You’ll hear a lot of debate going on about how sharp should an axe be. People have different views depending on their experiences. If you are a newbie, it can get a bit overwhelming because there are a lot of opinions floating around.
Some people think that there’s nothing called ‘too sharp’ for an axe. But, on the contrary, some people believe that an axe should have a limited level of sharpness.
I’ll be putting a stop to these confusions today. But, first, let’s see the right level of sharpness your axe should have.
How Do you Sharpen an Axe?
You may have heard people saying that an axe should always be razor-sharp. However, that’s not true. An axe should have a 40-45-degree angle on its convex edge.
This is sharp enough to cut through woods or other materials that require an ax. You don’t want your axe to be razor-sharp, or it may get bent.
The ideal sharpness may differ from axe to axe depending on the materials. However, if you own an inexpensive axe that gets the job done, the sharpness I mentioned will perform the best.
This is where the question comes in. Can an ax be too sharp? The short answer to this question is yes, it can. But how?
An axe works like a wedge, and the blade needs to be beveled. If you make the axe too sharp, it’ll help you slice fine things, but the blade will bend when you need to do some heavy axe work.
Note that the type of axe you are using is also a determining factor for deciding how to sharpen an axe. For instance, a chopping axe should be as sharp as possible, given the job it does. However, not all axe is meant to perform the same job. So, the level of sharpness required will vary from axe to axe.
A splitting ax will require a duller blade compared to a chopping axe. Gravity does most of the work, so you don’t need your axe to be razor-sharp.
How to Sharpen an Axe with 2 Methods
Now that we’ve learned the sharpness you need for an ax, let’s learn to sharpen the axe properly. Using multiple methods, I’ll describe a few ways to sharpen the axe to the right level.
Method 1: Sharpen Your Axe with a File
A file is a tool you can find everywhere. Even if you don’t own one, you can just borrow it from someone you know. It’s almost certain that one of your friends will have a file in their house.
You will need the following tools when sharpening the axe with a file.
- Flat working surface
- File brush
- Bug and tar remover
- Beeswax or honing oil
- Hand gloves
Let’s get to the process now.
Step 1: Clamp Your Axe to the Working Surface
It’s crucial to place the ax in a suitable place. You will have to perform repetitive motion on the blade, so the axe needs to be stable for the entire process. Also, the blade needs to be hanging out of the table’s edge.
Use the clamp to secure the axe’s handle to your working table. The blade should face you and hang out from the table’s surface.
Step 2: Clean the File and the Axe Head
If the file was used before this use, there might be residue. Use a file brush or any other similar brush to clean the file.
To avoid clogging the file, you need to clean the ax head too. So, remove buildups from the axe, use bug and tar remover on the blade. You can also use another cleaner similar to this one.
Step 3: Start Filing One Side
Use your file to stroke the axe blade. You can start from any side. However, keep the strokes consistent.
For instance, if you’re sliding the file from left to right, keep it that way for the entire process. Also, use the file for stroking in a push motion rather than pulling. It may dull your blade instead of sharpening it.
Step 4: File the Other Side
Use the same procedure to sharpen the other side of the axe head. Again, you need to keep both sides equal. One easy way to maintain consistency is to count the strokes. Use the same number of strokes for both sides to keep the blade angle accurate.
After the axe is sharpened, use beeswax or oil to coat it.
Method 2: Sharpen Axe with Dremel
If you don’t want to sharpen your axe using a manual method like a file or a whetstone, you can go for a Dremel tool. Many people own one, and you can conveniently use it to sharpen your ax head.
You will need the following things to sharpen your axe with a Dremel tool.
- Dremel tool
- Safety equipment
- A bucket full of water
Step 1: Clean Your Axe
Remove any residue that may be on your ax. If the axe isn’t clean enough, the entire sharpening procedure will be affected.
Step 2: Use Protective Gears
When using a Dremel tool to sharpen your axe, don’t forget to use protective equipment. Wear goggles, hand gloves, a dust mask, and a long-sleeve outfit.
Step 3: Sharpen Your Axe
Once the preparation is complete, it’s time to use your Dremel. Turn it on and sharpen the axe blade exactly like you would when using a sharpening stone.
The crucial thing to remember here is to protect the angle. Always follow the bevel using the Dremel when sharpening the edge. If the angle gets messed up, it isn’t easy to restore its previous state.
If the axe head gets hot in the middle of the sharpening process, it will make sure that you dunk the axe head in the water. The water will allow it to cool down and prevent the temperature from ruining.
There are controversial thoughts regarding whether you should sharpen a splitting axe at all or not. In my opinion, it’s necessary to keep the axe functional, but you shouldn’t aim for a razor-sharp edge.
A splitting axe works as a wedge for splitting woods, so gravity does most of the work. So, your axe should neither be too sharp nor entirely blunt.
One of the quickest ways to sharpen your axe is using a grinder. If you can get the angle right, it can be a convenient way for you. However, this method is comparatively less precise than others.
When grinding an axe head, you need to get the angle right. So, before starting the grinder, set the axe head and find the accurate angle. After you’ve found it, keep the axe head a little back from the grinder, and then turn it on.
Keep the movement consistent when sweeping it across the grinder. After you finish sharpening one side, flip the axe and repeat the same process with the other side. Ensure to spend the same amount of time on both sides.
How sharp should an axe be? As debatable as the topic is, there’s always a right answer to the question. Depending on the axe you’re using, the answer will vary. For a splitting axe, you won’t need a razor-sharp edge. On the contrary, a felling ax will need to be razor-sharp, considering the work it does.
Before sharpening your axe, find out what sharpness is most suitable for the axe you’re using so that the axe doesn’t experience chipping, denting, or bending.
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