HOW TO SHARPEN AN AXE
Written by Blade HQ Staff Writer Logan Rainey on 10/22/2019
If you’re someone who loves camping and the outdoors as much as we do here at Blade HQ, learning how to properly sharpen an axe or hatchet is an invaluable skill that will make all the difference during your next outing and for years to come. Follow along as we break down how to put a working edge on an axe, what to look for along the way, and what to do if you want that edge to be shave sharp.
DISCLAIMER: Handling and sharpening knives and axes has inherent risks. Be smart! We are not responsible if you injure, cut, slice, dice, shiv, shank, skin, maim or dismember yourself.
For most, a simple working edge is more than adequate for chopping and splitting wood for a campfire or bushcraft shelter. Getting started requires having an axe or hatchet, and two, acquiring a tool sharpening stone.
If you are new to sharpening, check out our best knife sharpeners for a good idea on how to get started and what setups work best for each tool. Our guide on how to use a sharpening stone might be particularly helpful here as well. To sharpen an axe, you really only need a fine grit sharpening stone and a strop. Our stone of choice is The Puck by Lansky Sharpeners. The following instructions apply primarily to using The Puck, but the basic principles explained will apply for other stones as well.
Profiling the Edge
After getting your axe and sharpening stone, you are now ready to start sharpening. First, place the head of the axe in your non-dominant hand with the edge pointing up. Next, take the stone in your dominant hand and place the coarse side at either end of the outside edge, making sure to match the angle of the edge. Use our angle guide for reference, but it should be about 20°.
While keeping the same angle, apply gentle pressure to the edge. Make several passes across the edge using small circles, like waxing a car. Slide the edge away from you to the back of the stone moving from one end of the edge to the other. Repeat this process until a burr develops on the top edge.
Honing the Edge
Once you have achieved a rough but consistent edge (no burr on either side) using the coarse side of the puck, you can now add a finished edge. Start by flipping the puck to the finer side, then once again, match the angle of the edge. Rub the puck along the edge of the axe using small circular motions from one end to the other. When a burr forms on the opposite edge, flip the axe head around and repeat the process until there is no burr on either side of the edge.
Just like that, you now have a sharpened axe. The whole idea is to put an edge on your axe sharp enough to allow for smoother, safer chopping and splitting.
Few things are as satisfying as having a shave-sharp knife; now you can have that same feel with your axe. Whether you camp all the time, split wood to heat your home, or just like to know useful things, knowing how to sharpen an axe is a great skill. After all, sharp tools are safe tools!
Watch our guide on how to sharpen your knife using the incredibly simple Spyderco Sharpmaker. The ceramic rods can be placed flat on the bottom and used for axe heads like a regular sharpening stone. For more information on knife sharpening and maintenance, check out our other guides. Be sure to check out our selection of axes and camping knives.