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The Beginner's Guide to the Machete

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by JShirley, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    All of you frequent NFW denizens have seen some of Sam Cade's machetes. The knife community has a lot of people who buy knives to collect, but who rarely use them. Machetes are working tools, not pretty pieces of art, and Sam uses and has used a wide variety of them.

    I asked Sam if he'd be willing to write a series of articles about machetes: how to choose a machete, what a machete is good for, ones to buy and ones to avoid. He has kindly agreed. The first article in the series is here.

    Thanks, Sam! :D

  2. Vonderek

    Vonderek Active Member

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  3. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Understandable. :)

    I especially liked Sam's illustrations of the most common styles available in the US, along with extremes of both thick/short and light/long. I'm hoping he will expand in the future to include other knives with similar performance, such as the Thai chopper he posted here recently.

  4. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    Eventually we will hit the ethnic choppers.

    Some of them are just too weird to ignore. :D

    Case in point, some of the big southeast Asian knives have "handed" asymmetrical grinds. Full flat ground on one side, convex or hollow ground on the other. Or hollow/convex. With distal taper. Or reverse distal taper. :scrutiny:
  5. tubeshooter

    tubeshooter New Member

    Nicely done - thank you very much for this.

    I look forward to future installments.
  6. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member


    I'm always open to suggestions.

    If there is a particular 'chete/chopper you would like to see put through its paces or if there is a particular area of usage you would like to see explored let me know.
  7. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member


    Is this Panga style one of the heavier machetes out there? It seems a little long for the weight I assume it has.

    I know this "sugar cane" two-hander will definitely be for heavier stuff than some others. Looks like it would be a better substitute for a two-handed chopper (and much cheaper) than the Cold Steal Chinese Swords and such.

    Based on your suggestions in the article, would you say something like this 18" imacasa would be a good beginning machete for must users?

    If the Marble's are made in Central America, I'd guess they were decent?
  8. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    For scale:

    Durn. Slipped up and put a 22" in the picture instead of a 20".

    It is untapered, and the swell and point toward the tip make if very weight forward (POB is 7.5" or so above the scales on a 20") but the blade stock is 1.5mm thick so even a 22" IMACASA 980 panga it is lighter in the hand than a standard OKC 18"-er.

    The 22" OKC is just about the heaviest machete that I can use all day and still be able to brush my teeth that night.;)

    CaƱero is tough stuff so many professionals prefer a heavily weighted blade to hack through the stalks but the blades aren't any thicker than general usage machete. In fact, a thicker blade would be counter productive, requiring more material to be displaced as the blade moves through the stalk and robbing energy from the cut.

    The big IMACASA is still only 1.5mm thick.

    The long handle is mostly a way to extend the reach of the blade to prevent the user from having to bend over so far.


    I can just about touch the ground with mine if I slouch.


    Reach comes with a price of course. The long handled chopper is much more work to swing and fails miserably against hardwoods since the thin (and in my case highly ground) blade wants to wedge and has a terrible power robbing shiver if you make an imperfect cut.

    I like to use these as adjuncts to blackberry pickin'. The hook is handy for handing briars without cutting them and the long handle keeps your fingers in an unbepoked state.
    Mmmmmm... Blackberry cobbler.


    That is pretty close to the ideal general purpose machete.

    For the most part they are IMACASAs with upgraded factory edges (read as: They come sharp) and orange paint. They are sort of the midpoint between standard "My machete feeds my family" IMACASA and "Rich Fat American" Condor Tool and Knife/IMACASA.

    If you like orange or don't want to spend quality time with a bastard file or belt-grinder before you use your tool they are perfect. ;)

    Attached Files:

  9. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Wow. Thanks for the terrific illustrations and explanations. :)

  10. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    Knife dork joke in the 1st picture. :evil:
  11. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Ha! I thought it was for scale! :D
  12. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    I figured that I couldn't legitimately say "This knife cuts like a sharpened prybar!" unless I had some first hand experience.

    So I sharpened a prybar.

    Sharpened prybars don't cut very well. :evil:
  13. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    SO, now I suppose I'm going to have to retire my 18" & 22" green-horn handle WWII Legitimus Collins & Co. Machetes to cut cobbler right?? :D

    Nice write-up Sam!

  14. Potatohead

    Potatohead New Member

    Thanks for the article...
  15. tubeshooter

    tubeshooter New Member

    Just re-read this first installment. I have to say, it is very well done.

    Very informative, with just a hint of levity. Makes for good reading.

    Again - thanks very much! I'll be looking forward to more.
  16. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Active Member

    I have a Tramontoria(sp) that I keep sharp and use all the time.
    Beyond THAT I am at a total loss for any machete discussion.
  17. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Zeke, how are you sharpening it?
  18. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Active Member

    I clamp a 2 ft. long 2"x3" in a vice. Then with small "c" clamps I attach the blade to the 2x3. Initally, I draw file both sides of the blade followed by a routine with both grits of a round "axe" stone. It works well!
  19. Dirty Bob

    Dirty Bob New Member

    Great article, Sam! I look forward to more. I think my Tramontina bolo is my most useful overall machete. It's light enough to swing fast, heavy enough for some light wood cutting.

    The advantage of wood handles is the ease with which the user can re-shape them. I've modified wood handles before, as most machete hilts seem to be made for larger hands than mine. Although plastic can also be carved, wood seems easier.

    Perhaps at one point, you could do a "Hall of Shame" list. My first nomination: the abominable Gerber "Parang." Junk with a bad heat treat!

    Dirty Bob
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2013
  20. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member


    The 14" Tram bolo hits close to the sweet spot for a light duty, packable machete I think, provided a given example is free of gross defect.

    I can't speak as to the quality or consistency of the HT on the Peedrinker Parang, but I think that it is a terribly flawed design.


    A "Hall of Shame" is very doable and is one of the more reader beneficial and natural outcomes of doing broad survey type gear reviews.
    Also, fun to write, even though I don't think my editor will let me use my most colorful language. :evil:

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