McNabb, Charles (Tommy)
Tommy McNabb, 78, of Winston-Salem departed this life on September 23 of metastatic melanoma.

He was born in Cliffside, NC on February 5, 1941 to the late William Haynes and Juanita Crawford McNabb. Leaving behind his wife Trena Yates McNabb and ten times more loving friends than anyone else we know; Children Julie Joiner Robards and Robert Joiner; Grandchildren Robert Davis, Shelby Davis and Jessica Robards; Sister Peggy Hadden and Nieces Julie Hadden and Jane Murphy from Tennessee. He loved adventures, traveling to see the world, working on and driving his MGs.
 
He served in the Army and attended Clemson University, SC and studied engineering. He began his career in photography even while at Clemson and when he realized he wanted to do photography full time he left Clemson for the Eastman Kodak School in Rochester, New York.

In 1968 he opened his own photography studio in Winston Salem, providing photographs to corporations and individuals until his retirement in 2005. In 1979 he began to seriously pursue his interest in the craft of blacksmithing and knife making, studying at Penland School of Craft, John C Campbell Folk School and Sloss Furnaces in Alabama concentrating on Damascus steel. In 1992 he gathered some friends and fellow knife makers together, forming a group he named The North Carolina Custom Knifemakers Guild. He served as their first President.

After drumming up support for an exclusively custom-made knife show to be held in North Carolina, the first show of the SouthEastern Custom Knife Show was held in 1995 in Durham, NC. The next year it was moved to Winston-Salem with Tommy as director (1995-2005). Tommy has always been willing to share his knowledge with others, inviting people of all ages into his own shop to promote and teach blacksmithing and knife making. He also taught classes through workshops for the NC Chapter of Artist Blacksmith Association of North America; Montgomery Community College; NC Custom Knifemakers Guild; ABS-Batson Hammer-In; free demonstrations or with individuals in his own shop.

He was a member of Artist Blacksmith Association of North America (ABANA) (past treasurer); Piedmont Craftsmen; Alabama Forge Council; American Bladesmiths Society (ABS) and others. He continued to tutor individuals until his most recent hospitalization.

Instead of flowers, memorials may be made to Trellis Supportive Care – Formerly Hospice and Palliative Care Center; Stokes Team. Tommy died peacefully in his sleep and in no pain after spending many months in agony.
Some of the testimonials received following Tommy's death. . .

Jim Batson I have always cherished the times we spent together. We had some great times! I will always love and remember you & Trena. I wanted to see you, but am unable to travel. So Goodbye old friend.

Carl Mickey It’s very difficult to put into words but Tommy was a giant among the giants in anything he choose to do. He was a friend to many. Tommy was a huge inspiration to me in my life. Taught me to be a better person. He was my friend, mentor and advisor. He and I were very close and to say he will be missed is an understatement.

Mark Lamb The hammer has fallen and the anvil has rung its last.
Monday, the world lost a craftsman and a kind soul. Tommy McNabb was a husband, father, artist, teacher, blacksmith, and a friend. He was a gentle person, willing to teach his craft to anyone willing to learn. He made some of the most beautiful Damascus steel and knives I’ve ever seen. He was an innovator and inventor in the field and a wealth of knowledge when it came to all things metallic.
Tommy is one of the main reasons Metalmorphosis is here and what we are today. He was our first customer. He was a regular customer. He was generous with his knowledge and tools. If we had a question about dealing with odd alloys, Tommy often had an answer. Many of the tools that helped get us to this point were purchased from him and his old blacksmith shop. He introduced us to many a fine craftsman, and spoke well of us. We are forever endebted to his memory. Tommy, we weren’t done learning from you. I’m not sure that we ever could have been. We’ll miss your surprise visits and little pranks. But apparently heaven needed a new gate, so they called the one guy they knew could build it.

Ann Ragan “Apparently heaven needed a new gate, so they called the one guy they knew could build it.” That’s the most accurate, beautiful sentiment I’ve ever read. And, when Tommy finished building the gate, he turned around and said, “ that looks better than I thought it would,” which is something I’ve heard him say more than once. What a legacy this amazing man left to this world.

Bill Sherrill It’s awful to see someone go through pain like Tommy. If there is any consolation... Tommy was the best craftsman, one of the best knife makers, in the world! Few people in any profession can make that claim. He lived life the way he wanted. There are not many that claim that!!!

Deb Britton Today we paid tribute to our friend Tommy McNabb, renaissance man, knife maker, metalsmith, photographer, daddy-rabbit of NC whitewater canoers, lover of back roads and little known places. We will miss the shared meals, the weekend drives, the unexpected turns, his sneaky smile and the twinkle in his eye. This summer I asked if he could recommend someone to build us an iron railing for our front steps. He recommended himself, and now we will have a constant reminder of a friend as good, solid, fine and unpretentious as the railing he made and installed during his final summer. You’re always with us, Tommy.

Susannah Ravenswing I am deeply saddened to hear this. My love and prayers are with you and the family. Tommy has been a friend and respected mentor to so many.

Barry and Phillip Jones Tommy McNabb is one of the first knifemakers we ever met. He has been a mentor to us over the past 27 years. We owe him
a debt that can never be paid back. He said the only way to pay it was forward.

Celia van Wyk Dearest Tommy and Trena, Sending you our love and prayers from South Africa. I think of our lovely time on Safari.

Tomi Melson Your expertise as a knifemaker, historian and fine craftsman and your wonderful you-ness have informed my life.

Steve Schwarzer We all make this journey this great man I am sorry to see you so close to the door

Jan Bell Tommy, I admire your courage. You are in my thoughts and prayers. You are a very big part of my past and I am so happy we have remained friends. I love you!

Kevin Casey Love the man. He taught me so much.

Cris Dedmond So sad to hear this. Tommy is one of the best people I know. A big influence on me as a kid!

Ramelle Pulitzer Darn - so sorry to hear this news. Trena remind your dear what a dear he was to travel with. Hugs from far away....

Edward Tate VanHoy Sending love to you both. There are no words to express how I fell about Tommy. I can only say I love him. Please tell him that for me. I love You both.

Harriet White McCarthy So, so sorry you have reached this crossroad but know that you are strong and closely connected to the earth which should give you comfort. Mother Nature cares for all of us who care for all her other creatures.

Tim Scholl I am so sorry to hear this. Tommy has been a great influence on me and many many people and not just knife makers. I would not be where I am if it were not for Tommy McNabb. Such a GREAT GREAT MAN.

Glenn Songer Let me say that Tommy is one of the very finest men I’ve ever known. He has been more patient with me than I’ve deserved, and has been so welcoming as I’ve learned to make knives. He has always been generous, almost to a fault. I’ve had such good and restful times staying in that downstairs bedroom. I love you both.

Melvin Gurganus So sorry to hear about Tommy, such a fine nice man.

Tim Britton Tommy McNabb was more than a brother to me. Tommy was a man of honor, a true gentleman. Tommy was my best friend. Rest in peace my brother.

Sam Ogburn I admired him greatly.....”good man, tough as his steel”.

Glenn Gilmore Tommy has been my favorite blacksmith, number one confidant, go-to Big Brother with all of the important questions in my life since we met. I have been so fortunate to know and love Tommy and Trena.

Lee Ann Walsh I wanted to let you know how thankful and grateful I am to have known you and for being such an opportunity giver to so many people including my family. We were just talking about the cabin and glass windows. You always shared everything you knew with anyone that would accept your gracious mentorship. Thank you for being you and for demonstrating to others that one can do anything they can dream.

Ron Newton I am so sorry to hear this. Tommy has been so good to me throughout the years. What a blessing he’s been in my life.

Martin Payne Much love to Tommy and family. He and Ed Halligan introduced me to knife making. I shall always be grateful. He is a talented man and gifted teacher!


Tommy McNabb's Knives are expertly crafted for people who appreciate superb handling characteristics in elegant custom-made knives.

Each knife starts with a functional design in which every line achieves a specific purpose. Beauty and function are an integral part of the design, and painstaking care is given to each step in the creation process to ensure a maximum blend of style and performance.

The final product is a strong, beautiful cutting tool that works as a natural extension of your own hand.

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Tommy McNabb
Knifemaker/Blacksmith

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Carolina Custom Knives - P.O. Box 327 - Bethania, NC 27010