WYTHE CO., Va. -

Donald Burnette has been making some of the oldest furniture brand new again for some 50 years inside his upholstery shop in Austinville.

"Well I bring old stuff back to life," Burnette said.

Mr. Burnette is 75 years old and said he started chewing tobacco when he was 12, and never stopped.

"The first thing I do every morning when I get up is put me in some chewing tobacco," he said.

One day, Burnette said someone told him if he learned to upholster furniture he could make a living. So he started in a cow shed and kept on going.

"I like it and my wife says I won't ever quit. Is she right? I guess she is, it looks like I'm going to fall over in here."

Mr. Burnette is the oldest licensed upholsterer in Virginia. A skilled trade that's going away, he says, because much of today's furniture isn't made to last.

In the back room of his upholstery shop, Amber Moore has been learning the trade for a few months. The 20 year old apprentice holds up a hand-stitched pillow, and says it's not an easy thing to make.

"Like when I made this pillow right here. I think this was like the hardest thing that I did do," Moore said.

After 50 years of solid work, this upholstery shop is full of memories on the walls. Photographs of old friends who've come and gone are outnumbered only by the beautiful pieces of furniture on the show floor.

Mr. Burnette said he learned to upholster when he was about 19. Today, after five decades of hard work, Burnette has a sense of humor. He opened an old drawer and pulled out a photograph of him wearing a dress, during a spoof beauty contest years ago.

"That was me in a beauty contest, I had me some chicken legs," he said.

Only 13 states require upholsterers to be licensed. Mr. Burnette said he's proud to have his paperwork and he's proud to be a tough boss.

Amber Moore hears Burnette talking about how tough he is, and she chimes in, "Mr. Burnette ain't that mean mean. He puts on that mean face on though, he tries to act mean."