The ability to use tools is one of the characteristics that separate us humans from other creatures of the earth. Sure, there may be some animals that have the same trait, but they haven’t quite reached our level.
Tools help us accomplish great many things. We couldn’t have been able to build civilizations if our ancestors didn’t learn to use tools. We humans didn’t just learn to use tools though. We also have innovation. We have gone quite far from the simple tools people used back in the early days. Now, in major cities around the world, computers and other complex tools help us get a lot of things done. However, in this age of supercomputers and powerful equipment, some simple tools could still come in handy. This article is about one of them – the machete.
Why You Need a Machete
Many would agree that the simple machine called wedge is pretty useful in our everyday life. The wedge is the main component of bladed tools. Using a knife or any other similar tool might be such a daily routine for most of us that we no longer think of them. In any case, we still know that we need such tools.
The machete is one of the common bladed tools around. Basically, it is a large knife akin to the cleaver. It may sound exaggerated when a machete enthusiast tells you that the machete is an extremely useful tool. Some might say that if you could only own one blade, then the machete is the best choice. But there’s a reason why there are such fans of the machete. It is indeed a useful tool not only according to enthusiasts but also according to history.
Machetes are primarily used in tropical and subtropical regions for agricultural purposes. They are the tool of choice for sugar cane farmers and the like. But such purposes don’t make machetes popular for the general public. People love machetes because of their versatility. It can be used for a wide variety of tasks.
You can use a machete in preparing food, especially when cutting meat, much like a cleaver. A machete in good condition can efficiently cut meat of large animals. That’s why regular hunters also like to carry a machete. A machete alone can be used for cutting, skinning, and many other tasks in preparing caught game.
Then, there’s the use of machete as a weapon. In several countries throughout the world, the machete has been a popular weapon in uprisings and invasion defense. According to people on the internet, the machete is a good weapon for the “inevitable” zombie apocalypse. It’s up to you if you want to take that last part seriously or not.
Anyway, let’s go back to the topic. The versatility of a machete is owed to its different parts. Each section of the blade caters to different purposes. If the machete has a pointed tip, you can use it for drilling and even opening cans.
There is actually no indication of the parts of the machete, except for the handle and blade. But if you create an imaginary division that separates the sharpened part of the blade into three, you’ll have the top of the blade, the middle, and the bottom. The positions of these parts relative to the handle make each part ideal for different types of tasks.
The top of the blade is perhaps its primary feature. This is the part used for majority of cutting and chopping tasks.
The middle is good for chopping game limbs, chopping up tree branches, and slicing meat.
The bottom part is the easiest to control. You can use it for precise cutting such as sharpening pencils or sticks.
Aside from the sharpened sections, the part of the blade near the handle is blunt. You can use this for hammering certain objects like fire steel and for opening beer bottles. Aside from that, you may adjust your grip to this part so you get better control.
The back of the machete also has many uses. You can scale fish with it or even drive nails. If you need to split some logs, rest the blade on the wood and strike the back with another wood or something similar.
For machetes with a flat top, you can use this part as a makeshift shovel. Or you can flip a meat on the grill with it. Just make sure it’s clean.
The Different Features of a Machete
Machetes pretty much follow a basic build. There are variations, though.
Machetes may be of similar size. After all, if a blade strays too much from the average size, it can no longer be called a machete. However, the size is still an important feature since the even a little difference in size can affect how comfortable it is to use. Size comes in for other considerations as well.
When the size is specified, the measurement of the blade length is considered. The range is between 10 and 28 inches, the average being 18 inches.
Then, there’s the composition of the blade. The two most common material choices are carbon steel and stainless steel. Some are made with a combination of these called high carbon stainless steel.
The tang – the part connecting the machete blade to the handle, extending to the grip – is another important feature. The tang supports the blade so that it won’t easily part from the handle during heavy blows. There are different builds for the tang.
Then, there’s the blade shape or style. Take note, however, that there is no standardization for most blade styles. Some may even use style names interchangeably. You can treat the following list as just a guideline of sorts.
- Bush Machete – shape follows a basic knife, just larger; a general purpose blade.
- Bolo Machete – broader near the tip.
- Barong Machete – leaf-shaped blade.
- Kukri Machete –three distinct sections: pointed tip, wide midsection, and narrow area near the handle.
- Colima Machete – double-edged machete.
- Sable Machete – distinct curved shape, resembling a scimitar.
- Cane Machete – blunt-tipped, sometimes hooked blade.
- Short-handed Sickle – relatively short with an edge-side curve.
- Spear Point Machete – with a piercing point.
- Hawkbill Machete – hooked machete; can be sharpened on both or either side.
Machete handles are also made from different materials.
- Molded Plastic
- Stainless Steel
Aside from the material, handles differ in style.
- D-Ring/Knuckle Guard
What to Look for in a Machete
How do you choose which machete you want? A breakdown of the features mentioned above would be a good start. You want to choose a combination that would suit your purposes.
The blade length is a simple but important consideration. Which is your priority: portability or reach? Obviously, a longer blade has longer reach. However, it would be harder to transport. A shorter blade would be more portable at the cost of shorter reach. If you don’t really do heavy duty work, then a shorter blade would be practical. Otherwise, you might want to sacrifice convenience for more efficiency. If you want to get a little of both, go for an average blade length.
Blade material has different properties. A carbon steel blade is harder and retains edge sharpness longer compared to stainless steel. It is also cheaper. However, it is prone to rust if not maintained regularly. Sharpening is also more difficult.
Stainless steel resists stain so it requires less maintenance than carbon steel. It is easier to re-sharpen as well. However, it is pretty soft, easy to dull, and more expensive.
High carbon stainless steel combines carbon steel durability and stainless steel rust resistance. But it is even more expensive than the previous two materials. It also has low heat tolerance.
If you want a machete for functional purposes, such as agriculture or survival, carbon steel is more ideal. Stainless steel is better for display purposes. If you are prepared to spend the extra cash, then get a high carbon stainless steel blade to serve both purposes.
If you will be using the machete for heavy-duty work, like chopping hard wood or slicing large game meat, you want one with a full tang. A full tang extends to the handle’s end with rivets keeping it in place.
For choosing the blade style/shape, your intended use for the machete plays a big part. But as discussed earlier, machetes are generally versatile so you can base your decision on the look.
The bush and bolo machetes are general-purpose tools. The bolo gets a heavier weight distribution towards the top of the blade which aids in stronger chopping blows.
Double-edged machetes, like the Colima and Hawkbill styles, are good for clearing vegetation since you slice on both the forehand and backhand stroke.
Handle material also has advantages and disadvantages over each other.
- Wooden handles are lightweight, provide good grip, and feel warm on the hands. However, they are more expensive. They also require more attention since they are prone to bacteria buildup and cracking due to water exposure.
- Molded plastic handles are easy to maintain and low-priced. They can get slippery though. They may also turn brittle and discolored with time.
- Stainless steel handles look nice and only harbor few bacteria. But they are also slippery and expensive.
- Rubber handles feels comfortable because of good grip and softness. They can get worn easily though.
- Leather handles also provide firm grip. Maintenance is quite tedious though and may get slippery with time.
- Micarta handles have good grip and it is really durable and comfortable. But these qualities come with a high price.
Handle styles also have different properties.
Quillon handles prevent your hand from slipping towards the blade. But it offers little knuckle or hand protection.
D-ring/Knuckle guard handles give a high level of hand protection and also prevents slipping. The usual problem, though, is that they don’t fit all hand sizes and adds weight to the machete. The same is true for crossguard handles.
Top 3 Best Machetes
You’ve seen the general guidelines for choosing a machete. Now, let’s compare three specific machetes for more insight.
Bear Grylls Parang Machete
Let’s start with the Bear Grylls Parang Machete. Named after the Man vs. Wild host/star Bear Grylls, this blade is from Gerber Gear.
Gerber Gear is a knife-manufacturing company founded in 1939. It boasts decades of innovation. The company’s products have a global reach.
The Bear Grylls Parang is a short machete – blade length of 13.5 inches. The design is based on a traditional jungle machete. Blade material is carbon steel. It has a textured rubber grip with full tang construction. The angle of the blade is meant for clearing vegetation.
Users love the look of the Bear Grylls Parang. However, most think that’s all there is to it. With a short blade, it doesn’t reach well. While the blade angle helps with its purpose, the overall build of the Parang makes it lack in heavy-duty work.
Woodman’s Pal Classic Fixed Blade Machete
Next on the list is the Woodman’s Pal Classic Fixed Blade Machete. This machete is from the Woodman’s Pal product line of Protool Industries.
Protool Industries take pride in manufacturing products right in the USA. They claim to make sure to use only the best raw materials and handcraft tools one at a time.
The Woodman’s Pal is another short-bladed machete at only 10.5 inches. The primarily noticeable feature is its shape. It has a high carbon steel blade.
User reception of this machete is generally favorable. The description says that it can be used as different tools. User reports support this claim as the Woodman’s Pal can be used as an axe, hatchet, camp knife, hammer, and many more.
Condor Tool and Knives Warlock Machete
Then, we have the Condor Tool and Knives Warlock Machete. It has a 12-inch blade with a broad top tapering towards the handle.
The manufacturer Condor Tool & Knife has a history dating back to 1787 to the foundation of GEBR WEYESBERG Company. This was in Solingen, Germany. Solingen is titled the cutlery capital of the world.
The blade is made of high carbon steel with epoxy black powder coating finish. The handle is Micarta.
All user reviews of this machete are favorable. Users love how this machete is simple looking yet high functioning.
The basic design of the machete gives it supreme versatility. However, not all machetes are created equal. If you decide to get one, be sure to check out the features and consult user reviews so you choose more carefully. You’d surely get a great machete.