A dull axe is a dangerous thing. It can slip off the wood you’re chopping and cause injury to your hand or head. A sharpened axe, on the other hand, makes short work of even the toughest logs. But how do you sharpen an axe?
There are many methods for doing so, some better than others, and it’s important that you know which one will work best for your needs!
In this blog post, we will go over 6 hacks and tips to make sure that your ax is as sharp as possible, whether it be a splitting maul or bushcraft blade!
What is an Axe?
An axe is a tool that every household should have. It can be used for splitting logs, chopping firewood, or simply trimming the yard. Axes are typically made of steel and come with a blade on one side and an eye on the other end. The eye is meant to attach a handle so it can be used as a cutting tool by swinging it in many different directions.
A dull ax is more dangerous than a sharp one because it will slip off the wood you’re chopping and cause injury to your hand or head when chopping down trees or trying to split logs. A sharpened ax, on the other hand, makes quick work even of tough logs like no problem at all.
Method 1: Whetstone
The first step in how to sharpen an axe is to use a whetstone. A sharpening stone should be used with the length of the blade facing away from you and at a 45-degree angle. Using moderate pressure, rub it backward and forwards on both sides of the edge for five strokes on each side before switching to another side until all four are done.
The second and third steps are to flip the blade over and use a whetstone at an angle of around 30 degrees. You’ll want to do this for about ten strokes before flipping it again, but keep in mind that you may need more or less depending on how dull your axe already is.
Method 2: Belt Sander
A belt sander is a great option because it’s so quick and easy to use.
All you need is a few basic items:
- A belt sander
- Coarse sandpaper (80 grit)
- Fine sandpaper (120 grit)
- Oil (motor or vegetable)
- Your axe
First, make sure that the blade of your axe is clean before you start. Use a wire brush or steel wool to get rid of any dirt and grime, then wipe it down with mineral spirits.
Next, attach the coarse grit sandpaper to your belt sander, making sure that you’re using light pressure so as not to round off the blade’s edges prematurely.
Then flip over the ax and repeat the process on the other side.
After you’ve run both sides of your ax through to remove any dents or nicks, flip it over again so that you can work on the blade’s edge with the fine sandpaper. You’ll want to place this one much more carefully than before because a belt sander could quickly turn your blade into a pile of metal filings.
Once you’re finished with that, use your wire brush to remove any dust or remaining sandpaper particles from the edge of the blade, wipe it down again with mineral spirits, and apply some oil. Allow it to soak in for about 10 minutes before putting your ax back together.
Method 3: Diamond Stone
In order to sharpen an axe with a diamond stone, the first step is to find out what type of material the blade is made from (steel vs. high carbon steel). If the blade is made of high carbon, then a coarse diamond stone will work.
This type of material should be used to remove any deep dents or chips in the blade and make it smoother for chopping purposes.
If your axe’s blade is made out of steel, you’ll need a medium-coarse diamond stone instead. This type of stone should be used to remove any deep scratches and to grind down the blade.
The final step is polishing, which can be done with a fine- or extra-fine diamond stone depending on the material’s condition. This will smooth out your axe blade without removing too much metal from it, leaving just enough for you to chop wood with a sharp blade!
Method 4: Grinding Wheel
The first step in using a grinding wheel to sharpen an axe is removing any rust from the metal with sandpaper and some water. The next step is to clamp your ax gently into a vise.
At this point, you can attach the grinding wheel and begin sharpening. It’s important not to apply too much pressure or else you could damage the metal.
On a grinding wheel, grind both sides of each blade evenly with either coarse (60/80 grit) or finer (120/220 grit) grinding wheels. It’s important to grind both sides because one side of the blade may be sharper than the other, and you want even wear on each side (e.g., if one side is too sharp it can cut your hand as you use it).
Check for proper angle: When grinding an axe or hammer head, ensure that there isn’t too much of an angle on the blade. The edge should be slightly lower than a straight line across, which is about 15°-20° for axes and 20° – 25° for hammers (see below). If you need to grind more off one side it’s best to take off less from each side in order to ensure that both sides are even.
Once finished, simply wash off any residue from the grinding with some water before drying it thoroughly with a cloth and allowing it to oxidize.
Method 5: Sandpaper
Make sure the head of your ax is properly secured on a solid chopping surface (like in between two pieces of wood). Then take your medium- and fine-grit sandpapers and begin to run them up the blade from its base, toward the top. Move your ax with you as you go along so that it doesn’t slip out of place.
You will probably need a couple of passes on both sides before reaching a good sharpness again.
Keep going until your see that there are no more lines on the edge and then switch over to finer sandpaper for one final touch-up.
Method 6: File
Clean off any old dirt from the blade by wiping it down with a damp cloth and dry thoroughly. Take care not to touch the sharpened edge while working.
Position the blade flat against the ground and raise one side of the head up slightly. Then, with a medium-grit file, begin to sharpen the axe by drawing the file across it against the edge (not into it).
Start from just below the handle and work your way up toward the top of the blade in smooth strokes.
In this blog post, we’ve covered 6 ways to sharpen your ax with different methods. Some are better than others for certain axes and situations, but it is always good to have more options in case one isn’t working out!
Now that you know all the basics on how to sharpen an axe, take a look at our guide on the best splitting axes and find which axes work best for you. Happy chopping!