What is the proper sharpness for an axe?

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Jan 15, 2011
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Hello all,

I bought three good axes last year, a grunsford felling axe, a wetterlings forest axe, and a wetterlings splitting axe.


My question for you guys and gals is how sharp should the felling and forest in particular be? They are semi sharp but when I asked the place I purchased them to sharpen them up they replied yo don't want a hair shaving edg on an axe.

But when I got home I watched a video my buddy sent me, " An axe to grind" and he sharpened his hair shaving sharp.


Any help would be appreciated. To me the sharper the better but you guys are the go to people.
Thanks
:)
 

Square_peg

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I want mine razor sharp. General blade shape would be like this.

Sharpening_gauge.jpg
 
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As sharp as you want to make them. :D Those folks probably told you that beacause the hair shaving edge isn't completely neccesary and may not last through too many chopping sessions. However, the sharper the edge, the deeper the bite. Once your chopping technique is sound, you can really make the chips fly. Many arborists that still use axes sharpen them in the field with a file. Competition cutters have them honed and polished to a toe-severing edge.

My GB Hunter's Axe is as sharp as most of my knives. Splitting maul, not so much.
 
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Sharper is more efficient. And potentially more dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. I like mine pretty sharp. But I usually just go with file sharp. Maybe xx coarse stone sharp. I don't generally break out the strops for my hatchet.
 
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Jun 26, 2010
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Hair popping sharp is nice, but unless your adept at sharpening file sharp is way easier to maintain in the field imo.
 
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for my axes I use to cut wood, they have to be at least sharp enough to cut paper cleanly. most of them will shave with a little strop action. Mauls and splitting axes are kept profiled but not sharp particularly sharp.
 

coloradowildman

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Sar5, the US Forest Service training manual recommends that axes for chopping and felling be sharp enough to dry shave hairs with. Duller bits glance more than sharp bits, which bite in the wood deeper.

Hope this helps.

CW
 
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If you're going to spend four hours cutting down a tree, spend three of those sharpening your axe.
 
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Shaving sharp is preferred for a cutting/chopping axe unless you are in tough wood that will chip the blade. On a cutting/chopping axe once you have the properly honed/polished geometry it will cut quite well even after it is less than shaving sharp.

For a splitting axe I use a convex edge profile that I sharpen and hone for unformity, and then I run the file and a stone over the edge to dull it down so it does not chip.
 

Square_peg

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For a splitting axe I use a convex edge profile that I sharpen and hone for unformity, and then I run the file and a stone over the edge to dull it down so it does not chip.

When splitting very hard wood your edge needs to sharpened to a fine razor edge and an acute angle just to get bite into the wood. I've had sharp mauls rejected by very hard wood even when making a full roundhouse swing. When I get into that stuff then I use a finely honed wedge and a 3 lb. sledge. Nothing made of wood can stop that.
 
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Sharp? Yes, of course! But razorsharp? Never!

I knew from some guys here that wore pants against the chainsaw saw, but thy got hit by their own axe in a moment of not being very carefully. They needed a helicopter going to hospital. Be careful!

An axe is no knife. Usually it doesn´t but, it chops.

Imo it´s not good for the material, when you keep such a fine edge. During woodwork you could hit a stone in the ground or whatever. A breakout in blade would be possible. So you have to remove a lot material getting the same edge again.

Just my thoughts and experience.

Kind regards
 
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During woodwork you could hit a stone in the ground or whatever. A breakout in blade would be possible. So you have to remove a lot material getting the same edge again.

This is why double bits are so great. One bit for grubbin.' One bit for choppin.' If I get a chip, I leave it in the edge and sharpen the rest normally. It works itself out. Eventually. If you were to remove enough material to remove even a small sized chip, you'll have shortened the lifespan of the axe considerably.

In my experience, spending the amount of time and care sharpening an axe to wicked sharpness makes me super careful of what I use it for. I've got some axes that I use if I just want to swing something around in the woods. But those my axes that have great edges, the great choppers, I use more conscientiously. This is the same reason that I don't let just anyone use these axes. Not to say that accidents don't happen. But, the consideration it takes to put a great edge on an axe doesn't stop when you're done sharpening the bit.
 
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What is the proper sharpness of an axe?

I am not sure if you will ever get a definite answer on that.

I would say, depending on what you are doing, one that gets the job done. You get a slim taper felling axe into splitting, probably wont work, and vice versa. Trial and error. I dont think there is a good answer.
 

Square_peg

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Imo it´s not good for the material, when you keep such a fine edge. During woodwork you could hit a stone in the ground or whatever. A breakout in blade would be possible. So you have to remove a lot material getting the same edge again.

Of course a 'dirty work' axe needs to be sharpened differently then a feller or splitter. A double-bit is commonly sharpened with one side at narrow super sharp angle and the other side sharpened to a more durable duller angle.
 
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Alright guys! There you´re right. But here in Germany are double bits completely unkown. I never saw one in a shop or at any guy at work. So we have just the "regular" axes, I don´t keep 'em as sharp as some of you guys do.

Kind regards
 
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Alright guys! There you´re right. But here in Germany are double bits completely unkown. I never saw one in a shop or at any guy at work. So we have just the "regular" axes, I don´t keep 'em as sharp as some of you guys do.

Ah! I didn't know that you were from Germany. Interesting cultural difference to note.
 
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Yeah! That are the small but fine differences.

But I would like to buy and use a double bit, if I would ever see one :) I´m interested in, how they work and if their is more pull to another "regular" axe. But that´s now really OT. Sorry! ;)

Kind regards
 
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