Machete sharpening


March 15, 2008, 10:31 AM
Hi I tried the sharpening faq sites but didn't see what I was looking for. I have a strange situation.
I'm a Veterinay student on the island of St.Kitts which is a thirld world country with the requsite crime. I recently bought a macchete(actually Thats what I think it is it's basically a 14inch blade like a big knife with a curved blunt end. I purchased it primarly for cocconuts I also have a pipe I found(lots of junk laying around here) for self defense(crimes bad enough here that everybody who can afford it has bars on windows and doors) I figured I can keep the pipe in my bedroom and the knife in my car. I was wondering how to sharpen it with a rock(lots of those here) I can't find a sharpener here that I can afford so any of you who know if you could let me know technique or what type of rock to pick? it would be helpful thanks

PS it goes without saying that guns are illegal(never mind crooks have them) and I have a stray dog I found(but its common for theives to kill dogs and attack students) everyone here(natives) has macchetes

If you enjoyed reading about "Machete sharpening" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
March 15, 2008, 11:06 AM

A file will often times sharpen a "machete" very well and leave a "toothy" edge that works well for rope, and vines.

Emery paper/ Sandpaper will sharpen, or allow one to get a more sharp edge from the file used to remove nicks and any damaged areas.

Strop using cardboard, either by stropping on a cardboard box, or by taking a piece of cardboard attached to a piece of flat wood and using it like a "file".

I don't know, and do not mean to presume, still being a Vet student perhaps you actually go afield to where animals are, and I would think the locals have found some local "rocks" they use for "stones" to sharpen.
Perhaps if you go to farms these folks have some sharpening ideas they use and you can gain some tips from them.

Student not only learning Vet medicine, also getting an education about what folks use on the farms - some folks like sharing with others. You assist some farmer with an animal and they in like kind assist you with a tip, or information including sharpening.

Dave Markowitz
March 15, 2008, 11:16 AM
If the blade is really dull and you have access to a belt sander, try it. I've used one in the past and it works well. Otherwise, use a file to get a rough edge and the follow up with a stone.

Keep in mind that you don't need or want a razor edge. While great for slicing, they are not good for chopping. Razor edges are thin and can easily roll over when you chop something, especially if you hit something hard like a knot in wood, or a bone.

March 15, 2008, 11:19 AM
Thanks sm what number sandpaper?
We do have ambulatory but the farms here are not really farms, there are no fences basically animals just roam and come back to the property at night(it's where the get water) thats why our 4th year is spent in the states. I will give it a shot though, they can just say no right?
Thanks for your response I'll go to the hardware store on mon. also the file should be a chainsaw file?(I know they have those:)

March 15, 2008, 11:54 AM

Dave is correct in not wanting a really sharp "machete".
Is this "machete" like one of these on this link perhaps?

I am guessing it is a carbon steel blade and 60 and 80 grit emery paper will act like a file to get nicks and damage out [file is much better].

I would go to about 200/220 grit and strop. One can go to 400 grit, and one trick is to do the front half 220 and the back half near handle 400 grit.

This allows for chopping wood or rope with the front half and nearer the handle a more "fine" edge for any more delicate work.

One can lay the emery paper on a magazine and pull the spine (opposite of edge) backwards to sharpen. Just like one does to strop.

For portable use, and a real useful tool for other sandpaper/emery paper needs is to get a paint stir stick, or old yard/metric ruler.

Cut to about 12" {350 mm ?] and lay the stick onto backing, lined up nice and straight.
Lightly score the backing to allow you to fold along the edges of the stick.
Just score, fold, score, a few times, not too thick and them staple both ends.

Emery Stick.
Now you can use this like a strop (pulling backwards) to sharpen, or use like a file if need.
When that one side of emery paper gets worn, carefully tear along that edge to expose a fresh new piece of emery.

This will allow the same grit emery, to have both a "fresh" and "worn" side and essentially two different side is coarser than the used one...
Using lighter and lighter pressure will give one a finer grit, using the same grit as well.


Harley Quinn
March 15, 2008, 12:01 PM
everyone here(natives) has macchetes

I'd talk to a native and see what they use to sharpen his/hers with (rock concrete etc.) The best thing to do is find a native that is friendly and have a good discussion.

March 15, 2008, 12:32 PM
Ever notice how Harley's want to check out the natives?

*vroom* *vroom*


March 15, 2008, 12:35 PM
Thanks dave, I didn't know that about a real sharp edge against bone.
sm, Thanks for the instructions I'll get the stuff monday and give it a try. Harley, the machetes i see are all rusty people here(most) don't take care of anything, animals, houses, cars, themselves. But I will stop by the shop at the school and ask one of them kinda dumb I didn't think of it:)

Also, It's a daga knife everything is in spanish It kinda looks like the butcher knife but more of a sharp curve at the end thanks for the replies guys I'll let you know how it works out.

The Tourist
March 15, 2008, 12:39 PM
If the machete is going to only be used for defense, you can sharpen it any way you wish. I have done this for clients.

I did one a few months ago for a client going to Panama to build a hotel.

The first six inches of the blade (nearest the handle) were polished as sharp as I could get it. The remainder of the blade was sharpened "toothy."

In that way the client had a very sharp edge for close work, and the main part of the machete was still good for clearing brush.

March 15, 2008, 01:22 PM
With all due respect to DM, I would never send someone to the grinder unless I knew that they had a lot of experience with one for two reasons. Machines can move a lot of metal awfully quick that can't be put back. A grinder can yank a blade out of your hands and turn it into a injury lottery.

If you're not comfortable working with power tools and want to learn start with wooden planks and develop your techniques with a more forgiving material.

March 15, 2008, 02:02 PM
I chuck up a big single cut file flat in a vise and "reverse drawfile" the blade sharp. With the soft steel that most machetes are made of, this makes for fairly quick work.

Surely someone around you has to have a file and a vise.

March 15, 2008, 02:20 PM
I'd suggest a fine-cut file.

That's the best way to keep one sharp when you are using it to clear trails.


March 15, 2008, 03:08 PM
Having visited enough 3rd world countries, I know that every large facility such as a Vet. school with have their own shop capable of repairing/manufacturing just about everything, more than enough tools there to sharpen a machete.

Go there and introduce yourself and ask if someone will be willing to sharpen your machete for you. Depending on where you are, small change, cigarettes or beer will take care of the costs.

March 15, 2008, 03:22 PM
In that way the client had a very sharp edge for close work, and the main part of the machete was still good for clearing brush.


Being out and about, I like being able to sharpen freehand.

Files work well , they are light, easy to pack, and one can use a file to make a fire, or fix something.

Stones such as Norton Crystolon coarse/fine also work well.
Which is what I have used and others too , being out for 2- 4 weeks while canoing, portaging in Canada.
We carried 4" or 5" stones and these do not rust.
These also "rough up" a canoe (fiberglass, wood or aluminum) to use a patch kit on them.

In Jamaica the folks I got to know, used both Files and Stones.
Norton stones were really appreciated when given as gifts to these folks.
Norton India, works very well , still most folks that use machetes and similar, seem to prefer the Crystalon and use them dry.

Note: Red Stripe Beer cardboard box and Blue Mountain Coffee cardboard boxes strops better than Coppertone cardboard boxes.

This is what I and the really neat grounds keeper discovered in some "serious" machete sharpening down in Montego Bay. *hic*

Babes in bikinis will come over and join you and they learn real fast a empty Red Stripe Beer Bottle with cardboard wrapped it , strops a machete real well.

Ya'll did not know I did Southern Ambassador-ship in Jamaica did ya?

Art's Grammaw won't let me share about Negril...but nude beaches need sharp machetes too.

March 15, 2008, 06:57 PM
As a Surveyor for many years, I can share LOTS of experience with machetes.
a)Find a nice flat bastrd cut file.
b)Push the point of the knife into some handy crook, where it will not twist as you work. Brace the handle just below your belt, and lean into the end to keep it stable.
c) Point the tang of the file away from yourself, and draw the cutting face towards yourself. Why? If you push the file towards the newly cut blade edge, you will someday slip and split your thumb in two. I've seen it!
d) Work the front 40% of the blade until it has an even 1/4 to 3/8" shiny stripe along the edge. Turn it over, rebrace, and work the other side until it, too, has the same drawn shiney edge.
e) Lick the edges with file lightly to cut the bead. You will have a sharp utile knife, able to slash vine, cut wood, and defend yourself.
I don't suggest sharpening it all the way to the hilt, since that's just too close to your fingers, nor the tip, since that will inevitably dig into dirt, clang off rocks, get dulled when used as shovel or probe, etc.
Be careful. OSHA regulates every tool in the USA, but they won't even acknowledge that machetes exist! They're dangerous! I've got scars to prove it!

Pat Cannon
March 15, 2008, 07:28 PM
I would only add: Whichever method you use -- be careful! I almost severed a tendon on one my fingers while sharpening a machete. Don't watch TV while you do it!

March 15, 2008, 09:19 PM
Machines can move a lot of metal awfully quick that can't be put back. A grinder can yank a blade out of your hands and turn it into a injury lottery.

Darn Right!! I had been talking to the owner of Kris Cutlery. He had a customer who had been sharpening a Kris Cutlery "Barbarian Sword". This sword was a two handed monster shaped after the Conan the Barbarian Sword. The customer lost control of the blade and somehow he cut his nose off!

I do use a bench grinder, I let the wheel get up to speed and then I turn the grinder off and let the wheel slow down. I will start grinding, lightly as the wheel slows. This is so I don't take too much off, or burn the blade. Takes longer as I have to restart and get the wheel going several times. If I could find a cheap and slow bench grinder, I would buy it.

March 15, 2008, 09:23 PM
Could he use a soft sand stone flat rock from a creek to put the first sharp on it? pushing away from handle to tip? the work it better on say a leather belt or boot?

March 16, 2008, 12:38 AM
Most of my machete & bolo sharpening has been done with a flat file and large coarse stone.

No, you don't want to use a chainsaw file. Just a flat file at least an inch wide. The file techniques above are about what I would recomend. Pushing a file into the edge can leave you with a scar on your index finger, similar to one I have. Actually, if the "push" method is easier for you, you can make a finger guard for the file by poking the pointed end through a piece of leather or wood, and then replacing the handle on the file.
Finger guards

Also, blade touch up can be done with a round stone, commonly used for axes:
Round axe stones

Technique for an axe

I also figured out how to file a bolo to an "axe grind" (a convex curve rather than flat bevel). The rewards are great, as an "axe grind" gives quite a robust edge, but it's finicky work if you don't have a low-speed slack belt. Coarse grit paper glued to the back of a notepad or magazine can get you there (sm can tutor you in the technique), but it's not a very handy in-the-field technique.

Like others above, I have found that too fine an edge will lead to rolling and chipping of the edge.

March 16, 2008, 01:09 AM
How fine the edge or angle of the knife blade is ground is dependant on what it is to be used for. A guy might want a finer edge on machete to cut through soft foliage than one to cut tough brush. Same with a knife depending on what or how it is to be used. A steep angeled edge can or will be tougher and stay sharp better for hard use where a fine edge can cut things the other can't but will dull far easier. Both are better if used for their intended task.

March 16, 2008, 02:46 AM
The machete does not really need to be sharp to do damage. I lived through two uprisings in Haiti and saw more killings than I care to remember.
I would much rather try to make a spear that will give extra reach than relying on a machete alone. You will most likey face several opponents.

One advice I can give you: in any fight with the natives, absolute aggressiveness will take all their bravery out of them. Just giving the impression in your neighbourhood that you are no easy prey but will fight, will make the predators look elsewhere for a good victim.

While living in Haiti, I had fired a worker and he passed the word that he would wait in the street for me, with a knife. I asked a Dominican mechanic to bring me some steel rod and just made a foot long sharpened dagger-like knife on a bench grinder. It took about a couple of hours and the guy and his handful of friends was told by the other workers that the blanc made a knife and would come out to fight. When I walked out of the factory into the street with the Dominican to cover my back, they were all gone.

Had I shown any fear, the guy and his pack would have certainly attacked me.

tasco 74
March 16, 2008, 03:11 AM
how about one of those shark sharpening tools that LOUD guy sells on tv lately?? those things are supposed to sharpen anything!!

March 17, 2008, 05:07 PM
Well, I got one of the Kittians at the shop to sharpen it, he did an okay job. I still bought some sandpaper (I like to learn new skills)-couldn't find a file though. I'll have to go back after the ship comes in. Thanks for all the replies and help guys-Joe

March 21, 2008, 04:56 AM
A really sharp edge with a shallow bevel on machete will cause it to stick more making chopping more laborious than need be.

March 22, 2008, 03:09 AM
For most machetes, a bastard file is good enough. If you want to use it as a knife, too, any cheap stone will be good enough for honing.

I generally go for sharp every time. Edge angles vary. Most machetes are made from soft steel, relatively thin flat stock with a simple edge bevel. Making the edge bevel convex (rather than flat or hollow ground) will help keep the machete from sticking when chopping harder materials. But the flat stock blade makes the problem worse, especially if there's a lot of penetration. Very acute edge angles will make for thin edge bevels, more prone to deforming under heavy usage. But generally better if the machete needs to be a knife, too. Harder steel found on costlier knives would more likely break under such conditions. Deformations are generally easier to file out or simply work around. Soft steel, usually the bane of knife blades, is a distinct advantage when it comes to a simple tool like a machete.

March 24, 2008, 12:36 AM
+1 on the ax or apleseed edge, i work at gerber and i have all my axes sharpened on the slack belt with the appleseed edge, tough but still sharp enough to go through meat and bone. found out with a trip to the hospital. aim was a little off that day...

If you enjoyed reading about "Machete sharpening" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!