Machetes 101: Everything You Need to Know



When you think of a machete, you likely envision explorers or natives using them as they are hacking their way through a dense tropical jungle where paths either don’t exist or they’ve become overgrown with vegetation. 

Maybe on your travelling you’ve seen a local use a machete to cut bananas from trees and split coconuts in two.

Machetes have been popular tools used throughout history for a variety of uses ranging from agricultural to combat.

Machetes are still used around the world today.

Machetes make for great camping and hunting tools and the available add-ons and extra features of some expand their versatility even more.

For those getting their first machete, here is some interesting and useful information about them:

The Machete’s Origin

Machetes have been found all over the world, but scientists and historians are unsure about the timeframe machetes came into being. The machetes in the past looked different than the ones today, leading some to be inaccurately classified as swords and knives.

Since machetes have been used all around the world for hundreds or years, no one style or type of machete has been identified as the template for all others. A machete from Asia, for instance will look different from ones used in Africa or South America.

Even the name machete has a murky history. It is hypothesized that the name machete is a combination of either the Spanish word macho or mazo. Macho means manly or brave and mazo means sledgehammer or mallet. The -ete suffix means small or little.

Since the machete has such a distinct shape from knives and swords used in the past, historians think that the machete’s design was the result of blending designs of different knives and swords to achieve things neither of the others could do themselves. 

Numerous historians believe that the original concept of the machete design was the combination of the falchion, a short, medieval sword used mainly by peasants, and the oddly hooked shaped agricultural knife, the billhook. likely inspired by the falchion, with some cues taken from the billhook.

The machete, was then born using the versatility of the falchion and the excellent cutting qualities of the billhook.

The Many Common Uses of Machetes

 You’ve heard how versatile machetes are, but here are the most common present and past uses of machetes:

Agricultural: Machetes are used for harvesting a variety of crops including corn, oats, millet, sugar cane and buckwheat.

Clearing brush: Machetes are great at clearing brush and slicing dead vegetation to make trails and paths and to better protect fire-prone areas.

Camping: In many wealthier countries, machetes are a useful camping tool that make it easy to chop wood for a fire and build a shelter.

Food preparation: The machete’s great cutting ability makes it ideal for preparing food whether it be to butcher game, chop vegetables, split coconuts, or harvest bananas.

Self-defense and as a weapon: The machete’s sharpness, wide availability and its ease of use has made it an effective tool for self-defense as well as for a weapon. The use of machetes as weapons go back many years and have been used for both good and bad.

Types of Machetes

There are many different types of machetes with specific designs to carry out a particular task. Machete styles also differ based on where they are used. When thinking of which machete to purchase, keep the purpose of what you want to do with the machete in mind.

Kukri Machete. Great for chopping, whittling, skinning animals, building and chopping food. It is also widely used for self-defense and military purposes.

Bolo Machete. Ideal for camping, farming and cutting open foods such as coconuts.

Parang Machete. Great for skinning, chopping and whittling. It is mainly used in furniture making and in dense jungles.

Golok Machete. Ideal for chopping thicker, heavier brush and branches. It is also used in self-defense.

Barong Machete. Mainly used in Filipino martial arts and combat. Sometimes they are used to cleave vines and clear brush.

Panga Machete. Most commonly used for chopping and slicing thick branches and vegetation. Its pointed end makes it great for piercing.

Traditional (or Latin) Machete. This is the classic machete is the ultimate all-purpose tool that is capable of a variety of outdoor tasks.

Tapanga Machete. Has a front-weighted, three-lined grooved, blunt blade that is ideal for chopping many things from coconuts to dense woody stalks and brush.

Heavy Machete and Cane Machete. These are purely for chopping. They have a wide, heavy blade with no tip.

Bowie Machete. A smaller machete that resembles more of a long knife which makes it very versatile and a great cutting tool for camping.

Common Features of Machetes

Machetes can be even more customized for more secure, comfortable use and for even better utility. Here are common machete features and add-ons: Now that you know some of the machete categories, here are features you'll frequently encounter on the different variations.

  • Sawback
  • Lanyard hole
  • Hook
  • Quillons
  • Knuckle guard
  • Two-handed handle
  • Fuller

Machetes are great, multi-use outdoors tools that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They have been used around the world for hundreds of years for tasks ranging from agricultural to combat.

The origin machetes are unclear, but it is likely they were the result of combining a type of medieval sword and knife.

Those looking for a great tool to use on their camping trips or who need an easy to use tool to clear brush around their homes should browse the wide variety of machetes at Kiehberg. Shop online today!