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Custom Machetes for Puerto Rico Rainforest (Need advice)

elyunque

Plastic
Joined
Jan 29, 2024
Good afternoon,

I am working on a project in El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. I work with a crew of people who spend several hours per day swinging machetes for trails.

Surprisingly, we are having a difficult time getting machetes that are right for our job. In PR, machetes are imported from central & south America & they are often sold out or difficult to find.

My idea:
1. Design CNC file for custom-made machete to our ideal specifications
2. Send design file to an online machine shop to produce the steel
3. Ship machete blanks to Puerto Rico
4. Install our custom-made wood handles

Ideal specs:
- 28" Sable machetes (+6" handle)
- 1075 Carbon Steel
- Blade angle of 25-32 degrees

If possible I would also like to custom etch each blade with "PUERTO RICO" and maybe something about El Yunque too.

Is this project possible? Any guidance or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
 
When I see machete, I think Collins. I suppose those new machetes probably still carry the Collins name decades after the original Collins Company factory closed down in 1966. Years ago, I saw an unused old Collins (USA) No. 30 machete at a local estate auction and could not resist. It was probably a souvenir of a trip south of the border many years ago and still had the price (98 cents or centavos) on it. There is a nice book on Collins products and history. They made a huge variety of machetes to suit different markets and uses, including US military use.


From the above Collins history:
"After 140 years, The Collins Company closed its doors in 1966, partly due to a devastating flood in 1955 and partly due to a changing technology - most notably, the chainsaw." But machetes do not need fuel and are quiet.

If you want to make a good machete, do not omit the heat treating. Be sure that the 1075 or whatever raw material you specify is readily available in your specified thickness. The surface visible under the paint on mine suggests that they used hot rolled and pickled sheet steel of a hardenable grade and it seems to be spring tempered.

Larry

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I am not the shop to do this job, but it is certainly possible! One thing that will have a big impact on price is if you require the blades to be tapered in thickness. If a shop can cut the blade profile and put the initial edge on without worrying about thinning the blade along its length, it will be much faster and therefore cheaper.
You will want your blades heat-treated before delivery, and the heat-treatment may be done by someone other than the shop that cuts the blades. Fortunately, 1075 is pretty hard to mess up in heat-treatment. But you want to specify a target hardness and/or a suggested heat-treat recipe, and require each batch of blades to be tested before delivery. The final sharpening should definitely take place after heat-treat. Some would argue that even the initial edge grinding should be done after heat-treat.
Do you want a symmetrical edge bevel, or a one-sided edge bevel? One-sided would be faster.
I am sure your drawing will include some holes in the tang for securing the handle. Make the tolerance for hole size clear in the drawing. These could be laser cut at the same time the blade profile is cut, if the tolerance is not unreasonably tight. On the other hand, if you are planning to rivet handles on the blades, there's a pretty narrow range of hole size that will work well with a given diameter of rivet.
 
You can get ideas from this program. There are four knife-smiths guys to start. Some women compete too.
The four are reduced to two. They go back to their home shops and make a custom knife, set of throwing knives,
spear, ax, Samurai sword, etc. Then the two come back to the studio and their weapons are tested. I've seen
plenty of hacking cut tests.

They do etched blades, with patterns like san mai, damascas, canister. Even though you may not do any forging
there are plenty of ideas on handle design and material.

https://www.history.com/shows/forged-in-fire
Watch for free on youtube.

This challenge show has machete type blades.
 
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Good afternoon,

I am working on a project in El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. I work with a crew of people who spend several hours per day swinging machetes for trails.

Surprisingly, we are having a difficult time getting machetes that are right for our job. In PR, machetes are imported from central & south America & they are often sold out or difficult to find.

My idea:
1. Design CNC file for custom-made machete to our ideal specifications
2. Send design file to an online machine shop to produce the steel
3. Ship machete blanks to Puerto Rico
4. Install our custom-made wood handles

Ideal specs:
- 28" Sable machetes (+6" handle)
- 1075 Carbon Steel
- Blade angle of 25-32 degrees

If possible I would also like to custom etch each blade with "PUERTO RICO" and maybe something about El Yunque too.

Is this project possible? Any guidance or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Is a brush hook design better for clearing trails? I have a large Collins wood handle brush axe and brush has no chance. Wifey bought a machete type brush hook and after opening the box is afraid to use it.
 
Go direct to a supplier in Central or South America and set up a relationship. There is no way you can compete on a blanked item by using a CNC.
I'm not really trying to compete. I'm just trying to produce a high-quality US/PR-made machete where I have more control over the production process and can refine the design to ensure we're using the best tool for the job. I know the price point will be higher than the $20 machetes at home depot but I'm okay with that.
 
I am not the shop to do this job, but it is certainly possible! One thing that will have a big impact on price is if you require the blades to be tapered in thickness. If a shop can cut the blade profile and put the initial edge on without worrying about thinning the blade along its length, it will be much faster and therefore cheaper.
You will want your blades heat-treated before delivery, and the heat-treatment may be done by someone other than the shop that cuts the blades. Fortunately, 1075 is pretty hard to mess up in heat-treatment. But you want to specify a target hardness and/or a suggested heat-treat recipe, and require each batch of blades to be tested before delivery. The final sharpening should definitely take place after heat-treat. Some would argue that even the initial edge grinding should be done after heat-treat.
Do you want a symmetrical edge bevel, or a one-sided edge bevel? One-sided would be faster.
I am sure your drawing will include some holes in the tang for securing the handle. Make the tolerance for hole size clear in the drawing. These could be laser cut at the same time the blade profile is cut, if the tolerance is not unreasonably tight. On the other hand, if you are planning to rivet handles on the blades, there's a pretty narrow range of hole size that will work well with a given diameter of rivet.
This is excellent, Thank you!! I still have a lot to learn so this is all very appreciated. I'm actually not sure what the edge would be on a machete, I need to research this.
 
best tool for the
I don’t want to rain on your parade but this is something that has been done around the world using mass produced tools for over a hundred years. You are trying to introduce a semi custom product to a field that doesn’t require it. You’re money would be better spent in other areas of your project.

If you really want to do something like this why don’t you invest in setting up a local in the actual production of the items. Start with hand tools a simple forge and a linisher. You should be able to find plenty of old leaf springs that can be reshaped for the purpose. If the demand is there you can move to laser cut imported blanks or a stamped blank.

What’s the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day teach a man to fish and you feed him for the rest of his life”
 
If you really want to do something like this why don’t you invest in setting up a local in the actual production of the items.
Assbolutely ... something simiar to this is one of the ways out-west villages make spending money here. They scrounge old bearings from all over the country, re-forge them in primitive equipment to flat plate, turn them into hotsy-totsy kitchen cleavers. In fact I should buy one ... anyway, doing a similar thing with different expectations (upscale machetes is maybe not going to fly) would help everyone involved a whole lot more than this ego-trip project op is describing.
 
Assbolutely ... something simiar to this is one of the ways out-west villages make spending money here. They scrounge old bearings from all over the country, re-forge them in primitive equipment to flat plate, turn them into hotsy-totsy kitchen cleavers. In fact I should buy one ... anyway, doing a similar thing with different expectations (upscale machetes is maybe not going to fly) would help everyone involved a whole lot more than this ego-trip project you are describing.
Forgot about the bearings, another great source of materials.
 
As a preteen my older brother bought a WW1 surplus army machete with a cloth scabbard. I wonder if there are army surplus warehouses full of machetes.
Bill D
 
You want a brush hook blade
Curved blade on the end of a handle
There’s three sizes made, small , medium, and large. Stay away from the large
When I was a surveyor we used mediums and smalls sometimes. If your cutting more trees bigger than 1” dia get mediums
You’ll never look at a machete again
 
This is what you are competing with price wise.


 
This is what you are competing with price wise.
Not necessarily. If he can do it with local resources and local people, then he can not only match or beat the price but also generate local support..

That's not what the plan outlined above is, and you're right that his plan ain't very smart, but going another way would be possible.

Of course it's hard to be great white savior sahib that way, so most likely this project will get dropped ...
 
My family went to Jamaica in 1973 where I bought these 3 machetes. I went into a side street hardware store where the locals went and found them. Of course I had to have one of each style and they weren't much money. They are crudely made but it's what all street venders used to open a coconut or some such job.
Seems like they would be common there. I'm surprised utilitarian ones are hard to find. Sorta like me in Maine having a hard time finding a snow shovel.


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