An axe is undisputedly one of the most used tools in every man’s workshop. An axe, also known as ax, is a tool that has been used for a long time to fell trees, split logs, and shape wood. Aside from woodworking and axe also can be used as a weapon.
There are various shapes and types of axes, each designed according to the kind of work they do. No matter what type of axe you are suing, to efficiently use it, it must be sharp. However, a question that arises in most occasions is how to sharpen an axe.
Well, sharpening an axe can’t be termed as easy, but the perception of it being hard is not correct at all. There are different means of sharpening an axe. These common ways are: using a heavy-duty sharpener and a puck, electric grinder, use of stone, and use of a bastard mill file.
The first thing to take care of before sharpening your axe is confirming if the axe bit needs to be sharpened or not. If your axe’s bit has dulled and rounded over time, then it will require more sharpening. Some new axes require sharpening too.
How to Use a Sharpening Stone and Puck
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After inspection of your axe confirms it needs sharpening, it is recommended that you use a felt marker to color the edge of the axe. This will help you to keep a consistent and even bevel during sharpening since you will be following the angle that will match your marking.
If the sharpening is being done at home, then you will need to clamp down the axe for safety purposes,. However, if you will be sharpening it in the field, there will be no such luxury.
After marking, you will need to find the bevel angle on one side of the axe. You will then start to push the sharpening stone against the edge of the axe. Always ensure it’s at a proper angle and always push against the edge, not into the edge. The same process should then be repeated on the other side of the bevel. And, don't forget to oil up your stone to make the process easier and protect it.
After you have removed the nicks that could have affected the axe, confirm if the edge is sharp. By now, you will need to move to the next tool.
The puck will be more efficient to use since it can remove the scratches that are as a result of the heavy-duty sharpener. It will usually about take 5-6 alternating strokes to make the edge finer and sharper.
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How to Use a Bastard Mill File
The first step is to protect your hands and face during this process. To avoid injuries, you will need to:
- Wear thick leather gloves
- Wear safety goggles to offer you protection against metal dust and particulate
- WARNING: Avoid using a loose vice
The second step will involve cleaning the head of the axe with a rust eraser or steel wool so as to remove any rust on the axe. Then you can use a coarse grit aluminum oxide sandpaper or silicon carbide sandpaper to prepare the bit for sharpening. Apply even pressure on the axe head as you move from the poll to the blade. You will then repeat the grinding with fine-grit sandpaper.
After cleaning the head of the axe, you will need to clamp the axe in a vice either horizontally or vertically for a more even edge since it will allow you to alternate both sides of the bevel. If you consider positioning it horizontally, then try to get it at an angle of twenty to thirty degrees for easier sharpening.
The next step would be selecting the best file for sharpening. The file should be about 25-30 cm long, coarse, slightly tampering and single cut. If the file is new, you will need to rub a soft chalk on it to prevent clogging. You also need inspect the bevel of the axe. It’s important to decide on your axe’s shape before sharpening.
Now it's time to do the actual sharpening. You will file with a steady motion into the blade as you hold the handle with the other palm of a dominant hand. The position of your foot will also matter. Place one foot in front of the other. This will enable your shoulders to push the file easily.
During the filing, you should repeatedly file in a fan-shaped stroke. It’s advisable to not make contact with the blade on the return stroke since it may spoil your file and may not sharpen the axe. When the metal particles build up, you need to clear them with a wire brush.
Lastly, turn the axe to the other side and repeat the same steps frequently to give you a finer edge.
Sharpening an Axe with an Electric Grinder
A grinding wheel is always a solid option when you have a lot of nicks in the blade and when the blade is worn since it can remove larger amounts of steel. However, the friction between the grinder and the blade will make the axe bit very hot while working. Therefore, it’s important to always have a nearby water source to cool the blade.
You will first need to remove some rust from the bevel then determine the pivot as you draw the correct cutting edge. Lock the poll end of the axe head in a vice and tighten it, but make sure you can still shift the blade in order to access it at different angles . During grinding, always ensure that you maintain the angle accurately and cool the blade often to avoid damaging the quality of the metal.
Always ensure the following safety ideas when using a grinder:
- Keep flammable objects away from your working table
- Use safety goggles or glasses to protect your eyes
- Wear thick gloves
- Use ear protection
- Fit the angle grinder with wheel guard to help keep sparks out of your face
No matter which method of the three options above you choose, the name of the game when sharpening you axe bit is safety. It's all too easy to injure yourself with the sharpened bit, the shards and metal particulate you file or grind off, or with the sharpening tool you have chosen.