How to Polish and Sharpen Your Axe

by mirrror

How to Polish and Sharpen Your Axe

Apparently, Abraham Lincoln once said “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  It probably won’t take you anywhere near this long to put a decent edge on your tools, but the sentiment is appropriate.  A properly sharpened axe reduces the risk of accidents and maximizes your chopping efficiency. 

Clean and polish the entire surface of the axe head before sharpening.  This provides a pristine work surface and allows you to spot any trouble areas that have accumulated rust.  Use steel wool to remove rust, if any.  Fine grit sandpaper can be used to take out scratches and other blemishes.  For those more inclined to rely on power tools, a disk-sander attached to a drill will do this job in a fraction of the time.  

Sharpening by hand can be accomplished with either a classic pedal grindstone or files and whetstones.  If you are lucky enough to have a pedal grindstone, ensure that your drip cup or other water supply is actively keeping the belt wet.  Sharpening an axe at high speed without water on the stone can ruin the temper on your blade.  If this happens, the edge of the steel will turn blue and you will need to reshape the edge back toward the point where the head is still tempered.  Hold the axe so that the handle intersects the grindstone at a perpendicular angle, with the blade facing into the stone.  The grindstone should be rotating toward the edge of the blade, not away from it.

Standard tools for sharpening without a grindstone are axe bit width gauges, mill bastard files, carborundum scythe stone, carborundum axe stone, and a notched carborundum sharpening stone.  In lieu of carborundum stones, natural Arkansas sharpening stones are also suitable.  With the hand axe secured to a bench or work table, use the file and file into the edge, toward the handle and eye of the axe.  Gloves are critical if you wish to avoid possible injury at this stage.  Continue to file, working away from the check and toward the blade edges.  Once a ridge, or burr, forms on the backside of the blade, turn it over and repeat the procedure.  Once you are satisfied with the shape, use the whetstone to hone the edge.  This will polish and remove the burr formed from filing.  Honing should be done frequently to retain your cutting edge.

For information on a felling axe, splitting axe, or hatchet axe, be sure to visit helko North America.

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