Ok, so I’ve been looking for a few good all around large wilderness knives, large blades, like machetes and the like, things I could substitute for an axe. My personal philosophy for wilderness excursions is to carry a large blade instead of an axe, because while an axe is really, really good for heavy duty chopping, unless you are doing something really involved, like building a log cabin, you could probably get by with a large knife instead.
And in addition to that, there are a gazillion things you can do with a large machete that an axe would just be too unwieldy for. My personal benchmark, my reference blade, my standard for any large blade that can double as an axe, is the Nepalese Khukuri. And I actually did find a Khukuri to add to my outdoor kit. That blade, however, is the topic of another post.
Today, I’d like to talk about one of the more popular machete type tools I happened to run across during my search: The Woodmans Pal:
Now this is one of the more unique machete designs I’ve happened across during my ramblings across the internet, and for the most part, I like what I see. Good solid construction, no gimmicky features, like some of the other specialized machetes I’ve blogged about in the past. I will admit that in my opinion, this machete does carry a little bit of bloatware on board, depending on how you plan to use this useful not-so-little blade, however this ends up working in it’s favor, which I will talk a little bit about later on.
So, lets start from the bottom. The Woodmans pal comes in two flavors, one with a nice hardwood grip, and the other with the premium, and very nice looking compressed leather grip, with an integrated D shaped knuckle guard, as shown later below. Me personally, I like the leather grip and knuckle guard, but depending on how you plan to use the machete, the wood may be a better choice, for reasons I’ll also get into later.
But perhaps the most distinctive feature of this machete is it’s blade. The woodmans pal features an interesting forward swept design, with the blade getting a little wider, as it gets towards the top. Interestingly the edge is not sharpened all the way to the top, but stops just short of the wide, flat tip. However at the top of the blade, opposite the unsharpened top edge, we have a billhook jutting from the spine.
The billhook sits in a depression stamped into the top of the hook, so as to ensure that, when oriented correctly, the blade of the hook is always lower than the blade of the machete, which should make it easier to catch limbs and brush with. I thought was a very clever design feature, though this is also where my little nitpicks begin.
Here’s the thing. This design is quite innovative, however it suffers from a few shortcomings. For instance, if you opt for the model with the leather grip and knuckle guard, you may find that your options for using the billhook are actually a little limited. Because as clever as the design is, that depression makes it biased towards one hand over the other, depending on whether you are a southpaw or not, and also depending on how you use a machete.
If you are one of the unfortunate few for whom the placement of the depression for the billhook makes it a little harder to use, you may want to opt for the wood grip, since the knuckle guard will generally only aggravate this problem, and the wood handle is actually much better designed to allow the machete to be used upside down. I also found that, at least based on the way I use machetes, there was only a marginal advantage to having it. A lot of what I might do with the billhook, I could do with just the machete blade alone.
However I will say that the bill hook, in combination with the slight flare of the blade as it rises towards the tip, provides the tool with a top heavy balance that should give it rather khukuri-like qualities in terms of chopping power. Perhaps with not quite the same kind of elegance that the Khukuri carries, but some semblance of it’s chopping ability nonetheless.
Now individually, none of these features are particularly unique. However put together, it makes for one heck of a well balanced, exotic gardening implement! The wood and leather, where used, appear to be of great quality, and the steel is a good quality tempered carbon spring steel, so no demerits in that area either. All in all, a really great machete, if you are in the market for something of this nature.
Equally confidence inspiring is that Pro Tool Industries, the maker of the Woodmans Pal, offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back. I’m tend to be a bit leery when I see things like that, but based on what I’ve seen of it, I’d be willing to bet few have ever taken advantage of this offer.
So really, apart from the whole billhook thing, I can’t really knock this. And it even comes in black. I wish they made one without the billhook.
But then I guess it just wouldn’t be a Woodmans Pal.
‘Tis a shame really…