Most Southwestern woods roamers, vaqueros and assorted desert rats nearly always carry some sort of blade when out in the wilds. More often than not it’s a well-made carbon steel folding knife. Perhaps the most popular knife pattern is the sodbuster though stockman and trapper models reside in countless pockets as well. Regardless, most woodsmen never venture far without some sort of large blade knife back in their pickup or on their horse. The quintessential machete comes to mind. Machetes are durable, easy to sharpen and cheap to purchase and when rough and dirty work is required they invariably get put into service.
In remote areas of Mexico a man never ventures far from home without a machete. If he’s got a few extra dollars he’ll buy a small folding knife as well and use that for food preparation and making traps. But if left to one cutting tool the machete is the blade of choice and I’ve seen campesinos in the jungles, deserts and woodlands doing everything from chopping senderos to butchering goats with their machetes. During my years as a journalist I even saw the results of several bar fights and street massacres where men pulled their machetes and took to whacking.
The knife-making woodcrafter often has his own ideas of what a machete might look like. Some are long and heavy and given Malaysian and Philippine names like parang and golock. Others are called things like “combat knife” or “survival knife.” I decided to call the knife pictured below as simply the “bush tool.”The concept is part of a general work in progress and this was the first in an evolution of designs I plan to build. It started out as one of three 14 inch steel files. The files are a quarter inch thick. So far I’ve made the tool below and have another in a queue of planned projects. As these sorts of tools go this one is short but the 7.25 inch blade and long extended handle section enable me to reach out and slice off a prickly pear pad or easily clean the thorns off a mesquite branch without having to get too close. The heavier blade also works well as a carving tool. Last fall I used the bush tool to perform the preliminary work on a bowstave and later did all the rough carving on a wooden copa (cup) that I finished off with a hook knife. Think of the bush tool as you would all large knives: Mediocre for most specialized tasks but more than adequate to get the majority of things done.