How To Use A Machete – The Right Way

how to use a machete

A quick disclaimer before we start. This short tutorial is guidance on using a machete for clearing brush the right way, not how to swing a machete like a knife wielding maniac in the street. There’s no room for that kind of behaviour here at Sharpen-up.

So, you have you razor sharp machete and you are ready to clear some major undergrowth at the back of the garden or on the ranch. If you start hacking away, the wrong way, you will tire very quickly and for all intent and purposes, work a lot slower.

The following steps will help ensure that you start using your machete like a boss. (If you’re thinking about buying a new machete, head to our top 5 review roundup, to discover the best ones currently available).

Top tips on how to use a machete

Step 1 – Check The Area

Before you start you need to make sure that the area within range of your swing is clear and that nobody, or nothing, is standing behind you.

You should also continue to check as you work. If possible, you should ensure that no children or pets could possible appear while you have the machete in hand.

how to grip a machete
How to grip a machete the right way (Image:

Step 2 – The Grip, holding the machete the right way

Finding the correct grip is fundamental for an efficient machete swing. If the grip is wrong, the swing will also be wrong.

Furthermore, hold the tool wrong and you will likely end up getting blisters. You will certainly wear out faster, and from a safety standpoint, a wrong grip could cause you to end up loosing a toe. (You only need imagine what can happen if a machete was to fly from your hand mid swing!).

  • With the Machete in hand, you start by wrapping your thumb and forefinger around opposite sides of the handle and pinching them together tightly.
  • Your other three fingers only need to be wrapped loosely around the base of the handle.
  • It may seem counter-intuitive, however the handle should actually have a little play within your palm, and be able to wiggle around slightly. A common beginner’s mistake is to grip the handle so tight that you leave a palm print. There is no need for that.

The following video will help explain the correct machete grip in greater detail:

Step 4 – How to Swing the Machete

Now we get to the swinging like a boss part. For actions such as chopping or hacking, you should use the broad, heavy, sweet spot of the machete. This will help generate momentum, with the direct force being applied against the object you are trying to chop.

This is why the machete is so effective. it does not require the strength of the user’s wrist shoulders. A proper machete swing only requires the momentum of your core.  So, how does one achieve this?

The force for the swing comes from your core, not your arm.
(Photo credit: Matt Tansey: When Coffee Speaks) The force for the swing comes from your core, not your arm.
  • First, when you swing the machete, start higher and direct your whole arm in a downward direction to increase momentum. You will also have the weight of the machete and gravity on your side.
  • You should also bring your shoulder down as you swing. This ensures that the momentum of your core is actually the main power supply, generating the thrust that flows through your arm and into the tool.
  • It is important to allow your elbow to lead the direction of the swing.
  • Upon contact with the material you are cutting, try to flick your wrist slightly. Woody vegetation requires a downward flick, while grass and leafy growth should be met with an upwards flick.

Here is another video that will greatly aid you in perfecting the correct swing when using a machete.

Step 5 – The Angle of Contact

With the grip and the swing in place, the last thing you need to nail is the angle of the blade as you hit the material being cut.

Again this will impact the efficiency of your work, and quickly you get tired. The fact is, you get it wrong not only will you take longer, you will end up repeatedly prying your machete from the material after getting it stuck, and you will look a little silly to boot.

using a machete

Here’s what you need to do, to avoid all that:

  • Do not use a perpendicular approach. Instead, make contact at around a 45-degree angle.
  • As we stated in the swing section, when slashing through soft vegetation use swift strokes with an upward flick of the wrist as you make contact. For thicker foliage or wood, slash downward.
  • When cutting thick branches or small trees, cut a V-shaped notch in the offending material and then alternate between upward and downward strokes.  This will chop slivers off each side of the wood until you have made your way through the entire trunk.

Important safety notes to remember

If at any point you feel tired you should rest before continuing. Working while fatigued is a short route to injury. Only swap hands if you are lucky enough to be safely ambidextrous with the tool. Otherwise, stop, take a drink and have a sit down. The brush will still be there to chop once you are ready.

Another point to remember is that your machete should be sharp. If you working with a blunt instrument you will need to exert more force into the swing to make the cut – and this can lead to accidents.

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