Sunday, May 26, 2013

Making a Long Handle Machete

I was out for a very rare date with my wife the other night and we did what we usually do on a date - cruise through Lowes, T.S.C., and maybe Walmart.  Usually Staples would be on that list too but they closed the one here, sadly.

At any rate, I have some honeysuckle trees that are very invasive and I dig them out every chance I get as they pop up EVERYWHERE.  But, some are serving as a green-belt between me and the neighbors and I want to keep them there while other things get established and grow up.  To aid some of the trees that are struggling to get above the honeysuckle, I've started trimming them into a low hedge.  To my surprise, the previously spindly and tall, arching honeysuckle really bushed out when I cut them all down to about 1/3rd their height.  This has made for a really nice, dense hedge - if ONLY they wouldn't make so many darn berries.

Pruning for a while has been done with my trusty Brazilian machete.  I've gotten quite good at not lopping off body parts and can cruise through and trim the hedge pretty quickly.  But - some of it is just too far out of reach due to the depth.  So some of the hedge has to wait for me to get the pole saw and laboriously clip away at the little sprigs I can't reach.  Until today.

While at Lowes, I spotted a Carona saw back machete with a plastic handle pinned by rivets in two places - price: $10.  A little ways down the aisle, I found the prefect long handle - a replacement sledge hammer handle, $5, made from hard-as-nuts hickory.  A little flickering light bulb went "poof" in my head as the two items came together in a glorious half-length Halberd.

At the drill press, I put my 3/16" drill bit in the chuck and a drop of cutting oil on the first rivet clamped in the press vice.  A slow and steady advance on the press which was running at top speed got through the rivet far enough to undo it in about a minute with about 5 drops of oil.  The second one pushed right through the plastic as the bit locked up and just melted the handle with the spinning rivet. I then had to hack-saw it off the tang.  And it was a full tang, to my delight.

I then used my ripping saw on the wooden replacement handle to deepen the split in the end which is usually meant to receive the wedge which tightens the handle into the hammer head.  I made it deep enough to accept the tang and get the top hole about an inch from the end of the handle to ensure it wouldn't split.

Using an awl, I marked the holes on the handle by laying the tang on top of it in the position I thought was about right and then used the same 3/16" bit to put the holes all the way through the handle.

After that, it was a simple matter of finding some nuts and long bolts and washers in ye-old parts bin and tightening things up.  And I gotta say, it cuts like a dream being nice and new and sharp.  The reach is phenomenal.  I can also prune the upper reaches of my weeping cherry tree and lots of other previously out-of-reach  branches.  And it's a wicked cool weapon!  Bring on the apocalypse!

Updated 6/18/2013 - I've been really loving this thing.  I've used it to trim along a fence, edge garden beds, and clear a room size section of weeds and brush from our woods.  You NEED to make one of these.  I put together a little demo video because I think it's that cool.