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Panga chop out

Rowan H. Robbertze (August/2015)

 

The “Panga” or “kap mes” as it is referred to in South Africa is a machete and it is a common tool, seen everywhere from farms to homes.  Because South Africa has lots of grasslands, it is a very useful tool for cutting grass to make roofs, brooms or preparing fire wood and as a defence tool against intruders or animals.  In the hands of a skilled user it can cleave limbs as easy as a sword and costs a fraction of the price!  Because of the dexterity it chops wood as well as most hatchets and it can cut as well as most knives.

The Machete is a tool and that is what it will be tested as.

The blades that will be going tip to tip are the Cold Steel Kukri Machete, Condor Kukri Machete and Okapi no.14 Panga.

The Cold Steel is marketed as a wilderness tool whereas the Condor is marketed as tactical machete.  At the other spectrum the Okapi is not marketed at all and is purely known as a tool.

Dimensions:

The Cold Steel, due to the modification has shortened the 1055 Carbon Steel blade.

Overall length: 17 inches, is the smallest of the group.

Blade length: 11 ½ inches

Blade thickness: 2mm

Handle length: 5 ½ inches

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The Condor made from 1075 Carbon Steel.

Overall length: 18 ¼ inches

Blade length: 13 inches

Blade thickness: 4mm and is the thickest of the 3.

Handle length: 5 ½ inches

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The Okapi is 5160 Carbon Steel.

Overall length: 18 ¾ inches is the biggest of the trio.

Blade length: 14 inches

Blade thickness: 1.5mm

Handle length: 4 ¾ inches

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Prices are as follow:

The Cold Steel = $28

The Condor = $90 (Very expensive for a machete)

The Okapi = $5

 

Quality wise all 3 are carbon steel blades, perfect for a work and abuse blade.  Best edge holding goes to the Condor, second is the Okapi and third is the Cold Steel.

Let’s get the negative aspects of these 3 machetes out of the way. The Cold Steels rust protective is poor at best and with use you can see there is almost nothing left.

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The Condor does not have the lanyard hole in the correct spot making it uncomfortable to have attached.  Also making it a dangerous blade to use if there are other people around.  This to me is a huge drawback, the gap is there, but at the wrong location in the handle.

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If the Okapi came standard with a sheath it would be perfect.

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Now we can focus on the strengths of each machete.  The Cold Steel has the best grip and if you are used to a forward curving blade, it is a joy to wield and sharpens very easily.

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The added weight of the thickest blade in the group gives the Condor the ability to chop through ticker wood easier.  The protective coating shows some scratching, but has not come off :)

The Okapi can strike a fire steel as it has no rust protecting cover.

Modifications were done on all 3 these machetes.  Standard the Okapi was the best for immediate use, next was the Cold Steel and thirdly the Condor.  I prefer an Appleseed edge on a machete as you get a razor sharp edge that lasts longer if used correctly.  If you use the Machete like you use a hammer, stay away from this edge as it will bend, deform and dull instantly.

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On the Cold steel I added a traditional wedge for sharpening and I put a skull breaker on the back like the traditional Kukri’s have. A lanyard was added for safety.

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On the Condor I re-profiled the handle and oiled it to prevent water from getting in and to prevent it from eating through the sheath and also making it easier for carving tasks.

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On the Okapi, I also added the sharpening wedge along with the lanyard for safety.

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The Okapi is the most practical and usable of these 3, as soon as you have it in your hand you immediately know what it is made for.  Cold Steel’s Kukri is also a very usable and forgiving blade.  As a pure machete the Condor needs an experienced hand to make the best from it, especially since you have no lanyard as a backup against slippage.  It is more like a hatchet than machete in handling.

If you want a cool blade you can show off to your friends, the Condor and Cold Steel are both good-looking and intimidating at the same time.

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The Cold Steel Kukri is a new one as I sold the previous one to a fellow camper.

 

Now for the outcome I reached:

Third would be the Condor.  The condor is too thick for a “working machete” and when it comes to cutting grass and clearing a path through bush or shrubbery it works, but nowhere close to the efficiency of the other 2.  Standard I cannot see how it would work for what I require a machete.  Seeing it is for tactical use, it may be correct for that purpose.  As a knife it is to thin and I would have preferred a thicker spine.  All this said I view the Condor as one of the BEST production survival knives you can have for the bush.  It can chop and baton even skin and process a rooibok.  The Condor makes a formidable self-defence tool against insects, animals and humans alike.  It is thick enough that it does not bend when cutting but thin enough to do most machete choirs.  If weight is an issue and 1 knife has to do the job of axe, shovel, fly/wasp swatter, spatula for meat, hammer, machete, knife the Condor can do them well enough that I would rate this my best all-round survival knife and hence it as used as that and not a pure machete.

Next is the Cold steel, with the skull/wood breaker it gives me the ability to break through flat wood that you won’t find in nature, but in real life come across more often than not.  It is a great tool I use at home and the bush.  I have cut numerous watermelons with this Cold steel.  It delivers all it is said to be and more.

Overall I would rate the Okapi the best of these 3 bush bruisers.  It does everything a good machete must do!  I have chopped down a tree, cleared brush, cut down prickly pear trees, pruned an apple tree and cut plenty of long grass for tinder and makeshift brooms with it.  The Okapi is everything I believe you will need in a machete.

Panga chop out.docx

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Great comparison post, Rowan. Interesting to see just how well the Okapi performs alongside the others. Really does drive home the point that it doesn't take an expensive tool to do a damn good job.

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Dear Elise,

Thank you, sad thing that I found with some expensive tools are the people making them have never used them.  So they make a good quality product that has no place as a working instrument.

Okapi is aimed at the poor person who has little money and needs a tool that will work for decades and still be affordable.  Finish on Okapi is poor, bur quality for price is best I have ever seen.

Kind regards,
Rowan Robbertze

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Dear Elise,

Thank you, sad thing that I found with some expensive tools are the people making them have never used them.  So they make a good quality product that has no place as a working instrument.

Okapi is aimed at the poor person who has little money and needs a tool that will work for decades and still be affordable.  Finish on Okapi is poor, bur quality for price is best I have ever seen.

Kind regards,
Rowan Robbertze

Great post. The curve on the Cold Steel for some reason seems more aggressive (not sure that is the correct word here) than most of the other knife designs I have seen that would generally speaking fall within the kukri family. Almost like halfway through making the blade they decided that it would not be a straight machete but would instead have the kukri curve. As opposed to the Condor with the graceful lines. I am guessing it is just aesthetic, but I do wonder if that could prove to be a weak point in the blade down the line. I guess it depends on how they got the curve to an extent. Based on the price I would guess the initial shape is stamped.

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Dear William,

Thank you, glad you enjoyed.

You are correct, this specific Cold Steel does have the more aggressive curve than the average Kukri you will find.

This CS Kukri was modified to be similar to the British No1 Kukri and does not look like the standard one CS sells.

The CS Kukri is made in South Africa by a company called Lasher.  All as stamped from plates for large scale production and the CS just has a better quality handle. To the local equivalent that has a sheath either but sells for $9 (the attached image is a standard CS Kukri i pulled from the web)Kukri-4.thumb.jpg.61656c440490fd90678477
    
The Condor, I am unsure of the manufacturing process, would presume they are also stamped.  You can see the eye is definitely a stamping process.  The condor I feel is more of a collector item than work machete, especially with the price tag.  It does work, but would rather abuse my Okapi.

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

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Dear dthomasdigital,

If you can find some they are big fun at a good price.

I have done cutting exercises with friends wielding Katanas and it was interesting to see how well it did.  Everyone had a try and was amazed at what it accomplished.  It will make a formidable weapon.

For throwing it is just as fun! If you damage it, it is cheaper to replace than a throwing knife.

As you have lots of axes you will enjoy playing with such a lightweight shopper!

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

 

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Thank you, sad thing that I found with some expensive tools are the people making them have never used them.  So they make a good quality product that has no place as a working instrument.

Okapi is aimed at the poor person who has little money and needs a tool that will work for decades and still be affordable.  Finish on Okapi is poor, bur quality for price is best I have ever seen.

Definitely agree. I don't really blame people for having that mindset, though. It's certainly natural to have. No one wants to break something they can't replace (or would put a serious dent in their pocket to replace!).

That makes cheap tools that are high quality so much more valuable, though - as you can and will use them considering how easy they are to get a hold of and how cheap they are.

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Dear Elise,

When a cheap tool outperforms the expensive equivalent, suddenly the extra price is not worth it.  

If your profession or hobby requires that extra quality and the more expensive knife is superior in some way, then the price difference can be understood, but like you said, can you replace it?

I have had the misfortune of losing some expensive gear in the wilderness.  Some got new homes, while my back was turned, others were lost in river or sea crossings.  Then the expensive good quality knife was not worth it.

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

 

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Dear Elise,

Thank you, sad thing that I found with some expensive tools are the people making them have never used them.  So they make a good quality product that has no place as a working instrument.

Okapi is aimed at the poor person who has little money and needs a tool that will work for decades and still be affordable.  Finish on Okapi is poor, bur quality for price is best I have ever seen.

Kind regards,
Rowan Robbertze

Sounds like the SA equivalent to Tramontina's, have you ever handled those?

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Dear Thomas,

I have owned a Tramontina or 2, for the price they are not too bad a knife.  As for their Machetes, I have never had the privilege to use or even see one in SA.

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

 

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Dear Thomas,

I have owned a Tramontina or 2, for the price they are not too bad a knife.  As for their Machetes, I have never had the privilege to use or even see one in SA.

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

 

Its always interesting to see the availability of gear in other countries, I assume knives like Okapis are pretty common no? 

 

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Just noticed the Extrema Ratio- what do you think of it? I have seen their stuff around a lot but it always seemed overly stylized/tactical to be practical, with that said I have never actually used one so I can't comment on real world performance!

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Dear Thomas,

Yes, you are correct, Okapi is freely available.  You can buy it at your local Café.

 

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The Extrema Ratio: Good looking, good steel (N690), feels nice in the hand, reasonable temper (55 Rockwell ), comfortable sheath and does not rust.  It is very well designed, maybe too well?

It is expensive, the recurve part is hollow ground and not good for hard battoning, expensive, is more a big Tom Brown Tracker than a Kukri, does not cut as well as a knife nor chop as well as a kukri, for tactical use the Tanto tip is nice but not for a work knife, did I mention it is expensive!  For the price I would rather buy a Cold Steel San Mai 3 Kukri.

I also had an issue with another knife of theirs and the manufacturer refers you to the local dealer who refers you to the manufacture and, and, and.  So backup on these knives are 0.

Personally I feel it is a very nice overpriced collectable, as for hard working survival/field knife, no!  Tactical,… maybe.

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

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I love my CS Kukri................ So much can be done with it. I picked it up several months ago for $22. Expensive compared to the Okapi............... But it has opened up a whole new world of survival possibilities. And fun to use! Oh yes. Endless hours of enjoyment it has given me.
Cool that the blade is stamped South Africa.

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Dear David S,

Thank you for the share!  That is a “lekker”(awesome) machete!

A good machete always comes in handy!

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

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Dear Dave,

The CS machete Kukri s an amazing tool!  As a survival tool it can do a lot and when you put an Appleseed edge on that baby it opens a whole new can of whoop branchB|

Jip made in South Africa:D

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

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I have a CS kukri-style machete, and very handy if you are careful. Pretty small, light and hard to destroy.

I have replaced the vehicle-carry machetes with the Meyerco sawbacks with (plastic) handguard hilt for 3 reasons:

1) The saw actually works pretty well.

2) It would make a very cool "pirate cutlass" if needed in a SHTF situation.

3) About 30+ years ago, I broke 2 fingers on my right hand doing something stupid trimming branches with a machete with no handguard.  :(

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Dear Wyzyrd,

Yes the CS machete is an awesome little blade!!!

Sorry to hear about your hand.  Please add some pictures of your Meyerco as we do not get them in SA.

Kind regards,
Rowan H. Robbertze

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@Rowan

a minor update:  My business partner found a "knockoff" of the Meyerco from United Cutlery named "The Colombian Machete".

The sharpness and set on the sawback seem a bit inferior, otherwise a very close copy.

These might be easier to find in your location (I don't know)

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