Knife Review: A $7 Bolo?

Knife Review: A $7 Bolo?
You don't need to spend a lot of money on a quality knife, if you know where to look.
  • Purchase Price: $7
  • Maker: Unknown
  • Blade Length: 14 1/8″
  • Blade Material: Hardened carbon steel
  • Handle: Hand-carved wood
  • Handle Design: Dropped at butt
  • Collar: Aluminum conduit
  • Knife to Know: Blade has a forged distal taper; handle butt flared to enhance purchase
  • Weight: 12 ozs.
  • Overall Length: 20″
  • Sheath: Wood with handcarved details
  • Sheath Weight: 3 ozs.

I received a bolo made in the Philippines from my friend, Mike Key, as a gift a couple of years ago. He went on a three-day search for good bolos made from carbon steel in villages, not the souvenir type. He was successful in his quest.

I ran a triangle file down the edge and it skated off, an indication the blade is hardened steel for sure. The forged blade has a smooth distal taper, starting around 3/16-inch thick down to 0 inches at the tip. The knife sports hidden-tang construction. The wood for the sheath and handle are from a local shop in the Philippines. Of course, a blade must cut no matter where it’s made.

Cutting Tests

Up first: the paper slice. Despite a coarse edge, the bolo still managed to give clean slices in 20-pound bond paper. Normally, a bigger blade is cumbersome slicing paper, but the bolo has a perfect balance due to its distal taper.

Best bolo knife reviews
The bolo was very aggressive on the plastic foam. The author held the pool noodle suspended in air with one hand and sliced it. He indicated the knife is very controllable and the handle is indexed perfectly.

A pool noodle was next on the test menu. The bolo was very aggressive on the plastic foam. I held the pool noodle suspended in air with one hand and sliced it. The knife is very controllable and the handle is indexed perfectly.

Next up: chopping into a hard cardboard tube with the noodle inserted to prevent wall collapse. It worked on the first two chops, but then I hit too close to the previous pair of chops and the tube crushed under the force of the blows. Still, the blade made it halfway through the tube.

When you have trees encroaching on your property, you have to take steps to keep your yard clear. One such branch had scraped me for the last time while I was mowing the lawn. Its 2.5-inch diameter was a breeze for the bolo. Five whacks and the branch was down.

Bolo knife reviews
Five whacks and the 2.5-inch-diameter branch was down.

I dragged it away from the fence to whack it into smaller pieces. This is what the bolo was designed to do. One chop per branch and it was in pieces quickly. Just a wrist snap carried the blade halfway through a 1.5-inch-diameter branch. The bolo is a very fast chopper.

A note on the wooden sheath: It’s flat on one side for resting against your body and slightly rounded on the other. The maker even added some hand-carved detail into the wood. Excellent workmanship!

A big thank you goes out to Mike Key for finding this gem of a bolo for me.


On a blade this long, I would like to see a pin in the handle for a mechanical connection.

Final Results

The bolo is a very balanced working model. You can use it all day without wearing your hand or arm out. It exhibits great workmanship in the forging and the woodwork!

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