Ka-Bar Black Cutlass Machete
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167 of 169 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2010
I just spent a weekend putting this knife through the paces at a mountain cabin. If you don't want to read the whole review, I'll just say it's the perfect option for handling wood in the wild - great chopper, great splitter, not a bit unwieldy, and not too heavy to strap to a pack.

First, my rant. Too many knives try to be the kitchen sink. But in reality, knife tasks break down into two broad categories: fine work like cutting cord, food, feather sticks, etc., and heavy work like chopping and batoning wood. In my opinion, a knife that's heavy and sturdy enough for the latter is too clumsy for the former. "Jack of all trades, master of none ... "

So to me, the perfect combination is two knives - a small knife to keep on your belt for the quick-access, fine work, and a larger knife for handling wood. In my case, I like the KABAR Short Black Plain Edge Knife with nylon sheath on my belt - small, light and elegant for the fine work, but very tough and can be pressed into hacking wood in an emergency. (Some find the grip of the Ka-Bar Short too small, but I have smaller hands. Pick a knife that suits your hands and your needs.)

As to the larger knife, the Ka-Bar Cutlass Machete fits the bill perfectly.

The blade on this machete is 11 inches. Pull out a ruler and see how long that is. It's much shorter than what you'd think. But it ends up being the perfect length. Short enough to strap to the side of a pack, but long enough to be effective.

The blade thickness is about 1/8" or 4mm. Even though that's half the thickness of the Ka-Bar Heavy Bowie, which has a 1/4" blade, it's not a thin or a weak blade. This is a machete, not a pry-bar. Yet as a machete, the blade is significantly thicker than you'd find on other machetes and tough enough for heavy blows with a baton. More on this below.

The cutlass shape of the blade puts most of the blade weight forward. This makes swinging and chopping a breeze. If you hit with the inside curve of the blade, it bites deep and sure. I felt much safer chopping with this machete than with the hatchets we had on hand. The chances of this blade missing the mark or glancing off the wood are much lower.

To put the knife to the test, I found a rotting pine stump that had a thick fatwood core. This is wood that's saturated with sap or pitch, and it's extremely heavy and hard. I pulled the stump out, found a tough 3" stick to use as a baton, and set about splitting fatwood boards off the stump. This is done by driving the blade down into top of the stump with the stick - just like you would split a log with a wedge - then when the blade's all the way in the log, striking the end of it to keep driving it down, all the way to the bottom of the stump. Do a YouTube search for "baton wood" to see what I mean. I managed to split the stump into about a dozen planks that were 3/4" thick and up to 8" wide. Even landed a couple of blows right on the tip of the blade. No damage, no problems. The blade handled the hard blows and the dense fatwood effortlessly.

Next I needed a chopping test. I found a 4" stump which was fatwood all the way through. This one would need to be chopped off near the ground. So I set about chopping it, just like you would with a hatchet. The front-heavy blade swung effortlessly and bit hard into the wood. A 4" stump was no problem at all, even hardened fatwood. The handle cushioned the vibrations very nicely, and the ergonomics of it made the grip very comfortable and secure in the hand.

Then I spotted an 8" stump of fatwood and decided to give it a go. I won't deny, it was work. But I got through.

I did all of this with the edge that came from the factory. At the end of the day, it was still sharp enough to take shavings off of a stick.

After a weekend with this knife, it deserves all five stars I gave it. This is going to be my wilderness companion for many years coming.

Comparison to other options:

Hatchet: I would take this over a hatchet for three reasons. Hatchets are heavier, the likelihood of missing or glancing off the target is higher with a hatchet (personal opinion), and a machete is much better suited to clearing out small branches, clearing weeds, and hacking your way through undergrowth.

Ka-Bar Black Kukri Machete: I've seen videos of the Kukri chopping, and that thing is a chopper. But from what I experienced, the cutlass is nearly its equal. The tipping point is batoning wood. The curved blade of the kukri makes it very awkward for batoning. On YouTube there's a video of a guy trying to baton with the Kukri. It's unstable to say the least. The cutlass, on the other hand, has a nice straight-topped blade that takes batoning beautifully.

Ka-Bar® Bowie Black Finish: I haven't used the Heavy Bowie. But the blade shape is much more uniform, meaning that the weight is distributed evenly along the blade. The Cutlass, on the other hand, is front-heavy, making the swing more effortless and effective. On the flip-side, you could use the Heavy Bowie as a pry-bar, if that matters to you.
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2010
Back home in Jamaica there were street vendors who would chop coconuts and sell them for a few cents. They could open a coconut with three quick strikes (i.e., chop away the husk and then crack the top of the nut inside just enough so that the coconut meat was left intact). You could then tap out the hole and drink the water from inside. Once that was done, you'd hand it back to the vendor and with one strike they'd cut the coconut in two to get to the coconut meat. They'd also slice off a piece of the husk to use as a spoon.

I'm happy to say that I can now do the same with this machete. Well, it takes about five strikes to clear the husk, but I can chop it open with a single strike now. It's an almost perfect weight for this sort of task. Not too heavy that you'd get tired, but enough so that gravity can do lots of the work. It also retains an edge so that slicing off the "spoon" is easy.

The balance is pretty good, though the center of weight is a little more forward than I expected (but absolutely correct for this sort of tool). The handle material is durable but hard; i.e., it's not a rubberized type of handle. If you intend to use this machete for a good length of time you might consider wearing gloves. If you don't then after the initial blisters your hands will be tougher than mine :D. As to the blade, it is equally sturdy and durable. I went through about a dozen coconuts without sharpening. The only caveat is that the blade angle is not the same as my Smith's Carbide/Ceramic sharpener so you should check before using a fixed-angle sharpener.

OK, why four stars? The coating on the blade is not completely uniform. This *might* be by design, but from my eyes it appears more like a quality control issue. This said, this doesn't affect the utility of the blade in any way. As noted, the handle is not ideal for me. My hands tend to perspire so I would prefer a handle similar to the Gerber LMF II.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
I purchased this knife based on the brand name alone and I was not disappointed. It is very sturdy and handles most thick brush well. It is not as heavy as some other machetes I have used; I wouldn't use it to take down any small trees, but it serves well as a heavy utility knife and is perfect for camping.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2010
This is is not in my view the kind of machete I would prefer for weed whacking a vacant lot. You need a long thin fast blade for that. If you grab the thin stuff at the top you can chop through it at the bottom with no problems so it can get the job done. On the other hand clearing out the brush, shrubs and small trees along the edge of my lot and taking off limbs on what I left worked like a charm. I consider this to be much more effective tool than a BK9 which I also own for chopping shrubs and processing wood for a fire but I don't consider this to be a knife while the BK-9 does work as a large butcher knife. I regard this as a hatchet replacement but more forgiving about exact blade placement. Batooning is not a problem but on small stuff it isn't going to be needed either. You can tear up and old snag without any problems.

Due to sheath design this is as compact to carry and less awkward to transport attached to your belt than a BK9. That being said I would carry a light fixed blade like a Dadley which weighs almost nothing on day trips and if I expected to need to do some chopping adding this blade computes. I know for a fact that you can spend a lot more for a blade without actually gaining anything for it because I have. This blade is about as good as it gets for what it is best at.

Ya'll have fun now.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2011
I took this thing with me on a backpacking trip a while back. At first I was a bit wary about its size but dang this thing might be small for a sword but it packs a punch. I started out simple: ferns, saplings, half inch thick vines. One swipe and everything was clean cut. Took it up a notch at went at 3-4 inch thick trees. After a few hacks the thing was done. Now what really surprised me was its chopping ability. During the time I used it, I used it for chopping 6-8 inch logs for firewood. I constantly treated it like a bastard; going through foot after foot of wood and countless numbers of shrubs. After using it like this for about 4 days the thing still had a like new edge, sharp enough to cut paper. I might resharpen it sometime in the future but still, this thing is a beast. If you're looking for a good machete, pick this one. The "Made in Taiwan" might be a downside for some of you "Made in America" fans but, just the same, Ka-Bar holds true to its name and product quality.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
Ordered three different machetes of varying lengths, this one and two Cold Steels. Was a bit worried this one would be too short to be useful, but found myself using this the most. Easy to carry, and has a decent edge from the factory. Machetes aren't supposed to be razor sharp, but it could use just a bit more edge to it. The Cold Steels were unusably dull out of the box.

Nice solid blade, just the right thickness. Good shape too, with the majority of the weight up front.

Haven't used a baton on it, but the spine looks thick enough to handle it like a champ.

This got me through some pretty thick stuff (2" or more) with ease.

I'm not a fan of the sheath, but it works. Slides around inside, and is cumbersome to take out/put in.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2010
This knife is fantastic. I haven't had the opportunity to use it extensively in the forest, but I have tested it plenty at home. It is perfect for all of the chopping you'd have to use it for in a survival situation. With a lanyard of parachute chord and a very relaxed grip to reduce fatigue and calorie use, you can almost effortlessly chop effectively, getting through two to three inch thick wood so quickly it will amaze you. It chops as deep as a machete but without being tightly wedged in the wood. Just as a reference point, I could easily cut entirely through a 2x4 in about thirty seconds. You could really cut up some shelter supports with this thing. It also batons beautifully, with plenty of metal to bash with a stick without harm to the blade. At the same time it's actually useful just around the camp site for kindling and the like. Do yourself a favor and buy this knife for the ridiculously low price amazon is offering it for. You'll likely never buy another one (at least not for yourself)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2011
Ka-bar Machetes are awesome. I have both the cutlass and the kukri. I recently used the cutlass machete to clear out a friends fence row from briars, vines, and small trees. I was able to use this machete for three and a half hours straight with out getting tired or sore. This machete cut through everything with ease, even limbs and the small trees that went up to about one and a half inches in diameter. The size and ergonomics of this machete are perfect. The grip fits my hand so nicely with no hot spots or hint of it coming out of my hand. The small hook at the end of the handle and the triangular cross section really lock it in place. The blade is made from a 1085 high carbon steel with a hollow ground edge. The blade comes extremely sharp and resharpens fairly easily. The 1085 carbon steel is heat treated properly so that the edge does not chip when impacted with something hard like a rock or nail in the tree. It simply rolls the edge, which can be fixed and resharpened again with a basic sharpening stone. The spine of the blade is almost three sixteenths of an inch think. This is much thicker than the vast majority of machetes. The thicker spine provides more rigidity to the blade without adding a lot of weight. The over all length of the machete is about sixteen inches. It is easy to stuff in a backpack, and it is not awkward to use. This machete costs more than an average machete but it is worth every penny. I have a lot of different machetes in length and weight and I recommend the Ka-Bar machetes over them all. You won't regret getting this machete!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2011
I'm quite impressed with this knife. It held an edge through chopping down about 50 sycamore saplings, and still shaved paper after I was done. Due to the sheath (which isn't bad overall, I just prefer kydex), and not being full tang; I couldn't quite give this a full 5 stars (4.5 stars if it were possible). However, if you're looking for a quality, and inexpensive machete; then this one is highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2011
Another fine multi-use product for woodsmen from Ka-Bar. I use the cutlass when cutting or clearing trails. Striking at the correct oblique angle, this tool will slice through inch-thick saplings and branches with one, easy swing. Handily chops/splits 3" thick firewood... and will also cut or dice foodstuff.

The cutlass has replaced both the sheath knife and hand axe I used to carry into the woods, although it doesn't serve for finer work like stripping electrical wire or skinning. I've my folder for that kind of thing.

I gave the first Cutlass I bought to a good friend who noticed it while we were working together, and then bought another for myself. We're both happy. :)
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