometown in New Jersey.
It was in New Jersey that John first began woodworking. He picked up with an experienced carpenter who lived across the street from the family. Once settled in Hamilton, he found work at a furniture-making company that specialized in the then-popular Ontario-style pine furniture and operated out of a former blacksmith shop in a town north of the city. After five years of furniture-making he joined a small house-building company that hoped to specialize in post-and-beam construction: furniture-making writ large. Five years of swinging a hammer, and a Christmas lay-off, prompted him to return to the woodworking shop, this time as a self-employed furniture-maker.
For twenty years John operated his business out of a friend’s barn in the country, sometimes sharing the workshop space with wandering chickens. When he and his wife moved deeper into downtown Hamilton, their new house sat on a larger property that also hosted a derelict three car garage. John and a couple of carpenter-friends tore down the garage and built as a shop on its footprint. For the past number of years John has alternated between working out of the new shop and renovating houses with the two carpenter-friends.