These 5 simple steps will help you get your axes cutting edge back.
Walts DIY is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
An axe is a favorite tool of many people, and it’s not hard to see why. You can use it for chopping down trees or splitting kindling wood into smaller chunks if you need more firewood. Using an axe is a dangerous job, and if you don’t have the right tools or know how to get a sharp edge, it can be even more so.
Sharpening your axe blade is crucial for safety purposes and to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your tool. A blunt axe will make cutting tasks take longer than they should, which means more time spent on a project and less time doing other things.
This article will walk you through 5 simple steps to help get your axes cutting edge back in no time! We’ll cover what equipment you’ll need as well as some tips for sharpening without damaging the metal. You won’t regret following this sharpening process!
What Safety Equipment Do You Need?
If you are working with an axe, it is vitally important to wear safety equipment to avoid injury. A good start would be to wear a long-sleeved shirt and closed-toe shoes or boots.
You’ll also need some eye protection. A pair of safety goggles will work fine for this job. If wearing gloves, make sure they are not too thick and won’t reduce your manual dexterity
Lastly, if you’re using a bench grinder or Dremel to sharpen your axe, then you’ll want to wear ear protection as well. These tools are very loud and can damage your hearing if you’re not wearing ear protection.
If you don’t have safety equipment, then stop now and go get some! It’s an essential part of any job that involves power tools or sharpened axes.
Video: How to Sharpen an Axe
Step 1: Clean Your Axe Head
Before you start sharpening your axe, it’s important to clean off any rust or dirt that may be on the head. We’ll do this simply with some steel wool. A rough grade is best for this job.
To do this, place a small amount of steel wool onto the head of your axe and then rub it in a circular motion. The steel wool will scrub off any dirt or rust that is on the head.
Continue rubbing for 3-5 minutes, being sure to go in all directions around the axe blade. Take care not to let your fingers get close to where you are rubbing as this can potentially lead to an injury.
If you see chips or gouges consider using a grinding wheel to bring the axe blade back to uniform. A grinding wheel is a great help for this.
A bench grinder with a grinding wheel can be used to remove the rust. (We recommend you wear safety glasses, hearing protection and gloves when using this tool.)
It may take several passes on the grinding wheel to completely remove all of the rust from your blade. Be sure to keep an even pressure as you go, and do not apply too much pressure or it will take off more metal than you desire.
If the blade is heavily chipped, there may be some areas that require touch up with a grinder. After you’re done using your grinding wheel, use a wire brush to remove any excess metal.
Step 2: Clamp Your Axe Head Down
Your next step is to clamp the axe blade down so we can work on it effectively. You should be able to find a vice or clamp that will fit around your head and hold it in place securely.
Clamping down the blade will allow us to get more control over the grinding or filing process. It also helps ensure that we don’t accidentally damage other parts of the axe handle as we do work on the blade.
Before you begin sharpening, it is essential to check your bevel angle to ensure a good edge. Usually, between 25 and 30 degrees is needed. This will save you from damaging your axe head and potentially spending time and money repairing it later.
It’s important to remember that even small changes in your edge can drastically change the way your axe will perform. (For example, a 25-degree angle is much sharper than a 30 degree.) The best method of making sure you’re always at the right angle is to use a bevel gauge.
Step 3: Use a File to Sharpen
Only work on one side at a time. If you work on both sides at once, then you risk not having an angle consistency or focus to your edge.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t sharpen both sides, though. What it means is that we should focus our attention on one side until a wire edge appears and then move onto the next side.
The most popular choice for sharpening an axe is a 10-inch file. A mill bastard file works best for this job as it has plenty of space between the teeth to allow material to fall out of the way and prevent clogging.
A push motion with the file will work best when sharpening an axe. This is because a pull motion may damage the file.
Repeat this step on the reverse side of the axe blade.
Step 4: Use a Sharpening Stone
With the help of a sharpening stone, you should be able to hone your blade with dual-sided grit.
Run the coarse grit over one side of the blade with circular motions, and do not forget to count how many strokes you use! After applying this same number of rough strokes on the opposite side of the blade, repeat this process again but with finer grits.
Step 5: Easy Axe Blade Maintenance
High-quality cutting tools like axes are typically expensive. There’s one thing that we often forget: protection of our blades from rusting or other damage post use. Here’s how to properly care for your cutting tool by buffing on some beeswax or machine oil after each cut:
Apply the oil or wax on a soft cloth. This will help you avoid damaging your axe with too much force. Be careful that the fabric does not contain any stiff fibers or debris, as this could potentially scratch off some of your remaining metal and make the edge duller than before! Buff in a circular motion.
You’ll find that doing this right after you use your axe will keep it clean and shiny for much longer. This protects it from rust and makes the blade last longer.
Why Sharpen Your Axe?
After using your axe, it will gradually become nicked and duller with each subsequent use. The more rigid a metal is hit, the more damage occurs to its molecular structure. The result of this is a material that can no longer bear consistent pressure without losing shape or form. This leads to an axe head that has inconsistent cuts, which is no good.
Keeping your axe at its best implies that you’re able to control the amount of pressure that comes into contact with it and surrounding objects, as well as being able to resolve problems like rust or inconsistencies in edge angle before they can occur. Sharpening your axe means that you won’t have any worries about whether or not you’ll be able to get through your next project.
Depending on what type of wood you’re working with, sharpening your axe may come down to a preference either way. If you’re cutting soft materials like green trees or small twigs/branches, then an axe that’s always at its best will give you an edge over other users.
Having a sharp axe blade will help you make cleaner cuts and not to mention that it’ll be easier on your muscles. Sharpening allows us to exert force more quickly and requires less physical strain from our bodies, so take advantage of this if you work on jobs where handling an axe with precision is necessary for success.
Other Tools You Can Use as a Dull Axe Sharpener
The coarse whetstone is often overlooked as a sharpening method as many people feel it is too time-consuming and not worth the hassle. A whetstone can be challenging to work with, but it yields a superior edge compared to other tools like grindstones.
By working in small circular motions, you can avoid ruining the shape of your axe head. Whetstones are generally used to sharpen tools with a blade made from either high carbon or stainless steel. While it may be challenging to work with, consider the long-term benefits if you have better control over how sharp your axe is.
A sharpening puck is an excellent option for someone who doesn’t want to invest time learning how to use a whetstone. A sharpening puck works best when the material has been removed from your blade and needs only minor maintenance.
A Dremel is another tool that you can use for axe sharpening. You will need some protective equipment such as gloves if you decide to use this particular method.
If you invest in a Dremel tool, then you’ll be able to sharpen your axe much easier compared to other devices like grindstones or whetstones. But, using an angle grinder can be dangerous, and you run the risk of removing too much material, ruining the blade.
By gently pressing the axe edge into the Dremel tool, you’re able to get rid of any nicks or inconsistencies that may have formed since your last use.
For the best results when using a Dremel tool, always make sure to start slow and frequently stop to reduce the risk of overheating your axe blade.
Sharpening your axe may seem like a daunting task, but these five steps should make it easier to maintain the edge of your blade. By following some instructions, you’ll be able to quickly get rid of any problems that have developed with your axe.
It’s best to sharpen your axe blade before each use to ensure that your tool is at its best. If you end up using your axe more than usual, then consider going through the steps above every few days to avoid unnecessary labor in the future!
Here are some other articles you may like:
Here are our favorite Pulaski Axes
CLICK any image to see Ratings & Reviews on Amazon