There’s something terrifying about machetes. Their size and design can strike fear into anyone. But these blades are so much more than just intimidating. They are also one of the most widely-used blades in the world.
I love machetes. They are one of the most reliable and versatile blades I have around. That’s why I say everyone should have a machete.
That said, machetes are only good when they are sharp. What use is a dull machete? Without a razor-sharp edge, your machete won’t be worth much.
Like every blade, sharpening machetes has its own nuances. A lot of times, people damage their machetes while sharpening. That’s why knowing the proper technique is so important.
That’s exactly what we are going to explore today. Let’s take a deeper look at machetes, their advantages, their disadvantages, and how to properly sharpen one.
What are Machetes?
You’d have to be living under a rock not to know what a machete is. These blades are so popular, you’ll find them almost anywhere.
Machetes have been around for hundreds upon hundreds of years. It’s believed that they originated from Central America. From there, they have spread to every corner of the globe.
These blades are sometimes described as a cross between a knife and an ax. If you have a machete, you’ll understand why. It has everything that knives have, but can also function the way axes do.
Machetes vary in size and shape. They typically range from 12-17 inches long. Most have a big belly towards the tip of the blade. Curves are also a common feature, though not all types of machetes have these.
Advantages of Using Machetes
The reason why machetes are so popular is that they are so good and so versatile. They are excellent at a number of tasks. That’s why they are everywhere from farmland to jungles, from campsites to warzones.
What makes the machete so special is its thickness. The big belly is what gives them their ax-like capabilities. You can think of it as an ax with a much longer edge.
With these abilities, cutting through any vegetation has never been so easy. Whether you are cutting soft grass or hard branches, your machete will get you through. Machetes are used for harvesting, clearing brush, collecting firewood, and so much more.
Machetes are also great for preparing food. Not in your kitchen of course, but out in the field. Whether it’s preparing game or opening coconuts, a lot of people prefer using machetes to prepare their next meal.
Finally, machetes are great for self-defense. Throughout history, machetes have been a formidable weapon. And if ever something comes up, it is a very reliable weapon to defend yourself with.
Disadvantages of Using Machetes
There is no perfect blade. What works great for one task can do very poorly for another. And despite being an all-around blade, machetes just can’t do everything.
The main “problem” with machetes is their size. Because they’re so long, it’s almost impossible to use a machete in the kitchen. Imagine slicing onions with a machete, you’ll be crying from difficulty.
It is also difficult to get accurate cuts of meat with a machete. Machetes are great for getting rough cuts. But if you’re looking for chef cuts, it’s better to use a shorter knife.
Machetes are always compared to axes. One feature of axes lacking in machetes is splitting. The shape of ax heads make them perfect for splitting wood. Because machete blades are relatively thin, they can’t do this as well.
Because machetes can do so many things, they don’t specialize in anything. Scythes are better for harvesting, hunting knives are better for cutting game, axes are better for chopping trees, and so on.
Reading through these disadvantages though, you realize none of them are bad in a strict sense. I say none of them are disadvantages at all. Machetes can’t be everything, that’s why these “problems” exist.
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Sharpening a machete isn’t all that difficult. However, there are a few key differences you need to be aware of. This can make all the difference between a sharp machete and a destroyed one.
The first thing you need to note is how your machete curves. You can’t sharpen your machete as you would a knife because of these. That’s why whenever you sharpen, pay special attention to the shape of your machete.
The second problem is that machetes are quite long. This is one of the main reasons why the technique for sharpening machetes is different.
Finally, the angle of your machete’s bevel will differ depending on what you want to use it for. If you’re going to cut through softer material, such as grass, go for a 20-25 degree angle. This keeps the blade nice and thin, allowing you to sweep through the grass and other non-hard materials.
For wood, it’s wiser to go for a 25-35 degree angle. This gives your blade more body behind it. The danger of going thin for hard materials is that it may chip your machete. And we all know chipping is a big no-no when it comes to blades.
How to Sharpen a Machete?
I always say that good old fashioned sharpening stones are the best. But today, I have to admit this isn’t the case with machetes.
There are several tools you can use to sharpen your machete. These include belt sanders, sharpening stones, Dremels, files, and grinders.
But before you take one of these and sharpen your machete, it’s very important to know how it’s done first. Again, proper technique is so important. You don’t want to destroy your machete, do you?
So without further adieu, let’s take a look at the common sharpening tools and how to properly sharpen your machete with them.
1. How to Sharpen a Machete Using a Belt Sander
If sharpening stones aren’t the best, what is? To me, the best tool you can use for your machete is a belt sander.
A lot of people use belt sanders for sharpening all their blades. This is because it is fast and effective. It eats a lot of metal and can get your knives sharp in no time.
When it comes to something as long as a machete, a fast sharpener like this becomes all the more valuable. And since you don’t have to hold a belt sander, you can use both of your hands on the blade.
Most machetes are double-beveled. This means that you’ll have to sharpen both sides. Some types only have one bevel, but these aren’t very common.
To sharpen, all you have to do is to softly push your machete against the spinning belt. Let the belt do the work for you. A gentle push is all you need, the belt will shave off the metal fast.
Run your whole machete through the belt. Remember to follow the curves of your machete carefully. After you’ve gone through the whole blade, feel for a burr. If you find one, flip your blade and work on the other side.
As you do this, be careful of the temperature of your blade. Because of how aggressive the belt is, overheating is a common problem. This will damage your machete, so take breaks once in a while if you have to.
2. How to Sharpen a Machete Using a Sharpening Stone
Just because they aren’t the best doesn’t mean that they are no good. Sharpening stones are still one of the best options for sharpening your machete.
The problem with sharpening stones is that it can take quite a long time to get the job done. Also, the curves of a machete make it more challenging to do this.
Nonetheless, it can be done. The best way to do this is to stabilize your machete first. If you have clamps, clamp it down so that you can work on the blade properly.
Once your machete is stabilized, you can now get sharpening. Run the sharpening stone against the blade. Feel for a burr after every few strokes.
If you don’t have anything to stabilize your machete, you can still sharpen your machete. Yes, it will be more challenging. But it can be done.
The best way to do this is to hold your machete on the back of the blade and point it downwards. Then take the sharpening stone with your other hand and get to work.
3. How to Sharpen a Machete Using a Dremel
There are several other tools that make great machete sharpeners. One of these is the Dremel. If you have one of these around, you can use it to sharpen your machete.
Dremel is a brand of power tools. They are so famous for their rotary tools, a lot of people call these tools “Dremel”.
These rotary tools are popular because of how good they are. You can use them for so many things, including sharpening your machete.
To use a Dremel, run the spinning tip of the tool against the bevel of your machete. As you can guess, this will remove metal fast. You can go from dull to razor-sharp in no time.
The problem with using a Dremel is that the tip is quite small. It isn’t a wide and flat surface like belts and sharpening stones are. That’s why you’ll have to be very precise when working with this.
Machetes are quite long, so if you’re not careful, you can get an uneven sharpening. When it’s not well done, your machete will bend in some areas. And this is not something you want.
That’s why Dremels are best for fixing small areas. If there is a part of your machete that bends, Dremels are the best tool to fix it. When it comes to sharpening the entire blade though, there are better options.
4. How to Sharpen a Machete Using a File
Machetes are often used in the field or in the forest. In these environments, almost no one brings power tools with them. That’s why files are one of the best sharpeners for machetes.
Files aren’t that big, and they are lightweight as well. It’s very easy to bring a file with you wherever you go. So whenever you need to sharpen your machete on the spot, your file will be right there for you.
To sharpen using a file, you’ll once again have to stabilize your machete first. In the field, you won’t have clamps around. So use the same method for sharpening stones I told you about.
Hold the back of the blade and point it downwards. Then take the file on your other hand and start sharpening. Rub it against the blade at the right angle, and you’ll get a sharp edge in no time.
Sharpeners are one of the best tools for machete sharpening because of how portable they are. Whenever you need a quick sharpen, all you have to do is stash out your file and get to work.
5. How to Sharpen a Machete Using a Grinder
Last but not least, grinders. Grinders are known to be very aggressive when used for sharpening. They can eat up a lot of metal fast.
Because of this, you have to be careful when using your grinder. You want to sharpen your machete, not destroy it.
Another danger is overheating your blade. Because of how aggressive grinders are, the heat can destroy your machete. That’s why I like to splash some water on my blade while sharpening with this tool.
Grinders can get the job done, but this isn’t the best tool. The reason for this is because unlike belt sanders, it is a handheld tool. This gives you more challenges.
You’ll have to find a way to stabilize your machete. You’ll also have to be careful to sharpen everything evenly. Remember, grinders shave off so much metal, so one mistake can destroy your blade.
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Machetes are super versatile, but this versatility is worthless without sharpness. That’s why it’s so important to know how to properly sharpen your machetes.
With a razor-sharp edge, you’ll finally unlock the full potential of your machete!