How would you sharpen a dull axe?

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May 10, 2012
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As I type, my arm feels a bit limp. I just spent almost an hour with my Smith Tri-hone water stones trying to put an edge back on my dad's old camp hatchet and axe.

By the time I was done, I was thoroughly convinced that I need to find a better way to sharpen axe heads.

How do you guys do it?
 
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Jul 12, 2012
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depends if it already has an edge if it doesn't then use a grinder or if it has an edge start with a very course stone around 80 grit and work your way up to 600 and maybe even 1000 grit
 
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In hindsight, the grinder probably would have been a good idea...

It had the remains of an old edge that was way too steep of an angle, but that's about it.

I think the positive to doing it freehand like I did, is it has a great convex now :p
 
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I primarily use the bench grinder whenever the axe gets dull. Although I've been known to use metal files when necessary.
 
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I haven't done too many, but what I have done, I get the initial edge with a file (nice big one I found at a flea market). I then follow up with a worksharp with no guard on it. It may not be the best way to do it, but it works well for me. If you do it like that, just make sure you dont get it hot with the worksharp.
 
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I start with a beltgrinder (multitool) if it's really bad, & then go to a wet wheel.
The wet wheel gives a great convex, despite being convex itself. It is safe to take your time, & I really like it for regrinding an axe.
 

Square_peg

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Generally just a file will bring an edge back into shape. Then finish with stones, diamond hones, strops, buffers or whatever you have.

Some people will tell you never to use a grinder on an axe for fear of ruining the temper. It's true that a grinder will quickly temper an edge. But if you have cheek material to remove you can use a grinder for the rough work. Just gauge the temperature of the work area with your finger and if it gets too hot to touch then you need to quench again. On a typical restoration I'll go from grinder to file to stone to buffer.

The minimum that is needed is a file and a stone.
 
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Use a file. The Boy Scout manual used to have an excellent illustration. Then, if you like, follow with hones. I keep my Snow & Neally 3/4 Hudson's Bay ax shaving sharp. (And NEVER loan it.)
 
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I live in an apartment and don't have any real deal bench tools for sharpening, but this is how I do it and all my axes shave hair.

1. Break out my rotary tool with a sanding wheel and run it up and down the edge until I get a rough desired profile
2. File the edge by hand with a coarse file until it becomes sharp to the touch
3. Use my stones to hone in the edge
4. Strop plenty to take off the burr and shine up that edge

Test! Repeat steps as necessary until you get it where you would like.
 
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I use a 1 X 30 inch belt grinder for my axes. With a little slack in the belt it will leave a scary sharp convex edge. I use various grit belt s..from 80 grit to 300 grit for the final finish on the edge.
 
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file.
very coarse emery or sand paper laid flat on a bench
diamond stone.
buzz
 
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May 15, 2012
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I'm no sharpening expert by all means but I got the WSKTS-W not long ago and will see how it goes. Right now, my axes are "sharp" as they came from the manufacturer.
 

Mossyhorn

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I'd start with a file, then a puck style sharpener and progress to a ceramic stone, or sandpaper. I would not use a grinding wheel, or use a bench grinder only if you do not overheat the edge.
 
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Mill Bastard. I picked up a dedicated Axe file from Princess Auto (kinda the canadian version of Harbor Freight I guess) It gets the profile done, and you can move on from there, depending on what you plan on using the axe for.
 
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better then a bench grinder for removing excess cheek is an angle grinder. You can get a larger flatter contact point. Stay away from the axe's cutting edge though, too crude of a tool for that. When you get the excess bulk removed go to files or stones to clean up the grind marks and get your convex shape in place. Also keep comparing sides. I have picked up a lot of axes that are very different on each side.
 
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Here's my set up:

1. Bastard file for rough work (it cuts quicker than you think it would, just get a good one)
2. Extra coarse/coarse DMT diafold with a little water
3. Fine/extra fine DMT diafold with water
4. DMT Diapaste on leather or old drive belt
5. 600 & 1200 grit wet/dry sandpaper for touch up or sap/pitch removal. Then I take the edge back to steps 3 & 4.

All told, it takes about 45-60 minutes to take a bit through the whole shebang. Then once it's there, touch up steps 3-5 can be done in 10-15 minutes.

As you can tell, I really like the DMT products (I get no kickbacks from them, honest!). I think they're much more reliable than pucks and other stones, they never need levigation. I'm also a purist and don't use grinders, although I'd love to try a hand/foot crank sometime. Don't forget your leather glove!
 

Square_peg

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Also keep comparing sides. I have picked up a lot of axes that are very different on each side.

Sage advice.

I still prefer the bench grinder to the angle grinder (I have several of each) but I'll concede that an angle grinder will also do a fine job on the cheek material. In my experience the angle grinder produces more heat than the bench grinder. Plus it's difficult to keep one's fingers in contact with the metal (to gauge the heat) while running an angle grinder. But if you're careful and stop to check the heat frequently then it'll work fine.
 

Square_peg

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I'm also a purist and don't use grinders, although I'd love to try a hand/foot crank sometime.

I love hand/foot crank grinders. We had a foot peddle grinder when I was a boy. That thing was fun. I have a nice hand crank grinder now but it's really best to have a helper crank while you do the work. I like to have both hands free to control the work. That's the beauty of the foot peddle grinder.
 
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An angle grinder with a 120 grit flap disc works just fine for me. It isn't to hard to gauge how hot your head is getting if one takes their time with it. Easy to take the metal off...A real bitch to put it back on:(

I practiced on an old beat up head to get a feel for the angle grinder and the flap disc...easy does it, a light touch works well.
 
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