After four years in the works, Bill Carney is pleased to announce that the Chattanooga Woodworking Academy in downtown Chattanooga will open for its first semester this fall. Carney says his goal is to help individuals develop their woodworking skills to a professional level, citing the lack of such opportunities in his location.
“Woodshop has disappeared on the curriculum in public schools. In Hamilton County, where I live, there is not one high school or middle school that has a woodshop program. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to get back into teaching, so I started organizing and talking to people and raising money to start this,” says Carney.
Carney has had a lifelong career in woodworking. He has built everything from furniture to custom homes and has also taught woodworking at Lookout Valley High School and Sequoyah Vocational School.
The new school will offer a four-year program with a mastery certification degree. There will be two 20-week semesters each year, with summer and winter breaks.
For those who attend all four years, the program starts from exterior carpentry and moves into interior custom finish work. The first year will offer traditional housing and framing, log house construction and timber framing instruction with an introduction to bench woodwork and hand tool use. The second year will cover interior millwork installation, beginning cabinet work, detailed residential construction and an introduction to power tools and cabinetmaking. The third year will focus on cabinetmaking and commercial millwork instruction. The final year will focus solely on fine-furniture building.
For those not interested in woodworking as a profession, night and weekend classes will be available.
“This is a dying trade and I want to see it preserved and passed on. Ultimately my goal is to create a culture of craft in Chattanooga and the surrounding area so that people who want to make their living with their hands doing fine woodwork will be able to work together, pull their resources, market themselves nationally and create an industry of wood artists here in our area.”
Carney expects to have 20 students enrolled full time in the first year. Full-time tuition is about $5,000 per year. Carney is the primary instructor, but he plans on hiring more teachers as enrollment grows.
“For the past four years, I’ve been trying to sell people something that didn’t exist. It was basically just a dream. Now it’s concrete and we’re about to open the doors,” says Carney. “I can’t wait until I’m 80 to do this; I want to do it now. I’m 64 and I’m in pretty good health and I hope I last another 10 to 15 years in this school. By that time I’ll have somebody trained to take my place and it will go on and on.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.