The short answer is: if you had only one task that you wanted your machete to perform, you could pick a style of machete that suits that one task. Their are hundreds to choose from!
If you’re like us and have many varying uses for machetes, The Tram Bolo will not disappoint! It just performs many different tasks so well.
Examples of alternative machete choices would be:
Latin or Bush machete
This is the ‘A’ typical style of machete most people know about. It’s long and thin and for the rest of the world this is what they would call a general purpose machete. In Australia it’s going to excel in only two areas. If you’re using it low to the ground to clear great areas of soft material or you are clearing a path so you can haul equipment in to the scrub. The extra length allows you to cut lower without bending so much. Australians tend to use brushcutters / line trimmers in this situation.
It’s downfall is that its not overly great at heavy cutting in our denser material and the extra length adds a tremendous amount of force required to wield it. If you were brought up using these daily you would not complain however, I’m strong and have always worked with my hands. I find these wear me out fast! It’s not so easy to use these long machetes for finer work.
If you are walking in with a backpack, you don’t need to clear nearly as much and generally you’re just chipping vines and branches from knee height and up. The Bolo easily achieves this. The shorter reach allow you much better clearances when untangling masses like Lantana. A long Latin machete would just keep getting hung up.
All Heavy & thick Machetes
These are fantastic in processing our tough materials, but they are just too heavy for extended use. Think sledge hammer vs carpenters hammer! You will get 30mins of them until your forearms give out. They are not really useful for processing anything small as well.
A properly sharpened Bolo can process tough and dry material, it just does not bite as deep as a much heavier machete. You can however use a Bolo far longer than a heavy machete and in the end, you will get the job done with energy in reserve.
Custom handles on machetes are generally made from denser material and actually drastically improve the feel and performance of heavy chopping. The balance of the heavier handle actually decreases handle whip in hard strokes that stop in the cut. Slightly heavier handles act as a counter weight helping drive the blade deeper in each cut.
You do not need a heavy machete, the mecanical advantage in a light Bolo is all in the larger head.
Generally we have found if the blade on a machete is thicker that 2mm, we put it back. The most prized custom machetes in South America are actually tapered from the handle to a very thin tip.
Cane Knife Machetes
We are huge fans of these. They are super thin and very wide. The hook on the back is incredibly useful. We use these only in the garden for mulching and pruning. They are not good choppers in dense material.
We use the Bolo for mulching as well. We just keep the wire edge on when we sharpen. Using a file to touch up the edge while your work sets up the Bolo to perform much like a cane knife in this situation.
A thin branch cut off so you have a short hook at the end does the same job as the hook on the back of the cane knife. It’s actually an advantage in some situations to use a stick. Gancho or Grabat sticks are two of the common names I have come across for these tools. They are very easy to make (a few chops from a branch) in the field.
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