Perhaps a recent outdoor adventure has made you realize you need a machete. Or perhaps an upcoming camping trip requires you to navigate thick jungles, where a sharp machete would help enormously.
Either way, you need a machete that cuts through with ease—and that’s why it’s so important to sharpen your blade. You can’t achieve much with a blunt machete!
This article will show you the main, most effective ways of sharpening a machete. You’ll also learn some different uses for your newly sharpened blade, from cracking fruits to self-defense.
The 3 Main Ways to Sharpen a Machete
There are various techniques for sharpening a machete—the main ones involve a file, stone, or bench grinder. We recommend that you sharpen your blade before you head out, but you might still want to pack your sharpening tool just in case!
Whichever sharpening tool you go for, you need to make sure that you sharpen both sides of your machete blade evenly to create a uniform cutting edge. If you sharpen one side too much, it can become very brittle and your machete might get permanently damaged.
Method 1: Use a File
A simple way to sharpen your machete is using a file. You’ll need to find a hard surface, use your leg to hold the machete down at its blunt end, and then use the file to file the cutting edge.
With the file, you’ll take off burrs with quick passes and avoid over-sharpening one edge of your machete. Turn to the next side when you have filed off the burrs.
Method 2: Use a Stone
Sharpening stones are readily available, but using one requires some skills. You need to apply a good amount of pressure; that way, the machete can receive enough friction to eliminate the burrs.
You also need to turn the edge of the stone as you work. Using a sprinkle of water to wash off the debris as you rock it on the stone can also help the edge to come off sharper.
So, you now know the two main ways of sharpening a machete—using a file, or stone. What happens, however, if you don’t have any of those tools with you? Keep reading to discover some other effective ways of getting your machete sharp.
Method 3: Use a Bench Grinder
You might not be able to bring a bench grinder with you while bushcrafting, but it’s a very effective tool for sharpening your machete before and after you go out.
Bench grinders are very powerful machines, so you need to take extra care not to damage your blade. Set your grinder on a low setting, place your machete at a 45 degree angle to the grinder, and run it along the grinder evenly, starting at one end of the blade and leading to the other end.
Tip: Don’t press down on your machete as it touches the grinder; doing so could risk over-sharpening and damaging your blade.
Other Crude Ways to Sharpen a Machete
We’ve all experienced it—you’ve forgotten to pack your sharpening tool. It’s cold out, you need to cut wood to make a fire, but your machete is blunt. You have no bench grinder, file, or sharpening stone with you. What do you do?
Remembering these three tips, you’ll know how to sharpen your blade even when you’ve forgotten to pack some gear.
Tip 1: Use Another Machete
If you have a second machete with you, or someone accompanying you does, then you can use that second machete to sharpen your blunt one. Yes, you heard it right!
All you need to do is rub the cutting edge of your machete against the cutting edge of the other one. This produces friction, removes burrs, and sharpens your machete.
This method takes a bit longer than the main techniques above—but you should have a sharper blade within around 20 minutes. Sorted!
Tip 2: Find a Suitable Stone
Compared to using a second machete, using a stone can be a lot faster and your machete can come out much cleaner and sharper.
Simply look for a strong, hard stone out in the wild. The stone will act as your sharpening object. To begin, place your stone on a flat surface. Next, hold the blunt edge of your machete with one hand and place your palm beside the other edge. Use your hand motion to sharpen your machete against the rock.
As ever, remember to turn your blade over so that both sides are sharpened evenly and you don’t over-sharpen one edge.
Tip 3: Cut Some Fodders
This third, final tip is best kept as a last resort for when you don’t have any stones or other machetes close by. Simply use your machete to cut up some plant materials—this can help you clear out some burr. Pro trick: choose plants that you’ll be able to eat!
Uses for Your Sharpened Machete
So, you now know three simple, effective ways of sharpening a machete—as well as three crude ways of sharpening when you don’t have your sharpening tool to hand. Now, let’s see what you can use your sharpened blade for while out in the wild!
Here are some main uses for a machete:
- Making a fire: Sharp machetes can cut branches with ease, making them very handy for setting up a fire.
- Making a shelter: A sharpened machete can also help you to prepare wood for a bushcraft shelter.
- Clearing bushes: Before you make a fire or shelter, you might need to clear bushes out of the way. A sharp machete is ideal for this.
- Carving trails: In a dense forest or bush, you might need a sharp machete to carve out trails as you pass through.
- Cutting up fruits: Be it slicing open papayas or cracking open coconut shells, a machete can get you very far when preparing food.
- Defending yourself: A machete is also a defensive tool against snakes, wild animals, and other dangers out in the bush.
…And so you can see: machetes are real multi-purpose tools that help with many activities essential to bushcraft. Look after your machete, handle it with care, and you’ll enjoy your camping adventures even more.
I am Bruno. I write and lecture about bushcraft, survival, hiking, and nature experiences in general. I also produce short films on these topics as a director.
My wife Lilith and I try to travel as much as we can to discover the world! We wish to live in harmony with nature and preserve its ecosystems: Eden paradise is here now.
I want to open a door to reconnect with nature through this blog.