While at the 2002 IC I gave a small demonstration of what a sharp axe can do. Many people there asked me to write this article on how to sharpen an axe.
There are many styles and size of axes – of course to do different jobs.
There are: -Heavy firewood splitting (chopping) axes (mauls) – up to 8 lbs with 36” handles
-Squaring axes – to square timbers with
-Heavy axes – to cut down trees with (some have two cutting edges) – 5 to 6 lbs with 36” handles
-Handy light axes – for everyday use –21/2 lb with 28” handle – this is the one we will be talking about here.
-Very light axes – to carry in your pack
I bought this axe at a flea market for $4.00. Always check the quality of the axe by hitting the side of the cutting edge with a metal object or in this case the nail of your index finger and listen for the sound that is generated.
Cheap axes usually have just a thud sound compared to good hardened
metal axes have a high pitch ting sound. The same holds true for most tools
including claw hammers etc…
If the axe is made with cheap metal it won’t hold its edge and may in fact bend or warp when you hit wood solidly with it.
In this case, the protruding end of the axe handle was sticking out too far and the axe head was loose on it.
I hit the other extremity of the axe handle against the floor a few times. This is the best way to tighten the axe head onto the handle. I then cut the excess wood off with a hacksaw (want to cut tight against the metal).
I then inserted a new wedge to really secure the axe head onto the handle.
The shape of the cutting edge is super important.
To split or chop firewood we need an axe that is very heavy and has a long handle so that we can impart much energy to the axe. The edge should also be very blunt (right behind the cutting edge the axe gets very thick). We do not need a sharp edge. We want to split the wood – not cut it. A pointer here is when splitting wood, if the axe stays stuck after swinging it, do not pull it out of the piece of wood. This uses up too much of your valuable energy. The best thing to do is to hit the back end of the axe with a sledgehammer. This is much easier. Also frozen wood splits easier than unfrozen wood.
For our everyday handy axes (21/2 lb), we want a razor sharp cutting edge that is not blunt at all.
To remove the bluntness out of the axe I use any power tool:
-stone wheel grinder
My favorite is a bodywork disc grinder. I use a cutting disc on it to remove much metal from the axe. I usually stay away from the cutting edge.
I then install a fine bodywork disc on the grinder and use that to sharpen
all the way to the cutting edge.
Remember to cool off the axe. If you gring too quickly you will burn the cutting edge of the axe. It will become all blue in color and it will be very brittle. The first time you cut with it the cutting edge will break off. So dip the axe often in water or oil to cool it off
This gives the final shape to the edge but leaves burrs.
I then use a flat file to finish the edge. It really puts a sharp edge.
A FEW FINAL TIPS:
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