How to sharpen an axe (so sharp Gimli would use it)

Sunday, June 9, 2019
gimli swining battle axe

How to properly sharpen an axe 


Think back to The Fellowship of the Ring when Boromir is checking out the broken Sword of Elendil and he says of it "still sharp".

This is an in-joke to Sean Bean's character Richard Sharpe from his show Sharpe who was a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars.

And if Sean Bean knows the importance of a good sharp joke, he'll understand how important it is to swing a sharp axe when chopping wood or bringing down a horde of Orcs!

After all, one does not simply walk into Mordor without a sharp axe!

You also need to take Gimli!

It's obvious that one sharpens an axe so that it cuts wood better but a sharp edge means you can apply less force which means you can cut more accurately and for longer. A sharper blade also reduces the risk of an accident occurring because the edge is less likely to slip from where it lands.

Here's how to sharpen your axe


As always, use the right tools, secure working space and play it safe with gloves as apt. Or use your bear hands, you know what to do right?

And you know that preparation is key.

There's a saying I came across a while back that goes something like this: if you have six hours to chop down a tree, then you should spend the first four of them sharpening...

So.

To begin.

If there is any rust on your axe you should clean it off with a rust eraser or steel wool. You don't need to polish the axe head so you can see yourself in it but why have a rusty axe? 

Sharpen an axe with a stone or file


If you have a sharpening stone, then you're on a path to sharpening glory.

Ideally, your stone will be coarse, maybe even a diamond-coated sharpening stone. 

Or you have a file. 

When you sharpen a knife, you move the blade against the stone which is stationary. 

The reverse applies when sharpening an axe or hatchet. Your file or stone will be what moves so you axe should be stationary. 

Ideally, you can clamp it in a vice so it doesn't move but a great trick I learned as a lad in Scouts is if you place a plank of wood under the axe head, you'll be able to raise the edge of the axe enough so you can sharpen at a good angle. You can hold the axe handle down by standing on it and then use firm strokes over the edge.

Just like this:

sharpen a hatchet with a file

When you have made good progress on one side, flip the axe over and repeat. 

You'll know your axe is sharpened well enough when having swapped sides, a nice shiny 'raw' edge appears that looks ready to split wood. 

Using a grinder to sharpen an axe


Electric grinding tools are a legitimate tool to sharpen an axe with but there are some real risks when using these tools - for goodness sake, only use a grinder that the safety guard still attached and wear protective eyewear and gloves to keep those hands and eyes safe.

When using a grinder, the key thing is to ensure you you maintain the correct cutting angle of the axe itself. If you are not careful, the grinder could level out the whole blade - which would be detrimental to the 'splitting power' caused by the different thickness at the edge of the blade. 

Here's a handy video which shows how to cut -doesn't necessarily follow our suggested safety guidelines....


This is bascially the same method you can use to sharpen a lawn mower blade!

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