5 Tips for Maintaining Your Machete

Photo credit: flickr/shankar s.
You have a machete, right?
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What ties us to our traditions? Sometimes it’s language. Sometimes food. And sometimes, it’s an object — a talisman of sorts, that transports us to the motherland, and magically connects us to family both alive and dead. For our Filipino-American Mash-Up Alexis Diao, her bolo, a machete with a deep significance to Filipino culture, links her to the grandmother she never knew. And if you’ve got a talisman, you know how important it is to protect it. Here are Alexis’s tips for keep her bolo in tip top shape. 

Haven’t read her incredible essay yet? We got you.

Craves coconut oil.

1. Keep the blade sharp.

A sharp knife is safer than a dull one. Bolo is like any other knife, so a basic sharpening stone will do the trick. We have an industrial stone sharpener with oil, but it’s generally overkill for most people. Roll the knife back and forth on the stone, in a back and forth motion along the blade.

2. Keep the blade oiled.

I use coconut oil spray from Trader Joe’s because:

A. Duh coconut oil rules. I rub this stuff on my face, guys.

B. It works great and makes me feel more “native.”

But really any oil will do. WD-40 works great or you can pick up an over-the-counter knife oil. If you’re using your bolo for vegetables, you might want to consider using veggie oil. Otherwise, the tool is great for chopping down brush, in which case WD-40 might be the best bet. If your knife has trouble fitting into the sheath, oil the inside of the sheath as well to keep it polished. Tension against the sheath can cause unwanted friction that can damage your blade.

3. Remove rust.

Knives get rusty, it’s not ideal. You’ve got to keep your bolo clean and free of bacteria, especially if you’re using it to cut food. Steel wool and the oil of your choice should shine your bad boy right up.

4. Keep the hilt dry.

Unlike the blade, you want to keep this dry. Filipino bolos are usually made of whatever is locally sourced. Mine is made from a heavier wood from the Bohol island, so an excess of moisture can lead to cracking.

5. Pretend you’re chopping down vines in the jungle.

Maybe this is less for your bolo than it is for you, esteemed bolo owner. It will keep your bolo skills sharp, alongside your blade!

Let your gardens grow, Mash-Ups. We love you. 

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Posted by Alexis Diao
Alexis is a first-generation Filipino-American, born and raised in the Deep South. She currently produces and edits audio goodness for NPR and Slate. She is an urban gardener, beekeeper, and proud mama to a biracial Mash-Up. She can be found @meowdiao or in D.C.

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