LYNCHBURG, VA

- Thomas A. Johnson Furniture Company owner Thomas Johnson says he has acquired a 131,000-square-foot building in which he plans on opening a woodworking school.

Johnson's intended woodworking school is set on a 10-acre parcel in Lynchburg, a town of  75,000 on the James River. The school would teach lumber processing, furniture manufacturing, architectural project making and cabinetry.

Johnson told Woodworking Network the launch of the school, for which he wants to raise $3 million, is intended to reestablish a value in manual education, and to give students a concern for the the nature by working with forest products.

“For me wood is awesome," says  Johnson, who emigrated from Ghana and was trained in furniture making in Rimini, Italy.

"The idea is to get them in touch with the environment by working with the products of trees - which clean our air.” And he hopes the woodworking school will have an impact on the way manual arts and and manufacturing is valued. “If America lets it slide down the drain, it is very disheartening,” he says. “It is time to realize that working with your hands is not disgraceful.”

Johnson has already begun work on the sawmill area of the complex, a former tobacco warehouse. He also uses an inventory of reclaimed wood on the premises in his furniture building enterprise.

Thomas A. Johnson Furniture Company Inc., established in 1996, specializes in hand-made custom interior wood furnishings, including cabinetry, furniture, flooring, baseboards, wainscoting, doors, framing and one-of-a-kind items for interior designers and architects. His company recycles old wood, replanes it, and then rebuilds it into new fine furniture. Johnson says he is branching into production work for large furniture companies, and has launched a historic furniture retail company. Last year Johnson acquired Burrows Lumber Company and relocated his manufacturing operations there.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.