Thursday, December 6, 2012

“The Beast” A Heavyweight Parang

The Beast is no lightweight coming in at close to three pounds.  It’s not a long bladed chopper; in fact, the blade length is only 9.5 inches and an overall length of 16.5 inches.  But the blade is 7mm thick (.284 inch) from tang to tip and that’s what makes this parang so heavy.  I built it with one purpose in mind: Whacking the dead leaves off of yucca plants, Yucca treculeana.
The South Texas form of this yucca was once called “the giant yucca” and nurseries referred to it as, Yucca treculeana var.canaliculata.  That variety is no longer recognized.  Regardless, South Texas yucca (also called pita) is much bigger and tougher than your run of the mill yuccas and the dead leaves hanging from the stalk reject the flimsy-bladed machetes most people use.  It’s a lot of work and I figured a heavy blade would perform better.

I don’t consider this parang suitable for everyday use since its weight makes the blade want to keep going, and unless you’re striking something substantial then the blade is difficult to stop.  In other words, the blade’s mass coupled with your swing and gravity creates momentum not easily thwarted.

Note that I rounded the first two inches of the top part of the blade’s spine to facilitate choking the blade for detailed work.  The underside at that point is rounded as well.  I do this to all my large knives including my Woods Roamer Knife.  But on The Beast detail work is confined to lighter chopping where you allow the blade’s weight to do most of the work.

 The tang extends about halfway through the handle section.  Full tangs on these large knives interfere with the overall balance of the knives; and the little stick tangs seen on nearly all Malaysian parangs are prone towards having problems.  I’ve read reports of those little stick tangs working loose even when pinned and also snapping during chopping.  So I compromise in my parang-type knives with a tang that is substantial but not full length.  The handle is made from mesquite and its pinned with a couple of heavy-duty nails.  The steel came from a set of pickup leaf springs and is probably 5160.  This is good steel for choppers and pounders since it’s forgiving and less prone towards snapping—assuming you tempered the blade correctly after heat treatment.  I forged the blade then annealed it and afterwards shaped the bevel.  I used a cutting torch to make the two 3/16 inch pin holes then cleaned the holes with a drill.  The handle is covered with an amalgam of 30-minute epoxy and fine mesquite wood dust.  This makes for a nice color and very durable seal as well as adding strength to the handle.

 This is not intended to be a cutie chopper all shining and fancy.  This is a working tool for use around the cabin and on el ranchito.  But after using The Beast to trim yucca I couldn’t help think this would make a heck of a weapon in the hands of a Navy Seal or US Marine or by the Army Delta Force.  The handle is robust enough that it won’t allow the knife to get away from you.  The knife’s overall ergonomics keep the hand at a distance from the cutting surface.  And the thick blade will go through a door or into a vehicle with ease.