Is it true you cannot cut dry/seasoned material with a machete?

This is a common misconception.

This idea probably came about due to two reasons. First is the edge geometry and how you sharpen. If you have a very thin bevel (hollow ground) and a ragged wire edge, even with good cutting technique you are going to roll the edge over. If the machete is blunt, it will not bite into the material and bounce off or skate on what you’re cutting. If you have a properly set convex bevel and a stone polished edge, this edge can cut and process seasoned branches.

The second reason is that people are very much used to chopping into green material with machetes. When they have a go at something dry and hard, the machete performs so differently (and poorly in comparison), they assume machetes cannot cut dry material.

A machete is just a very big knife. Granted the steel is heat treated a little bit softer than a small knife, but for craft work you can definitely set your machete up to process dry branches. It only takes two things; A correct edge and a safe technique.

There are obvious limitations though. It will never out perform an axe, bowsaw or chainsaw in our pretty darn hard timbers. The super hard ones (Iron Bark and Tallow etc) I would probably avoid or just go easy to start with to gauge how it’s performing in the cut. We have plenty of softer woods to work with and I would be choosing them first. If it’s for fire wood processing, I would not hesitate in making a small cut in a drink can sized dry branch to help me snap it over a rock.

A custom handle actually can drastically improve how a machete performs in heavy cuts. Heavier handles reduce the vibration and whip you get while cutting and they act as a counter balance to the Bolo’s wider head helping cut even deeper with every stroke.

The thing you need to remember when crafting with a machete is that it’s a big lever compared to a smaller knife. If you’re not careful, you can put a tremendous amount of force on the edge if you twist in the cut. This leads to bends and dents in the edge. These can be removed with a file next time you sharpen.

Expect to put more chips and dents in the edge if you are a beginner. Good technique while you work has a huge impact on how long you need to go between sharpening (edge retention).

Category: General Questions
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