I hope I’ve made it clear over a half-dozen posts at least that in the Southwestern US the most important cutting tool you can own is the machete. I'm referring, of course, to those of you who spend significant amounts of time in the desert and brushland regions. Those areas are known for their endless varieties of thorns and spines and their abundance of dense hardwoods. A cute four-inch-blade Scandinavian grind knife that might be all the rage in the north country becomes rather anemic when faced with thorns and spines that are almost as long. Besides, genuine bushcraft has little to do with “fine carving tasks” and instead focuses on the construction of shelters and the acquisition of food. In the rain-forests of South America indigenous people construct almost everything with their machete. The same goes for those who live in remote regions of Southeast Asia. Hunters use machetes to construct dwellings and to make bows and arrows. They make their fishing gear with machetes, clear the greenery around their abodes and even carve figurines during fiestas.
Most of the indigenous people carry their machetes unsheathed, and they sharpen them with smooth rocks gathered along streambeds. In other areas where firearms are restricted (so the only people who own guns are crooks, cops, and military) the people use their machetes as weapons. A man wielding a 24-inch blade is a fierce combatant indeed. The machete is so ubiquitous along the borderlands and farther south into Latin America that the thought of restricting a machete seems tantamount to genocide. How, after all, is a man to provide for and defend his family without a machete? How does one kill venomous snakes and make fishing equipment without a machete? It boggles my mind when I hear of East Coast politicians wanting to restrict the machete from the citizenry. Folks, that’s another world out there as mysterious and foreign to us as we must appear to them. As one old codger told me not long ago, “God Bless ‘em but may they please not move over here.”
A lot of people toss their machetes behind the seat of their pickup trucks or in the tool box attached to the truck’s bed. To them a machete is no different from a hammer or saw. It’s just one more tool among many. But for those of us who are particular about our cutting implements then the machete is given a sheath. In Mexico one will see nice leather machete sheaths sold in the markets for about ten US dollars apiece. But for someone living on an ejido (agrarian village) ten dollars might as well be a thousand. I’ve seen some folks carrying their machetes in sheaths made of carrizo but for the most part the long blades are kept naked and oftentimes tucked between belt and trousers.
I always take modified, short-bladed machetes with me when I’m woods roaming. My woods roaming machetes vary in blade lengths from eight to ten inches. I modify them to have a Kephart style point that comes in handy for slicing and tossing nopal pads out of the way.
Here’s how I make my machete sheaths. First, I cut a piece of heavy weight cardboard so that the length will be an inch or thereabouts longer than the machete blade. Then I wrap duct tape around the sheath and incorporate a piece of paracord beneath the top wrap to serve as a dangler. The other day a fellow who uses the handle, Mattexian, commented on my post about tow strap knife sheaths saying that old Boy Scout handbooks recommended using a tin can as a protective barrier inside axe sheaths. Thanks, a million, Mattexian! Because of your suggestion I’ve started using soda cans to protect my makeshift machete sheaths. I now cut open an aluminum soda can and then fold it until it measures the same dimensions as my cardboard sheaths end-point.
Since the cardboard fold is on the side where the blade edge rests there's little chance of the blade slicing through at that point. If it makes you feel more comfortable then you can easily incorporate a piece of aluminum there as well and wrap it over with duct tape. I make my sheaths tight to keep the machete secure.