My Machete "Build"

I’ve been a fan of machetes since I was a kid. They fill a unique niche somewhere between a hatchet and an axe, yet can do things neither of the others can.  

But I’ve found two problems common to a lot of commercially available machetes, especially in the U.S. First, many of them are too long for most uses. The longer the blade, the more imprecision is introduced to one’s swing (and if the blade is sharp you don’t need the extra momentum). Second, the upswept tip on the typical U.S.-style machete is useless and frequently dangerous. If you’re swinging at, say, a branch you need to sever, and rather than hitting it with the meat of the blade you instead make contact near that tip, the angle can deflect the tool back toward you at considerable speed. 

Years ago someone gave me a machete, the brand of which was long worn off but which appeared to be of fine quality. It was typical of those supplied in millions to the military by the Ontario Knife Company in several wars. It had a proper full tang, and the handle was secured with no fewer than four rivets. But it was saddled with an absurdly long 24-inch blade, and the typical upswept tip. I’ve used it now and then, but mostly rely on my old, shorter surplus machete. 

Recently my friends Sergio and Ruth Santiago from Mexico gave me a beautiful machete with a leather-wrapped grip and a stylish leather sheath. Its practical, short blade reminded me of that too-long machete, so I decided to do something about it. I used a cutoff wheel on my angle grinder to lop off about seven inches of the blade, while at the same time modifying its shape to eliminate that upsweep. Now if the tip makes contact with a branch, it’s more likely to dig in rather than bounce off. A little grinding, some cleaning and sharpening, and I’ve got a really usable tool. 

If I were buying a machete today I’d get one of these: 

Nice short, thick blade, safe tip, comfortable wood handle. A little shorter than my modified machete, but the slightly thicker blade gives it enough punch to get through small limbs in one swing.