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Esee machete knife

So youíve got a machete that has put in the work and needs some love. Follow this machete sharpening guide to restore its cutting edge to all the glory it was once known for.

Blade Grinds and Angles

Some machetes sport chisel grinds where only one side of the blade is ground to a cutting edge. For chisel grinds youíll want to just sharpen the ground side and knock off any burr (thin metal that curves over on the cutting edge) that forms on the back of the blade. You can take off burrs with a few quick passes of a file or sharpening stone.

Other machetes are ground on both sides to form the cutting edge. This means both sides of the machete blade will need to be sharpened evenly to form a uniform cutting edge.

The blade angle you choose depends on what you will be using your machete for. For light cutting of grass and vegetation, smaller blade angles of 25 degrees work best as they allow finer edges. For heavier chopping tasks of things like wood, larger angles up to 35 degrees do well to take the impact. Machetes usually come from the factory with great all around grinds, so if in doubt, sharpen to the same angle it already has.

Sharpening Tools and Methods

The best machete sharpening method is up to debate, so weíve compiled a few methods that work well. These sharpening methods not only work for machetes, as they can put a great edge on an axe as well.

Mill File

Diamond file sharpener

Mill files have teeth that range from tough to smooth and come in variations of metal, ceramic, and diamond. Some have different grits on each side.

  1. Vise - Place the machete in a vise so that the desired grind angle can be easily achieved.
  2. File - Push the mill file from the top of the blade grind to the cutting edge. Make sure to push the file and not pull back towards you because the cutting teeth are angled to file when pushing. Do this evenly along the entire blade and check for a burr (thin metal curling over) to form on the back side.
  3. Burr - You can remove a burr by making light passes with the file or a sharpening stone. If the blade is ground on both sides, be sure to sharpen them evenly.
  4. Sharpening Stone - You can now use a sharpening stone to finish off the blade. Go from the heel of the blade to the tip making even passes on the cutting edge.

Sharpening Stone

Spyderco sharpening stone

Sharpening stones are easy to use and come in a variety from coarse to fine. Machetes do not need super fine cutting edges because they are not used for precision slicing. This allows use of coarse stones that will sharpen faster. It is easiest to use a file and finish with a sharpening stone, but stones can get the job done with a little time and effort.

  1. Select the Stone - Find a good stone thatís easy to hold in the hand. Some require use of water or oil and others can be used dry.
  2. Sharpen - Go from the heel of the blade to the tip while making passes that gently move towards the cutting edge. Sharpen both sides if it is not a chisel grind and be sure to remove burrs that form.
  3. Finish - You can go from coarse stones to fine, but keep in mind machetes are not meant to have razor sharp edges. Razor edges canít take the blows machetes are designed for.

Belt Sander

Be mindful when using a belt sander because you donít want to heat the blade too much and affect the heat treatment of the steel. Simply use the belt sander to sharpen the ground edges of the blade until you have a good working edge. Belt sanders should be used by experienced knife sharpeners as they can cause problems if done incorrectly.

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