Crossing the threshold into the Knife Shop at the Ozark Folk Center takes you out of today’s world. Civil War uniforms and Indian leathers hang on the wall. Glass cases hold knives that date from the 1700’s on up to ones made yesterday. Strange animals, antlers and skulls are tucked into crannies.

It might be a bit spooky, if it wasn’t for the broad grin on the face behind the counter. Tom Weir looks like a mountain man, just come in from his cabin on the creek. In fact, he is, in many ways, and that’s the name of his business – On the Creek.

“I was looking for a catchy phrase, and I live on the creek,” said Tom simply.

Tom was born in northeastern Arkansas and grew up on a farm in Lawrence County. His daddy’s folks were from the eastern Ozarks. Every Sunday his daddy would load up the kids in the car and say, “We’re going to the hills.”

Those hills became a part of Tom. “I like hardwood trees and streams better than cotton fields and rice fields.”

Involved in Rendezvous since the 1970’s, Tom made a few basic knives for his own use. He also started coming to Mountain View in the 70’s and here he met Jack Thomas, the knife maker at the Ozark Folk Center. 

“I guess I paid a little more attention than I thought I was,” said Tom, laughing.

While he only gets to Rendezvous on occasion now and doesn’t get to shoot black powder as much as he’d like to, Tom does spend nearly every day making knives. He makes all kinds of useful knives - from twisted railroad spike novelties to beautiful Damascus bladed skinners.

“I make knives to be used and I try to put a little bit of me in each knife,” he said. “Each knife has its own personality. I have lots of blanks for the basic shapes and I try not to change anything, unless I can make it better. But each knife comes out different. Some are right-handed and some are left-handed.”

Tom’s favorite knife to make is a medium skinner. He doesn’t really like to make the big, showy knives, though he will make a few of them, because folks want them. The medium to small knives are more useful for hunting and skinning. For handles he uses some antler and his favorite woods are maple and bodark, also called Osage Orange.

“Osage Orange is a good wood,” explained Tom. “You can’t hurt it.”

When he has some time, Tom works beautiful scrimshaw scenes onto some of his bone and ivory (old piano keys) handles. Etched carvings of mountains with elk or wolves beautifully match the finely polished blades of these unique knives.

“There’s Jack again,” Tom reminisces fondly. “He started me doing scrimshaw on powder horns. You know the horn is all hair, with little ridges running the length. If you can do scrimshaw on horn, you can do it on anything.”

While Tom’s love of knife making draws him into the Knife Shop on an almost daily basis, he keeps grumbling about wanting to take some time off.

“The bucket’s gotta be real big,” he said, referring to the movie Bucket List, “’cause there’s a lotta things I want to do.”