How To Sharpen An Axe Without Tools: 10 Unorthodox Methods

How To Sharpen An Axe Without Tools

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If there’s anything more annoying than a blunt axe, it’s not having the right tool for it. But did you know that you don’t need mechanical tools for sharpening your axe? You can sharpen it without any tools too.

I don’t mean sharpening your axe with your bare hands. However, you can use everyday objects that are found in all houses. If you don’t have any of them, you can simply borrow one.

So, let’s see how to sharpen an axe without tools.

How to Sharpen an Axe Without Tools?

I’ll be introducing some unique ways to sharpen your axe. If you don’t own an axe sharpening kit or an electric axe sharpener, these methods will surely help you keep your axe sharp.

You may have never heard of using such objects to sharpen anything. So, let’s take a look at some DIY axe sharpeners.

1. Multi-Tool

Most people never think of using their multi-tool for sharpening their axes. However, if you own a Gerber or Leatherman multi-tool, you already have a sharpening tool with you.

There will be a file in the multi-tool that you can easily utilize to sharpen your axe. The file is an effective axe sharpener if you can make the right use of it.

If you’re not in a working environment, try to secure the axe somewhere as tightly as possible and then use the file to sharpen the blade.

2. Ceramic Cup

Even though many DIY-loving users accept this method, most people are unaware of this unique technique. If you are one of them, let me tell you how to use a ceramic cup to make your axe sharp again.

If you turn your ceramic cup upside down, you’ll see a ring that holds the cup on the surface. This ring is exposed ceramic, unlike the rest of the cup, which is glazed. This part can sharpen any type of blade, including an axe head.

You can either use a circular motion or a back or forth motion to sharpen the blade. But ensure to keep the strokes consistent. You can stop when you feel like the axe head became as sharp as you wanted it to be.

Note that it’s not compulsory to use a ceramic cup. You can use other objects made of ceramic. For example, the back of a plate will perform with the same effectiveness. You can also use ceramic tile to get the job done.

3. Rock

You may have heard about using sharpening stones for sharping blades. However, you can make do with most ordinary rocks too. Getting access to rocks shouldn’t be tough at all.

Some rocks are more suitable for sharpening an axe compared to others. For instance, plane rocks like river rocks can do the job better than other rocks. The reason is that these rocks come with a flat surface.

If the rock isn’t smooth or lacks a flat surface, you can modify it to make it suitable for sharpening. The easiest way to do it is to rub two rocks together. It will smoothen out the surface and make it flat.

If you use a large flat rock, you can use it as a sharpening stone. On the contrary, if the stone is comparatively smaller, you can use it as a sharpening puck. Either way, you will get the result you want on your axe blade.

4. Concrete

Do you know that you can sharpen your axe on concrete? It’s a tricky process to do, but it can be one of the most convenient methods if you can do it right.

The tricky part of using concrete is its coarseness. Even though concrete comes in different levels of coarseness, even the smoothest one is comparatively coarser than an axe sharpener. But it’s not something you can’t solve.

When sharpening your axe blade on a concrete surface, you have to be extra careful. First, use your hands to hold the axe and then find the right axe’s sharpening angle. Next, use small circular motions to sharpen one side of the axe head.

It’s crucial to be steady and slow with the process, or you will end up damaging the blade permanently. Keep checking the blade between the strokes. Once you’re satisfied with one side, turn the axe and repeat the process with the other side.

Because of the risk of damaging the blade, using a concrete surface isn’t the preferred way to sharpen your axe. However, if you can’t find anything else around, you’ll always have concrete. So, save this method for an emergency.

5. Car Window

One of the most controversial methods you will hear on the internet is using your car window to sharpen a blade. Let me tell you. It’s entirely possible to do it. But you should only do it when there are no other ways.

The process is pretty straightforward. You hold the axe firmly with both your hands and slide it on top of the car window with the axe’s angle. Make sure you’re sliding it away from you. Keeping count of the strokes you’re using is a great idea to get it even for the other side.

Your car window is a smooth surface for sharpening your axe. However, if the axe is too dull, it can take a really long time to finish the process. So, make sure you’re investing a generous amount of time when sharpening the axe.

6. Broken Glass

The method sounds weird. But if there’s no other suitable tool around you, unpolished glass can make your axe sharp again. The intention of saying ‘unpolished glass’ is that you won’t have to break anything if you don’t have any broken glass with you.

Find unpolished glass on any object, much like the ceramic cup. If you have a glass bottle, check of the lid is unpolished.

The sharpening procedure depends on what object you’re using. If it’s a broken glass bottle, hold the axe with one hand and the bottle with the other. Slide the entire blade maintaining the angle.

Use the same number of strokes for each side to keep the blade evenly sharpened. This method can take a long time. If you were sharpening a knife, it would have taken less time. But an axe has a larger blade, so losing this large amount of metal will take time.

All in all, it may not be the best method available, but it gets the job done.

7. Emery Board

You can often find emery boards in manicure sets. You can also use a nail file to sharpen an axe. The process is pretty straightforward. You can either lay the axe down or hold it in your hand.

If you’re holding the axe with your hand, keep the emery board on the ground. If the board comes with a fine side and a coarse side, use the coarse side for sharpening the axe. Then, use the fine side for finishing the process.

Similar to using an emery board is using sandpaper. Despite having a tool for sharpening their axe, many people prefer using sandpaper. This is because the nature of sandpaper requires you to hold it in your hand while sharpening the axe.

Nonetheless, if you prefer the other way around, you can always glue it down to a surface and hold the axe to slide it on the sandpaper.

8. Knife Spine

Using the spine of a knife isn’t a primary method of sharpening your axe. That means you can’t get your axe blade from dull to sharp using a knife spine. However, it does help finish up the process.

Using coarse methods for sharpening your axe head requires a fine surface to finish the procedure with smoothness. You can get the desired angle by using a knife spine.

If the axe head isn’t too dull, you can try sharpening it with a knife spine too. Again, make sure that the knife has a fine and square fine.

Because you can find a knife almost everywhere, it’s one of the most available options you can use. Besides, you won’t need a sharp knife for this procedure. You can use any knife.

9. Shovel

Just like the knife spine, you can use a shovel to sharpen your axe. Use any edges to get the right angle and follow the same procedure as with other methods.

If you have access to a shovel, it’s better to use it rather than using a knife. It will do a better job on the axe compared to a knife spine.

10. DIY Sharpening Stone

If you don’t have the proper equipment to sharpen your dull axe, here’s a DIY method for you. The best thing you can use for this method is quartz. The reason is that it conveniently turns into powder. Nonetheless, any rocks that can be smashed into a powder form will do.

You can also use sand if no rocks are available around you. Another thing you will need is a piece of wood with an exposed area. You can peel some of the outer layers to make it exposed.

The open area will allow you to stick the powder to its surface. Don’t forget to wet the wood. Once you’ve wet the wood and dipped it in the powder or sand, you’ve got your DIY sharpening stone. The next step is to sharpen the axe like all other methods.

Note that this method is not as effective as the others, so don’t do it unless you absolutely have to. Besides, it will take a long time to sharpen the axe head.

3 Ways to Sharpen an Axe with Tools

I’m going to mention some axe-sharpening tools here for you in case you decide to get one for yourself.

1. Whetstones

Whetstones remain one of the most popular ways of sharpening an axe head. They’re conveniently available and affordable. Whetstone comes in different shapes and sizes.

It’s not compulsory to buy a whetstone. You can collect one from a river bed too. However, if you buy one, you’ll get the right grit, and it will be easy to use.

One of the benefits you can enjoy with these stones is that they’re compatible with all types of blades. In addition, store-bought stones often come with dual sides that allow you to get a smooth edge after the sharpening process.

One side of the stone will be coarser compared to the other. So, you can start with the coarse side and finish with the finer side. This way, you can get the perfect and smooth edge on your axe.

On the downside, you will require the skill to use a whetstone. It’s a manual process, so you will have to identify the angle and maintain it all by yourself. In addition, it’s not the safest method because you can easily hurt yourself.

2. Handheld Sharpeners

You can enjoy a few benefits with handheld sharpeners compared to a whetstone. For starters, you won’t require much skill to use these sharpeners. Besides, it’s comparatively safer.

They come in all sizes and shapes. Another thing is they’re not crazily priced. You can easily afford one without emptying your pocket.

Doesn’t that sound too good to be true? But, of course, there are downsides. For instance, you can’t use one sharpener for all your blades.

The sharpeners come with preset angles. Even though you can sharpen multiple blade sizes using the same sharpener, not all blades will be compatible with one sharpener.

Other downsides of preset angles are that you can’t control the sharpness of your axe. As a result, sometimes the axe will get sharper than you wanted and lose more metal from the blade.

Because these sharpeners are supposed to be held in hands, it may be a bit challenging to sharpen an axe head. As a result, they’re more suitable for smaller blades like knives.

3. Powered Sharpeners

There are various power tools for sharpening an axe head. These are more effective and efficient than any manual methods on the bright side. Besides, you get precise outcomes with these machines.

On the contrary, these machines will cost you a lot compared to the manual methods. So, unless you’re ready to spend that kind of money on an axe sharpener, it’s out of consideration.

Safety Measures

  • If you’ve never sharpened an axe before, check an axe sharpening guide before getting started.
  • Make sure you’re wearing gloves, safety goggles, and a proper outfit before sharpening an axe.
  • Keep people out of the way to avoid unwanted situations.
  • Let it cool if your axe gets hot in the middle of the sharpening process. You can also dunk it in the water to restore the temperature.
  • You can use an axe-sharpening jig to keep the angle right if you’re using a grinder to sharpen your axe.
  • If you are not holding the axe in your hand, secure it somewhere on the ground or on a working surface.
  • Always check your progress frequently when sharpening the axe to avoid damaging the angle.
  • If you have any second thoughts about using any methods mentioned above, refrain from performing it.
  • Always keep a medical kit nearby in case you hurt yourself or someone else.
  • Ask for professional help if you need it.
  • If you’re not comfortable using any of these methods, borrow an axe sharpener from somebody else.
  • You can also take the axe to a shop to get it sharpened.
  • Avoid using a dull axe.


What is a sharpening jig?

A sharpening jig is a tool that holds the blade when sharpening. It allows you to get the right angle and keep the sharping strokes consistent.

Can I use a leather belt for finishing an axe sharpening?

If you have a leather or nylon belt, you can use it to remove imperfections after sharpening your axe head. If you don’t have any other fine surface for finishing off your sharpening process, you can use your leather belt.

Can I use another axe to sharpen my dull axe?

Using an axe poll to sharpen another axe is an unpopular method. You can sharpen your axe using this method, but the effectiveness is questionable. It works better when you use it as a finishing method rather than a primary sharpening tool.

After using a coarse surface to sharpen your axe, the poll of another axe can help smoothen the blade out.

Final Verdict

Getting an axe sharpener is a good idea if you often use your axe. There are numerous options that you can choose from. However, suppose you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t have access to a sharpener. In that case, some unique techniques will come in handy.

Learning how to sharpen an axe without tools may save your day in emergencies. Besides, there’s no harm in knowing something helpful and saving the knowledge for later.

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