It’s wildfire season in New Mexico and my tinder-choked yard needed clearing before a spark and gale-force westerlies did the job for me, taking my house along for the ride. To start hacking away, I got my hands on the Fiskars Machete Axe, a 29-inch hybrid that appears to have sprung from the Lord of the Rings prop department. Not only did the tool make short work of the sprawl of dead, dying, and dense saltbush and chamisa tenanting the “ignition zone” around my home, but clearing all that defensible space with the elegant tool made for an entertaining workout.
The technique? Simple enough. A single slash with the 18-inch blade cleaved the leafy ends of sage from their woody stalks, which I followed with a fell axe blow or two to sever each stem from the root ball. Later I used the Machete Axe with its smaller cousin, the Billhook Saw, to limb several invasive Siberian elms. The axe had no problem dispatching dead branches and suckers three inches in diameter.
The specs? The Machete Axe has a full tang, which means that the entire sweep of steel extends through the handle to the flared pommel. Translation: greater durability and more force through the cutting edge. The handle’s three distinct grip zones come in handy for a variety of cutting techniques (think forehand, two-handed backhand), which means less fatigue, and most of all, more fun. Nice touches include the soft grip, which remained slime-free after an hour of nonstop slashing, and a finger guard that kept my digits well removed from the working edge. The blade’s high carbon steel is burnished with a rustproof coating, and lightening holes in the axe head reduce swing weight without diminishing the axe’s cutting efficiency. Fiskars throws in a hefty ballistic nylon sheath to protect the blade.
Bottom line: the Machete Axe is a substantive clearing tool whose elegant form translates into exceptional function. If carving out that 30-foot circumference of defensible space around my home wasn’t exactly effortless, the tool did make the job more fun. I don’t think that’s as much a testament to my technique as it is to the tool’s clever design.