Some of the best blades.

The D.E. Henry Bowie: In the early 1960s, Daniel Edward Henry (like other smiths) began making reproductions of the Bowie knives that were produced during the mid 19th century. What was extraordinary was the quality of Henry's work. He was light-years ahead of everyone else in his grinding and polishing, fit, finish, and grace of line. Today, only old knife nuts know his name, but you and I are still benefiting from his genius.

Ka-Bar Marine Corps Fighting Knife: In 1943, the U.S. Marine Corps issued a knife to its fun-loving members. It was made by Camillus Cutlery Co. and stamped with their Ka-Bar trademark. Its equipment number was 1219C2. The knife had a 7-inch Bowie-type blade, a leather-washer handle, and a steel butt cap. It was one of the most successful pieces of military equipment ever. The Navy had its own variant called the MK-2, and envious soldiers tried to steal both.

The Leuku: One of the traditional knives of the Saami people who inhabit the northern forests of Europe, the leuku is a wide-bladed tool designed to serve as a hatchet, a machete, and a butcher knife. The handle is invariably made of birch, and the sheath swallows almost the entire knife. The leuku hasn't changed in a millennium. Kellam Knives' 7-inch carbon-blade version is a good one.

Loveless Drop Point: In the late 1960s, R.W. Loveless had the knifery world standing on its ear. Loveless had been making knives for money since the 1950s, and he eventually developed a model called the drop-point hunter. This small knife (the blade was under 4 inches) with a small hilt and subtle lines revolutionized the craft. The point was lowered, or dropped, below the spine, which made it easier to gut an animal without puncturing the innards. Up until then, knife makers used unsophisticated steels. Loveless selected a steel called 154CM, which was developed for use in jet-engine exhausts. Tough and almost rustproof, it took a fearsome edge that held forever. Within a few years Loveless supplanted Randall as the main force in custom knife making. The Bob Dozier-designed drop point (shown) is one of many Loveless-inspired designs.

Randall Model 3: Founded in 1937, Randall Made Knives is the largest and most famous custom cutler in the world. More than 20 Randall models exist, but W.D. Randall, who started the enterprise, always considered the Model 3 to be his best all-around design. During the early days of the custom knife boom, every aspiring smith copied the Model 3 for two reasons: It's more fun to re-create something beautiful than something that's ordinary, and Bo Randall's shop put out a lot of knives that were emulated. If it is not the most imitated knife in the world, it's close.

The Ulu: The ulu is a distinctive knife of the northmost-dwelling Native Americans. It's a terrific chopper, scraper, and skinner. The crescent-shaped blade is 3 to 4 inches, and the handle rides directly above the cutting edge. Once you get used to it, you wouldn't trade it for all the blubber in Alakanuk. A lot of the commercially made ulus are souvenirs and aren't really working knives. If you want a genuine working ulu, get it from Knives of Alaska.

Schrade Uncle Henry: The Uncle Henry line - named for Henry Baer, Schrade's president - appeared in the 1960s. There were all sorts of Uncle Henry knives, but the one that won my heart was a three-blade folder of the type known as a premium stock knife. It had a saber, a sheepsfoot, and a spey blade made of stainless steel. It's one of those wonderful tools that works all out of proportion to its price and size. Until they closed their doors in 2004, Schrade backed its Uncle Henrys to the hilt. If you broke one or lost it, they would replace it. I lost about three a year but never had the heart to take Schrade up on its offer. I would just buy another.

Victorinox Swiss Champ: With 30 tools in its handle, the Swiss Champ is the ultimate evolution of the Swiss Army knife (the original had four blades). I've carried one for years, and I have used just about all its tools. People make fun of it until the day when they sheepishly ask to use it. Years ago, my car was broken into and the thief left a negotiable check untouched - but he took my Swiss Champ.

Woodsman's Pal: This odd-looking tool goes back to 1941, when Fredrick Ersham put it on the market after 10 years of development. The original had a leather-washer handle and a D-ring guard like a cutlass. The modern version utilizes a hardwood handle and no guard; otherwise it is unchanged. You can use the Pal as a brush hook, machete, knife, shovel, and axe. There's little you can't do with it. It's affordable, light for its abilities, and indestructible. It and I are about the same age.

Marble's Ideal: Webster Marble introduced the Ideal Hunting Knife in 1899, and it was arguably the first knife designed for the sport hunter. Marble's Ideal was, in fact, ideal, and made of excellent steel. Marble utilized a wide fuller, or groove, in the blade to save weight. The Ideal was around for a long time. It was made on and off from 1899 to 1974. Then it went into eclipse until 2007, when it was reintroduced. Old Ideals in good condition and with their original sheaths can be worth a lot of money; collectors will pay you $10,000 for some examples - not bad for knives that originally sold for $1.25.