The less wrong part of my youth was spent in West Africa where I lived in a small village for almost 3 years. Everyone used a machete every time they left the village to take the bus. The machete was made by a local blacksmith from a garbage vehicle farm.
Macheten Westanga Panga style
Machetes are made in two main styles; one for mowing grass and thin brushes and the other for cutting heavy brushes and for chopping wood. These machetes are not only used for heavy work, they are also used for everything from peeling fruit, killing animals, cleaning fish to personal protection.
The machete style used for cutting grass and the thin brush have long, narrow curved blades that look like a katana sword rather than a slender version of the typical jaw-like machete. Machine engraving machines have heavier blades that can also look like a heavier version of a jaw machete.
I also saw a heavy machete with a hook bent very forward towards the tip like a beak hooking machine, similar to the kukri style. Wood is weighed like an ax at this point. As the blade is weighed to the end, the momentum of the swing will carry the blade deep into the wood. Both light and heavy machetes have blades that are 18-24 inches long.
First Time use
I still remember wondering the first time I saw the same type of machete. Africans can cut down a tree as thick as my 21 year old thigh in 2 or 3 cuts and can cut grass at the speed of a lawnmower and almost as loudly as a lawnmower.
To mow the grass, they lay down on sticks so they could lie there and slaughter on the ground. The stick also serves as a safety device to stop the blade before it hits the feet if the blade is too dry. I never “accidentally” mowed the grass around the house, cut wood or felled trees, like my African friends, but I did learn how to use and appreciate a cut knife.
A machete saved my life
I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve really relied on a knife for survival, but a machete could have saved my life on many occasions. It may not be politically correct to kill a strange reptile and I want to take note and say that I never kill a venomous snake unless it poses an immediate danger to me or someone else. But I promise you this…
When a cobra climbs up and the hood fan is two feet from your bare feet and legs, you won’t be standing there thinking about what a great kind of Naja you just met; “I wonder if it’s the black morph from the Forest Cobra or is it the Black-necked Spitting Cobra?”
Swing a machete first and finally think about species diversity and Elapid taxonomy. We have a natural “change in long vision” when we see a venomous snake for some reason.
survival machete for cobra in jungle
Cobras and other venomous snakes like black and green mamba, Gabon cobra and others are common and I have an amazing collection of snake skins from nearby encounters including lots of cobras, 9 foot green mamba and Gabonese skins. During my time there, I killed three cobras in my home and many other cobras and green mambas in the garden.
The fear of these snakes is so widespread (with justification) that I am the only one in the village who actually has grass growing in my yard. The others continued to scrape all the plants until they were bare. The boss threatened to fine me because the grass in my yard was too long and threatened to create a snake habitat. I take several kids to school who often mow the grass.
I usually carry a thin machete, a lawn mower and if I spend more time in the African bush, I won’t go anywhere without them. This long machete is too long to be worn in a sarong. But they don’t have to be in a scabbard, they have to be in your hands ready to cut and brush and explore areas you don’t have to work with without exploring first. If an evil snake suddenly appears, all you need to do is move the wrist quickly to protect yourself.
But there was a big difference between the West African bush and the steppe, juniper and tall forest shrubs of the inter-mountainous west where we live and play today. For this shelter, I wanted a machete with a short, heavy blade that I could carry in a holster or put in a backpack for light woodworking. I no longer worry about long thin blades reaching out and dropping a cobra head or chopping into bushes. We meet one or two rattlesnakes a year, but I still haven’t found the need to kill one.
Machete or Ax?
I have an ax that I have had for years that I don’t remember where it came from. He always camps and hunts and usually lives in a truck, but rarely travels with a backpack. The ax is useless for cleaning the grass. The four-foot section of the re-bar can do a bad job of cleaning grass but still works better than an ax. No, I don’t have a weed and would never bring a camper if I had one and I hope there is no camper near me with their weed. All of my neighbors make sure I hear enough voice to take care of the yard at home.
The ax does a fair job of cutting and forming small limbs, but has never been more flexible, easy to use, or as secure as a good machete. How many times have you seen the little ax miss the mark. And to make matters worse, the harder it swings, the more likely it is that the handle hits the target and not the blade. Gosh! Look at the toes and look at the toes and the sky to help everyone who stands on the other side of the log! I heard about the scout troop banning axles. The machete is safer because even an improperly aligned swing has to bury the knife in the wood.
If it weren’t for the senseless war that caused me to lose touch with all my friends in Africa, I would have imported and probably imported machetes. I just made some contacts, so I can still get my hands on some of the original machetes. For a while, looking at the live knife, we also saw a lot of machetes. I wasn’t very impressed with what I saw other than KA-BAR’s Cutlas machetes, so we bought them.