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Livesay RTAK

Allright guys, let me try to throw in a bit of info here. The RTAK is not designed as a heavy chopper. It will do it but it's going to bind up quicker in pressure wood especially. From independent tests by a certain magazine editor and myself, The Busse beat the RTAK in number of chops through a 2x4 but the RTAK beat out the Trailmaster. What does this mean...nothing for my purpose.

In the jungle, all the vegetation is wet. This makes for easier cutting but also makes for thicker vegetation, and in secondary jungle I do mean THICK. Clubbing it down and thicker blade profiles are useless if you have to move through an area quickly. I like machetes because the thin profile works good on vegetation. Nothing against other blades but the thicker piece just don't bushwhack good.

So why not just use a standard machete? Part of this question was answered when I made the comments on group travel. The other reason is the flexibility of thin machetes don't work as good when dressing out game or doing harder work such as prying wood apart. The RTAK is a compromise blade.

Now for the handle problems. Try this grip in machete mode: Grip the RTAK with pressure only on the thumb and index finger, allow the 'bird' finger to rest just in front of the palm swell. When you use the blade allow the blade to snap and pivot in your hand. This provides a slight increase in blade speed and will improve your vegetation cutting 100 percent. If you go into heavy chopping mode, choke back on the handle and allow the swell to rest between the index and middle finger.

Also realize I have a few serious callouses on my fingers from a lot of blade work, so tender hands may not take to the handle as well as mine do.

Another thing about using machetes, don't use a 'static' chopping or hacking motion. Bring the blade back to where it's almost parallel with your back and use a full swing and follow through like hitting a golf ball. You will find that you use less energy and efficiency is greatly increased if you take smooth swings. Again, like golf, don't try to hit it as hard as you can. The next thing is always cut vegetation at about a 45 degree angle. It takes a little practice to get comfortable with this but once you get the hang of it, weeds begin to fly.

Cliff, no doubt there are other excellent machetes out there, but a belt sander on an 18" Ontario makes the best jungle vegetation cutting tool I have ever used. I don't think it's the brand as much as the profile, flexibility, and the steel used....so there's probably a hundred different ones that will work as good if not better.

Marion sent me a Barteaux that I'm taking with me in June. I'm going to have to do some major edge work on it before it will be worth a **** but after that I think it will be a top performer.

Randall's Adventure & Training
There's a current thread in Practical Tactical on guards for thrusting: http://www.bladeforums.com/ubb/Forum6/HTML/000771.html

To thrust with both hands, put your second hand on the pommel instead of gripping the first hand.

-Cougar :{)
Jeff, while the chopping ability of the RTAK may not be critical to you, which is understandable considering where you are using it, a lot of people live in enviroments where the vegetation is a lot woodier so it would be valuable to them if such information was well known. The comments that you make in the above post for example I am sure are not obvious to everyone so it would be nice if something similar was added to the commentary you have on your webpage or Newt's.

Concerning jungle vegetation, I have never been to a very tropical area, but on almost every type of material I have cut the edge grind is extremely critical. Yes the blade stock is important, but the primary and secondary bevels can make a huge difference. While there are lots of thick blades with very obtuse edge grinds, some of the 1/4" blades have edge profiles thinner than Livesay's and thinner even than the Ontario machetes, Chris Reeve and Busse Combat being two obvious examples. Not all thicker blades cut very poorly.

How thick is the vegetation you are cutting anyway? Are we talking inches thick? It is pulpy , leafy or fiberous?

With the Ontario's, I am not doubting that you have found that it works well. I just think that there are other tools that will give stronger performance that I don't think you have used. For example Ross Aki's 1/16" fully convex ground machetes. Why not give him a call, I would really be interested in your comments about how they perform, as I would guarantee as would others. Personally I don't like 1/16" machetes as they are too light in general for most what I have to cut, but you are cutting very different material and it would be interesting to see if you need the extra weight of the 1/8" Ontario.

As for the part about the belt sander, well if you are reprofiling the edge on the machetes then all bets are off concerning performance. I have heavily reprofiled blades and effected performance by over 100%. It is not overly fair though to label these blades in general as having that performance . I could for example take a 1/8" Ontario and turn it into a 3/32" or 1/16" fully convex machete which would be a radically different blade.

As for the Barteaux edge, what is really amusing is that the box description is something like "well honed cutting edge" or similar. Mine were horrible, I hope you have access to power equipment if you are profiling the 18" version.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 05-04-2000).]
Originally posted by JeffRandall:
The RTAK is not designed as a heavy chopper. It will do it but it's going to bind up quicker in pressure wood especially. From independent tests by a certain magazine editor and myself, The Busse beat the RTAK in number of chops through a 2x4 but the RTAK beat out the Trailmaster.

Cliff, the blade will chop, but I didn't design it as a chopper. All I'm saying is there are better choppers than the RTAK, so if I said 'this blade is not a chopper,' then I would be lying. The blade will chop about as good as the Busse and the others, but, the Busse IS a BETTER chopper.

As far as the tropical vegetation you have many different varieties: leafy, fibrous, pulpy, and all of this ranges from small grass size to wrist sized vines and plants. The jungle is extremely diverse.

I like the 1/8" stock for rigidty but I do grind the edges back on a belt sander. I'm not running any scientific studies with what I use a blade for. I just want the thing to work and have had much success in the area of making a blade work. While some of my methods may be against knife making procedures, they still work and that's all that counts. For my uses, it ain't rocket science. I've tried a lot of methods sharpening machetes and the best one yet is a belt sander. The indigs use large flat stones and hone thin edges on their machetes.

When I get through with the Barteaux (about 15 minutes of work on a belt sander) I'm betting it will be as good as the Ontario.

Randall's Adventure & Training
The hard stuff around here makes short lifespans for machetes. Most of what I am cutting is what I grew up calling "brush." Partially dry shrubbery, blackberry bramble, the odd branch or two.

I like what Jeff said about the RTAK being a compromise blade. I don't cut much wet vegetation at all, and the other stuff I am cutting isn't big enough to necessitate dragging out the wood saw and/or the axe.

The short length on the RTAK coupled with the weight of the knife make for accurate yet fairly effective blows. If it were lighter, I couldn't chop the materials I have here without big swings and lots of follow through (much like a machete!), anything heavier, and I think fatigue and loss of control would come too early. I would be willing to try something heavier just for the experience, but at this time, doubt I would prefer one for what I am doing.

Someone mentioned in a private e-mail that a Kurki might server better in a chopping environment. Probably, but I didn't grow up using a Kukri and am not used to all the nuances of one. Yeah, I can chop with one, but I can't effectively use one to dress and prepare game. I know "regular" knives and what to expect of them. By the way, I can't use an Ulu, Bolo, or Scimitar very well either.

The RTAK works for what I do and where I do it. Are there better tools? Probably. Have I found ONE that will do MOST of what the better tools will do? Yes, it's called an RTAK.
PS - Has anyone else been tempted to throw their RTAK? Everytime I go outside it's a constant battle not to. The knife keeps screaming, "THROW ME!!! Ya know ya want to! C'mon, be a man and throw me!!!!"

If I were any good at it, I probably would have.

PS Again - Jeff, have you looked into the Ross Aki stuff? I would be interested in what the Indigs think of it too. (As a grass and vine chopper.)

[This message has been edited by the4th (edited 05-05-2000).]
Ok, I'm sure this opening myself up for flames, but, I have to ask this question that is bugging the heck outta me ...
Who intentionally sets out to do "heavy chopping" with a knife and does not use work gloves? Or uses a knife without a guard for 'stabbing' except when given no other choice ... by an attacker. I don't mean to offend, I am just totally perplexed that these practices are legitimized on this board, and that no one is speaking up about the impracticality of these.
I recently received the RTAK, it fills my palm well and easily with a pair of buckskin work gloves. I either wear black leather tactical fingerless gloves or the work gloves depending on the task at hand. I see not using gloves while chopping hard wood with the RTAK and then complaining about blisters, akin to going into the jungle without good boots and then complaining about blisters, twisted ankles, abrasions, and snake-bitten feet, all while wearing sneakers.
Just my opinion, I could be wrong. I really see this as a non-issue. I can't imagine a situation where I would have my heavy knife available to me, and not have my gloves or other gear with me also. I mean the thing weighs more than my CCW pistol. Just a thought for comparison. It was bothering me. Perhaps the criticisms of the grip could be set in a more realistic scenario to help me understand?
Styles, I agree with you partially, however, I never wear gloves for anything unless I'm rapelling. I've used a blade so much and worked in the outdoors enough that my hands are toughened up to receiving blisters.

The RTAK is made to work, just like a machete. The more you use it the more your hands will toughen up. Out of all the indigs I've worked with, I have yet to see any of them wearing gloves...but they use a blade everyday so their hands are tough against hotspots.

We could make the same argument for post-hole diggers. How many times have you used those things and got blistered...or a shovel...or an ax?

I can totally understand the problems some people have with the handle. It could probably be made a little more comfortable for some folks....a shock resistant Stihl chainsaw would probably be better
Not trying to defend the design of the RTAK but it's just a knife...nothing real special....just a knife that works good for what it's intended. You could take just about any blade and use it hard for a full day and probably receive some sore spots. My point is this, if the handle doesn't work for someone then they need to find somethng else that does since everyone's built differently....or modify it.

4th: I haven't ever tried to throw the RTAK...figure I would screw it up. As far as the Ross Aki stuff, I haven't used it yet but would be interested in trying it out, but how am I going to get that convex grind to stay sharp during extended stays in the wilderness....stropping may not get it, and then Cliff's gonna croak when I return home and fire up my Sears & Roebuck belt sander.

Randall's Adventure & Training
No flames from me, Stiles. I think you raise a few good points.

From Stiles:
Who intentionally sets out to do "heavy chopping" with a knife and does not use work gloves? Or uses a knife without a guard for 'stabbing' except when given no other choice ... by an attacker. ...... I am just totally perplexed that these practices are legitimized on this board, and that no one is speaking up about the impracticality of these.

I think that would have been me.
I usually do wear gloves when working with blackberry around here, put not when chopping non thorny brush. I have fairly calloused hands along the wear points. OTOH, I do have to wear gloves when using a hoe or shovel in the garden. Different hot spots.
You mention the impracticality of NOT wearing gloves. I would argue that gloves aren't always practical. ESPECIALLY in a wet, swampy or sandy environment. Wet leather gloves will rub some nasty blisters on you faster than going without. Not to mention the mold, fungus, and critter food the leather will become quickly.

I admitted that it was a mistake for me to stab into the tire the way I did. (And I paid for that mistake.) Am I ever going to be attacked by a sun hardened tractor tire? I surely hope not. And if I am, I'll resort to slashes. I prefer them to stabs anyway.

This wasn't a defensive test. It was me outdoors having fun and seeing just what the RTAK would take and what I could expect from it in edge retention. Other than the tire, it was a practical test FOR MY USES OF THE KNIFE.

From Jeff:
My point is this, if the handle doesn't work for someone then they need to find somethng else that does since everyone's built differently....or modify it.

Bingo. I've been modifying things for years. I think it's in our nature. Heck, just sharpening a box new knife is a modification. You are stating, "This tool isn't good enough for what I need. I am making it better FOR MY INTENDED PURPOSES."

From Jeff:
I haven't ever tried to throw the RTAK...figure I would screw it up.

I won't throw mine either. But imagining the carnage (even if it hit handle first!) is fun. Sigh....
Thanks for the replies. I have no doubts that indigenous peoples and others who basically live in the outdoors do go barefoot and without gloves. But perhaps not solely by choice. Economic issues? I just don't see denying yourself the protection of gloves unless necessary.
Sure gloves getting wet and sandy can cause blisters and other discomfort too, but, so do boots and socks. I hope this isn't your arguement for going barefoot in the outdoors

BTW I got a flat-tire last-nite around mid-nite coming off the interstate and thought about your stabbing the tire. I want you to know it did serve to give me a good laugh lightened an otherwise irritating situation. I'm sure that wasn't your intended purpose, but, some good did come of it. I hope your hand is healed up ok. I got staph-infection in a finger about 2 years ago that I cut on the shower nozzle and it was 3 weeks of misery and pain.
Styles, I can add a little on the 'naked by choice' thing. Most indigs don't need gloves or shoes because they have callouses about a 1/4" thick. Another reason for not wearing shoes is foot problems. By going barefooted in the jungle, their feet dry quick when they get wet. Stay in wet shoes or boots for a few days and the meat is just about ready to fall of the bones. We also have to remember that these folks have been going 'naked' since birth, so they naturally have resistance to things that would take us years to acquire.

Now, I'm going out without any clothes on and beat the **** out of an old tractor tire...I'll post up photos

BTW: I sharpened up the Barteaux machete that Marion sent me on the belt sander. Took about 20 minutes to get it right. The damn thing cuts like a champ now. The steel is definitely tougher than the Ontario's steel.

I was cutting green Beech limbs about 1 1/2" in diameter with one clean easy stroke. I've also used it on the blackberry vines here...works great.

Randall's Adventure & Training
Jeff, I am not critising any aspect of the RTAK, in fact I am in total agreement with most of what you are saying, my only comment is that not everybody is reading BF on a constant basis and it would be nice if such comments you have made in the above were part of your review.

As for your profiling, how far back are you taking it relative to the edge that is already there. The factory grinds on my Barteaux's were fairly obtuse about 15 degrees. They are durable enough for wood it seems but I would really thin them out if I was sticking to lighter work and make them about as twice as wide as they are now.

Concerning scientific work, sorry to tell you this Jeff but I am afraid to say that you are following pretty much standard procedure. Your last post about the Barteaux is pretty much a straightforward example.

In regards to the 1/8" stock, have you tried thinner blades?

Styles, as for wearing work gloves, there are lots of blades with handles that are ergonomic and secure enough that I don't need to wear a glove when using them. There are also blades with handles that aren't. I will pass on them.

Jeff, as for sharpening a convex edge in the field, you just need a portable belt sander. Just buy a roll of sandpaper and use pieces of it like a strop. They can get really coarse like 50 grit and that will strip away metal fairly quick if you are really beating on it, as well as the higher grits like 400-600 which will leave a very finish finish.

As for your beltsander, that is what I use as well for heavy profiling. I am a bit confused as to your problems with field sharpening Aki's machetes, if you take a blade to a slack belt sander, you will produce the same edge profile.


The Barteaux has been ground back so that the width of the edge is now 1/4". I could trig that out and give you the angle compared to the 1/8" stock, but you can probably guess and be real close, or do the math and let me know. It cuts very good now, but I will probably take it back just a tad more before going into the jungle. I left the 'tanto' point as is from the factory since I hardly ever use a point in bushwhacking.

Sure, I'm using 'science,' but I tend to call it old fashioned redneck science instead of anything precise. In other words, if it works then it's scientifically correct for folks from Alabama. As a side note, you did know that the toothbrush was invented in Alabama didn't you? If it had been invented anywhere else they would have named it a 'teethbrush'

To be honest, one of my favorite machetes is a 1/16" thick sugar cane blade. It's wide enough not to be too flimsy.

As far as convex grinds, I just prefer to have the ability to grind the hell out of a blade on a flat rock if need be. I can sharpen my machetes on a good sandstone with some water on it about as fast as I can with a diamond hone or belt sander. I could just about assure you if I bought a convex grind machete, I would be changing the edge rather quickly. Maybe I'm just hard-headed...


Randall's Adventure & Training
Jeff, I remember being in the rain forest a while back and know that terrain. I also remember a lot of the trees there being very fibrous. I wonder how this will effect the chopping performance of a knife as compared to the hard drier woods normally used to chop. I was not a knife nut at the time, and used an axe. I remember the axe binding up alot instead of letting chips fly. I ended up taking really steeply angled wacks alternating with head on wacks to peel and cut wood off. I wonder how a machete or some of the knives would do. If you get a chance, the next time you are in that terrain if you could see how some of those trees go down, it would be interesting.
Jeff that is about 11 degrees. Mine is currently about 15, I didn't change the bevels just cleaned them up. As for changing bevels, convex or whatever else, its your knife it would not be overly sensible to keep it with a profile that suits someone else. None of my knives have the factory bevels on them anymore.

Redneck science sounds good to me, I have friends that are Hillbilly Engineers.