As a proud owner of multiple machetes, I know how hard it is to keep them sharp. They’re rugged blades made for rough usage, yet the outdoor elements wear on them heavily. They pick up scratches, develop burrs, folds, and go dull. I decided I would not go to professional knife sharpener and instead learn how to sharpen a machete by myself.
I’ll tell you right away that sharpening a machete takes quite a bit of elbow grease. The largest blade I own is a machete. There’s quite a few ways you can sharpen your machete. It depends on the type of machete you have and how much sharpening it would require.
Caring for Your Machete
You might need to sharpen your machete in two situations: right after you purchase it and after prolonged use. After you buy a machete, you might notice that the blade is dull, dull enough that you can’t use it at all. That is often the case and you need to sharpen the brand-new machete before it can be of any use.
In other cases, like most knives, machetes also need sharpening when they’ve served you for a while. The blade will develop imperfections and you will start getting frustrated with the performance. You need tips on how to sharpen a machete either way.
Techniques of Sharpening a Machete
How to properly sharpen a machete? You may already know how to sharpen a regular blade at home. You may also have sharpening tools at your disposal and even some experience handling them. Can you use these tools to sharpen your machete? Let’s go and find out!
How to Sharpen a Machete With a File
In order to keep a machete in good condition for a long time, you need to sharpen it often and for that a file is perfect. It doesn’t take a lot of metal off of the blade’s edge, and it’s easy to use. To start off, secure your machete so it doesn’t move around and cause an accident while sharpening. Using a vice is a good idea but if you’re confident in your abilities, you can just hold it down with one hand while you file with the other.
Take a file that’s not too rough or too smooth, and go over the machete with it, pushing it along the edge. After you’re done with one edge, check for burrs and then go over the other edge to remove the burrs. A file is easy to carry around and is accessible whether you’re home or in the wilderness.
How to Sharpen a Machete With a Sharpening Stone
If you want to sharpen a machete with a stone, first look through your inventory to see if you have a stone for the purpose. It could be a water stone, a whetstone, or an oil stone. You could also use a diamond stone but I’d advise against them, as they shave off too much metal from the edge.
How to sharpen a machete with a whetstone? Like using a file, this can also be done at home easily and without much hassle. Make sure the machete is held down securely, then go over the edge with the stone till it is sharpened.
If you’re using a water stone, you’ll need to wet the stone in water first before going over the edge of the blade in a smooth, regular motion. Alternate edges till you deem the machete sharp enough and remove all the burrs. There, now you know how to sharpen a machete with a stone.
How to Sharpen a Machete With a Grinder
If you’re looking to sharpen a machete with nicks and dings, using a grinder, especially a belt grinder is a good idea. Otherwise, I’d suggest you stick with a sander. As a grinder is a power tool, it will drastically change the look of your machete and take quite a bit of metal off the cutting edge.
Sometimes machetes fall into disrepair and need a facelift, and sometimes a newly-bought machete needs aggressive sharpening. In these two cases, go ahead and use a grinder. But remember, you’ll have to use safety equipment such as goggles, gloves, face shield and even proper footwear. Now, let’s see how to sharpen a machete using a grinder.
Select a clear, airy space and run your grinder in low rpm, as higher rpm will overheat the blade and cause damage. To sharpen a machete with a grinder, you should have some prior experience with the machine. Run the edge of the machete over the grinder till it attains a razor-sharp edge and all the nicks and dings disappear. This method is also good for restoring old machetes.
A little tip: Want to know how to sharpen a machete safely? While sharpening your machete with a grinder or sander, always keep a bucket of cool water at hand. Even if the machete accidentally overheats, you can dunk it in the water and prevent any damage.
How to Sharpen a Gerber Machete
Sometimes you get a machete and sharpening it seems especially daunting. If you want to know how to sharpen a machete that’s from the Gerber company, it’s always best to contact them and learn the maintenance details of the machete you have. Gerber knives are quite popular and their machetes come in a few shapes and sizes.
There’s not one technique that can be applied to sharpen them all. For machetes that have a straight edge, you can easily use a sander or a grinder. However, with machetes that have serrated or hooked edges, things get more complicated.
For those, you can either attempt to use sharpening stones or a file, and you can even send it to a pro for sharpening if the challenge seems too much. Gerber machetes always come with a sheath, and sometimes even a sharpening stone. Make use of these to make sure the machete is in good condition around the year.
How to Sharpen a Machete at Home
If you’re adamant about not sending your machete to a pro for sharpening, and you don’t even have power tools or specific sharpening tools at home, you can still sharpen, or to be precise, hone your machete with some household equipment. First of all, let me tell you this way you can only sharpen a smaller machete with less damage.
And for this, you can use items such as a coffee mug, a leather belt, or another knife. You’re wondering, how is it possible to sharpen a machete with something like a ceramic mug? You have to place the mug upside down and find that there’s a round rough edge at the bottom. Run the machete’s edge over this the way you’d do with a file.
You can sharpen any knife in a pinch with this method. Using a leather belt or strap, you can use a stropping motion to get some sharpness back in your blade. Just make sure there aren’t any stitches in the leather. Lastly, you can use another knife’s spine much like a sharpening steel to sharpen your machete.
Checking the Sharpness of a Machete
Now that you know how to sharpen a machete in a multitude of methods, how do you know your method actually worked and the machete has become sharp? You need to check the sharpness. It’s true that you can just go out and try to use it in the field, just the way you’d do any other day. However, the quick way is to check with a piece of paper.
If your machete is sharp enough to cut through foliage, it should be sharp enough to cleanly slice through paper. Run a slip of paper along the cutting edge of your machete. It should slice clean and not drag across the edge making a mess. If the machete doesn’t cut the paper cleanly, sharpen it some more, or change your technique.
Tips to Sharpen Your Machete
- Clean both your machete and the sharpening equipment before and after each use
- After sharpening, film the blade with an appropriate oil to reduce the risk of oxidation
- If you’re using a whetstone, make sure it is sufficiently soaked before use
- When using power tools such as grinders, sanders, electric sharpeners or dremels, do not forgo safety equipment.
- Never sharpen for too long or else you’ll distort the cutting edge
- Sometimes your machete needs a slight honing and in those cases, aggressive sharpening will actually do more damage than good
- Use a file or whetstone for regular maintenance
- Use a power tool only when the machete needs extra care and sharpening
- Also use a diamond stone only to make sure the edge is extra sharp
- Don’t start sharpening from the hilt and leave a few inches off the base
- When in doubt, enlist a professional sharpener’s help
By definition, a Machete is an uber useful tool to an outdoorsy person or even someone who’s inclined to gardening. In either cases, a dull machete would be more of a hindrance to the work. So you needed to know how to sharpen a machete. Are you now confident that you can take care of your machete? Let me know if you succeeded in sharpening your machete.