Monday, July 25, 2011

Official adoption of the term "bush sword"

With my large socket-handled blades, I've gone back and forth between calling them "machetes" and "bush swords". I've been giving it some thought, and I've decided to officially settle on the term "bush sword" for what I make. Here's the reasoning:

I've spent much time clearing brush. I've used primarily machetes, axes, and billhooks for this task, and love each of the tools for their own different approach that allows the user to tackle just about any brush problem between the three of them. One of the major things I wanted to be able to do when I began blacksmithing was to make my own machetes.

The machete is one of the most useful brush tools available. It is also typically the cheapest and most poorly made. A well-made machete will tackle jobs that you would normally reach for an ax to do, while still whacking through whippy, thorny tangle that would likely slide up your ax handle and rip your hands to hamburger if you tried it. Many of the machetes that you come across in stores in this country are uncomfortable, poorly shaped, and only have the slightest beginning of a bevel, without even attempting to come to an edge. Even some of the more expensive of these cheap tools require extensive re-working to get a satisfactory edge. Machetes, for all their usefulness, have a bad connotation.

So now that I am able to make my own machetes, I find that what I make is vastly different from what one typically thinks of when hearing the term. They are built on a different principle, with a somewhat thicker, shorter blade and a profile and multiple distal tapers that create a powerful chopping blade that still deals handily with the thin, whippy, thorny branches that would simply bounce out of the way of an ax before slapping back at the tool user. They also tend to use integral socket handles, which I first discovered when bladesmith Tai Goo began to use them. His point of reference was the blades made and used by the Igorot headhunters of the Philippines. Since then, I have discovered it is a multi-cultural thing, covering much of eastern Asia and also found in Oaxaca, Mexico. I'm sure there are more places that make use of them than I am aware of.

Looking at the various Filipino blade designs, one sees a dual purpose to many of them. They are both tools for agriculture and working in a jungle environment, and simultaneously effective weapons for fighting.

At the same general time I learned of integral socket handles, I became aware of the term "bushcraft", used to describe (according to the Oxford dictionary) "skill in matters pertaining to life in the bush". I would define it as I have seen it applied as something along the lines of "a philosophy of outdoorsmanship focusing more on individual skills and quiet particiapation in nature than on gear". Your mileage may vary. Gear is of course important to bushcrafters, but they try to use less of it and to make sure that what they do have is comfortable, functional, and of high quality. Hand crafted gear from natural materials is generally preferred when possible.

Combining all of these ideas, you can see where the term "bush sword" would grow. I didn't coin the term and I don't remember where I first saw it, but I think it fits well with what I am trying to do: make beautiful, quality hand tools with a definite capability of being effective weapons, using natural materials where possible. Whether traveling through a jungle in South America or fighting your way through an onslaught of zombies, one of my bush swords would be equally handy and fitting.

So there you go. I'm callin' 'em as I see 'em. Bush swords. :)

1 comment:

  1. So, what's the price for one of these awesome bush swords? I gotta have one!