Machetes are differentiated primarily by the type of material with which the blade is made. The most common blade materials are stainless steel and carbon steel . High carbon stainless steel combines the advantages of both stainless and carbon steel.
Carbon Steel Blades
An alloy of iron and carbon, carbon steel is the traditional material used for making machete blades. Carbon is added to iron to give the iron strength and increase the hardness of the alloy, but increasing the carbon content also makes the steel more brittle. Carbon steel has been around for over 4,000 yrs. Carbon steel, generally speaking, has the advantage of being harder than stainless steel, and will stay sharp for a longer time period. Once re-sharpening is necessary, however, carbon steel is more difficult to re-sharpen due to its strength. The main drawback to carbon steel is that it rusts readily, and maintenance is really about keeping you’re blade away from moisture.
Pros: Harder than Stainless Steel. Cheaper than Stainless Steel. Edge retains sharpness longer.
Cons: Blade vulnerable to rust when in contact with moisture and must be oiled regularly. Edge difficult to re-sharpen.
Uses: Ideal for use as functional agricultural and/or survival tools.
Stainless Steel Blades
Stainless steel is really carbon steel with the addition of nickel and chromium, is generally more expensive than carbon steel. The nickel and chromium additives oxidize to create a protective coating over the carbon steel, inhibiting rust. This rust-resistant property of stainless steel reduces the amount of maintenance required to keep the blade in good shape.
Stainless steel tends to be softer than carbon steel, and loses its sharpness more rapidly. That said, it can be re-sharpened more easily than high carbon steel.
Pros: Stain resistant and requires less maintenance than Carbon Steel. Edge easy to re-sharpen
Cons: Softer than Carbon Steel. Edge dulls more quickly. More expensive than Carbon Steel.
Uses: Ideal for display, ceremonial, or decorative blades.
High-Carbon Stainless Steel Blades
In recent years, high-carbon stainless steel has been developed which combines the best attributes of carbon and stainless steels. High-carbon stainless steel maintains its edge like carbon steel, with the rust resistant properties of stainless steel.
Pros: Combines rust resistance of Stainless Steel with the durability of Carbon Steel.
Cons: More expensive. Low tolerance to heat before becoming brittle
Uses: Ideal for use as both a functional tool and a decorative piece.
More Machete Information
Read our other valuable articles on the make, use and care of machetes:
- Machete Buying Guide
- Our 25 BEST MACHETES
- Types of Machetes
- Machete Handle Styles & Materials
- How to Sharpen Your Machete
- Uses of Machetes
- Machetes for Beginners
- Care & Maintenance for Your Machete