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How to sharpen an axe means not only smooth the blade. It’s meant to ready your axe and its blade to easily cut your things in a relaxing way. Otherwise, it may hurt you many ways and you will be tired before completing your desire works.
So you should follow the rules of how you can sharpen your axe before starting your work. Using a dull axe is not only ineffective. But it can also be dangerous since the blade will end up bouncing on the wood instead of making a clean cut.
Sharpening an axe can be tedious. But you will regain lost time after a day of work with a very sharp and efficient blade. So you have to know how to sharpen an axe before you start your work with an unsharpened axe.
Here we discuss how to sharpen an axe in some easy and effective steps. You can follow these ways if you don’t know how to sharpen an axe.
Part-1: How to sharpen an axe without an edge
1) Protect your hands and face.
Take these steps to avoid hurting yourself while sharpening an axe:
- Wear thick leather gloves.
- If your file doesn’t have a finger guard, cut a piece of leather and put it on.
- Wear safety glasses to protect yourself from metal dust.
- You can also wear a dust mask if you are going to sharpen by hand. It is better to use a respirator if you use power tools (don’t forget to check the tips section).
2) Polish and clean the head of the axe.
If there is rust in your axe, clean it with an eraser for rust or steel wool. Polishing is, above all, a matter of aesthetics, but it is not too difficult to achieve:
- Rub it using sandpaper with coarse-grained aluminium oxide or silicon carbide sandpaper. Rub the axe head by applying a uniform pressure, moving from the end of the hammer to the blade.
- Repeat with fine grain sandpaper.
- To achieve excellent polishing, re-sand or finish by applying a metal polisher with a cloth. You can wait to perform this step until after you have sharpened the axe.
3) Hold the axe in a vice.
Hold it horizontally to sharpen more easily or vertically. So that the edge is more even (since this allows you to alternate the sides). If you hold it horizontally, it would be better to tilt it at the angle of the bevel (usually 20 or 30 °). So that you can hold the file parallel to the table. It is easier than calculating the right angle with the naked eye.
4) Get a lime bastard file
A 25 to 30 cm or 10 to 12-inch bastard file (coarse-grained, single-cut and slightly narrow) is the best choice for most axes. The shorter bastard files do not have the same density in the teeth. So the length is not just a matter of convenience. You can use a smaller file for hand axes.
Clean the clogged teeth of your file with a card. If the file is new, rub soft chalk on it to prevent blockages.
5) Check the axe bezel.
Most axes have a slightly convex edge, approximately 20 to 30 °. The wider and more convex edges are more suitable for hard or frozen wood. Because the curve will push the wood out of the way to protect the edge. The carving axes have a straight and triangular tip.
Decide the shape of your axe before you start sharpening it and watch the edge very well while you shape it. In most cases, you will have to match the existing bevel, following the curve of the blade to remove a unique layer of metal.
6) Sharpen the axe with a firm movement toward the blade.
Hold the lime handle in the palm of your dominant hand, with your thumb over the top. Fold the fingers of the other hand around the tip of the file. Stand with one foot in front of the other, so that you can use your shoulders to push the file. To prevent the latter from swaying back and forth, direct it with the front hand. Then gently push it with the handle at the end of the movement.
7) Sharpen several times along a fan-shaped area.
Sharpen the edge making firm movements. Create a fan-shaped curve on the blade by modifying the starting point of the movement you make to sharpen. Start near the edge at the top of the axe’s head, about 5 or 7.5 cm (2 or 3 inches). When you are in the centre and make a curve back towards the edge again at the bottom.
- Do not make contact with the blade when making the return curve, as this will not sharpen the axe and could ruin your file.
- Use a card for files or a wire brush to remove metal particles accumulated in the file.
8) Switch to the other side when you feel a burr.
Once you feel a burr on the side you don’t sharpen, turn the axe again and repeat the same steps on the other side of the blade. Continue sharpening until burrs return to the initial side. Changing the sides more frequently during the process can create a more uniform edge.
9) Measure the edge with a sliding square.
This instrument simply consists of two articulated arms that can be adjusted at any angle by means of a nut. You can do it for yourself using wood that doesn’t work for you. Adjust the sliding box at the desired angle using a conveyor (usually about 25 °). Then place it on the edge of the axe. If the edge does not fit the angle, sharpen again until the material is removed from the necessary areas.
Part-2: Sharpen the axe
1) Sharpen the edge with a whetstone.
Apply burnishing oil or sewing machine oil over the edge of the end. Then rub the tip of a thick sharpening stone along it, making a circular motion. Sharpen both sides to move the burr from side to side until it is almost gone. This burr is a “thin edge” or a very thin and bent end. Swipe your finger over the edge to check the shape.
Water stones which are made of whetstones or clay work more quickly. But they also wear out faster. They need water instead of oil to remove metal particles.
2) Sharpen with a fine whetstone or a leather strip (optional).
To remove the fine edge completely, repeat the same sharpening process with a fine sharpening stone or a leather strap. A perfectly sharp edge does not reflect light, but a couple of small notches will not be a big problem.
- Most whetstones have two sides, one of coarse grain and one of fine grain. Those with a finger groove in the middle are safer.
- Repeat the sharpening process (at least with the coarse-grained stone) every time you are about to use the axe.
3) Protect the blade from rust.
Clean the sheet with light machine oil and then rub it with a mixture of beeswax and more oil. This works best when the steel is hot.
- If you sharpen a double blade axe, keep a slightly thicker and convex end than described here. Use this cutting edge to cut pieces of hard and rough materials.
- If the axe is no longer sharp, you can use a grinder to sharpen the edge before filing it turning the sharpening stone towards you and towards the edge. This is much more difficult since the errors will have more serious consequences and the accumulation of heat can affect the hardness, leaving the steel blue and smooth. For this reason, a pedal grinder is the safest way for this work.
- A lumberjack axe is not designed to have pointed edges. Keep a blunt edge for added security.
Change the handle if you notice cracks or defects in the wood. Our Top 14 axes review the latest pick by expertise.
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