The wood slabs in Tom Deno’s workshop are knotty and gnarly, pitted and crooked — a homely look that only Mother Nature could love. Or Deno, who fashions custom furniture from the twisted chunks tossed out by lumber mills. From those orphaned slabs come counter tops and coffee tables, mantels and headboards, each a kitschy creation forged by Deno’s hand in Havre de Grace.
“All wood is beautiful,” said Deno, who, with his wife, Heather, owns TDeez Badass Creations, a furniture shop they opened in 2020 after both lost their jobs.
“We went from making $240,000 a year to zero in less than a month,” Heather Deno said. “I thought, what the hell can we do?”
Battling COVID at the time, when she finally ventured downstairs in their Aberdeen home, she got her answer. Her husband, heretofore a woodworking hobbyist, had flipped all of their own furniture upside-down and crammed the living room with slabs of live edge wood and a hand-scrawled sign that read, “Welcome to our showroom.”
Two years later, the Denos are turning out bar tops and vanities, front doors and charcuterie boards for folks who fancy the natural sheen and shape of the wood. They’ve made “river tables,” in which splits in the slabs are filled with epoxy and dyes to resemble water. For one client, they made a cabinet for a stereo console from a slice of spalted maple that appears to have grown around the sound system. Like most of the custom furniture, the cabinet sits on a vintage metal base, many of which are salvaged from old sewing tables, warehouse carts or other antique frames scrounged from flea markets, roadside freebies and even dumpsters.
For one client, Tom Deno took a 1930s washing machine — a copper tub on legs — and topped it with a slab of white oak to make a gas-powered fire pit.
“Some people say our workshop looks like [the set of the TV show] ‘Sanford and Son,’ “ Heather Deno said. “Our motto is ‘Restore, Reuse, Repurpose.’ “
Some customers are do-it-yourselfers and buy just the materials. If they mess up, the Denos will bail them out.
Wholesale suppliers provide the wood slabs, many of them are discards from trees felled by age or storms (some tables bear scorch marks from lightning strikes). To date, the Denos have used 28 types of wood, including walnut, oak, elm, sycamore, sassafras and teak. Furniture prices range from $400 for an end table to $12,000 for a 13-foot-long conference table.
“Everybody wants a one-of-a-kind thing so they can say that they’ve got something no one else has,” Tom Deno said.
A favorite: charcuterie boards, those appetizer trays in which Deno preserves one’s favorite keepsakes — from fishing lures to matchbox toys to Star Wars doodads.
“The daughters of a woman who’d died couldn’t bear to spread her ashes in the ocean, as she’d wanted, so we preserved the ashes in six charcuterie boards, in an epoxy that Tom made to look like waves at the beach,” Heather Deno said. “The girls were so joyful, they cried.”
TDeez Badass Creations
2132 Pulaski Hwy, Havre de Grace. 443-345-0060. tdeezbadasscreations.com