how to sharpen an axe

How to Sharpen an Axe the Right Way

An sharp axe is probably one of the most needed and fundamental hand tools that anyone can have. Sure, it may not be the best candidate of all tools to use in any job that requires precision, but let’s say, you’ve got to chop some firewood, smooth a rough plank or cut a tree down. Wouldn’t an axe be perfect for that kind of work?

But an axe isn’t of any worth if you don’t make sure that the blade is kept sharp at all times. Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time getting your chores done.

The good news is; it’s not that hard of a job to accomplish. It’s actually fairly simple, and anyone can learn to do it. That’s the point of this whole article.

There isn’t just one way of sharpening axes. But, still, today, I’m only going to explain the most basic of them all. So, how to sharpen an axe the right (and safe) way?



First Step: Preparation

The most nagging aspect of axe sharpening is keeping it in place while you’re trying to get the job done. To avoid this hassle, it’s preferable to use woodworking clamps. Use them to hold the axe down on the workbench. Make sure that the blade is facing upwards. And always check if the axe isn’t as tightly clamped as you need it to be.

Second Step: Take out the Burrs and Nicks

For the best result of axe sharpening, it’s best to use a very aggressive sharpening file. You’ll have to use it to get rid of any significant burrs or nicks. This is what you have to do first. Once that’s done, you can now move on to the actual sharpening.

Third step: Edge Sharpening

What can be considered as the most crucial part of the sharpening process is getting the right angle. The file must be held at a specific angle, which will vary from one blade to another. It won’t be too hard to figure it out by yourself. You just have to experiment a bit, and you’ll know it when you get it. It’s a matter of feeling.

Use the file to make a number of passes on the blade. DO a few on one side and then flip to the other and do the same. Make sure that all passes are done in a downward movement. Go from the edge and make your way towards the area of the handle.

Some professionals in the field see that it would be a good idea to do a number of horizontal passes on the blade. But you should still finish the job with several vertical ones nonetheless.

We can’t forget to mention the safety aspect of the process. While sharpening a blade is relatively easy, you can never be too careful. The process requires giving it your full attention. One tiny error can lead to an adverse outcome. You don’t want to mess around with a sharp blade.

This is where work gloves play an essential part. To protect your fingers from any possible incidents, you should have a pair on at all times.

How to Sharpen an Axe: Alternative Methods

The method mentioned above is my favorite and the one I recommend you follow every time you need to sharpen your axe. It’s simple and doesn’t require any expensive equipment. But you still have several alternatives. Here is another method that you can adopt when learning how to sharpen an axe: replace the file with a whetstone. Easy, huh? Alternatively, a whetstone can be added to the file to ensure a sharper result.

You should operate the whetstone by hand if you want the best result. There are even some whetstone bench grinders if you’re thinking about getting one.

Here’s an affordable whetstone that I recommend checking out:

Whetstone Cutlery Sided, Gray Knife Stone-Dual 400/1000 Grit Wet Block-Sharpens and Polishes Sharp Tools and Kitchen, Hunting, and Pocket Knives by Whetstone, 1-Pack, Limestone
  • DUAL-SIDED KNIFE SHARPENER - Made from durable silicon carbide, this two-sided sharpening stone comes with both a 400-grit side used for sharpening and returning knives to their original shape and a 1000-grit side used for smoothing and polishing edges.
  • WET STONE - An economical accessory for maintaining your tools, this water stone for sharpening knives does not use expensive honing oil. Simply soak the sharpener stone in water for 5 to 10 minutes before use, and lubricate as needed when sharpening.
  • MULTI-USE STONE - This knife sharpening stone can be used to sharpen and polish any household item with a blade, including kitchen cutlery, scissors, pocket knives, and razors. It also works efficiently on hatchets, axes, carving, and gardening tools.
  • RESTORES SHARPNESS - With one use, this knife sharpener stone will hone edges, remove chips, and restore dull knives and battered blades to razor sharpness. Recondition all your knives and tools with this kitchen or workshop wet stone essential.
  • PRODUCT DETAILS - Materials: Silicon Carbide. Dimensions: (L) 7" x (W) 2.25" x (H) 1.13". Color: Blue Gray.

Now, How Do You Use Your Sharp Axe?

Having a sharp axe isn’t the only thing to worry about. The most important aspect is the proper way of using it.

Beyond having a reliable tool, you should also have a clear working environment and a proper hold on the axe. Now, as for the execution, precision is way more crucial than the force at the beginning. You should swing the axe in slow motion at first. Maintain a steady tempo. Try to hit the point you’re aiming for a close as possible.

Give it some time. Eventually, you’ll start to add some power and speed to it naturally. Here’s a great video that you can check on axe safety:

Final Thoughts

Sharpening axes isn’t rocket science. All you have to get is some clamps, a file, and a whetstone if you want to take it to the next level.

After reading this article, we hope that any trouble that you had with the process are going to fade away. So go ahead and give it a try.

If you like this guide, don’t forget to take a look at the rest of our articles, where we like to review different tools, such as sliding miter saws, 12-inch miter saws, miter saw blades, and track saws.


  • Our own experience

Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Hello, I've been working with power tools since I was a young kid helping out grandpa on the farm. My interest in building things started with him and helped me decide to make a career out of construction. I've built just about everything from pipe organs, custom cabinets, to houses.