OUT OF THE AMA­ZON

THE TOPS KNIVES YACARE BRINGS JUN­GLE IN­SPIRED DE­SIGN TO NORTH AMER­I­CAN WOODS

Knives Illustrated - - Contents - STORY BY JONATHAN KILBURN

In­spired by a trip to Colom­bia, the Yacare 10.0 draws its in­flu­ence from two strong jun­gle de­signs. BY JONATHAN KILBURN

In­spi­ra­tion can be found any­where if you’re pay­ing at­ten­tion. When it comes to ma­chetes, there’s a sim­ple stan­dard: It’s gen­er­ally thought of as a long, curved blade for un­der­brush. Through­out his­tory and within many cul­tures—most no­tably the jun­gles of South Amer­ica—the ma­chete has a stan­dard de­sign and in­tended use, and while there is no spec­i­fi­ca­tion for size, they gen­er­ally tend to be on the longer side.

En­ter TOPS Knives, which is turn­ing the pre­con­ceived idea of a ma­chete on its head. TOPS has a his­tory of push­ing the lim­its of de­sign to pro­duce su­pe­rior prod­ucts. This time, the com­pany seems to have hit the prover­bial nail on the head again with its new Yacare 10.0.

The Yacare 10.0

TOPS Knives calls its Yacare 10.0 a medium–heavy ma­chete. Medium for the size of the blade and heavy for the type of per­for­mance it can han­dle. With an over­all length of 15.5 inches, and weigh­ing 17.7 ounces, it’s just small enough to fit com­fort­ably in a bag.

The shape pulls heav­ily from a typ­i­cal ma­chete and barong de­sign. A broad­en­ing blade height ex­tends from the han­dle and brings in a gen­tle curve to the tip while keep­ing a straight spine. The han­dle is nar­rower than a typ­i­cal ma­chete but fits well into the over­all de­sign and weight of the Yacare. The blade length looks as if it would be too com­pact to do much as a ma­chete, but that’s de­cep­tive be­cause it per­forms eas­ily.

Branches, small trees and un­der­brush present no is­sues, while the edge de­sign slices through fi­brous vines in the Amer­i­can North­east with no ef­fort, even mak­ing short work of young trees. Al­though no one is go­ing to chop down a 50-year-old maple with the Yacare, it will hand­ily clear out a camp­site or trail along the way.

The 0.190-inch-thick blade fea­tures a high grind that is more than half the over­all height of the blade and sweeps the en­tire length. The thin stock and high grind of the Yacare is meant to re­duce weight while pro­vid­ing enough ma­te­rial for years of sharp­en­ing and sup­port. Straight from TOPS the edge needs no re­grind­ing or sharp­en­ing to be an es­sen­tial and use­ful tool, which is un­com­mon in a stan­dard ma­chete. The spine’s short­est spot stands at .25 inch, which may not be able to with­stand the abuse a large ma­chete or hatchet would be bet­ter suited for.

Into the Wild

I took a trip out to the wilds of the Delaware Wa­ter Gap, on the bor­der of New Jersey and Penn­syl­va­nia, with the Yacare in its black ny­lon sheath in tow.

The Ap­palachian Trail runs right through the na­tional park and is thought to be one of the wildest parts, due to the com­mon un­der­brush found in this re­gion. While forests grow eas­ily around

this area, the soil is best suited for small trees and thick bushes along the Delaware Wa­ter Gap. Com­bine that with an abun­dance of slate hills, berries that at­tract lo­cal wildlife and a brisk river, and the land­scape is con­stantly chang­ing and grow­ing. This seems like the type of growth the Yacare was de­signed to tackle. While hik­ing up a steep grade I no­ticed a gather­ing of small trees, about 2 to 3 inches in di­am­e­ter and ap­prox­i­mately 10 feet tall. With three quick swings, I brought down one of th­ese trees eas­ily. Where the Yacare shines is in its quick chop­ping/slic­ing ac­tion, due in large part to the blade shape. There is no bush, vine or branch that can’t be eas­ily tamed by the

“WHERE THE YACARE SHINES IS IN ITS QUICK CHOP­PING/SLIC­ING AC­TION, DUE IN LARGE PART TO THE BLADE SHAPE.”

10.25 inches of high car­bon good­ness. Chop­ping through a hard vine may take a few well-placed swings, but over­all it will han­dle nearly ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect a ma­chete to do.

In the jun­gle, the ma­chete is a tool to com­plete large jobs like clear­ing a field, as well as the smaller func­tions like carv­ing. The Yacare is no dif­fer­ent in that re­gard. The sig­nif­i­cant height of the blade lends it­self to be­ing gripped com­fort­ably for pre­cise move­ments. While it wouldn’t be ad­vis­able to make a small di­am­e­ter try stick with it, the Yacare will per­form the task if nec­es­sary.

While at­tempt­ing to grip the back of the blade on the spine, I found that my hands fa­tigued too quickly and con­stantly slid. A curved barong would have been more com­fort­able

“TOPS KNIVES CALLS ITS YACARE 10.0 A MEDIUM–HEAVY MA­CHETE.”

in the hand when held in this man­ner. But ad­just­ing my grip on the han­dle of the Yacare was enough to make the pre­cise cuts needed.

My hands are smaller than I’d care to ad­mit, so when I gripped the han­dle tightly, the grip shape tended to force my fin­gers to sep­a­rate. I might have pre­ferred a lit­tle less belly and shorter scale waves in the grip, so my fin­gers would come to­gether more nat­u­rally. But for some­one with a larger hand, this might not be an is­sue.

My time in the Delaware Wa­ter Gap was spent walk­ing and carv­ing ev­ery nook and notch pos­si­ble. As I came upon a trail, I also hap­pened across a small piece of scrap wood that some­one had dropped. Putting the try stick aside, I set the Yacare to task on a notch spring snare.

As I was cut­ting into the wood, I found it was a no­tice­ably dryer, harder and more brit­tle wood than the re­cently hewn try stick. Mov­ing from one type of wood work to the next was of lit­tle con­cern with the Yacare. It cut smoothly and flaked the pieces away with­out hes­i­ta­tion, show­ing it wasn’t limited to chop­ping and try sticks. A few weeks of use in the Delaware Wa­ter Gap and hand fa­tigue had not set in. Af­ter head­ing back to fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, the tem­per­a­ture dropped quickly. Fire be­came es­sen­tial, and I cut a small round of wood to make tin­der and fire­wood.

De­spite the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing ba­ton­ing, any durable blade can be used for this pur­pose if done prop­erly. The Yacare might not have been de­signed for ba­ton­ing orig­i­nally, but its medium size makes it a perfect op­tion. To its ben­e­fit and con­ve­nience, a con­ven­tional spine and curved edge al­lows this blade to move seam­lessly through the wood. With the curve, there is an edge mak­ing con­tact, and a flat spot to strike, no mat­ter where you place the Yacare. This straight spine and curved blade is what trans­forms the Yacare into half ma­chete, half barong.

Re­sis­tance to the El­e­ments

Af­ter three weeks of con­sid­er­able on-and-off use, I left the Yacare in its sheath un­oiled and in the woods for about a month. When I re­trieved it, the edge and en­grav­ings had de­vel­oped some rust, but the 1095 high car­bon blade was free of

PHO­TOS BY JONATHAN KILBURN, REUBEN BOLIEU AND JE­SUS ARELLANO

TOPS' Yacare eas­ily splits a piece of wood for a small fire, stove length or in prepa­ra­tion for a project.

Below: This is the Yacare 10.0 im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing a month of be­ing kept un­oiled in the woods. No­tice the min­i­mal sur­face rust on the edge and en­grav­ings.—photo by Reuben Bolieu.

Left: Even with some rust, the author was able to quickly cut through a large, soft vine with three swings.—photo by Reuben Bolieu.

Above: With an over­all length of 15.50 inches, the Yacare is a mid­size large chop­per.

Right: The Yacare 10.0 is at home in any en­vi­ron­ment. The jun­gle isn't hold­ing this blade back, and it would be equally use­ful in a woods­man's pack.

The author demon­strates how the Yacare can eas­ily slice through a mix­ture of wood types. Soft wood is eas­ily peeled and harder wood chips away.

Green growth can be taken down eas­ily. The author demon­strates how a rel­a­tively young tree can be chopped down.

With the blade held at a ch­est-level grip, a 90-de­gree latch cut is made into the fresh wood with the Yacare.

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