Last week I received the two new choppers I'd ordered: a Cold Steel Trail Hawk and an Ontario 12" machete.
The Trail Hawk is much smaller than my Dixon's tomahawk. The blade edge is only 2" long. The handle is a full 19". The blade came reasonably sharp but I did touch it up some.
Yesterday I took the Trail Hawk out back and hacked at a couple of things. Due to the light weight it doesn't chop nearly as well as the Dixon's Hawk. I think it would make a decent defensive weapon but it's not as useful a tool as the larger 'hawk.
In contrast to the Trail Hawk, the Ontario machete came as dull as a butter knife. In a few places the edge grind didn't even meet -- the edge was actually flat. The parkerized finish on the blade was even and looks good, however.
Sharpening the machete took a good bit of effort and I'm still not satisfied with it. I started with a couple of files then progressed to 150 grit sandpaper. The sandpaper I had wasn't intended for use on metal so I didn't make much progress before it was shot. Yesterday I ran out and bought some emery cloth and 150, 400, and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper suitable for use on metal.
I also bought a lawn implement sharpening attachment for my Dremel. I need to improve my technique because I wound up with a really ugly edge after using it on the machete. (I think I'll practice on a shovel before using it on a knife again.) So, I went back to the file and abrasives. After awhile I got a usable edge but it's still not as sharp as I want it to be.
Anyway, once the machete was moderately sharp I took it out back to try. The handle seems comfortable and I like that it has a handguard on it. The balance is different from my Harbor Freight machete (which is thinner but longer) and so it feels quite a bit different when swung. I tried it on a few branches and weeds and it worked OK, but not as well as the HF, which is sharper. The longer HF machete also has the advantage when it comes to reach. For the kind of use I've been putting it to in my yard, this is significant.
I did use the Ontario to split a couple of logs using a baton. It worked pretty well. The machete is robust enough that you can feel comfortable wailing on it with a baton without fear of damaging it.
I got the Ontario from Knifecenter.com. They were out of sheathes so I've ordered one from Smokey Mountain Knife Works along with a couple of other items.