A machete appears to be a really big knife with an extended blade, which makes one recall a cleaver. This term is derived from the Spanish word macho that represents sledgehammers. Even if you are hearing this term for the first time, chances are high for you to have seen a machete in some form or the other. Well, this is because it is a versatile tool that has its own uses in homes as well as in forests.
A typical machete has a blade measuring 12 to 18 inches in length and 0.12 inches in thickness. However, this size varies as per the kind of machete in use. Regardless of the type in use, a machete is used as a weapon as well as for agriculture purpose. In agriculture, it is used for cutting sugarcane as well undergrowth.
Due to the cutting and chopping ability for removing vegetation on paths rapidly, a machete is also known as a cutlass. The tool is also used for cutting big foods and for other basic cutting tasks such as making handles from wood. It is also relied for doing yard jobs and ripping open coconuts.
The tool’s strength and versatility make it an ideal weapon for defending in wars and battles. In fact, it has an honored history of being used as a fierce edge weapon by several civilizations. This is perhaps also the reason why machete differs in design and look in each culture today.
- 1 Machete and Axe: Are They Same?
- 2 Types of Machetes
- 3 How to Choose the Best Machete
- 4 2016’s 5 Best Machetes
- 5 Conclusion
Machete and Axe: Are They Same?
If you have ever used an axe, you would surely have a question as to why to use a machete if there is an axe. Well, the reason for using a machete as well is that it is capable of accomplishing far more than what an axe can. While being a superb tool, an axe is significantly restricted to chopping firmly fixed or solid items. Further, it is dependent on its weight to divide such items.
On the other hand, a machete tends to weigh less due to which it is dependent more on its knack to chop or cut as a more rapid rate. With much less power, more is the speed, which is achievable by a machete that even an axe can do. However, a machete can do many other jobs due to its versatile power, although a few tasks might take some more time than what an axe takes.
In short, a machete is required if you are chiefly a log splitter.
Types of Machetes
The modern machetes typically feature full tang, which means that the blade metal extends along the tool’s length. The blade has consistent thickness and the handle has two grip scales or plates affixed to tang. A good quality machete has a tough blade that does not break or chip, as it is designed to endure frequent hits on medium to tough surfaces. Due to its frequent usage, the blade material is such that it is easy to sharpen the edge.
Well, these are some common qualities that a variety of good quality machetes offer. These machetes differ in terms of their shape or look, giving rise to a number of types as follows:
- Latin/Bush: Is common in the Western world, especially in the military field but it is reliable in almost any environment. It is an all-purpose tool with even weight, fair stoutness, and a straight back blade with full tang ideal for cutting vegetation. It is the choice of those who wish a portable machete that easily goes inside a sheath. Such machetes are also famous for its superb balance of reach and leverage, which reduces fatigue. While they are ideal for deciduous forest areas and clearing underbrush or debris, they are not for heavy chopping.
- Kukri: Is the Nepalese knife with pointed tip for stabbing, narrow area near to the handle for carving and whittling, inwardly curved edge, and broad middle section for chopping. It features an inward curved edge and spear point tip of full tang blade ideal for self defense. However, it is not for clearing brush. It is a best alternative to hatchet. Kukri is very popular in the western world. Of all, the Ghurkha kukri is famous as a utility knife in this region and is used as the combat weapon by the royal gurkhas (society guards) and Nepalese army.
- Bolo: Is designed for heavy chopping and slashing tasks such as clearing dense vegetation and cutting thick underbrush. With it, you can avoid using an axe and saw. This machete has a blade puffin up before the heavily weighted tip, which is essential for efficient chopping. The spear tip contributes to cracking coconuts, cutting whole trees, and chopping scraps. Bolos are specially used as harvesting tools for thin produce such as peanuts and soybeans due to the blade’s bulge. You will find it commonly in use in Philippines.
- Panga: Is the standard for the entire African continent. It features a blade widening on the backside and a deep belly due to which the knife has ample of weight for heavy chopping and other beatings as well as the desired curve for effortless slicing. The upside down point also contributes to stabbing and piercing. Like the Bolo, this one masters in heavy work due to intense weight as well as striking power. However, the lack of direct spear point as well as thrusting efficiency does not make it the top choice for self defense.
- Tapanga: Is identified by its blunt blade and is identical to the Panga. Tapanga is used in the Caribbean as well as African regions. It features a somewhat backward slanting chisel-like tip, which is not for prying and three line grooves in blade for a great chopping balance. The blade boasts the front-weighted design for chopping any item, ranging right from brush to forested stalks.
- Parang: Is much like a Bolo or Panga but comes with a primary grind as well as thicker and shorter blade. It is better for chopping woody and thick vegetation, as the grind prevents the blade from being stuck in green wood.
- Golok: Is much like a Parang but is used in agriculture, more commonly in Southeast Asia. Its short length makes it unfit for being a weapon. However, Goloks are quite portable and adorable for chopping thick vegetation. They possess a thicker blade than almost all other machetes and a primary grind. Its exclusive shape prevents being stuck. Their curved end handles small areas better.
- Barong: Has a distinct leaf-shaped blade that is sharpened only on a side. It is quite heavy and looks similar to a sword. While the size can differ, a Barong is fairly long. It is usually used in Filipino martial arts, cleaving vines, and clearing brushes.
- Colima: Is sharpened on both blade sides, which is great for clearing vegetation by cutting on the front and rear strokes. Weight is much on the back side for clearing purpose.
- Heavy Machete: Is a real workhorse with greatest chopping power coming from its large blade. The blade features a straight back with some curve ending suddenly without a tip.
- Cane: Is heavy enough to cut sugarcane and corn stalks and is similar to heavy machete. It has a blunt tip and a hooked blade for pulling the hacked cane from still thriving plants. The small hook at the blade’s reverse tip and the flow of weight toward the blade make it the ultimate chopping tool ideal to encounter anything. The heavy blade is also reliable for light prying.
- Bowie/Survival: Is widely used in the United States. It possesses a clip point useful for survivalists. This is because the design and shape is best for survival. Many a times, it is simply termed as a large bowie knife.
- Billhook: Is famous for use in agriculture apart from brush clearing. It has a curved blade that is good for slicing and chopping but is best for hacking vines.
- Hawkbill/Hooked/Curved: Possesses both sides of the curve as sharpened. It is handy for cutting tall grasses and very tough stuff via its sharpened tip.
Many machete lovers know these types as blade styles. Regardless of how these shapes are known, they are the most distinguishing characteristic to determine the precise use of a machete in hand. While the style and shape may overlap, choosing a machete is often a subjective matter and is based on experience and tradition.
It is a fact that machete styles are not yet standardized. Still, you can simplify the task of choosing the right style or type by answering the following questions:
- Where you will be using a machete? In forest? At home?
- Will you be using a machete only for survival/defense or for other wilderness related tasks?
- What will be the surrounding like where you will be using a machete? A thick woodland? A barren region? An agricultural field? A marshland?
- Will you be having a knife, axe, or hatchet?
Just do not believe that a single type excels in all conditions. So, there is no best type for all machete users. In fact, you might consider buying more than one type, in case your requirements are diverse. Just be sure to select the right type as per your needs for being satisfied.
How to Choose the Best Machete
Well, it is not sufficient to know only the types, when it comes to choosing the best machete. There are some more things to consider, which tend to affect your decision of the selection. Here are these things to check out for choosing an ideal machete for working consistently well for years.
Factor 1: Blade Length
This is perhaps the second most critical factor to consider while buying a machete. Usually, the typical length is 18 inches, but there are machetes with blade as short as 10 inches. Similarly, you will find blade as long as 28 inches. These options can trigger confusion if you just go and shop.
Well, for choosing the right blade length, it is essential to know what is more important, portability or reach. A long blade is certainly more difficult to carry although it is capable of clearing bigger foliage areas quite quickly with its more centrifugal force resulting in more power.
However, a short machete is easier to carry, but it takes relatively more time to clear. It has less reach, but portability is more. You can even expect a thicker blade for it.
Factor 2: Blade Material
After the shape or style, the blade material is perhaps the second most important factor to distinguish between two machetes. So, it is essential to consider the type of material. The common materials for a machete’s blade are stainless steel, carbon steel, and high carbon stainless steel having the benefits of both former ones.
- Stainless Steel: Is an expensive version of carbon steel having chromium and nickel in it. These two additives tend to oxidize to form a defensive covering over the carbon steel to keep rust at bay. Because stainless steel is resistant to rust, it requires less maintenance. Further, stainless steel is softer due to which it is easier to sharpen it although it loses its edge more quickly. It is ideal for decorative and display machetes, not for daily use functional ones.
- Carbon Steel: Is an alloy of carbon and iron, and is the conventional option for machete blades. Carbon gives strength and increases the alloy’s hardness. However, its more content also increases brittleness. The alloy is beneficial over stainless steel, as it is harder, more economical, and stays sharp longer. However, on the con side, it is tough to re-sharpen a carbon steel blade because of its strength. Further, it rusts promptly if exposed to moisture. The alloy also needs to be oiled regularly. It is preferred for survival and agricultural tools.
- High Carbon Stainless Steel: Combines the benefits of stainless and carbon steels. This material retains the edge and durability just as carbon steel by including the rust or corrosion resistant ability of stainless steel. However, it is costlier, requires regular maintenance to keep rusting at bay, is not as easy to sharpen as stainless steel, and has low tolerance to heat. Still, it is most recommended for machetes, whether you buy one for functional or decorative purpose.
One more recently introduced material is Damascus steel, which combines different laminates to expose the texture of various layers.
Factor 3: Tang
When it comes to buying a machete, it is essential to with a full tang that reaches into the handle and completes at its end. Such a design offers durability as well as superior strength. It is also handy for slicing and chopping with good force.
Factor 4: Sawback or Serration
A few machetes come with serration or teeth on the unsharpened rear of the blade. It is used to saw through the difficult foliage, pull away brush, and pull branches away from your way. The extent to which it extends along the blade varies.
Factor 5: Handle Material
Usually, people believe that handle material contributes only to visual appearance. While it is true, the material also contributes to grip and durability. Thus, it is worth looking into the type of material you are getting for the handle of a machete. Each material has its own pros and cons.
- Wood: Remains warm in hand, is light in weight, and gives good grip. However, it is capable of docking bacteria, warping or cracking if it comes in contact with water, and is usually expensive. Wood also demands more maintenance than other materials.
- Molded Plastic: Is easier to maintain than wood, does not warp or crack, and is less expensive than wood. However, it can prove to be slippery in wet conditions. It can also become brittle and discolored as the time passes by.
- Stainless Steel: Is not only for blade, but also for the handle of a machete. It gives a cool appearance but is heavy, expensive, and somewhat slippery.
- Rubber or Textured: Is admired for its soft feel and good grip. However, it can wear with time. Yet, it is second to Micarta.
- Micarta: Is the best of all materials and features layers of heat-treated fiberglass, paper, linen, canvas, and plastic. It is admired for its comfort feel, strong build, and superb grip. The only con here is that it is expensive.
Factor 6: Handle Style
The style of the handle should be such that the hold proves comfortable in your hand as well as defend it from the blade. Further, the handle should fit perfectly in your palm. This is important to ensure, as a few styles are bigger or smaller than your hand size. Here are the common styles to consider:
- Quillon: Refers to the protrusion area between the handle and blade. Defends the palm from descending off and moving toward the blade. However, the knuckle is less for protection.
- Knuckle Guard or D-ring and Crossguard: Defends hands and knuckles but is not fitting in all hands. It is also bulkier and bigger to move and use. It limits the tool’s versatility, as one can hold the guard in only some ways. The knuckle guard is another way for keeping your hand firmly over the. However, it is handier in protecting the hand against an opponent. It is also reliable in protecting the hand against branches.
Majority of machete handles come with single quillon. It is light in weight and is preferable when the chance of blade to fight is less. Just as the lanyard hole, quillons give additional security to the grip when you use a machete. Usually, machetes have front quillons but rear quillons are also famous, as they prevent the hand from gliding off the back end.
A handle guard is essential for defending against attack by other blades. Similarly, located at the base of handle, hand stop prevents the hand from slipping from the back just to lose control. Look for these features if you are conscious of slippery surface.
Consider having a two-handed handle. A longer handle facilitates an extended reach as well as superb leverage while swinging. However, such models are specialty ones designed for some specific tasks.
Factor 7: Lanyard Hole
Another safety feature to consider is a lanyard hole, which you will find in most modern machetes. Those who are not much aware of machetes may marvel as to why a lanyard hole is required even if it is heavy to fasten to your keys. Well, through this hole, you can attach a cord between the blade and your wrist. Doing so offers extra security from a sharp machete moving out of your hand while swinging it.
So, it is due to security reason that a lanyard hole is required. A lanyard on a machete allows wrapping it on your wrist so that it does not go out of hand while swinging it. Anyways, it is still a matter of preference. For some buyers, extra security is of top priority, while the rest never use it.
Factor 8: Hook
This was actually started by Woodman’s Pal and is mostly featured on its machetes. However, hooks are also now visible on machetes of other brands, such as Gerber. The internal of a hook is sharp due to which it slicing via difficult vines and branches becomes easy. The hook also helps in grabbing and pulling brushes.
Factor 9: Fuller
This is groove close to the spine, due to which it also called blood grooves. Do not be fooled by its name, as it is designed to decrease the blade’s weight, not to increase it. It aims to lighten it by shifting the steel. Fullers visible side by side are seen on kukris. In absence of a fuller, a machete may have cut-outs to reduce the weight.
Factor 10: Sheath
Just as for any knife, a sheath is also important for a machete. The sheath for a machete should be made up of hard plastic molded material. However, even here, it is a matter of preference.
2016’s 5 Best Machetes
It is tested for clearing a wild site, chopping weeds, and hacking small branches. It features a 1085 carbon-steel blade with hollow grind and specializes for basic field use, ergonomic Kraton G thermoplastic handle that ensures strong grip, and leather/Cordura sheath. While the overall length is 17 inches, the blade is 11.5 inches long.
It is fine for chopping with its 3Cr13 stainless steel blade coated with black powder and Safe-T-Grip handle coated with rubber. The handle features a lanyard hole. The actual sharpened part measures 12 inches. Extra 1.5 inches of non-sharpened steel edge exist up to the chiole.
Gerber Bear Grylls 31-002072:
Ii is a sophisticated version of the traditional tribe’s machete, which is now 15 inches long. It features an angled blade which is fine for clearing brush and other debris. The full tang blade is 9.3 inches long and is made up of 1055 high carbon steel. The handle is ergonomic and possesses a textured rubber grip to reduce slippage and maximize comfort. The Parang also comes with a lanyard cord for boosted grip security. You also get a nylon sheath that is resistant to mildew and is of military grade, SOS instructions, and a pocket guide on priorities of survival. It is designed for the toughest users in mind.
Condor Tool and Knife Parang:
It is 17.5-inch machete with a blade made up of 1075 high carbon steel and full tang. The blade has a finish of black powder. The handle is made up of hardwood and features vents for more comfort and greater grip.
It has all features of Ka Bar Kukri mentioned above, but measures 16.5 inches overall with blade being 11 inches long. It is ideal for cutting small limbs and branches, chopping weeds, and clearing a site.
A machete increases efficiency as well as decrease fatigue, if the right one is chosen. So, choosing it becomes a critical task. After all, a machete is next to a good knife, as your best pal that works well and does not mind abuse. It is capable of working rapidly for a myriad of survival tasks such as wood chopping, shelter building, and brush clearing. Moreover, a machete is a staple knife in several aboriginal cultures, as it is highly functional, very affordable, and amazingly easy to maintain.
What is even more interesting is that machetes superb for last line of self defense. Whether the opponent is a beast or a human, the machete proves to be the much reliable force. Although rough, a machete is reliable against any such attack. Due to its versatility, you are perfectly motivated to get the best machete for which it is essential to analyze the aforementioned factors.