T-M-Cowboy Classics is a log and rustic furniture manufacturer and seller that has been in business since the late 1990s. Over the last 20 years, the company has specialized in selling vintage western collectible items as well as various pieces of furniture and décor. Tom Bice and his wife, Maril, are both involved in the business. Tom handcrafts new western furniture items to order. The company is based in Longmont, Colorado. Learn more about it by visiting www.t-m-cowboyclassics.com.
Q&A WITH TOM BICE, OWNER OF T-M COWBOY CLASSICS:
What kinds of log furniture does your company manufacture and/or sell?
We have different styles that we’re doing our interpretation of and then reproducing them. There are a couple of furniture companies who make furniture – Niblack furniture in Denver. These companies made weird stuff back in the 1930s and ‘40s, and I like to do interpretations of it. We make dining tables, chairs, nightstands, cigarette stands, dressers, and lots of stuff. We use a lot of burls, leather, and Chimayos Indian weavings. If somebody has ideas and I have the guts to make it, we make it.
How much do your pieces of furniture cost?
Swivel barstools run about $295. Cabinets, love-seats, and couches can run up to about $6,500. Our prices are somewhat cheaper because I am the only employee who makes this stuff. I think my work is as good as what you’d find from a larger company, but they have more employees to pay, so they have to charge more.
What are the most popular kinds of log furniture?
I make a lot of swivel saddle barstools. You can put a saddle on it and swivel around on it. I make a lot of cigarette tables that we use as nightstands. Gun fighter chairs with a cutout of a gun fighter on the back of the chair are popular. They run about $900.
Briefly describe how you make a piece of log furniture.
I get the poles out of the woods in Wyoming, peel them, cut them to shape, put holes in them, sturdy the legs, turn tenons on the ends of those and glue them in there. We help facilitate a sale by driving to make a pickup or a delivery. We use different trucking companies and UPS.
What specific kinds of wood does your company use to make log furniture?
We use a lot of Northern white pine, sugar pine, balding birch plywood, and pine poles that are 3’’ in diameter or less. Some of them are bigger if necessary. We use burls for couches, chairs, and table bases. I drive 400 miles to get certain wood because nobody here can sell it to me. I’m 77 years old. My workshop is in my backyard. I have some storage area in the garage area with all of my woodworking machinery. That kind of makes it nicer to have everything here instead of renting a place. The office is in one of our back bedrooms.
How did you get into making log furniture?
I did a little woodworking in school in shop class. I’m a journeyman pipefitter by trade. My wife started working for an antique business in Denver. She thought it might be something we could both do, so I taught myself how to refinish furniture and got deeper into the restoration of it. Then we got into this western stuff. I saw a magazine with pictures of old unique furniture, and it blew my mind. I had to figure out how to make this stuff myself. I have a lot of fun at it and meet great people. Our customers have 2 or 3 homes that we can put things into.
What’s the craziest custom request you’ve had for furniture?
Almost all my stuff is made from seeing pictures of something. I have to figure out what the dimensions should be. A lady called the other day and wanted me to make her daughter a leaf-press. I have an artist who will paint the wood with Texas bluebells and paint her name on it. Another lady brought a picture and said, ‘Can you make this cabinet?’ She wanted pictures of her ranch painted on the doors of it. It makes your hat size a little larger when you feel good about making something a little different that people really like.
What kinds of log furniture do you enjoy making most?
I like to make couches, love-seats, chairs, anything that has burls in it. I enjoy making Niblack-style furniture. I’m the only one who is doing my interpretation of those pieces as far as I know.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We’ve done shows from L.A. to New York and Texas. We’ve been in the antiques business for 40 years. We started in 1972. We thought our restoration work and refinishing work was as good as anyone else’s. For two old people, we’re not doing too badly. My wife sells vintage western furniture all over the U.S. We sell some of it on eBay.