Friday, January 29, 2010

Inconel Machetes - High Quality Tools

25 years ago, my friend CKG gave me an inconel machete as an unexpected gift. Made by Incolma S.A. in Manizales Colombia, I did not know what to do with such an implement at the time. As I was a sort of rude and singularly focused teenage boy back then, I was not as grateful to her as I should have been in retrospect. The machete and it's decorative sheath sat in closets and moving boxes for decades. Then, in 2007, we moved to Arizona, and I saw Mexican landscapers using their machetes all the time on my neighbors' palm trees. So when my Mexican fence post cactus (MFPC) suffered frost damage in January 2008 from a record cold spell, I recalled I had this handy blade, and used it to amputate the blackened, moldy arms. It sliced through the meaty cactus like a hot knife through butter, much to my delight.

Near the end of 2009, I reconnected with my old friend CKG on a social networking site. She and I had not spoken to since before the internet was publicly available and people used to write actual pen and ink letters to each other =P I mentioned to her that I'd been using this handy blade extensively here. Not only on the MFPC, but I eviscerated a mammoth prickly pear cactus when I installed my solar pool heater in March 2009 - the prickly pear was nearly the size of the heater, so there was a great deal of hacking, with machete and shovel (nearer to the gravel). After hearing the usefulness of her gift, and my recent extreme hike in the SW Phoenix Mountains earlier this month, she shared with me the origin of said blade. Her grandparents (abuelitos) had/have a remote ranch in Colombia (the country, not the city) called La Estrella - the same name as the mountains I was hiking upon. The ancestral cattle & fruit ranch was accessible via car, then jeep, then horseback over mountains and river crossings. In CKG's words, my "machete was worn on hip of every man who worked and lived there". Very cool. I had no idea that this long shelved tool had such a rich origin, and it's quite useful here in this desert clime. The inconel will never rust, and it's hardness is nearly twice that of stainless steel. I clean it with Chlorox-wipes, after each usage to disinfect it, and thoroughly dry it (about 10 minutes in 10% RH here in AZ) before re-sheathing. Like my Finnish Fiskars pruners which have proven extremely useful in the garden and yard, this Incolma machete is now an invaluable part of my tool arsenal - and useful in home defense against zombies as well, if it comes to that. I hope I can hand it down to a grand child someday, many many years from now when I am too feeble to wield it properly.


  1. The blade of your machete is steel, not inconel. An inconel blade would be worth hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars just for the metal, depending on size. Inconel would never hold a good edge like steel, either. Its main use is in high temperature (think red hot) applications such as exhaust systems in race cars or caustic atmospheric conditions such as acid or steam valves.

  2. Having worked with wrought, forged, and investment cast inconels (706, 708, etc), stainless steels, cobalt, N5, CrMoV, and other alloys for 2 dozen years, in aircraft and power generation equipment, I have some idea on the cost and material properties of different metallic alloys. 100s or 1000s? In my experience, it's about 10X multiplier from a 17-4 grade stainless to a IN-708 open die forging, not 100X or 1000X.

    And edge holding is a combination of hardness and toughness. Inconel's hardness is superior to any stainless steel aloy (think turbine wheel dovetails, par example), and depending on the nickel alloy's composition, can be vastly superior in toughness as well.

    While I do not have destructive spectrographic analysis of my actual machete to prove nickel, chromium, niobium, molybdenum, and iron composition, I have noticed that over the years the blades experienced 0% pitting, 0% oxidation, and minimal wear, despite being exposed to South Carolina humidity, multiple corporate moves, and Arizona rocks when slicing through cacti and accidentally impacting the rocks adjacent. Surgical grade 300 series stainless steels resist corrosion most of the time but do not have the same hardness and toughness as 400 series. 400 series (ie 17-4PH [precipitated hardness]) have better hardness but their corrosion resistance is notoriously reduced (think corroded gas turbine compressors).

    If you're going to lecture someone whose background you do not know and criticize their blog posts, please provide factual information to support your claims. If you want to have the opinion that the machete is stainless steel, that's fine, but until you provide a report from a qualified laboratory that proves it, your opinion is conjecture.

  3. Out of boredom, I've been researching exotic alloys, and I stumbled upon this blog post. From what I've read, Inconel is an insanely expensive material to work with; requiring highly specialized, expensive equipment to form, cut, etc. I decided to do a quick Google search, and found machetes that looked nearly identical to this one, made by Incolma, selling for $20. Judging by the price, and the fact that it's made in Colombia, I have some serious doubts as to this machete being made of Inconel. Interesting story though.

  4. Jeremy, "insane" is all relative. As it was as gift, I can't attest to the price. I do know it works very well. =) I am glad I could help you relieve some boredom.


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