How To Sharpen A Machete [5 Simple and Easy Steps]

A yard worker and an adventurer in the thickest jungles need one tool in common, a sharp machete. The length and shape of machetes make them powerful cutting tools. From overgrown hedges to unwanted branches, nothing stays in the way of a sharp machete.

Machetes are of different types and shapes, from hunters popular Barong Machete to hedge-pruner Billhook machete. There is a type for every cutting need. The most important factors to consider while buying one are the work you need it for and how comfortable it feels to use.

While using a machete requires some basic skills, sharpening it is a different skill altogether. You have two options to deal with a dull machete. You can either send it to professional sharpeners or sharpen it yourself. The latter is more economical, and below is how to do it.

Machete Buying Guide

Machetes are the most popular cutting blades. Their types and shapes are numerous. How do you select the best machete for your cutting needs? Read on.

  • Blade shape: Choose a blade shape that suffices your cutting needs well and completes your style. Some nicely shaped popular machetes include the Bush/ Latin-style machete, Kukri machete, and Parang machete.
  • Blade length: The blade length determines the portability and length of the area a single swing clears. Most machetes have an average length of 18 inches, but there are longer and shorter machetes too.
  • Blade composition: The two common materials used in making machetes are stainless steel and carbon steel. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A high carbon stainless steel combines the strength of the two. For non-specialized work like bush clearing, a carbon steel blade suffices well.
  • Tang: This part holds the handle and extends to the blade. For heavy-duty works requiring huge force swings, ensure the tang extends the full length of the handle.
  • Handle style and material: Handle styles are as many as machete types. The material used to make handles also vary. If your machete is for chopping wood, get a comfortable wooden or rubber handle.

Tools You Need

Whether you are edging a new machete or sharpening a used one, the following tools come in handy:

  • A vice: For securing the machete in position while sharpening
  • A sharpening tool: examples are a file, a grinding wheel, a whetstone, and a Dremel.

How To Sharpen A Machete

Whetstone

A whetstone is a traditional sharpening tool that is beginner-friendly. It is also very cheap. You need some water to wet the whetstone.

To sharpen, hold your machete at a slanting position such that the blade contacts the stone at a perpendicular angle. Run the blade several times from base to tip until you achieve your desired sharpness.

Remember to maintain the machete in position for the entire sharpening duration. 

File

Sharpening a machete with a file is very effective but labor-intensive. It is fairly beginner-friendly, but more experience would yield the desired results faster.

To keep the machete in place, you use a vice or hold-press the machete against a workbench. While in the field, strike your sharp machete in a tree trunk to position it for filing.

Hold the machete in place, at an angle, the cutting edge facing up. Then repeatedly push the file over the blade until burr (thin metal shavings) forms. Turn the machete over and sharpen the other side to the desired sharpness. For a fine edge, file both sides until all the burr peels off.

Be careful not to injure yourself while filing. Also, use minimal force to avoid damaging the blade with the file. Use milling files for the best results.

Grinding Wheel

This sharpening tool is for experienced blade sharpeners only. Be sure to have water around for cooling the blade in the process of sharpening. A grinding wheel is very efficient in shaping edges and removing the initial bluntness in new machetes.

First, ensure you have enough working space. You need space to run the entire length of your machete without distractions. Remember, a grinding wheel is a very aggressive sharpening tool, and a slight mistake may destroy the blade.

Run the machete lengthwise over the grinder wheel while maintaining a diagonal position. The angle of the slant depends on the angle you want your cutting edge to have. Repeat the process on both sides of the blade until you achieve your desired result. Remember to cool the machete as you sharpen.

Read also: How To Sharpen Serrated Knives

Dremel

A Dremel is great at taking care of small-dulled spots on the blade. For excellent results, hold the blade in position using a vice. Also, note that this sharpening method requires good concentration for the entire sharpening method.

With the machete fastened into position, run the Dremel on the blade gently. Repeat until you are satisfied with the results. For better results, go over the spots again using a file.

Belt Sander

Belt sanders are the easiest sharpening tool to use and a favorite for professional sharpeners. The sharpening is not labor-intensive and gives the best results. Note that you need water for cooling the blade.

You only need a generic belt sander, fine belt grits, and a honing steel rod, for starters. Apply minimal pressure to reduce heat build-up.

Tips And Tricks

  • The best edge angle of your machete depends on its intended work. If you intend to be using it often to cut grass and non-woody vegetation, a razor-sharpness angle of 20-25 degrees gives the best results. For woody vegetation, an angle of 25-35 degrees lengthens the edge’s durability and trauma absorption.
  • Use a buffing wheel to polish the sharpened edge by running both sides against it.
  • Leave a few inches from the handle unsharpened. You don’t want to cut your knee off in case of an overswing.
  • While artificial water stones have a selection of grit sizes to choose from, they are not as durable and robust as natural water stones.
  • Run your finger over the blade edge while sharpening to detect burrs. Be careful while doing this to avoid cuts.

Testing For Sharpness

When do you know you have achieved a reliable sharpness? Test the machete. It’s a fun thing but be careful not to hurt yourself.

A simple test is to run a piece of paper over the edge. An instant slicing shows the machete is ready. If the paper drags along, sharpen your machete more.

Another trick is trying to cut through a 2×4 wood into two with one swing. Decide the level of sharpness by how deep the machete goes into the wood.

Conclusion

Wowed by how easy it is to sharpen your machete? The process is easier than most people think. A sharp machete quickens task completion and delivers awesome results.

You have a variety of sharpening tools to use. Pick the best that does the best job for you, and you can comfortably work with it. Implement as many tips and tricks to get the sharpness you want.

Finally, a machete is as good as it feels in your hands. While buying, go for the type and size that fits your needs perfectly. And while in the field, always carry a sharpening tool with you.

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