My Thoughts On Machetes

First of all let me say I love machetes (I have 7 of them) and all my experience is in the brush and woods of S.E. Michigan, however I’m beginning to question if it is the best tool to carry with me as I do things on my 10 acre property of which 7 acres are covered with woods with a lot of under brush.

One thing that machetes have going for them is they are inexpensive, usually in the $20-$30 range. Frequently they are nowhere near sharp when you get them, but 1/2 an hour with a file will turn something into a very usable tool. My favorite machete that I currently is a no-name with a 22″ blade and plastic handle. I’ve had it for more than 10 years and is still my go-to when I’m heading out. My only complaint is that it doesn’t do that well in woody brush, I don’t think it has enough weight at the end where you usually try to chop through branches.

After more than 10 years still my favorite
After more than 10 years still my favorite

I picked up this one from Tractor Supply on sale for about $5 and it is called a “corn knife”. I’m thinking the shape with more weight up and the head might be what I’m looking for. However it is about as sharp as the edge of a ruler, the bevel grinds do not meet to form a point. I’m OK with that as I can take a file to it to product what I want, a stocky cutting, well chopping edge.

Very dull new, but good potential
Very dull knew, but good potential

Now for a purchase I’m not happy with. I bought the SOG Machete shown below with the thought that the saw blade on the back will be good for when I need to deal with the woody brush. However the grind on the edge is concave which produces a very thin cutting edge. My 97 lb teen age son with skinny arms chipped a section out of the blade – TWICE. The first time I sent it back for replacement and the second time I wasn’t willing to pay shipping again for something that I think is a poor product. It just sits on my shelf as a reminder to be careful what you buy.

Very disappointed in this ones performance
Very disappointed in this ones performance

 

Time for some pure speculation on my part. The machete comes from a part of the world that needed a tool for cutting sugarcane and other undergrowth. I believe that the material I deal with is more woody then what the machete was designed to deal with. Thus it can take a lot of chopping with a machete to get through the honeysuckle bushes and wild grape vines that are my biggest problem. The Indians that lived in my geographic area did not have metal-working before the arrival of the Europeans so I don’t think we can ever know for sure what tool the natives would have developed if they did have metal working skills. Common knowledge is that the Tomahawk was what the Native Americans used and originally had stone cutting heads until the Europeans brought metal heads. My speculation is the Tomahawk is the equivalent to the machete for my area of the world.

However a machete is still useful in my area as I do have some areas of tall grass and I find it very helpful in the garden and comfrey patch. But it is just not the tool I expected it to be in the woods so I’m looking to find a new obsession, I mean option. I’m considering a Cold Steal Tomahawk or a Woodman’s Pal. While the Tomahawk is very cool I think I’m leaning more towards the Woodman’s Pal, the hook knife will be very useful in dealing with vines and brush. On second thought I should just get both. The other option I’m considering is a bolo style machete which has a lot of metal at the end to give you the weight needed to chop though wood.

Let me know your experience with machetes in the comments.

Author: Jerry Ward

Working on creating a 10 acre urban homestead in S.E. Michigan. To pay the bills I work as a product manager/business analyst in the IT field. Now the admin of Save Our Skills

  • Nate Denn

    My go to chopping and batoning blade was a western w49 bowie I picked up when I was 14. I used that for years until I discovered the parang from Malaysia. My wife is from that part of the world and they are essential tools for jungle trekking and use around the home. The jungles there are more woody so the parang is primarily a chopping tool. They can be had for about $10 USD at any hardware store over there. The best “common” ones are made my Bidor. I have 4 parangs, all from different manufacturers. Two have seen regular use. I have one that now lives in my van, but used to be my backpacking/canoeing one. It is pretty light with a 10 inch blade. My other one (made by Bidor) is made from about 1/4″ thick steel with a 12 inch blade. It is heavy! This one I use regularly around my home and it is now my canoe/backpacking one. I would look into something like this if you still like big blades. Stay away from the Gerber/Bear Grylls parangs. They look about as useful as your SOG machete.