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It's always a tough call to cannibalize a vintage or antique blade, especially when it has historical relevance and value. In my case, the blade in question happened to be a Martin Made WW2 era machete with its original sheath. My goal?... Tear it apart, reprofile the handle and grip, and return it to active rotation/deployment. Originally manufactured in Belgium, this machete had clearly seen heavy use in its day, but its value to me was far greater than just its worth as an antiquity. This machete also bears the privilege of being one of the last gifts that was ever given to me by friend and mentor, Claude Burk, before he passed.
I have already mentioned Claude in a previous blog post, but suffice it to say he was largely responsible for inspiring my love of blades. After a bit of deliberation, I came to the conclusion that Claude would have wanted me to give this awesome tool a second life, vs relegating it to the depths of a collection where it would seldom (if ever) see the light of day. It hurt, making the decision to destroy a little piece of history, but considering it would never be properly appreciated otherwise, the choice was easy.
It was in exceptional condition; so if I wanted to put it back into active service, why not simply leave it as it was? While I really like the overall length of this machete, its grip was astoundingly uncomfortable and left much to be desired. The primary issue with it was that the handle scales were poorly cast/fitted from the factory and they didn't extend to the edge of the tang in places, which made for awful hot spots in the hand when chopping. Furthermore, for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom, the first 4-5 inches of the blade were unsharpened. Beyond this, the remaining 14+ inches were sharpened as expected. However, because of this wasted portion of blade, only 20 inches (at best) out of 23 inches total, were functionally useful. For a tool that was intended to be carried/used throughout various jungle environments where minimal weight with maximum function is essential, this wasted blade seemed at odds with the essence of the tool itself.
Instead of bringing the edge bevel back a few more inches, I opted to reprofile this entire section all the way back to the butt of the tang into a comfortable two-handed grip. The way I figured it, I would get more use and functional versatility out of a longer handle than I would out of a few additional inches of sharpened edge. Extending the handle allows for heavy chops with two hands, a choked up, one hand grip for quick maneuvering, and inversely a far-back, one hand swing for long, slashing strokes. Either way, I knew blade control would be much improved with a fully reprofiled grip.
Working from my Father In-law's garage with cutters/grinders, drills, hand files, and sandpaper, I set about transforming my WW2 relic into a Neo-Tribal Apoco-chete! In order to achieve the brutal, post-apocalyptic aesthetic I was hoping for, I opted to use minimal tools and only scrap materials the old man had on hand in his garage. Other than cleaning up the bevel and edge a bit, I left the thick, black patina on the blade. It looks badass, and it actually protects the high carbon steel from further exposure/degradation.
A leftover piece of oak molding was cut into handle slabs, and some scrap copper pipe from a failed plumbing fixture became my oversized lanyard hole. The finished handle was wrapped in heavy leather cord which can be removed if needed. And finishing it all off is a leather and paracord fob with a screaming skull. Why?... BECAUSE HELL YES! THAT'S WHY!