One thing is for sure, you’re not going to break out your little whetstone for this activity. A machete is a different animal from sharpening a simple kitchen knife or even a buck knife. How to sharpen a machete will require something a little more industrial.
Machetes, like most other long-blade tools or weapons, don’t ship with an edge on them, and they arrive at your front door pretty dull. A dull machete is no good for anything unless you just enjoy slapping at vines and small saplings.
A sharp machete you can shave with is good for a whole lot more. Clearing brush, chopping up compost, various agricultural uses, clearing vegetation, foraging, survival, and splitting fruits or nuts are just some of the uses for a good machete.
How to Sharpen a Machete
There are several ways to effectively sharpen your machete. Once you have it nice and sharp, it’s just a matter of maintaining the edge whenever you are through using it for the day.
To get started, you need to choose your tool since there are several that are sufficient for doing the job.
- Large whetstone or a Lansky Sharpening Puck
- Belt sander
- A grinder
- Large file
Puck and/or whetstone method
The puck or the whetstone is useful for sharpening one edge at a time—working one side before switching over to the other. A whetstone needs a long soak before using it, while the Lansky Puck doesn’t necessarily need any water.
Once the whetstone is ready, work the edge up and down the whetstone from the base to the tip, at a sharply perpendicular angle. You’ll have to do it a lot when you’re working a new, dull edge into shape.
After the first time, however, you won’t need as many passes just to keep your edge honed and maintained. With the puck method, simply lay your machete down with the edge pointing straight up.
Instead of working the blade up and down the stone, you’ll work the puck up and down the blade, from the hilt to the tip. Be sure to use a very sharp angle and work the puck in small, precise, circular motions, slowly making your way from one end of the blade to the other.
You need a vice grip to hold the machete down with this method. A Dremel is a small, motorized rotary tool, and the bit you want to use is a sander bit. As you would in most sharpening methods, work the Dremel down the edge of the machete at a steep angle.
Be sure to wear safety glasses and some sort of dust mask while you work. You don’t want tiny pieces of metal flying up in your eye or down in your lungs.
You don’t need a gigantic belt sander to do this job. As with the Dremel or a grinder, you’ll sand the edge into your machete. A 30” belt sander with a narrow belt is all you should need for the project.
Be sure to keep a sharp angle, and allow the belt to work toward the edge of the machete, not away from it.
This is just about the same as working the machete edge on a belt sander except a grinder will happily eat right through your blade. You have to apply a gentle touch to it as you work. You should have a flat, small shelf to rest your machete on as you pass it from one edge to the other on the grinding wheel.
Start with a wider angle and slowly make your way to sharper angles. A grinder loves to fling sparks like crazy, so you need to make sure you have on the proper safety equipment, such as gloves, mask, and safety glasses.
This method is a little more arduous than using a grinder or a belt sander, but it does allow you to get a little more intimate with the blade and how you work the edge as you sharpen it. You work the file away from the edge by using your weak hand to hold the edge straight up.
Use your strong hand to run the file up and down the blade with one sweep.
There are a lot of ways to go about sharpening a machete. Fortunately, most of them are pretty easy, so long as you are using the right safety protective equipment. Sharpening a machete is all about the angles.
It’s also about using the tools you have the right way. It’s frustrating to spend a solid ten minutes working a machete edge only to discover it won’t cut anything. If you’re new to sharpening a machete or any kind of knife, patience is a virtue.
Once you get it done the first time, succeeding sharpenings shouldn’t be nearly as difficult unless you really worked the blade. Consider it more of a maintenance procedure to keep the sharp edge and you should do it after every use.
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