Filipino Bolo/Machete

Joined
Feb 6, 2000
Messages
3,021
While I was in the Philippines (In Luzon actually, in a small city called Subic Bay, an old US Navy base), I was taken on a guided tour of the jungle and some of the ways to survive in it (water vine, disinfectant etc.). The guide did many demonstrations, including making fire using bamboo and friction, and the one tool he used during all these fantastic demonstrations was a bolo. But, I've seen quite a few bolos in my time, and not many of them have been as nice as the one he had. I asked him where he bought it, and he told me from a man who was a real-to-life blacksmith. He made all sorts of metal tools, but bolos where his specialty. Each one he made was different, however, as I found out when the guide got another one which I could buy. It was of almost totally different dimensions and about 3 or 4 inches longer. It also seemed more roughly made. So, I asked the guide if I could buy his bolo. He agread, and I payed about $23 for it...very cheap really. While this bolo isn't that old, maybe just a few years, I find it was a very nice story around it. I mean it was carried by a real-life jungle survival expert for years, and it was made by a blacksmith in a tiny town in the jungles of Luzon.

But, it isn't just a conversation piece or souvenir...it's a hard-use chopper! It chops very well, and I haven't had to sharpen it since I bought it. While it doesn't shave, the edge is perfect for chopping, not being too thin. The steel is almost undoubtedly leaf-spring (like HI or GH knukuris)...probably from a "jeepney", a form of local taxi, which is acutally a bus-like thing. So, it may be 1095, or maybe 5160...I don't know. But it does hold a keen edge very well, in my opinion. It chops exceedingly well, and can take down small trees, lembs, and firewood quite easily. It is 18" long overall, which a 12" blade edge. This reasonably large blade makes it easy to put a lot of velocity on the edge, especially near the tip. The thickness of the blade is 1/4" at the tang, but slowly tapers to about 5/32" or so at the tip. The bolo really isn't very heavy, and I find it's not too tiring to use. It's my favorite camp and trail knife/bolo.

The handle is also very comfortable. One of the things that drew me to this bolo is the fact that it is of FULL tang construction. Many bolos (especially in Indonesia) have very weak and loose handles because of the very partial tang and poor adhesives used to glue this small tang to the all-enclosing handle (often the adhesive is melted plastic bags). This bolo has an extremely strong handle because of the full tang. The thick handle scales are buffulo horn, which are secured by three large bolts of about 1/4" diameter. When I got the bolo, I also applied apoxy between the handle scales and the tang to further strengthen the handle, though I don't think it was really necessary. I find the handle to be very comfortable, even during heavy chopping without gloves. It is quite smooth, and looks like it was shaped carefully to fit and fill the hand well. I doubt this smooth handle would perform very well when it is covered with blood, but I think water wouldn't be too much of a problem.

Another interesting thing about this bolo is that it came with a very nice wooden sheath. The sheath has a symbol on it, which you might be able to see in the pictures, and the symbol says JEST, which stands for Jungle Environment Survival Training. This is the organization which held the jungle tours and training. I'm pretty sure that JEST also trained US Marines there during Vietnam. Marines were trained there because of the similarity between the terrain of Vietnam and Luzon, Philippines. Any military or ex-military person who is on the forums probably has heard of Subic Bay, Philippines. Maybe even JEST, though I doubt it.

Anyway, I hope this long saga hasn't been too boring!

Here are some pics of the bolo and the sheath: While I was in the Philippines (In Luzon actually, in a small city called Subic Bay, the old Navy base there), I was taken on a guided tour of the jungle and some of the ways to survive in it (water vine, disinfectant etc.). The guide did many demonstrations, including making fire using bamboo and friction, and the one tool he used during all these fantastic demonstrations was a bolo. But, I've seen quite a few bolos in my time, and not many of them have been as nice as the one he had. I asked him where he bought it, and he told me from a man who was a real-to-life blacksmith. He made all sorts of metal tools, but bolos where his specialty. Each one he made was different, however, as I found out when the guide got another one which I could buy. It was of almost totally different dimensions and about 3 or 4 inches longer. It also seemed more roughly made. So, I asked the guide if I could buy his bolo. He agread, and I payed about $23 for it...very cheap really. While this bolo isn't that old, maybe just a few years, I find it was a very nice story around it. I mean it was carried by a real-life jungle survival expert for years, and it was made by a blacksmith in a tiny town in the jungles of Luzon.

But, it isn't just a conversation piece or souvenir...it's a hard-use chopper! It chops very well, and I haven't had to sharpen it since I bought it. While it doesn't shave, the edge is perfect for chopping, not being too thin. The steel is almost undoubtedly leaf-spring (like HI or GH knukuris)...probably from a "jeepney", a form of local taxi, which is acutally a bus-like thing. So, it may be 1095, or maybe 5160...I don't know. But it does hold a keen edge very well, in my opinion. It chops exceedingly well, and can take down small trees, lembs, and firewood quite easily. It is 18" long overall, which a 12" blade edge. This reasonably large blade makes it easy to put a lot of velocity on the edge, especially near the tip. The thickness of the blade is 1/4" at the tang, but slowly tapers to about 5/32" or so at the tip. The bolo really isn't very heavy, and I find it's not too tiring to use. It's my favorite camp and trail knife/bolo.

The handle is also very comfortable. One of the things that drew me to this bolo is the fact that it is of FULL tang construction. Many bolos (especially in Indonesia) have very weak and loose handles because of the very partial tang and poor adhesives used to glue this small tang to the all-enclosing handle (often the adhesive is melted plastic bags). This bolo has an extremely strong handle because of the full tang. The thick handle scales are buffulo horn, which are secured by three large bolts of about 1/4" diameter. When I got the bolo, I also applied apoxy between the handle scales and the tang to further strengthen the handle, though I don't think it was really necessary. I find the handle to be very comfortable, even during heavy chopping without gloves. It is quite smooth, and looks like it was shaped carefully to fit and fill the hand well. I doubt this smooth handle would perform very well when it is covered with blood, but I think water wouldn't be too much of a problem.

Another interesting thing about this bolo is that it came with a very nice wooden sheath. The sheath has a symbol on it, which you might be able to see in the pictures, and the symbol says JEST, which stands for Jungle Environment Survival Training. This is the organization which held the jungle tours and training. I'm pretty sure that JEST also trained US Marines there during Vietnam. Marines were trained there because of the similarity between the terrain of Vietnam and Luzon, Philippines. Any military or ex-military person who is on the forums probably has heard of Subic Bay, Philippines. Maybe even JEST, though I doubt it. Oh, and the discoloration on the blade is basically superficial. It's from the forging I think.

Anyway, I hope this long saga hasn't been too boring!

There are some pics of the bolo and the sheath at this address:

http://members4.clubphoto.com/a318774/Bolo/
 
Joined
Feb 20, 1999
Messages
1,284
Hi Andrew,

Still living in Olongapo?
smile.gif


Anyway, nice Machete you have there. And yes, I think the guy who did that, probably specializes in bolos and machetes, coz I hardly see locally manufactured ones with full tang like that one on the pic.

And yep, most probably it came from the leaf springs of the jeepneys there in Olongapo, hehe..
smile.gif


What's the handle made of? horn or wood? I can't tell just by looking at the pic.

Dan
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2000
Messages
3,021
Actually, I just moved to Eastern Kentucky. Big change...as you might imagine. And the handle scales are buffulo horn. Hope you're enjoying the warm weather...it's snowing over here.
 
Top