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Most people have heard of machetes, or at least they have a vague idea of what they are. Whether from horror movies or camping trips, you’ve probably come across these capable outdoor knives at some point. If you’re a knife enthusiast, you’ve probably heard about the kukri knife. It has a fearsome reputation and a look to match.
How are these renowned blades different from machetes, and which one should you choose? We’ve brought you this kukri vs machete comparison to help you pick the right knife for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a landscaping companion or a handy tool for clearing a campsite, we’ll help you make the right choice. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Kukri vs Machete: How Are They Different?
Despite their drastically different appearance, both the Kukri knife and the machete perform similarly in the real world and many of their uses and features overlap. It’s important to know where each knife’s strengths and weaknesses lie so that you can get a knife that’s right for your planned uses.
The knife you need for a little bit of garden scaping is quite different from what you’d need for a deep jungle hike. We’ll show you how these knives are different, and the type of use that these differences lean toward. You’ll find all the information you need to make a smart and informed decision.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear idea of which knife is right for you, and why you need what it offers. Let’s take a look at the most important kukri knife vs machete knife differences!
Shape and Design
The blade’s shape is the most obvious and notable difference between a kukri and a machete. The kukri has a distinctive double curve on the cutting edge and a steadily curved spine. The blade is wider toward its tip and this is what gives it excellent chopping power. It’s this swinging power that made the kukri a fabulous soldier’s weapon and a capable choice for the outdoors.
The machete, on the other hand, has a far more standard design. Both the spine and the cutting edge are straight, meeting together at a slightly higher-than-center tip. You’ll often find a saw-like section on the spine of a machete to give it a little extra utility.
A lot of machetes have a slightly curved section near the tip-side of the cutting edge. This helps with weight distribution and helps keep the cutting edge even. Both designs and blade shapes have their pros and cons. And we’ll cover some of these as we make our way through the rest of the guide.
Cutting Edge and Blade Style
This is one of the most important factors you need to consider when choosing between a kukri and a machete. The blade style has a huge influence on which type of cutting each knife best suits. The curved cutting edge and front-heavy blade of the kukri give it excellent chopping power.
You’ll need a little more space when using this knife. So it’s best used for clearing camping sites or on hikes. Thanks to the curves, you can also use a kukri for fine or precision cutting. If you place your hand on the spine (just above the widest part of the blade), you can work the curves to easily make accurate and consistent cuts/slices.
Machetes have the serrated teeth on the blade’s spine to help you make cuts that a kukri isn’t capable of. You can saw thicker branches off trees while still having enough chopping power to handle the outdoors. Machetes are excellent for landscaping and using on hikes and camping trips.
Weight and Balance
The weight of your knife will depend on the model you choose. While you can still find some heavy-duty machetes, they’re generally lighter than a kukri. Kukri knives use heavier and thicker steel, which is why they have higher chopping power than machetes. Due to a lot of that weight being further up the blade (closer to the tip), the kukri’s balance can be a little awkward.
This isn’t a huge issue as you’ll get used to it after a little time – but it’s not as beginner-friendly as a machete. If you want something simple and straightforward to use and master, then the machete might be the way to go. That being said, once you get used to the weight, feel, and balance of the kukri, it has excellent potential. You can use it for both intricate and heavy-duty cutting/chopping with a little practice.
Cutting and Chopping Power
As we’ve already touched on, the kukri knife has excellent chopping power. The heavier and often thicker steel (especially near the handle) gives you loads of force for chopping off branches or clearing a campsite. If you’re carving bark off a tree, or are using the kukri for any light cutting/slicing work, you can work the curves of the knife easily.
All you need to do is put your hand on the blade’s spine and push down as you pull/push the knife for accurate cutting. As great as this is, there are no serrated teeth for cutting through thicker objects – and this is where the machete shines. You can easily hack at the branch to get a grove in it.
Then finish the job by sawing through it with the serrated teeth (on the blade’s spine). It’s also easier to make straight cuts as the edge isn’t curved like the kukri. You’ll find it to be a lot simpler and quicker to work with – especially if you haven’t had the knife for a long time.
Handle and Tang
Full tang designs offer you quite a bit more in terms of durability, but at the cost of price and weight. Most kukri knives have a full tang, whereas most machetes don’t – and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you want something for doing landscaping work around the garden, or for your weekend hikes, lugging around a heavy kukri is a little inconvenient.
You’ll find the machete to be easier to work with and get consistent results with – especially if you’ve never used a kukri knife before. The best handle ergonomics and shape often comes down to personal preference, though there are a few important things to point out. We like that the kukri’s handle is broader near its heel.
This helps to stop the blade from slipping and helps you get a better grip for harder swinging. The kukri usually has a full-tang design, and this adds quite a bit to the weight of the knife. Not only that, but it offsets the balance quite a bit and will take some getting used to. All in all, you’ll adapt to either knife’s handle, shape, or ergonomics rather easily – though the kukri will take more time and effort.
Portability and Ease of Use
Most people (including me) find the machete easier to use and work with – especially when you’re just getting started. It took me quite a while to get accurate with the kukri, though you can expect awesome results when you get used to it. In terms of portability, you have to remember that the kukri has a uniquely curved blade.
It’s tougher to pack for your camping and hiking trips. While this isn’t a big issue, it’s worth taking into account. Not only this, but the kukri is quite a fair bit heavier than the machete. You’ll notice it on your side/bag and you’ll need to have a good quality belt or carry set up to handle it. Another important aspect is knife care and maintenance.
If you don’t have the tools or experience with sharpening and honing curved blades, you might struggle with the kukri. The machete, on the other hand, is simple and quick to sharpen. In practice though, and with a little planning before your trips, you shouldn’t need to worry about carrying extra tools, or wasting your trip sharpening your knives.
Which Is the Right Knife for You?
Bear in mind that there’s no perfect knife and you’ll always have to balance out what’s most important to you. A good suggestion would be to take 10-minutes to write down all the most important features you need, and how/where you’ll be using the knife. Use this list – together with the topics we’ve covered here – to help you decide between the kukri vs the machete.
If I had to give you a recommendation, I’d say that if you want something light and easy to work with, then a machete might be right for you. If you want that extra brawn and versatility, along with higher chopping power, then you should consider the kukri.
We’ve looked at the most important differences between the machete and the kukri knife – along with how they impact their real-world performance. You should have a fairly clear idea of which knife is best for you and your budget.
Take your list of important features, sit down for an hour, look at your options. And find the knife that’s just right for you. Hopefully, our guide has made your kukri vs machete choice a little easier. We want you to get the best value and performance for your money! Good luck!