Friday Firesmith – Machete Time

Back a while, Keith suggested I try a Fiskar’s Machete, and quite frankly, I have no interest in machetes. However, very rarely does anyone suggest a brush-clearing tool unless they’ve actually used one. Moreover, Keith had a narrative as to where and how he used said tool, so I was intrigued. It’s a forty buck bet that I either wind up with something that looks wicked cool and deadly, but doesn’t do well in the woods, or something that looks cool and kills vines.
Here we go.

Ten years ago I would have given up after a few minutes with the thing. A Machete is a lightweight weapon, and as such, there’s more muscle needed to make it work, and there’s a great deal of skill to be honed as well. Bush Hooks are heavy instruments with great head speed and a giant blade. The Fiskar’s twenty-nine-inch machete is heavier than your average machete, and there are some pluses to go along with the heaviness of the blade.

There’s an old tree close to the property line, and as far as Live Oaks go, it’s pretty big, but it is also in bad shape. I cut the vines off of the trunk a few years back but to do de-vining a tree any good you have to hit it every year, at least once. The stem of the vine was as thick as my wrist, and more springy than I was prepared for. There were branches coming off the main trunk of the vine, there were vines hanging down, and there are Oak limbs, too. Close quarters call for a knife fight. There’s no way to use a bush hook here.

True enough, it took more than one swing to get through the thick stuff, but I was ready to use less force and more precision if I could. I’m teaching myself to be ambidextrous. Cut the vines high, move them out of the way, cut the vines low, move them out of the way, cut, clear, cut clear, and do it again.

After an hour or so, I had the entire trunk of the tree cleared. I took out one vine as thick as my arm, and about five that were as thick as my wrist. There were a lot of smaller vines that the Fiskar’s cut through easily but the thicker stuff had to be hacked.

Some thoughts here: Yeah, a chain saw means ten minutes of work. But alone in the woods, it’s not safe, and frankly, I like the exercise. I like being good with a blade. I like learning a new hand tool. The Fiskar’s is a sturdy, easy to wield vine slayer, and even though it doesn’t have the firepower of a bush hook, for close quarters and tight spots, I’m more than willing to use this blade simply because it’s a good, solid, dependable tool.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


13 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Machete Time”

  1. DAYUM that is a machete it makes the one I have look like a pocket knife I need a manual pole saw to reach high up I ordered one from Garrett Wade Sept 10 it is still on back order uggggh

    • Infidel, I’m picky about my clearing tools. They have to have to be tough, durable, and work well. The heft of this blade is what does it. Totally recommending to a friend!

  2. I have tried a few different machete’s and that one is my favorite – it holds an edge well, I have NOT had the same favorable results with fiskar shears and scissors but I’ve been happy with that specific tool.. it is something of a hybrid machete/hatchet and I have two of them; one of which is always in the back of my truck and one is usually on my lawn tractor. It comes in handy pretty often;

    I have just under 3 acres and frequently needing to clear branches/fallen trees and a few specific areas are very prone to thick overgrowth. (particularly an area that is somewhat of a bog where the drainage from a neighbors pond spreads out over a ~300sq foot area and is constantly soggy and gets overgrown very quickly if left to it’s own.

    btw: speaking of pole saws (Barry) – if you have light/moderate need for a pole saw Dewalt has recently introduced a 20v cordless pole saw (9″ blade, 14′ reach) – it is very lightweight and uses the same 20v batteries as the rest of their 20v tool line (I have quite a few 20v tools from them including their weed eater, blower, chainsaws, drills etc.) – the advantage there is a consistent battery platform and a wide selection of battery sizes – (up to 9 amp hour batteries); they are much easier to maintain than gas powered chainsaws (uses the same bar and chain oil as other chainsaws, and occasional blade sharpening but you don’t have to deal with fuel/oil mix/spark plug and filter changes/stale gas if they sit unattended for a few months etc.) and they actually can get a lot of work done on a single battery. They are great for light/moderate use – If you are a lumberjack/landscaper or other field that is constantly using these for hours a day you would probably be a lot better off with larger and more powerful gas powered tools (stihl or echo both make very good tools in that range) but for the typical homeowner these are great options. – I already owned a lot of dewalt 20v tools so adding this to the collection was an easy call;

    Just in the past 5 months we’ve had 7 trees and a lot of limbs down in the yard (5 we cut down ourself, 2 that came down during storms) – these have included 1 beech, 1 hickory, 1 oak, 1 dogwood, 2 sweetgum (60 foot weeds) and 1 I couldn’t identify (it was pretty damaged from a lightning strike and overgrown with trumpet vines that hid the fact that it was so badly rotten that it was amazing that it hadn’t fallen on it’s own)… either way we were able to cut all the branches and most of the trunks on all of those trees using our dewalt chainsaw and the pole saw mostly. – we did end up using a gas powered chainsaw for ~20-30 feet of the trunks of those sweetgum and beech trees (they were way too thick for the 12″ dewalt chainsaw bar) – we’ve brought down at least 50 decent size branches (some over a foot thick) using the pole saw.

    • This is why I bought the machete. You know what you’re talking about when you recommend a tool. This machete is the real deal. Thank you!

    • Thanks for the suggestion I was always iffy about electric tools because of how much time the charge would last Since I have waited this long I will wait for the one I paid for

      • I switched over to all battery tools (weedeater, blower, JawSaw) except for my mower. I’m very happy with them all. I bought extra batteries so I always have one charging in case I run out of battery, which I rarely do.

      • since I have multiple dewalt 20v tools I ended up with multiple charges and batteries – MOST of them come with either a 1AH or 2AH battery if they are bundled with a battery; regardless I bought 4 additional 6AH batteries and I rotate them so by the time one set of batteries is dead I have another one ready to go. – and they last surprisingly long. I use the blower to clear my driveway (~80′ long) and back deck (~2500 sq feet) every day and I can usually go an entire week on a single 2AH battery. – and the blower is pretty strong. I would recommend removing the batteries from any tool when they are not in use. – It’s a good safety practice but i have seen that some tools will slowly drain the battery when the battery is left attached and if the battery drains too far it flips some internal ‘safety relay’ that prevents the battery from accepting a charge. (you can fix that by setting up a jumper wire between two of the posts on the battery but it’s a pain that can easily be avoided).

        I have a backpack blower (from echo) that is gas powered and a lot more powerful but I pretty much only need to break that out during fall when I have a lot of leaves to deal with. – the rest just end up mulched and bagged by the mower then tossed on the compost pile. Kinda like the chainsaw… It’s rare that I need the gas powered one, the dewalt is so much easier to use 95% of the time; plus it is a lot quieter.

  3. I’m surprised how quickly the newer tools recharge, now it’s minutes instead of hours.

    Mike is better off with hand tools so he can hear snakes sneaking up on him between chops, especially if they fart… snakes do that you know.

    • Bruce, I’m not sure of two things, first, how you never would realize that an animal with a digestive tract would not fart. Two, how did that information came to you this late in life.

      The brake line thing was captivating.

  4. That is quite the machete, doesn’t look at all like the old-school giant knife I was picturing. I can see why those vines are trembling at the mere thought of your name.

    • Chick, they need to tremble. I have a machete, a sharpener, and anxiety. My drug of choice is sweat. Two hours swinging away at those vines and I’m tired but happy. The trees are safe for another season. We’ll do battle next spring but by that time I’ll have the big vine stumps cut to the ground. The young tree will be taller and harder for the vines to reach the crowns. The old trees will grow stronger. The Oaks at Hickory Head have a shepherd.

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