Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review - Pro Tool Woodman's Pal

A tool that been Military Issue since at least 1941 (that's over 70 years!) but that you may have never heard of is the Woodman's Pal. A functional tool that can work as a machete, a hatchet, a make-shift shovel and even a last-ditch self defense weapon.

The Woodman's Pal is made by Pro Tool Industries, a company known for high quality and hard use blades, all of them being made in the U.S. Upon first seeing its unique and non-traditional blade shape, one may be hesitant, thinking that it's a gimmick. Well I'm here to tell you that it surely isn't.
The Woodman's Pal Classic has a functional wooden handle.

The Woodman's Pal comes in a few different versions, all making use of its unique blade shape. The Classic Model 481 is the original, and it comes with a variety of sheath options (Nylon, Leather and Canvas). The Military Model 784 is very similar to the 481, but with a hand guard and a stacked leather handle. The Compact Model 784 also has a hand guard and leather handle, but has a shorter blade and handle. Finally, there is Long Reach Model 145, which has a longer handle for hard to reach tasks.

All of the Woodman's Pals have a 1/8" thick high carbon steel blade hardened to Rockwell C47. This makes the blade strong, but not too hard, allowing it to be sharpened easily in the field. The blade has two sharpened edges, one on the bottom of the blade and a sharpened sickle hook on the spine, near the tip. The front of the blade and the spine are left unsharpened, for reasons that you will read in a bit.

In order to truly appreciate the tool, you first need to consider it's application. This tool is one that you would mainly use to clear brush, and for light to medium duty chopping tasks. It excels as a machete. It is reported by Pro Tool that the Woodman's Pal can slice through branches up to 1.5" in diameter with a single chop. The spine of the blade, is dull, and has a small notch in it. This notch is used to prevent your hand from slipping onto the sickle hook when using the tool as a drawknife, another task that it excels in.

The Woodman's Pal Compact is a smaller design with a leather handle.
The sickle hook on the spine of the blade gives you a unique cutting ability. Machete blades work with a chopping action. The hook on the Woodman's Pal allows you to cut with a pulling action as well. This can be useful for cutting vines near the ground or even cutting through rope. I have seen the hook even used to pick up branches off of the ground, so that the user does not have to bend over as far to pick something up. Whether you have some property that you are trying to clear, or want to clean up a space to set up a tent, this tool can get the job done.

As a survival tool, the wide blade also allows you to use the Woodman's Pal as a makeshift shovel. That same notch on the spine of the blade would allow you to stabilize the blade when digging into soil or sand. The top of the tool is dull, so there is no blade to damage should you use it in this way.

While fully functional as a machete, the Woodman's Pal is so much more. While I don't believe it to be an all-in-one tool for the outdoors, combined with a smaller fixed blade knife (a Mora perhaps), you should be ready for most of the outdoor tasks that require the use of a blade.

If you do own one, let me know what you think of it in the comments below.