Posts Tagged ‘Camp’

The Mighty Machete!

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you may know that I have a good amount of experience with machetes. I have done many things with them, clearing fields of 10ft tall elephant grass, felling small trees, even carving field hockey balls. (Yeah. Betcha didn’t know you could carve a hockey ball using a machete did you!)

Indeed, there was a time when I used them routinely, I dare say even more often than I did my laundry!  The result, is that I tend to reach for a machete where most folks would reach for an axe. As a matter of fact, I consider machetes a blade that is highly underrated in North America. This may or may not actually be true, however when people start looking for a medium to heavy-duty chopper, the first thing people seem to reach for is a camp hatchet or axe.

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet.

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet.

Now to be fair, there are many things an axe is just better for. For instance, you don’t hear much about machete murderers in the good old U.S. of A. Axe murderers, on the other hand… Common knowledge. And look at how under represented machetes are in the media. You see hunting and survival knives portrayed prominently in movies all the time, like the Rambo movies, The Hunted, etc. Even in games, machetes get a bad rap. You see throwing knives, in all kinds of First person shooters, ballistic knives in Call of Duty, etc, etc, etc, the list goes on forever!

Even on Youtube, machetes get little love. There was recently a game of “Name your two favorite knives” tag on Youtube, and not a single person (whose videos I have seen so far) has even mentioned a machete. It is a sad state of affairs people. Especially when you look at what you can do with a good machete. Chopping, carving, wood processing, digging, brush clearing, dismemberment… etc. (And just so we are all clear, I mean dismembering large game animals, not people. Not that it hasn’t been done before, but it’s just not my style. I’m just saying.)

Anyway, a machete can do it all! And what is most amazing about it is that you can get a good machete for a mere fraction of the cost of many of the fancy schmancy designer knives that people all seem to love. But you can thrash a machete and not have to worry about, ride it hard, put it away wet (thought if you do that, you deserve to be flogged, hung from you hair from the tree of woe, for wild emu to slowly pick at you… No seriously.)

The fact of the matter is, machetes get no love. At least not in North America. In Africa, South America, and many developing nations, it is the hero of large utility blades, and today, I’d like to speak out on behalf of all the poor neglected machetes of ‘Merica! I’d like to show you that machetes are not only good, but that they can be cool too!
First, allow me to introduce you to the working mans machete, two of my favorites from the Ontario Knife Co:

Ontario 12in Camper Machete

Ontario 12in Camper Machete


 The Ontario 12″ camper machete. This one has a saw blade spine and a “D” handle to offer added protection to the user, though I must say that as a seasoned machete user, I can’t recommend either, as the saw back is incredibly inefficient at sawing anything. It is best used for notching, but that is about it. And the D handle simply makes it harder to use that saw back anyway, so this is what I would consider a bad combination. Moving on to one of my more favored workhorse machetes:

Ontario 18in Military Machete

Ontario 18in Military Machete

The Ontario 18in Military Machete is my go to machete for camping trips and such, it is versatile, tough, and best of all, Cheap! I have both the 12in and the 18in version of this machete, and I really don’t know why every outdoorsman doesn’t have the 12in version in their pack. They are awesome! Next up, a light duty machete: The Gerber Gator Machete.

Gerber Gator Machete

Gerber Gator Machete

Now this is a nice, easy to use machete, ideal for someone who wants to pack light. It is not as heavy-duty as the Ontario or Cold Steel Offerings, but is light weight, low fatigue, and has one of the best grip ergonomics I have run into on a machete for a long time. It also has a saw spine, however its performance is surprisingly disappointing, especially given that they know how to make a good utility saw. Phail on you Gerber! PHAIL!! >:{

And now, on to the machetes that I classify simply as “Cool beyond Words”. Ok, so they aren’t really cool beyond words. But they are pretty darn cool. I refer, in this case, to Cold steels line of machetes, starting with their quite impressive Kukri Machetes:

Cold Steel Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

Both the Regular and Magnum Kukri machetes from Cold steel are simply quite good. Strong, tough, can be made shaving sharp, and quite versatile, I have both versions, and can say that they are great, especially for the price, being excellent low cost choppers and all around bush whacking blades.

Last but not least, allow me to introduce you to my favorite machete design of all time, the Cold Steel Kopis Machete.

Cold Steel Kopis Machete

Cold Steel Kopis Machete

Now this machete is just beautiful. Based on the ancient Greek Kopis sword, the Cold Steel Kopis Machete is a beautiful piece of work, a combination of style, function, strength and beauty that is really hard to come by these days. And, of course, as if simply to spite me, it is no longer being made. Curses. CURSES!!! Curse the machete gods for depriving me of this thing of beauty! Oh well. C’est la Vie. It is my own fault for not getting one while I could.

Anyway, there are a gazillion other machete designs i could talk about today, but these are some of my favorites. And hopefully I have demonstrated that Machetes are not just ugly choppers, and that you can have it all; strength, style, beauty and utility… with the Mighty MACHETE!! 😀

P.S.

By the way… Anyone got a Cold Steel Kopis machete they want to… umm… donate to… “charity”? I can take care of that for you… Yes, yes, it will be for a good cause. You know, like the Happy Balrog Knife Charity… No, no, it’s a real charity… It goes to Balrogs in desperate need of hard to find knives… No, really… 😀

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet – [True Swords]
Ontario 12″ Camper Machete – [True Swords]
Ontario 18″ Military Machete – [True Swords]
Gerber Gator Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Kukri Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Kopis Machete – (no longer made)

Trading Blade Overkill…

Monday, October 12th, 2009

When I was but a wee little balrog, I remember seeing a rather unique little multi-tool folding knife. This one wasn’t like any other multi-tool i had ever seen before because it had… a SPOON! *gasp*… Yep. It had a fork too… And a can opener and a corkscrew… a rather interesting little tool. Looked a little like this:

Hobo style folding knife with fork, knife, spoon, can opener

Hobo style folding knife with fork, knife, spoon, can opener

Except the one I saw had antler scales and a leather sheath… At the time I could remember thinking… “You know, that is an interesting idea… I can use a knife like a fork, but I’d be hard pressed to use a blade like a spoon…” But it never ceases to amaze me how people manage to come up with little ways to ease outdoor living.

But there is, in this balrogs humble opinion, such a thing as going too far with this. And it all starts innocuously enough…

Sportsman's Blade Trader

Sportsman's Blade Trader

This is the Sportsmans Blade Trader, by Kershaw knives. As you can probably tell, this is no ordinary knife. You might be looking at the pic going… “Well what the heck is going on? Them blades don’t got no handles on ’em!!” And you’d be right. They don’t. Because they all share a single handle. That black one on the left.

Do you see what they did there? They got all smart on us. See, they put a keyed socket in the base of each blade, and in the handle there is a little key block attached to the tang, that you attach the blade to, and then there’s a cover that sorta folds tightly over the whole thing to keep it all in place.

As ideas go, this isn’t necessarily a bad one.  I’ve played with knives like these a bit, and the lock up is pretty solid. They don’t budge, and are surprisingly strong… At first. over time, however, the blades tend to wear a little bit, there’s a little play, the sleeve doesn’t close all that tightly any more, and well… It’s all down hill from there.

However their choice of blades here is good. A good straight blade, for light cutting, and a saw blade for wood cutting. Personally, this thing seems a little small to be a good general purpose saw, but then again, that isn’t what this was designed for. It’s more of a convenience tool, intended to allow you to do two things with one tool. Not too bad, as things go… But they can get much, much worse…

Allow me to present “Worse”:

Camp Tool Trader

Camp Tool Trader

This here is the Camp Tool Trader. Also by Kershaw. Yeah… Same idea as before, with the blade swapping switcheroo dealio and whatnot, except taken to a whole new level… It’s the Pampered Chef… For the outdoors!! With this here kit, you can fry yourself some eggs, over easy, with some bacon on the side. Or cook a gourmet 5 course steak and potatoes dinner…

OK so I’m exaggerating a bit. This isn’t that bad. It’s just not really an “outdoors-man” kit. This is for those of you who like the occasional weekend RV getaway, and don’t want to bring a full complement of barbecue utensils. Clearly, if you were one a weekend hike, you might choose something a little less… Big.

But that’s just my opinion. If space is not an issue, and you aren’t looking for long term daily use out of things like this, they are pretty good. But me personally, I’d just throw a full size spatula, tongs and barbecue fork,  along with the brats, burgers and  the side of beef I plan to barbecue, into my trunk… 🙂

Camp Tool Trader by Kershaw Knives – [eBladeStore]

Sportsman’s Blade Trader by Kershaw Knives – [eBladeStore]

Hobo Style Folding knife, with fork spoon and can opener – [Advanced Mart]

The devil’s in the details…

Monday, July 27th, 2009

In a couple of previous posts I talked a little about what makes an ideal survival knife. I had actually planned a future post to treat the topic in a little further detail. However I recently ran into a good example of an almost perfect survival machete that I thought warranted a little post.

And I say *almost* perfect because, while it ostensibly meets the requirements of what I consider ideal in a large survival blade in a multi blade set, it falls short in one single area, a small failing, that by my estimates, rendered it almost 50% less effective than if it had been properly designed. Yeah. Small flaw, big problems. This is the tool in question:

The Ultimate Survival Machete

The Ultimate Survival Machete

This is the Ultimate Survival Machete. I may have mentioned in a previous post that in my opinion the ideal survival kit would actually include multiple blades, with a minimum of two, not one survival knife, which is a misconception that many people seem to have. The singe blade solution is a compromise for if you have absolutely have to carry only one blade.

However in my opinion the ideal solution includes at least two knives. One small blade for fine work, skinning, whittling, carving and what not, and one large, heavy blade, like a bowie, axe or a machete, for heavy work, such as chopping, log splitting, cutting down trees, and other heavy camp work. But I digress.

This so called “Ultimate Survival Machete” actually does do it’s name some justice, though possesses a basic flaw, which we will get into shortly. But besides that, I find the basic design concept of this machete would actually make for an ideal large camp knife. On the front edge, like most other machetes, you have a large, strong heavy, full tang blade that would make short work of heavy chopping chores.  But unlike most other machetes, this one also has a rather effective looking saw tooth spine.

Now this is something I have not talked a whole lot about, but it bears mentioning. A properly designed sawtooth spine is extremely useful on a single, multipurpose survival knife. The saw simply makes it much easier to cut through medium to heavy pieces of wood, with surprisingly little effort, especially compared to the energy required to chop the same saplings and branches down with a medium camp axe. This is important in a survival setting. Granted, when it comes to chopping down large trees and such, the axe is a better bet, however a heavy machete is a pretty close second.

So in my mind, this design, a machete with a saw toothed spine, assuming the saw teeth are properly designed, is a near perfect combination of features that could easily replace an axe. And as an added bonus on this machete, you actually have a somewhat decent point, perhaps not an ideal design for thrusting, but one which would allow it to be used as a defensive weapon whose full length could be used to keep large animals and whatnot at bay. Add to that the full finger guard, and the lanyard, and you have a near perfect survival machete design.

BUT now we come to the fly (or in this case the dung beetle) in the proverbial ointment. In their great zeal to create the ultimate survival machete, the designers of the tool forgot one little thing. Kudos to anyone who can guess what I’m about to demerit this survival machete on… Go on. Give it a shot. I’ll wait…

No clue? OK, I’ll give you a hint: Full finger guards rarely work as well backwards. 🙂

The Ultimate Survival Machete - Sheath

The Ultimate Survival Machete - Sheath

Bingo! That’s it. There is a full finger guard. And then there is a saw tooth spine.  And try as you might, nary the twain shall work! 😀 As you can see from the pic, that full finger guard would work great when the machete was being used for chopping. However what happens when you want to use the spine for sawing? You have to flip the machete upside down don’t you?! And then what happens to the guard…? DOH!!

Yeah… I bet you can just feel the calluses forming as you picture it in your mind. Sawing holding onto the grip upside down, with that full finger guard running over the back of your hand, or across your thumb, would be awkward, and get very, very, uncomfortable, because you would be hard pressed to actually get the blade into a 90 degree angle with whatever it is you are trying to saw into.

You could grip the guard instead, but then you’d be holding a very small grip, above the centerline of the saw blade, which wouldn’t be any better. Basically, by adding that full sized finger guard, they have rendered the saw toothed spine almost unusable. BUMMER!!!

Now to be honest, there’s an easy fix. Grab a hacksaw, and lop off the guard flush with the top and bottom of the grip, maybe leave a small, unobtrusive stubby guard instead, and sand it down to match the contoured grip. Voila! This would get you the perfect survival machete advertised.

However I did want to illustrate how important little things can become when they are not fully checked for correct ergonomics across the entire range of possible uses the tool is designed for. Clearly, in this case, either the saw tooth spine was added as an after thought, or the ergonomics of this feature was never really thought about during the design stage.

I already have a small camp hatchet in my camp kit. But this machete would still definitely make it into that, or my bug out bag. After making the aforementioned modification, of course. And I’d probably ditch the hatchet if I had to choose between them. But then again I grew up using machetes for everything from field work, to camping, to a few other out-of-left-field things, so I might be a little biased… 😀

The Ultimate Survival Machete – [The Happy Ninja]

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