*You and your machete*
Q: What is a machete?
A: a machete is a large cleaver like knife. They normally range in size from about 10" to about 24" Most machete's have a thin blade, making them easy to sharpen and easier to swing. Machetes are found around the world under many different names but most commonly they are called machetes or a "matchet". If you are ever in the Philippines and you have the opportunity to purchase a "bolo" get one. They're weighted a little heavier towards the tip and work well for chopping. The ones I have seen were made from the leaf springs of a vehicle. They were heated then pounded thin and into shape by hand.
I highly doubt you'll be able to get one; however, a USGI machete works just as well, and can be purchased at most army surplus stores or off the internet for a very affordable sum. One can be had at Wally World for under 10.00, buy a couple.
A machete is primarily a agricultural tool used for clearing fields of brush and some types of harvesting. It can be a very effective butchering tool (swing one at the ribs of a deer or the pelvis bone when you’re quartering an animal). It has also been known to be a very effective weapon in the right hands.
About the machete. The 10 inch model is my preferred weed-whacker. I like my equipment smaller and able work in confined areas. I often find myself using it to cut willows for various projects, plus it fits into my daypack so I don't get the odd looks from "civilians" 18" models do good for just about everything and everyone else while the 24's are overly large in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
Maintenance: some people say "Never sharpen it with a grinder grab a file from the hardware store and take your time to shape the blade." Bull pucky. They don’t pay someone at the factory to sit there with a file manually shaping machete blades, they come off of an assembly line and blade temper is one of the last things they’re concerned about on $7.00 blade. Most store bought units are low quality and the blades don't come shaped right or may not even come completely sharpened. Some machete's come with only one side sharpened, it's just a way for the manufacturer to skimp and save some money. (But honestly… how much money can you save by skipping 30 seconds on the grinder?) File it like a knife and it'll cut well but the edge wont' last as long. If the edge is too thick, you'll just mash everything and perform double the work. I sharpen both sides of my machete thin (but not too thin) with a bench grinder; however, a good file or a sharpening stone will do just as well. Words on sharpening… go slow and make it even. It makes it easier to get it back into shape after you abuse it, and it will be abused. As a last note, the type of metal used in machetes makes them prone to rust. It's not the end of the world, they’ll work anyway. If the rust is a problem, spray it down with some rustoleum, just remember that with use that paints going to wear off and then you'll be back at square one.
The cotton sheathes that come with them are about worthless after a few weeks if you're in an area with a lot of water (high humidity areas/rivers). Bring a roll of duct tape (od green preferred) to patch it, OR just throw a piece on the edge when it goes into your ruck to keep it from cutting anything. In the field I just keep it out. In places where the machete is as common as a cell phone is in New York, you'll often see them with custom leather sheathes, beads, decoration, etc. I'm not a overly creative man myself, I stick with duct tape.
PUT ON A LANYARD, AND USE THE LANYARD, you don't want to go and swing at something when it's wet, only to watch the blade fly out of your hand and give a team mate a lobotomy on accident. They're also handy when you're working around water or anywhere with dense brush. You could easily lose a very important tool. The model shown below does not have a lanyard hole but one can be added very easily with a drill and some creativity.
ALSO, go to a sporting goods store; ask for a racquetball grip replacement. By putting one onto the handle of your machete it will keep it in your hand even when it's wet, they even go on rather easily.
How to do it:
Gather the materials… in this case it’s a Wal-Mart special that came with a blade guard, a roll of duct tape and a racquetball racquet replacement grip
Put the blade guard on the machete and put a strip of duct tape along the blade to help protect yourself from losing a finger in case your hand slips.
Measure the right amount of replacement grip and cut the required length…
Stretch out what you need over two fingers and work it onto your machete’s handle.
Add a piece of tape at the top so that it won’t slide off, and you’re done.
I found that the easiest way to put one on is to clamp the blade snugly in a vise, blade down. Spray the handle and the inside of the grip with spray adhesive or rubber cement and twist it on. I've seen people heat them in hot water and then shrink them in cool, but those were the old rubber grips, the newer ones go on a lot easier. It all comes down to this… any way you can get it on without losing a finger is the right way.
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