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How to Sharpen a Machete

Written by:
Dr. Braide Honest
Updated:
January 28, 2024
Sharpening Machete with an Axe Sharpening Stone

Hello, dear friend. It’s always a delight to keep in touch with you as we discuss everything knives. You know we care and always want you to have value for every penny spent on your favorite knife piece and or accessories. So we are never tired of bringing you the very best products and useful information. If you’re an outdoor and adventurous person you may probably have a machete or be thinking about getting one, but of what use is a blunt machete? So today we’ll discuss on the topic: “How to sharpen a machete” Sit back and let’s ride together.

It’s also worth noting that not all machetes from the factory are delivered sharpened, so they need to be sharpened by the end user. 

To have your machete sharpened, some essential tools are required.

How to Sharpen a Machete

Essential Tools for Machete Sharpening

For effective machete sharpening, essential tools include a sharpening stone, ranging from coarse to fine grit, for initial sharpening and refining the edge. A honing rod, ideally a ceramic or diamond-coated one, maintains the blade’s sharpness between more intensive sharpening sessions. For those preferring mechanized methods, a belt sander offers rapid and consistent results, particularly for reshaping or repairing heavily used blades. Additionally, protective gloves and eyewear are crucial for safety. A blade guide can also be beneficial for maintaining consistent angles during the sharpening process. These tools collectively ensure a sharp, well-maintained machete.

Utilizing Belt Sanders for Machete Sharpening

Arguably,  Belt sanders are considered the most convenient and professional method of machete sharpening. Keeping a straight edge is easy with belt sanders as compared to a grinding wheel. Belt sanders sharpen machetes perfectly, but attention must be paid to the blade’s temperature while using this method.

Belt Sanders for Machete Sharpening

Sharpening  Machete with Grinding Wheels

For an experienced user, the grinding wheel is very useful in the removal of the bluntness of blades, especially blades not previously sharpened before delivery. Because of the aggressive nature of grinding wheels, they are the preferred option for worn-out, rusty, and unsharpened machetes.

One essential requirement to use a grinding wheel is a have an adequate work space, which makes for convenience to draw the entire length of the machete and other tools right across the wheel in a seamless, smooth motion. This makes for even edges through the length of the blade.

A grinding wheel is not advisable for an inexperienced user, as the blade can get damaged from overheating of the wheel. To avert this, continuous dousing of the blade with water is needed to keep the blade cool.

Sharpening Machete with Grinding Wheels

How to Sharpen a Machete with a File

Another viable option is the “Mile Files and Hones” They come in with either rough or smooth teeth and also intermediary (rough/smooth). They are less expensive to acquire. There are Double-cut: for rough shaping and Single-cut: for smoother finer sharpening.

To use the Mile file, firmly place your machete at the desired angle with the help of the vice, and push the mill file repeatedly over the blade. Please do not pull, simply push. Repeat the same process on the alternate side of the blade. The goal is to have a 30-degree edge, so this is achieved by 15 degrees on each side.

While using Mile files, check for burrs(thin metal projections) Burrs appear during the process of grinding. These should be removed to give a smooth fine result after sharpening your machete.

Take note, Mill files will most likely damage a machete when used by a novice, but highly recommended for sharpening large blades.

Sharpening Machete with File

How to Sharpen a Machete with a Whetstone

The whetstone is a traditional sharpening method and is highly recommended for beginners. One doesn’t need to have lots of experience, equipment, or space before using this method. All that’s required is a whetstone itself or its substitute (a normal waterstone). The next step is to glide the blade up and down the stone.

Sharpening Machete with whetstone

Sharpening  Machete with an Axe Sharpening Stone

Sharpening a machete with an axe sharpening stone involves using a dual-grit stone, typically with a coarse side for grinding down nicks and a finer side for honing the edge. Start by lubricating the stone with water or oil. Hold the machete at a consistent angle, usually between 10-20 degrees, and stroke the blade across the coarse side of the stone in a sweeping motion. Apply even pressure, working along the entire edge. Flip the blade and repeat on the other side. Switch to the finer grit to refine and smooth the edge. Regular checks for even sharpness and removing burrs are essential. This method balances efficient material removal with fine-edge refinement.

Sharpening Machete with an Axe Sharpening Stone

Field Sharpeners for Machete Maintenance

Field sharpeners come in handy for top-up sharpening. While engaged in field working activities with your machete, occasionally your machete gets blunt or slightly blunt. At this point, the field sharpener is what’s needed as opposed to other sharpening methods that may be too heavy and inconvenient to carry about.

Field Sharpener

There are various kinds of machete blades and this factor influences their sharpening needs and the type of sharpeners employed for proper sharpening.

Machetes are made in various shapes and different sizes. Over time machetes have taken very interesting styles and designs, meeting specific utility needs and expectations of the end user. What is most important in choosing a machete, is what feels right to you and the intended utility purpose.

A wide variety of machetes exists, but for the want of time, we will highlight a few in this discussion.

  1. Kukri machete
  2. Barong machete
  3. Bush machete
  4. Parang machete
  5. Bowie machete

Kukri Machete

The Kukri machete is a nice machete piece, originating from Nepal. It features a blade of 3 parts, Its wide midsection is utilized for chopping, it also has a pointed tip used for stabbing, and a narrow area proximal to the handle for carving and whittling. It’s commonly used across Central Asia.

Barong Machete

The Barong Machete originates from the Philippines and is popular for its fascinating leaf-shaped blade design. Sharpening of this machete is traditionally done on one side. The baron Machete was said to be feared by European colonizers for having the ability to cut through the barrels of a rifle.

It is mainly used by the Philippines to slaughter livestock and hunt.

Bush Machete

The bush machete has a wide and blunt tip. Farmers find the machete very useful in their day-to-day farm routine. This machete is traditionally used for cutting corn stalks, sugar cane, bamboo, and rice. It also goes by the nickname “corn knife” The blade is often hooked, as this allows the handler to pull a chopped can, while the plants still stand.

Parang Machete

This machete is nicknamed “golok machete” it has a distinct curved shape. The spine and edge of the blade are both curved, resembling a Scimitar. They are usually thick and long with fair or even weight.

This machete is ideal for wood cutting, as wood fragments don’t get lodged in the knife.

Bowie Machete

The Bowie machete is a popular machete amongst backwoodsmen, hunters, and survivalists. It originates from the United States, with its style named after Jim Bowie. It is also nicknamed the Wilderness Machete.

The machete piece is perfect for hunters and woodsmen. It features a distinct skinner tip.

Sharpening a Machete: Step-by-Step Process

Having decided on the appropriate angle, it’s time to sharpen your machete. You also need to decide on which sharpening tool to use: Belt sanders, Grinding wheels, Mills and hones, or Field sharpener. The motion is the same, irrespective of the sharpening method you choose.

  1. Cleaning of the blade:  The first thing to do before sharpening your machete is to get it cleaned and get rid of any debris on it
  2. Inspection for Damages: Inspect your machete for damages and fix such damages if any, as this makes for a seamless sharpening process.
  3. Establish the Sharpening Angle: 

Before sharpening your machete, it’s helpful to know exactly how you intend to utilize it. This will guide you on the appropriate sharpening angles. For instance, if the purpose is for the cutting of woody vegetation and small woody branches of a tree, the sharpening angle should be between 25-30  degrees. This keeps the machete sharp despite repeated chopping strokes.

If your intent is to utilize the machete for nonwoody vegetation and routine grass cutting, then a razor-sharp edge is required and the sharpening angle should lie between 20-25 degrees.

  1. Begin at the hilt, run the blade to the tip: Make sure to begin sharpening your machete, beginning at the hilt and running through to the blade tip
  2. Make sure to sharpen both sides of the blade, not just one: When sharpening your machete, irrespective of the side you use most often, it’s advisable and most effective to sharpen both sides of your knife, after sharpening one flip, flip to the other side and repeat the sharpening process.

This makes your blade precise, even, and effective when deployed.

  1. Hone the machete tip to an ideal point: Honing the edge of your blade is a fine practice as it makes the tip of your blade sharp and nice looking. Honing your machete is also easy. Begin at the edge, then slightly move down from the tip. Do this with a focus on bringing your machete to a nice and satisfactory honing point.
  2. Clear up burrs: Inspect your machete for burrs and clear them up.
  3. Polish your machete: Polishing your machete is helpful, but not necessary. Polishing your machete gets rid of flaws from the sharpening process. The buffing wheel is the best method of polishing your machete. First place the edge of the machete flat on the buffing wheel and move the machete in a perpendicular motion across the wheel. This should be done on both sides of the machete.
  4. Utilize (try out) your machete: Wow. Here comes the exciting part. After sharpening your machete, you sure want to test the machete to ensure your blade is as sharp as desired. There are two ways to test the sharpness of your knife. 
  • Test how sharp your machete is by deploying it to cut a 2×4 wood in half, if this doesn’t work, consider the next option.
  • Get a piece of paper and run it along the edge of the machete. The paper should get sliced easily, if it drags, instead of slicing, you’ll have to sharpen your machete even more.

Video Credit: @soloproject99

How to Sharpen a Machete Without Tools

Sharpening a machete without specialized tools involves using natural or readily available materials. One can utilize a smooth stone, a concrete surface, or even a ceramic mug’s bottom. Start by identifying a flat, abrasive surface. Hold the machete at a consistent angle, typically between 10-20 degrees, and slide the blade across the surface in a sweeping motion. Repeat this process, maintaining consistent pressure and angle, to gradually sharpen the edge. Regular checks for sharpness and uniformity of the edge are crucial. This method requires patience and practice to achieve a functional edge.

How to Sharpen a Machete with a Dremel

Sharpening a machete with a Dremel tool involves using a grinding attachment. Secure the machete firmly and choose a suitable grinding bit. Set the Dremel to a lower speed to avoid overheating the blade. Gently apply the tool to the blade at the correct angle, typically between 10-20 degrees, moving evenly along the edge. Work in sections, maintaining consistent pressure and angle. Flip the blade to sharpen the other side, ensuring symmetry. Regularly check the edge for evenness and sharpness. This method offers precision and is ideal for fine-tuning the blade’s edge, but requires a steady hand and caution to prevent over-grinding.

Machete Maintenance: Key Tips for Upkeep

Keep your machete blade sharp.

Your machete blade is safer when sharp than dull.

Oil the Blade

Coconut oil spray is a good option for keeping your blade oiled. Oiling the blade of your machete protects the blade from rusting.

However, any other oil will do like the WD-40, as well as veggie oil.

Keep Your Machete Rust Free.

A machete or any other knife can get rusty. You must clean your machete after each use, as bacteria can build on the blade, especially if used to cut food and moist items, and left unclean.

If your knife is already rusty, do well to get rid of the rust, clean, and sharpen your blade.

The Hilt of Your Machete Should be Kept Dry.

Excessive moisture of the Hilt of your machete can make it get cracked. Make sure to keep the hilt dry.

Deploy Your Machete.

There’s no benefit in having a well-prepared machete without deploying it as fit and required. Deploying your ready-to-use machete also keeps your skills sharp, just as your blade is sharp.

Common Questions and Challenges of Machete Sharpening

Do I need to sharpen my machete?

Sharpening your machete is meant to give your machete an edge, as some machete do not come readily sharpened from the factories and needs sharpening on arrival. Do well to check the product description leaflet/manual to know if your new machete requires sharpening before its first use.

When should I stop sharpening my machete?

You have to stop sharpening when you notice the burr on your blade. Burr removal is actually the last step in sharpening. You do this by simply the same steps, but at this point, you do so with less pressure.

How do I know it’s time to sharpen my machete?

If you use your machete for grass and non-woody vegetation cutting and notice uneven cutting of the lawn, it’s an indication that your blade has become dull. When you also notice that your blade no longer slices neatly. It’s time to sharpen your machete.

Can I over-sharpen my blade?

It’s not true that the more you sharpen your machete, the sharper it actually gets. You can over-sharpen your machete, which can damage the edge and make it even duller. Take note to sharpen your machete only when needed and to to appropriate degrees and angles.

Can I sharpen my machete wrongly, why is my blade not getting sharpened?

This could be as a result of sharpening your blade at an angle that’s too high, this may lead to creating an angle that feels really dull. Working at an excessively high angle may cause the edge of your blade to be blunt, instead of sharp.

Final Thoughts

…and we are right at the end of today’s blog post, it doesn’t feel so right to say goodbye, not to worry friend, we’ll be back together soon again. Sharpening your machete is by no means rocket science and can be done correctly and effectively following the methods discussed so far. 

Remember to sharpen your machete according to the design, description specifications, and the deployment purposes thereof. Sharpen to the appropriate degrees. Lastly, resist the urge to over-sharpen your blade.

Until we meet again, @Noblie Collectibles is a dial and message away for all your knife and accessory needs at the best prices.

Author: Braide Honest | Connect with me on LinkedIn

References:

Knife Maintenance by Logan Rainey, Feb, 2020.

Ken Onion Edition Knife & Tool Sharpener (2023) Work Sharp Sharpeners 

AIR TOOLS Rubberized Abrasives MX Abrasives Brightboy Regulating Wheels Spedecut

Jonathan O’Ryan, Wilderness today

Why are sharp knives important? (n.d.) Koi Knives.   

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  • Robert

    I CANNOT get a good edge on my Gerber machete. No matter what I try. If I sharpen one side the other side is sharp and the side I just worked is dull. Wet with water, tried several stones, files etc. tried to maintain the same angle. Tried several angles. ????? Very frustrated.

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