Monday, November 1, 2010

A Look at Some Larger Blades - Machetes

One of the most under-rated edged tools out there, the machete is a tool that can perform more cutting and chopping tasks than one would think.

When people get ready to go camping or hiking in the woods, you often see them packing axes and saws and other such tools, but rarely see them bring a machete. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe these outdoorsmen know something that I don't. What I do know, however, is just how functional a machete can be in the woods. In a pinch a machete can do almost all of your outdoor cutting/chopping tasks. For those into bushcraft, a machete should be a standard tool for a longer outdoor adventure.

This Tramontina 18" Machete is a great economical choice.
A machete, such as the 18" Tramontina machete (a personal favorite of mine), excels in many ways. Let's start by looking at the construction of this tool. A machete is usually 14-21" long. It usually consists of a thin slab of metal, sharpened on one edge, with a handle. That's it. There are usually no fancy grinds or blade shapes. That's what makes them so affordable. In my opinion, it's also what makes them so attractive. A machete is a no-fills, common-man's tool, within anyone's price range.

Due to a machete's thin profile, it penetrates a lot further with every strike when chopping. Machete's are often wider in profile by the tip, shifting the weight of the blade further away from the handle and adding even more penetrating power. It is hard to find a tool that can out-chop a good machete. For the weight, a machete greatly outperforms even an axe in the chopping role.

I would also like to add that a machete's thin profile makes field sharpening very easy, since not that much metal has to be removed to keep the edge sharp.

The shape of this Cold Steel Kukri Machete makes it a great chopper.
I have used a machete for only about a year now while in the woods and I can attest to its performance. I cut through a downed pine tree that was about a foot in diameter in about 15 minutes. I have also sliced through branches and saplings over an inch thick with one swing. The satisfying *ping* that you hear after chopping through a sapling adds to the enjoyment. I actually had a lot of fun using it. It's probably because I'm still relatively new to using a machete, but being surprised again and again by the performance of my machete made working easier.

Machete for Self-Defense

I should also comment about the defensive tasks that a machete can be used for. Due to its length and chopping performance, a machete makes a formidable defensive option, within anyone's price range. Machetes are garden tools and are legal in most places, so for those who want a useful defensive tool, but are burdened with draconian weapon's laws, perhaps a machete would be a good option. Not to get too gruesome, but a machete could chop through a limb with a single swing, offering penetration deep enough to stop an attacker right away.

While it's not always fun to think about, if you value your life, self-defense is an important thing to prepare for, especially if you are responsible for the lives of other; that means you, parents.

What to look out for.

The Ontario Military Machete is a good heavy-duty choice.
While most machetes look similar from a distance, not all machetes are made the same. Be on the lookout for cheap, Chinese knockoffs, like those found in Wal-Mart. The blade thickness is critical to a sturdy, durable machete. Machetes with thin blades can fold and even break under normal use. A machete blade should be about 3/32" thick, if not slightly greater. It shouldn't be much thicker, however, since you will diminish it's slicing capability and increase it's weight greatly. The sweet spot that I have found is about 3/32" thick.

Some good, economical brands that I have seen are Tramontina, Ontario, Cold Steel and Condor. There are other brands that are good as well. The ones that I listed are just a few quality manufacturers out there. There are also other quality machetes that cost a lot more, but I guess that's more for the specialized user, not at all necessary.

While I'm sure that I'll write future posts about machetes, I hope that this post got you thinking about the usefulness of a machete. Maybe you've never used one before. If you haven't, I assure you that you will be surprised by its performance.


  1. Great review. I mostly buy american made machetes and knive but the cheap chinese made blades are a good choice for a disposable blade.

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