How To Sharpen An Axe

An axe is a useful tool to have in your home or garage for woodworking. However, if you want your axe to continue to be functional in the long term, you will need to learn how to keep it sharp.

How To Sharpen An Axe

Sharpening an axe is an important skill if you regularly make use of one of these tools. In today’s article, I’ll be explaining the best ways to sharpen your axe at home. 

3 Ways To Sharpen Your Axe

There are 3 methods you can use to sharpen your axe. These include using a file, a sharpening stone, and a grinder. I’m going to walk you through each of these methods step-by-step in this guide. 

Sharpening An Axe with a File

If you don’t have a specialized sharpening stone or a grinder (see below), the easiest way to sharpen your axe is using a file. 

To sharpen an axe with a file, you will need: 

  • Tar remover product 
  • Gloves 
  • File 
  • File brush 
  • Clamp 
  • Honing oil/beeswax 

Secure The Axe

Because filing an axe involves putting your hand in close proximity to the blade, you could find yourself in a dangerous position if the axe slips, even if you’re wearing gloves.

Therefore, you should always start by clamping the axe’s handle to your work surface.

Clean Your Axe And File

You will also need to use your tar removed to clean your axe in case any sap or pitch has accumulated on the blade. Then, use your file brush to ensure that the file is also clean. 

File From One Side

Put on your gloves and start running the file over the edge of the blade. Make sure to match the blade’s angle so you don’t accidentally alter the shape of the blade.

It’s best to work consistently from left to right. Always push the file instead of pulling it or it won’t remove metal shavings. 

File From The Other Side

Clean the file before turning the axe over, clamping it back down and filing the other side of the blade in exactly the same way.

Unless one side clearly needs to be sharpened more than the other, try to use the same number of strokes on the second side to avoid sharpening the axe unevenly. 

Sharpening An Axe With A Stone 

A sharpening stone is the traditional method of sharpening an axe. If you have one of these tools, you can use it to sharpen your axe along with the following tools: 

  • Sharpening stone
  • Honing oil 
  • Gloves 
  • Tar remover 

Clean The Blade

Use your tar remover to ensure that the axe head and blade are completely free from sap and debris before you start the sharpening process. 

Lubricate The Stone

Sharpening stones work better if they are properly lubricated. You can use honing oil to lubricate the stone. This helps to stop the axe from overheating. You could also apply a few drops of oil to the bit. 

Sharpen Side 1

Use the abrasive side of the sharpening stone to sharpen the axe on one side. The best method is to tuck the handle under one of your arms and make circles over the blade with your stone. 

Sharpen Side 2

Repeat the process on the other side of the blade, taking care to match the number of strokes. You may need to reapply oil if the stone becomes too dry.

Refine The Edge

Go over the blade on both sides again, this time with the softer side of the stone, which you should also oil beforehand. Go over it once or twice on each side. To finish the process, cover the axe head with protective wax or oil.

Sharpening An Axe With A Grinder

Sharpening An Axe With A Grinder

If you have a grinder, you can use it to sharpen your axe. However, this method is more dangerous than the others so you’ll need to take safety precautions. 

First of all, you’ll need:

  • Bench grinder 
  • File brush 
  • Tar remover 
  • Honing oil/beeswax 
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles 

Clean The Blade And Grinder 

As always, you need to start by making sure that both the blade of your axe and your sharpening tool are free from any debris or substances that might interfere with the process, so use your file brush and tar remover to clean up. 

Position The Axe

Remember to take time to position your axe correctly so that you sharpen it in accordance with the angle of the blade. The blade should be parallel to the grinder wheel. If your grinder is height-adjustable, this will be easy to do. 

Grind The First Side

Holding the axe slightly away from the wheel, start up your grinder and begin to sharpen it on the first side.

Follow the curve of the blade and move the edge across the wheel, taking care to keep the angle consistent. Avoid keeping the blade still for any length of time as this can cause overheating or flat spots.

Grind The Other Side 

Do the same on the other side of the axe after flipping it. You can decide for yourself whether you’re more comfortable shutting off the grinder in between sides or leaving it running.

Match the amount of grinding time to the first side to ensure even sharpness. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should I Sharpen My Axe?

You should sharpen your axe to ensure that you don’t have to put more energy than you need into cutting wood. If your axe is too dull, it won’t cut through wood fibers effectively enough.

How Sharp Should My Axe Be?

Your axe should be sharp enough to be able to cut through wood fibers. This does not mean that the axe necessarily needs to be as sharp as you can make it. In fact, over-sharpening your blade can be dangerous. 

Is It Dangerous To Sharpen An Axe?

If you follow the steps outlined in this guide and are conscious of safety practices while sharpening your axe, it should be a safe process.

However, you do need to take care not to cut yourself either on the axe or the tool you use to sharpen it. You should also wear eye protection at all times as well as hearing protection if you’re using a grinder.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading! Remember to always wear the correct protective gear and take the necessary safety measures when sharpening an axe. 

For the best results, spend an equal amount of time on each side. Also, clean and/or lubricate the blade and tools as required.

Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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