Getting your first knife, one of the oldest tools known to man, is a rite of passage in Texas, seeing as carrying one is a mark of outdoor know-how. The two basic categories are pocketknives, perfect for everything from cutting rope to whittling a stick, and fixed blades, which are handy for field-dressing game and countless other ranch chores. All the handmade cutters below—not one of which has a plastic handle—would serve gracefully on the job or in a display case.
1. Lewisville’s Mickey Kaehr made his first knife out of a file when he was eleven years old. Today he tops many of his custom knives with the dead cholla cactus he finds in the Panhandle. Texas Hunter, $365; bluemesablades.com
2. Robert Wilson, co-owner of Henry Brothers of Texas, in Kirbyville, suggests roiling his carbon steel and Damascus blade knives to stave off rust and retain moisture in the armadillo, bone, and horn handles. Limited-edition Damascus Skinner; $250; henrybrotherscutlery.com
3. Working out of his one-car garage in Abilene, self-taught Jason Fry sketches his pieces by hand and spendstwelve to fifteen hours bringing each of them to life. Spicewood Special, $275; frycustomknives.com
4. Wieldy and palm-size, the pocketknives from family-owned, Matador-based Moore Maker are ideal for first-timers and can be engraved. Whitetail Antler, $93; mooremaker.com
5. The waiting list for knives by retired Southwestern Bell service foreman Johnny Stout is more than four months long. The New Braunfels resident is known for using mammoth ivory and inlaying thumb studs with rubies and pearls. Rage, $2,450; stoutknives.com