THE CAS IBERIA CHOP HOUSE IS A MACHETE THAT PROVIDES BIG BLADE CUTTING POWER
Generally speaking, I’m content with a 4- to 5-inch field knife when I go into the woods. I can usually do whatever I need to do with a knife that size. I’ll concede, though, that there are definitely some tasks that you can do faster or better with a big blade.
“…a big blade… needs to be rugged and capable of withstanding a lot of abuse…and be able to chop. Those criteria fit the Chop House from CAS Iberia perfectly.”
This may not be a big deal in temperate weather, but when you’re cold and wet, and snow is on the ground or falling, things such as shelter building and fire prep take on a bit more urgency. That’s when being able to work faster and more efficiently with a big blade becomes important.
With that in mind, a big blade to me needs to be rugged and capable of withstanding a lot of abuse, be able to stand up to harsh conditions, and be able to chop. Those criteria fit the Chop House from CAS Iberia perfectly.
MEET THE CHOP HOUSE
The Chop House may not be what you think of when you think of a foul weather survival knife, but it works quite fine in that role.
At first glance you’ll see a lot of cleaver influence in the Chop House. Upon closer look, you’ll see those lines are really that of the Chinese Dao sword, taken down to a more compact, yet still formidable size.
The Chop House is part of CAS Iberia’s APOC line. The APOC Survival Tool line is made at its Dragon King forge in Dalian, China. If you’re familiar with CAS Iberia’s sword lines, you’ll know that the Dragon King forge puts out some top quality, functional swords.
While the APOC line uses some sometimes-humorous marketing to pitch it as an “end of the world” survival line, the build quality of the tools makes them quite suitable for day-to-day tasks around camp and in the woods too.
The Chop House is 18.25 inches in overall length, with a 12.75-inch blade and a 4.75-inch handle. It’s made from a single piece of 6 mm thick 9260 steel.
According to Continental Steel, 9260 is a high-silicon, spring alloy steel that offers “outstanding corrosion resistance, hardness, toughness, and strength.” All of which are features that make for an excellent choice for a chopping blade.
Dragon King heat treats the steel to a 56 Rockwell, which is a good compromise between edge retention and toughness. The blade is 5.5 mm thick at the spine and the blade has a full height flat grind that tapers down to a surprisingly fine edge with a secondary bevel.
The Chop House didn’t arrive hair popping sharp out of the box, but it had a decent user edge suitable for a chopper. The blade is coated in a black anodized finish to further provide corrosion resistance.
“Abundant MOLLE slots on the sheath body make it easy to lash to a pack, ATV, snowmobile, pack llama, or whatever else you’re using to transport your tools.”
The Chop’s 6 mm thick full-tang handle features a built-in double guard. The guard is short and unobtrusive but provides plenty of protection to keep your hand off of the blade.
The handle consists of a set of nicely contoured black G10 scales affixed with three Torx screws on either side. It features a single finger notch and prominent pommel flair to keep your hand in place while you’re using the knife.
A hidden lanyard hole is tastefully situated at the butt of the knife, which allows you a further option to keep the knife secure when in use.
The Chop House comes with a black sheath made from riveted Kydex with a nylon belt loop and retention strap. The loop is wide enough for belts or straps up to 4 inches wide, and it opens with a hook-and-loop fastener and snap so that you can put it on or take it off without having to undo your belt.
Abundant MOLLE slots on the sheath body make it easy to lash to a pack, ATV, snowmobile, pack llama, or whatever else you’re using to transport your tools.
Chop House Machete
Overall Length: 18 ¼ inches
Blade Length: 12 ¾ inches
Handle Length: 4 ¾ inches
Weight: 1 pound, 4 ounces
Blade Thickness: 5.5 mm
Thickness at Guard: 6 mm
Blade Steel: 9260
Edge Hardness: 56 HRC
Blade finish: Black anodized
Handle Material: Milled G10
Sheath: MOLLE compatible Kydex
The Kydex is well molded to the blade and the Chop House clicks into place on the guard when you seat it in the sheath. Due to the weight of the blade—a bit over a pound—you can pop it free if you hold it upside down and shake it vigorously.
This is unlikely to happen unless you get picked up by a Yeti and are held by your feet and shaken. In the event that you’re unfortunate enough to have this happen to you, the retention strap still ensures that the Chop House doesn’t fall free.
Suffice it to say that the combination of Kydex retention and the retention strap do their job.
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Build quality on the Chop House is very good, and the milled G10 handles especially are well executed. There are some minor grind marks visible on the blade, visible through the coating, and there are some acute corners on the guard.
It wasn’t anything that really would interfere with use, but I’d prefer smoother edges. I confirmed with CAS Iberia that they’re aware of the issue and that future models will have all of those hard angles chamfered.
I had a chance to use the Chop House on a trip I made to Southwestern Virginia with Joe Flowers of Bushcraft Global and Condor Knife and Tool fame, and Glen “Spen” Stelzer of the leather shop JRE Industries.
We stayed at a hunting cabin along the New River and had access to hundreds of acres of hunting reserve. While there, we used the Chop House to clear out an area of saplings around Joe’s semi-permanent base camp on his property, split some firewood, and even used it to clean trout.
“For basic chopping work the Chop House is very efficient. Saplings in the 1½-inch diameter range easily fell with one swing.”
For basic chopping work the Chop House is very efficient. Saplings in the 1½-inch diameter range easily fell with one swing. The thin edge bit deeply into larger wood whether green or dried.
The cleaver-like blade and handle shape worked very well for limbing using simple snap cuts. We did some work making stakes and found that the Chop House carved fairly well.
There’s about an inch of edge just forward of the choil that’s flattened where the grind begins, so you need to move just ahead of that to start using the edge as a carver.
As the guard is there to keep your hand off the blade, I’d rather have the edge sharpened all the way down to the choil. But that’s something you could do for yourself with a file or belt sander if you really wanted to that.
Just as you can do big knife jobs with a smaller knife, although not as efficiently, the converse is true when using big blades for small jobs. Joe and Spen did a bit of trout fishing on the trip and Joe used the Chop House to clean his catch.
Obviously chopping the head off was easy work for a blade like this, but he was also able to choke up on the forward part of the blade and use it to gut the fish as well. A smaller knife would have been easier, but he was able to do it without too much effort.
We spent a fair bit of time on fire prep and batoned the Chop House through some hard, dried oak logs. The blade shape and length made it well suited to using with a wooden mallet, and we had no issue processing 6-inch or so diameter logs down for kindling.
We were able to get some decent curls out of the oak for tinder too. We also found that the Chop House worked quite well as a draw knife. The relatively straight edge and length of the blade made it easy to hold by the handle and spine of the blade near the tip and draw towards you to smooth out planks for bushcraft projects, or to shave tinder off of bigger pieces of wood.
The spine is fairly sharp and did work with a ferro rod, although I had to wear a spot of the tough anodized finish off first for it to work.
Because we were evaluating the Chop House at least partially with an eye toward cold-weather camping and survival use, we were curious how the edge would hold up on ice.
The idea was that you might need to hack through a couple inches of ice-covered frozen wood, as I did on a February Appalachian Trail trip years ago following an ice storm, or to hack through ice to access water or to fish in situations where you weren’t planning on ice fishing.
We simulated this by chopping frozen gallon water bottles. We tried cutting them like you would liquid-filled bottles and while we could not cut through them, we would chip off hunks with each swing.
Following the hard oak and ice, I examined the edge of the blade. Oak is tough in general and hacking ice as we did is rather abusive. I was surprised to find almost no edge damage after all of that.
There were two very small areas of deformation that will quickly sharpen out with a fine file or a stone. Considering the amount of hacking we did, I thought that was more than acceptable.
EXCELLENT CAMP TOOL
Overall, the Chop House performed extremely well for a big blade, which I guess it should as it’s billed to survive the apocalypse. I’ll leave fighting radioactive mutants up to you, but I can say that it’s a great camp tool with good ergonomics and impressive performance.
It can do small knife jobs such as fish processing and shaving wood curls for fire starting, and excels at making big pieces of wood into small ones.
The 9260 steel proved to be extremely durable and tolerant of abuse and the blade finish held up extremely well. Often, I’ll see finish wear after batoning, but other than a few scuff marks, the finish looked as good as new once wiped down with oil.
I didn’t bother with more than a cursory cleaning with a dry cloth while using the blade too and didn’t find any indications of rust during my testing either. It is carbon steel, so needs maintained as such, but it seems quite forgiving to harsh use.
If you need a big chopper for your outdoor use or for your bugout bag, in case some crazy government vaccine goes bad and creates zombies or something, then I think the Chop House would be worth checking out.
BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER,
ESPECIALLY IN THE COLD
As I alluded to in my intro, I generally like to work with a smaller knife in the woods. They’re easy and light to carry, and they generally are sized right for detail work for me. I can generally cut down saplings, process kindling and tinder and do most of what I need to do with a knife in the 4- to 5-inch blade range.
With that said, it can take more time and effort to do that. That’s fine on a leisurely camping trip, and in good weather. When you’re cold and miserable, though, and you want to get out of the weather you don’t always have time for finesse.
Sometimes a big blade just works better. It also needs less finesse and fine motor skills can start to be impacted when your hands are cold and numb. A blade with enough mass to chop in fewer strokes and harvest larger pieces of wood conserves energy and speeds up your job.
The less effort you expend translates to fewer calories burned and more energy available for keeping you warm. Shelter and warmth are key in cold weather, so you want tools that will help you to acquire them as efficiently as possible.