ESEE Junglas

The Junglas is a continued designed of a knife which started off as the RTAK. The exact nature is in dispute but at a minimum both Jeff Randall and Newt Livesay are involved and each has claimed to be the principle designer. The RTAK evolved into the RTAK II, manufactured for Randall through Ontario Knives. Always consistent in the design are key features :

The current incarnation is the ESEE Junglas. A shot of the Busse Combat Battle Mistress, ESEE Junglas and Mtech MT-151 :

The Junglas is a fairly popular and well known large knife and there is no shortage of information on it :

This review will consist of :


A few critical specifications :

The edge is a very consistent thickness at 0.045(2)" and sharpened at 19.5 (5) degrees per side. The initial sharpness is decent for a knife of this size, it will slice paper on a draw and shave a little on one side. A few passes on a Chromium Oxide loaded strop will give the knife shaving ability with a bit of a draw, but a full sharpening would be needed to remove the burr. That being said there would be few if any machetes which would come this sharp.

Stock testing : main

Using some pieces of Spruce, Pine and Fir, using light force (less than thirty pounds), points were made on 38 pieces of wood. It was taking on average between 20 and 40 cuts to make a point depending on the quality of the wood. for reference the Junglas was compared to the Chris Caine Survival Tool. Both blades were near identical, specifically the Junglas needed 872 slices to make all those points and the Caine 885. This would be expected as the edge angles are near identical and as light force was used the major influence on performance would be edge angle. In regards to comfort though, the Caine was clearly ahead. The Junglas works ok in a chocked up grip and is far head of knives like the Cold Steel Trailmaster which is awkward to use in such a manner, but the Caine simply is much more ergonomic as the handle actually extends out into the choil area whereas on the Junglas you are gripping around 3/16" of flat steel.

Using the same wood and increasing the force to maximum so that the cuts went very deep (the points were now only take 8-12 slices to complete), the Junglas fell behind and was only at 71 (6)% of the ability of the Survival Tool. This is to be expected as the edge on the Caine is only 0.015" thick at the part of the blade used for carving and the Junglas is 0.045" thick. The thinner edge on the Caine allow it to bit in easier when heavier force applied and cuts go deeper. Thus the Survival Tool will rough off wood stock about 50% faster than the Junglas if a lot of force is being used. This number will of course be effected by the type of wood cut. If the wood is softer and the cuts are deeper the Survival Tool will pull ahead further, if the wood is harder and the cuts are shallow then the peformance will start to equalize.

Moving on to some chopping the Junglas was compared to a Fiskars small hatchet, the 14" Sport model. It was immediately obvious that the Junglas could keep pace with the hatchet. Through 82 sections of spruce, pine, fir and birch (2-6" in thickness) the Junglas was chopping with 93 (5) % of the ability of the hatchet in terms of number of chops required to buck a section of wood. This was with use of a full grip towards the front. The grip could be shifted towards the back and the power will be immediately noticed to be greater but security also drops as does accuracy and precision. In short, no significant difference could be seen in ease of bucking wood with the Junglas and small axe in regards to cut speed, precision, or fatigue rates. The slim handle on the Junglas however did not feel as secure in hand asa more filling grip such as on the Chris Caine Survival Tool, but this can be adjusted with a tape or paracord wrap.

On to some splitting, starting off light, working the wood carefully to avoid having to section knots and using light batons. Eventually workeding up to larger batons and picked the starting cuts at random to put the maximum load on the edge as if it was being used by an aggressive user or an experienced user who for whatever reason (stress, fatigue, etc.) was no longer splitting properly. Towards the end on the worse of the woods with ring knots the blade was eating through batons through every 2-4 pieces of wood. The thin and relatively squared spine of the Junglas does give batons a hard time and they do get chewed up fairly quickly, a rounded spine would help a lot here (and increase comfort as a draw knife). It would be even worse in the winter and the batons would fail almost every other piece of hard to split wood unless they were freshly cut and decently hard like Spruce or a tight grained piece of Birch.


Using the Junglas in the kitchen, of course it is very heavy for a kitcken knife and fairly thick at the edge for a Chef's knife and thus comparing it to a well made Chef's knife it would fare very poorly. But taking into account that it is a brush knife and would be used on occasion in camp and not to prepare a gourmet dinner there were in general no real complaints and it could handle a wide variety of foods with no issues. The only real issue was that it does not work well with a cutting board as it does not have the necessary drop to the blade. It is also fairly awkward for peeling and other similar use as the blade is so very wide. On a side note in the picture there is a very slim knife, that is actually a Chef's knife which is more than 100 years old and just worn down to a very narrow blade through repeated sharpening.


The Junglas was compared to the Chris Caine Survival tool splitting a large amount of similar wood as noted in the above. There was no significant difference found in how the blades handles the wood, both of them easily chewed through dozen after dozen small rounds. However there was a very large difference noted in regards to durability. After a few dozen rounds the Junglas lost a small piece of the tip. This would not be considered to be a defect or fault in the blade, the tip is just ground very thin for high penetration and cutting ability and it worked very well during the splitting until a sloppy blow hit it from the side and even then the damage to the tip was minor. However the Survival Tool completely snapped in half during the comparison and a replacement failed in the same way, see its review for more details.

Using the Junglas to cut light vegetation, grasses and other similar materials it works much better than the Survival Tool. On such materials the heavier blade of the Survival Tool is of no benefit as such vegetation is cut more with sharpness and speed. Of course the Junglas also has no real advantage over a simple machete on this type of cutting either in regards to speed and ease of cutting. In fact a typical 18" machete is much more efficient as almost twice as much is cut per swing. The Junglas simply is an attempt to make a large knife which is multi-capable and thus is best regarded as a very short and stout machete which can handle such light work, but will take about twice as long with a significantly higher fatigue rate than dedicated blades.


The Junglas was used to cut up a variety of materials including :

There was little damage to the edge from the above, even the chair tubing only generated some denting to the edge which was barely visible at arms length. The Junglas was then used to dig a small hole for a fire pit, including digging up some small rocks and prying up some of the larger ones. With the reground tip, it had no issue working as a stout pick. The blade is too narrow to serve much use as a shovel and really can not remove dirt efficiently from the hole but it does break up the ground well. It also works better than a digging stick on grounds which have a lot of rocks and roots as the Junglas can easily cut the roots and the tip works much better than a wood stick in breaking apart rocky ground. The edge was again just impacted during this work, it was blunted pretty severely but no chipping was evident.

On to some severe impacts, the Junglas was used for light up to heavy chopping into harder rocks. These were just to check to see how much damage it taken if the blade does hit rocks and such when cutting low brush and besides that just to check to see how the steel itself acts when it is overloaded. In even extreme cases will it chip? The answer is seen in the picture at the right. Even under the direct rock chops the edge just dents/squashes down. The picture is 50X magnification and shows clearly that the edge deforms, it does not chip even in the most drastic circumstances. Not only does this in general minimize damage to the edge in heavy use and accidental impacts it also indicates a high level of durability for the blade in general as it shows that the steel itself will not fracture ver easily.

Edge Retention

After the first session of chopping and splitting, the edge on the Junglas was actually rolled significantly along most of its length. This is not to be unexpected on knives used with the factory edge as often it is burred or left with damaged steel from the initial grinding. Once the edge was fully sharpened, the same issue was not seen with repeated use chopping and splitting woods.

The image on the right shows the Junglas compared to a Forester from Spyderco in N690 and a Mtech MT151 in 440A slicing one inch used polyproplene rope. The edge retention of the Junglas is significantly behind the other two blades. The difference however only becomes significant when the blades are less than fifty percent as sharp as optimal and grows very large when the blades are less than 25 percent as sharp as optimal. The main reason for this is that those other two steels are very high carbide and thus they have a higher wear resistance and thus after the edge thickens during use to the point the carbides are stable then those steels start to show a lower rate of further wear. This is why the curves are so different. The Junglas does not have the high amount of carbides and thus the curve never has the dramatic tail that the others have. Note that the performance of the Junglas could be improved further by reducing the edge angle as the angle of the other two blades was significantly lower and this increases the edge retention significantly.


The first sharpening to remove the rolled edge was less than two minutes with a 200 grit silicon carbide waterstone which removed all signs of rolling and left the edge cleanly slicing newsprint. It could then easily be refined as required to a higher sharpness or greater polish. Generally this knife is used for very rough work as it is a short machete and thus it is left with a fairly rough edge, at most it would be refined with a 1000 grit waterstone. It isn't that a higher polish is not more optimal for chopping, but simply that being a brush blade this knife hits a lot of rocks and such when doing low cutting and also gets used for harder work (roots and such) anyway so there is no real functional benefit to a higher polish as it would go dull just as fast on the harder work.

On the harder impacts, the metals and even the chopping into the rocks, it was still only a few minutes on the 200 grit silicon carbide stone to get the majority of the edge (more than 90 percent) to easily slice newsprint. The remainging ten percent of so were just the most heavily impacted areas and it is a personal choice to keep the blade completely free of all the little dings and dents that such heavier blades tend to face in brush work. In general, the performance loss of the small amount of edge which is still damaged is not significant enough to be noticed in use.


After a reasonable amount of chopping, limbing and splitting the knife had proven itself with enough work so that it was sensible to do some customization to optomize the performance for personal preferences. The edge next to the handle was ground down to less than 0.010" thick, the edge thickness in the tip was ground down to less than 0.025" thick. The remaining section of blade in the middle was left unmodified. The modifications can be seen in the picture on the right and show the two inch section of blade near the grip which is purely optomized for low stress cutting and the thinner tip allows it to go through lighter vegetation (saplings and such) easier. The thinner edge also resharpens much faster in both areas and since the the edge angle is the same in all sections it sharpens trivially on a large bench stone.

The video at the right shows some work done with the reground Junglas. It was used to split quite a bit of wood to ensure that there was no gross weakening of the blade. The only reservation to use with the regrind is to keep the section of edge near the handle away from the tougher knots in the wood as it is so thin now it is likely to buckle fairly readily. However that thin section is still readily able to do some light and precise chopping and the tip is still durable enough to have no real concerns. The tip could be taken down to less than 0.015" and still should have no problems on light vegetation, however in the case where such a thin edge cut through brush and hit a rock or similar, it could be the case that the primary grind itself could suffer a blowout. In any case the regrind make the blade more versatile and dramatically increase ease of sharpening and had no functional loss in durability as long as the proper reservations are made on usage.


The ESEE Junglas has proven itself to be a very solid 10 inch blade with no significant weaknesses. It is very suitable as a short and stout machete. There are a few changes that would in general improve the design such as a tapered tang, but such changes both increase the cost of manufacturing and introduce some marketing issues because full tang knives have a percieved advantage for heavy use.

Comments and references

Comments can be emailed to cliffstamp[REMOVE] or by posting to the following thread :

Most of the pictures in the above are in the ESEE Junglas album at PhotoBucket.

Last updated : 11:29:2011
Originally written: 11:29:2011