Sunday, September 2, 2012

Filipino Bolo

I’m somewhat of a complicated guy, one part of me is interested in the Stone Age world the other the eighteenth century. I can make and use stone tools and I can make and use eighteenth century tools.  I’m not great at any one thing, but I can do them both satisfactory. I guess if I was to define my interests they would be in woodworking and wilderness survival. I find it interesting that people from both the woodworking and survival community are always asking the same questions. What tools are the best to have? For me, if I could only have one tool for either interest it would be my Filipino Bolo.

Of my 22 years in the military I spent 14 years as a Survival Instructor. While other people were learning valuable technical skill in the high-tech world I was teaching how to fall out of airplanes and how to properly skin rabbits while hiding from the enemy. It was the best time of my life and that’s where I got acquainted with the Filipino Bolo. Below are its advantages
  • Unlike an axe it has no handle to break
  • It is lighter and less cumbersome than an axe
  • You can dig with it (try that with your Gränsfors Bruks axe)
  • You can use it like a froe
  • You can use it like a draw knife
  • Like an axe you can cut large trees down with it
  • You can use it like a knife (I guess that’s kind of obvious)
  • The least unbreakable of any cutting tool I’ve owned
  • Easy to sharpen even with improvised devises
  • You can butcher small and large game with it
I have two bolos; the first one (top bolo) was purchased in the Philippines by a friend for $15 dollars US. I carried this while teaching survival and now I carry it for work. I’ve used it in all environmental conditions. Its total length tip to end of handle is 17 inches. It is about 3/16th thick and was made out of a leaf spring of a car and it has a solid tang. The handle is water buffalo. The metal is pretty easy to sharpen and I do that with a file. Notice the end is blunt; this is so you can dig with it. The sheath is made of mahogany, notice the belt hook. The duct tape is not holding the case together it is there to peel off to repair other items.

My other bolo (bottom bolo) I found on eBay for about $40 dollars US. Its fancier and I really haven’t used it much. It still is very heavy unlike a cheap bought machete. I like my beat up bolo better. I’ve dragged that thing around the world so I have more memories with it.

Here is a site I found on making bolo’s I have not purchased anything from this site so I can’t vouch for it, but they do have a good video showing bolos being made.   

Get a bolo you might not carve any cabriole legs with it, but they are a great tool to use in the yard and on the trail. Bolos are also an easy blacksmithing project.


Unknown said...

They make truck spring machetes in Thailand, too, and the first time I saw one I was not impressed by the blunt end because it didn't look very "cool." But after using one quite a bit, blunt is vastly superior to pointed. Safer,too, and no point to break off. The rural people there also use the round handle, usually mounting the solid, pointed tang with gutta percha, like a pin in a big root canal.

Frontier Carpenter said...

Is that what they call a parang?