The Lost Art of Furniture Craftsmanship Lives On

By Ryan Jones

When Tony Tussey picks up a piece of wood, he isn’t looking at the same 2×4 slab of antique mahogany, pine, or maple that the average person would see. Instead, he’s watching a fully-fledged New England-style cupboard or a highboy with dovetailed drawers and hand-sculpted Queen Ann legs, take shape.

With just a glance, Tussey is determining the way each piece will be fitted, using not a single nail or screw, into the finished product so that only the finest examples of grain are visible.

dsc_2265For five decades, the Lexington native has honed his craft in the same studio where his father, Billy, would moonlight when he wasn’t working at Bowers Lumber Company in Thomasville. Tussey spent plenty of time helping out around the shop as a teenager, but his very first pieces were built in secret because his father was adamant that he not play around with equipment when no one was around.

“My daddy never did want me to mess with equipment. We would butt heads and get into it every now and then. He was afraid I was going to get hurt, but when he was gone I would build small stuff. My brain was a computer. I stored everything in my head and what I saw him and my uncles do, I just kept it in my head and remembered. Everything just clicked,” said Tussey, who readily admits he has no use for blueprints and can’t read them. “But if you bring me a picture and tell me how wide and deep, I can build it.”

During the heyday of the Davidson County furniture industry, the Tusseys and a crew of helpers – between 10 and 15 family members and friends at any given time – would build up a stock of furniture and travel to neighboring cities and states to sell to antique shops.

Dan's Antique Shop located in Old Salem was a retail location that bought furniture from the Tussey's up until it closed. Photo courtesy of Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection, Winston-Salem, NC
Dan’s Antique Shop located in Old Salem was a retail location that bought furniture from the Tussey’s up until it closed. Photo courtesy of Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection, Winston-Salem, NC

Their reputation for above-average quality spread quickly and they often would leave an entire truckload at one store after presenting only a piece or two for the owner’s consideration. Tussey remembers selling to well-known outfits such as Dan’s Antique Shop in Old Salem, Byerly’s Antiques (which closed in September 2004 after 67 years in business), and Lloyd’s Antiques near Pfeiffer College.

“Used to we stayed busy. My uncles and cousins would help us,” said Tussey, who imagines there are pieces of his furniture – mostly un-signed, unless it was specifically requested by a patron – floating around as far out as California, Hawaii, and even South Africa.

From a certain point on, Tussey was never again interested in anything besides carrying on family tradition and producing fine, mostly Shaker style pieces. He said he tried working for his cousins, the Monk family, at Lexington Barbecue for maybe a year, but it didn’t stick.

“I don’t know. Here, if I want to walk out that door and go home, I do. I can do whatever I want to do. I don’t punch a clock. I come and go when I’m ready to. The furniture I guess was just in my blood. Working for yourself, working with your hands, just sort of comes natural.”

“It’s a good feeling, doing what you love to do. When you build a piece you want to build it to the best of your ability. What I build is heirloom stuff that will be passed down.”

Over the years, as interest in quality, handcrafted furniture began to wane and the industry, especially in Davidson County, began to falter, the business dwindled to just Tussey. Today he carries on his father’s legacy by taking on special restoration projects and producing commissioned works for locals who’ve heard of his talent through the grapevine.

Inside the workshop

“The younger generation, it’s like everything’s changed. The coffee tables and end tables built in certain styles don’t fly nowadays. Dough boxes and old cobbler benches, stuff like that, we haven’t built that stuff in probably 25 years,” said Tussey. “Designs have changed.”

“Used to we could build something up for somebody and if they didn’t want it the store would take it. Now it’s more or less custom stuff. You don’t know what to build because everybody’s got different tastes now.”

The shop where Tussey works his magic, built in the 60s and still located on Old Greensboro Road near the Davidson County Fairgrounds, is overflowing with the antique tools of his father’s that Tussey still favors over anything at all mechanical.

“All my equipment is from the 30s and 40s, but it still works. It still does its job.”

The shop is also full of fine, antique wood reclaimed from various demolition sites over the years.

“They’d tear down buildings and we’d haul lumber home and pull the nails out by hand. I’ve got some pine here that dates back to 1774. From about a half a million feet [of reclaimed lumber] I’ve got about 80 beams left,” Tussey said.

What the shop doesn’t have is any sort of defining signage or indication that one of Davidson County’s most prolific furniture-makers is doing business there.

“People have drove by here for years and never known what it was,” said Tussey, thoroughly satisfied by his under-the-radar approach. “We’ve never advertised and never sold a whole lot local. We’ve just got the brick front building here.”

At one time, Tussey says he tried working from a workshop built into his home. “It’s about half the size of what I’ve got here. But it was never comfortable. Being here at the shop, I’m at home. I’m in my element.”

“He doesn’t know his value as an artist,” said Dr. James Black of Wake Forest Baptist Health – Lexington Medical Center, who has commissioned upwards of seven pieces from Tussey. “He can do incredible things.”

Black said he met Tussey through the Parrott family and quickly realized their shared connection. “We got to talking about stuff and it turned out our fathers knew each other. His dad knew my father as a co-lumber wholesaler and retailer.”

“Having grown up in a wood family myself, I appreciated the woods and grain patterns. I looked at the stuff he was making and then over time we just built an incredible friendship – two people who never would have linked together normally unless at church or something,” said Black, who admits to stopping by Tussey’s shop on cold mornings on his way to the YMCA to stand beside the shop’s old potbelly stove to watch works in progress.

“I grew up watching people build pieces so it wasn’t new to me. It’s just amazing how he picks his woods. He can pick up a raw 2×4 and know where he wants the wood to be exposed in the finished piece. He can look at something in two dimensions and his brain creates it in a third dimension,” said Black.

The most recent project Black commissioned from Tussey was a highboy piece, the quality and craftsmanship of which he is in awe.

“The legs are hand-hewn and it has scalloped, inlaid drawers with hand-chiseled details. It’s made of solid mahogany, no secondary wood,” said Black. “The care he takes, down to the fine sanding. He’s so delicate. It’s almost like watching a surgeon handle tissues very delicately and gently. He’s just so unassuming, which is amazing in the world today. He is just so genuine.”

Black reckons that Tussey’s talents are a lost art that should be catalogued alongside Davidson County greats like Bob Timberlake, Fred Craver, and Henry Link. “When you see a piece of Tony’s it’s like going into museums in Williamsburg and looking at an original Sheraton table and Queen Ann chairs. That’s what you’re looking at when you’re looking at his pieces, although they’re contemporary. You just gotta see the pieces to understand it.”

“I don’t know. I don’t claim to be in their category,” said Tussey of the “greats” mentioned by Black. “They were well-known for their furniture and how it was built. They were true craftsmen. I just do the best I can and I try to do what I can to do it right.”

All Tussey knows is that he has no desire to retire at a beach or a lake. He promises he’ll make furniture, “’Till my eyes shut. As long as I’m able to get here and operate the equipment, I’m going to do it as long as I can.”


Davidson County High School Football Schedules


Coach Clayton Trivette

 Date            Opponent

 8/19                West Stokes (King, NC)

8/26                Lexington (Lexington, NC)

9/2                   @ East Davidson

9/9                   West Davidson (Lexington, NC)

9/16                @ Graham

9/30                @ Ledford

10/7                Southern Guilford

10/14              @ North Forsyth

10/21              Western Guilford

11/4                @ Asheboro


Coach Vance Hanner

Date                Opponent      

 8/19               @ Providence Grove

8/26            McMichael

9/2              Central Davidson

9/9              @ Ledford

9/16            Wheatmore

9/23            @ Trinity

10/7            Salisbury

10/14        @ Thomasville

10/21            North Rowan (Spencer, NC)

10/28           @ Lexington

11/4            West Davidson



Coach Chris Adams

Date            Opponent      

8/19                @ West Davidson

8/26                @ North Davidson

9/2                   Southwest Guilford

9/9                   East Davidson

9/16                @ Salisbury

9/23                @ Western Guilford

9/30                Central Davidson

10/7                @ Asheboro

10/14              Southwestern Randolph

 10/28              @ Southern Guilford

11/4                North Forsyth


LEXINGTON FOOTBALL Coach Chuck Henderson

 Date            Opponent      

8/19                @ Wheatmore

8/26                @ Central Davidson

9/2                   @ Randleman

9/9                   North Davidson

9/16                Southwestern Randolph

9/30                North Rowan

10/14              @ Salisbury

10/21              West Davidson

10/28              East Davidson

11/4                @ Thomasville


 Date            Opponent      

8/19                @ High Point Central (High Point, NC)

8/26                Ledford

 9/2                   Asheboro

9/9                   @ Lexington

9/16                @ Charlotte Christian

9/30                @ Mount Tabor

10/7                Reagan

10/14              @ Davie

10/21              R.J. Reynolds

10/28              @ Parkland

11/4                West Forsyth


Date            Opponent

8/19                @ Pine Lake Prep

8/26                North Stokes

9/2                   West Davidson

9/9                   @ Union Academy

9/16                North Stanly

9/23                @ Albemarle

9/30                North Moore

10/7                @ South Stanly

10/14              East Montgomery

10/28              West Montgomery

11/4                @ Chatham Central


Date            Opponent      

8/19                Albemarle

8/26                @ Southern Lee

9/2                   West Montgomery

9/9                   @ Randleman

9/16                Starmount

9/30                @ Wheatmore

10/7                @ West Davidson

10/14              East Davidson

10/21              Salisbury

10/28              @ North Rowan

11/4                Lexington



Date         Opponent

8/19                Ledford

8/26                Providence Grove

9/2                   @ South Davidson

9/9                   @ Central Davidson

9/16                Trinity

9/23                @ Wheatmore

10/7                Thomasville

10/14              @ North Rowan

10/21              @ Lexington

10/28              Salisbury

11/4                @ East Davidson



More Than Just a Game

By Coach Mike Gurley

Excitement is in the air as high school football quickly approaches. College football and the NFL will follow soon after. Communities throughout the nation will be filled with adrenaline as each school tries to answer “yes” to the question of whether this will be the year. There will be new helmets and uniforms shining under the Friday night lights, cheerleaders dancing, bands playing, children running and laughing, parents sitting proudly in their seats watching their child in uniform, hot dogs being cooked, popcorn popping, and community support at its highest. The agenda is simple: WIN! However, as you watch the games this fall, I hope all fans will take some time from their cheering to see that the games go way beyond the scoreboard. There is more to the game than the game itself.

Football, like all other sports, teaches many life lessons to young people that won’t be reflected on a team’s win/loss record. I have coached for more than 25 years and I can promise you that sports is a wonderful way for young people to practice the biggest game of them all – the game of life. I have had teams that won it all and teams that struggled to the finish line. I know that the lessons learned by players could not be taught anywhere else. John Wooden, the great basketball coach at UCLA, liked to say, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” That simple phrase describes how, during a young player’s journey, valuable life lessons occur that become the ingredients to help mold values and character. As stated earlier, the goal of all teams is to win. But every step on the journey to a victory helps our young people grow, grow up, and become adults.

I have always said that sports is a great way to practice the game of life. During a season, a player on any team will have a chance to use the right qualities and overcome the wrong attributes to help their team be a success. When children play sports, they learn to win. But, more importantly, they learn to lose. They also learn how to be the best they can be and they learn to adapt their skills to help the team when they are not. They learn what it is like to be a star and they learn how to be a substitute when their skills are not as good as another’s. They learn to play a role and execute a game plan that the coach puts in because winning teams must be on the same page during a game. Players find things they are good at and they find things that take work. All those things face us as adults, but our young people are dealing with it for the first time. Luckily, in a sports setting, the highs and lows of competition won’t affect their future.

If a young person learns to handle situations maturely and intellectually, those same young people are going to become good mommas and daddies, good employees, good friends, good husbands and wives, and good people who will make their communities stronger by their presence. They will learn all the traits and qualities that a person will need to be a productive, positive member of society. As fans, you see the final product from the assembly line. Coaches see the journey and the work that is required of all members of a team. They help players develop time management skills, discipline to do the work, dedication to a common cause, pride in their work, understanding of the fundamentals, focus on the job they have, intensity to be ready to play, integrity to do things right and to be a good sport, unity and bonding of a team, endurance to see a goal achieved, and the skills needed to be the best they can be.

Coaching staffs play a big role in helping their children develop. It is important that all parents stay positive with their child even if the child is not a star! Any bitterness and anger that parents display in front of their children will delay the development of their child. Parents, you may not be happy that “Junior” isn’t the starting quarterback, but you can make it a positive experience for him or her by encouraging them, supporting the team, being positive about their role, and letting your child stand on their own two feet as they practice the game of life on their football teams. Instead of raising a bitter, excuse-making child, you will have a strong-minded, problem-solving child who will be a success in the game of life.

 I love sports. It helped take a young, skinny, unsure kid like myself and help me become a man. My dad came to all my games, but he insisted that I handle my own business. He didn’t talk to the coach, he didn’t bad mouth my teammates who played in front of me, and he always wanted me to keep working because he felt it would make me better. He was right! I loved it so much that I made it my career. Like all teachers, I wish I made more money, but I have never regretted the decision I made to be a teacher and coach. It taught me to work for what I want, to find a ladder for every wall I encountered, to get up when I got knocked down, and to feel good about myself. I learned what it takes to make it in this great big world!

All those Jackets, Dragons, Black Knights, Spartans, Eagles, Bulldogs, and Panthers are itching to play that first game and hear the roar of their fans as they try to lead their team to victory. Every team is going to be the best it can be to win the game! But don’t forget there is more to it. Sports can help your child grow up and be a productive citizen. Enjoy that. Celebrate that. What you will find then is that everyone will be a winner. Success does have destinations, but isn’t it exciting to know that your child will benefit on the journey because they played high school sports? There is more to the game than the game.


Fall in Love with Flannel

Content & Photos Provided by Sadie Seasongoods

We all have them. Old flannel shirts that hang in the closet year after year. Now trust me, there’s nothing better than a soft and warm fleece shirt on a crisp fall day, but often these closet gems are overlooked. If you’ve fallen victim to the “flannel passer-by syndrome” relax. We have a quick and comfy way to use flannel to stay warm well into the deep winter months. Flannel hand warmers are getting crazy attention and can even be a perfect way to remember hiking through the woods in your pioneer days.

All you need are a few flannel shirts. If you don’t want to give up the vintage trophies in your closet, stop by the local fabric store or even the local thrift shop to get a good deal, and pick out a few patterns you will enjoy.

You’ll need to cut out 4-inch and 5-inch squares from the flannel material of your choice. Make sure you keep them in pairs if you want the hand warmers to match. Or you can show your creative side and mix and match patterns for a unique twist. Pin two squares together and hop over to the sewing machine. Sew three of the four sides. On the fourth side leave a 1-inch gap. This is how you’ll fill the hand warmer.

Pull the little hand warmer inside out to bring the stitching to the inside of the pocket. With a small funnel, add dry rice until the pocket is about three-quarters full. Finally, tuck in the edges to close the hole and sew it shut. To use, simply microwave for 30-45 seconds and you’ll have a hand warmer perfect for any cool fall or winter day.

Additional suggestion: By adding a few drops of essential oils like clove, lavender buds, or other herbs to the rice, you can add a beautiful aroma to the hand warmers. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way and you’ll want to make sure you enjoy whatever fragrance you add, because you can’t change it once the hand warmers are sewn shut.

For more DIY and tips visit