If you have been reading this blog for very long, you know that I find machetes to be extremely versatile tools for the woods. Many people think of them as tools for the jungle only, but I can attest to the fact that they are right at home in many hard wood forests as well. Given my fondness for the machete, I jumped at the chance to review the Machete .230 from TOPS Knives.
The Machete .230 is ground from 1/8” thick 1095 steel. It is 22.5″ long overall with a 15.75″ blade. It features gray linen micarta handle scales with red spacers and a gray coating on the entire surface of the blade. The blade shape is somewhat unique. It has a double clip point that ends up making it look a bit like a narrow bull nose profile.
It was designed by a collaboration of Joe Flowers and Leo Espinoza. Joe is a noted survival expert and all around great guy. He is largely responsible for my use of machetes in the woods. Leo is a TOPS employee with a number of knife designs under his belt.
There are a few unique features that stand out about this handle design. The handle is what really makes this machete stand out from the crowd.
The handle is longer than a typical machete handle. It allows the user to choke up for fine work or slide their hand lower for chopping. The edge is ground down very close to the handle (unlike the large gap between handle and edge on most machetes) to enhance the detail cut ability of this machete. The end of the handle has a small protrusion to enhance the leverage during chopping and the ability to use the machete for quick snapping cuts.
The handle also features a unique lanyard system that is unlike anything that I have used before. It has 3 lanyard holes with a length of shock cord woven through them. This creates an ambidextrous lanyard that can be easily slipped over your hand or ignored all together without getting in the way. It worked quite well for me. In my opinion, a lanyard is an important safety feature on a machete, especially if you are working around other people.
The blade has a short saber grind that allows it to retain basically its full thickness over it’s entire length. At 1/8” thick, it is thicker than most but still manages to feel fairly lively.
The tip is clipped twice in such a way that it ends up looking like a bull nose machete but shorter from edge to spine. This gives it a very strong tip. Other than the double clip point, it is a pretty standard design and it certainly works.
Most machetes do not come with a sheath. The ones that do come with a sheath usually come with a sheath that is obviously an afterthought. The Machete .230 sheath is actually pretty decent. The construction is sturdy and it is very functional. It is deep enough to retain the machete and has two fairly large pockets that can be used to carry small survival items or a sharpening stone. It also has strategically placed rivets to prevent the Machete .230 from cutting through the sheath.
I put the Machete .230 through a series of tasks that realistically represent what you might use it for in the woods. The test included chopping both hard woods and springy vegetation, batoning to split wood, fire prep, notching, limbing, truing, and plenty of general cutting chores. These are all tasks that you might complete with a small knife and an axe or hatchet but that can be completed (within reason) with a quality machete.
The Machete slashed and chopped very well. It bites deeply in wood when you find its sweet spot and it is light and fast enough to slash springy vegetation very well (springy vegetation is the bread and butter of any machete). I was able to cleanly remove nearly 2” thick branches with a flick of the wrist. The edge was undamaged after hours of chopping on hard wood and a couple of quick passes on a Lansky puck was enough to return a working edge when it did become dull. I used the puck sharpener and finished the edge with a loaded strop in between test sessions.
Notching and fine cuts are a breeze with the Machete .230. The edge is ground to come very close to the handle which enhances the ability to control the edge and use leverage in the cuts that require it. I was able to do very precise notching and whittling. The machete easily minced up jute twine to use as tinder and I was also able to easily create very useful fuzz sticks (feather sticks).
I have always found machetes to be particularly useful for shelter building. They excel at processing the types and sizes of beams that you need to make most basic shelters. I found that the Machete .230 made short work of limbing beams. I could easily just flick the machete down the sides of a typical a-frame shelter beam and the small limbs seem to leap out of the way. It even makes a pretty handy draw knife in a pinch if you need to square a beam.
The coating on my sample is holding up quite well. Driving a blade through a log with a wooden baton tends be pretty tough on blade coatings. It has certainly scuffed but it is holding strong so far.
The handle design worked quite well but I could do without the grooves that are cut in the middle. I don’t notice them when I am choked up on the handle for detail work but, when chopping, they sit right where the machete tends to pivot on my index finger which does cause a bit of discomfort over time. Work gloves solved the issue but just removing the grooves might be a better fix.
The Machete .230 can’t replace an axe or hatchet in extremely cold hard wood climates and it wouldn’t be ideal for skinning a rabbit (it can be done) but in many cases it can replace both all by itself. If you are anywhere from the desert, to the tropics, to the moderate hard wood forests, the machete will be a versatile tool for you. It excels at processing the wrist size and smaller wood that is most likely what you will be using in those climates.
The Machete .230 is a very, very nice machete that was obviously designed by people who use machetes. The handle allows multiple grips for different types of work, the blade is lively and useful, the materials are excellent, and the sharpened edge and functional sheath mean that this machete comes ready to hit the woods right out of the box. I like machetes and I love this one. The Machete .230 is a great tool.
Check out the Machete .230 on TOPSKnives.com.