Review: Condor Polar North Machete
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not necessarily a big fan of big blades. For most of my forays into the woods, I take a small to medium-sized belt knife and possibly a hatchet. If major shelter construction is a part of the outing, I might pack a saw and a hatchet. However, I've come to see the benefit of a lot more cutting-edge when you need to clear brush, and it's tough to beat a machete for that purpose. The issue I've run into in the past is that many of the more traditional machetes are made of thin stock, and that means they aren't great for some hardwood-cutting tasks.
However, last year at the Georgia Bushcraft Fall Gathering, I was admiring Joe Flowers' collection of machetes and noticed a unique blade from Condor Knife & Tool. It turned out to be the Polar North Machete. This machete was designed by Joe and hit the market a couple of years ago. It features a 1075 steel blade that's just over 11.76 inches long and an overall length of 18.4 inches. The walnut handle and choil allow for a number of grip options, so detail work and carving tasks are easy. The middle of handle and the pommel are also great for grips requiring more power. The handle reminds me of a midsize ax, and it's been comfortable in a variety of grips.
During extended use, including clearing some oak limbs, the edge remained free of chips and rolling. When the Polar North Machete did need some edge touch-up, it was easily brought back with a compact diamond stone.
While the steel, comfortable handle, and edge retention are all great, what has really won me over is the blade shape of the Polar North Machete. The widest point of the blade is near the final quarter, towards the tip, and this weight-forward design provides plenty of chopping power. The Polar Machete easily cleared some oak limbs in the two to three-inch diameter range. At the same time, it isn't at all unwieldy when performing detail cutting tasks.
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Looking beyond cutting tasks, I wanted to experiment with the Polar North and a variety of fire-starting methods. I tried to strike the spine with flint and quartz. The quartz produced intermittent sparks, and unfortunately, the flint was less successful. While the spine isn't a sharp 90-degrees, it still will produces spark from a ferro rod.
While a quality sheath isn't provided with all machetes, the one included with the Polar North is far more than serviceable. The two snaps provide a secure closure, and the pivoting belt loop makes it easy to move the sheath out of the way when squatting or sitting. After several months of being strapped to a pack, riding around in the truck, and plenty of time on a belt in camp, the sheath hardly shows any marks, and the stitching looks as good as new.
Overall the Polar North Machete from Condor Knife & Tool has earned its place in my tool rotation. It's definitely a great candidate for the proverbial "one tool" philosophy. It can handle most camp-cutting chores, and with a bit of practice, I felt I had started to understand the nuances of using it for my cutting needs.