Ax Sharpening: A Detailed Guide

A dull ax can be dangerous and inefficient, with the blade gliding off the firewood rather than digging in. Even though ax sharpening is time-consuming, the sharp edge allows you to compensate for lost time after a long work day.

Hence, knowing how and when to sharpen your ax is a valuable skill to possess. It helps keep the ax edge over time.

So, read along to learn all about sharpening axes, from using the gear you own to appropriate techniques. 

Ax Sharpening Preparation

A sharp ax is simple, quick, and enjoyable, especially cutting wood rounds. But how do you achieve this?

Here are six different techniques that you can adopt to sharpen your ax.

  • The use of a file.
  • Using a whetstone.
  • The use of rock.
  • A Dremel tool.
  • A belt sander.
  • An angle grinder.

Sharpen an Ax with a File

A good file is any 8-inch or 12-inch-long file with a nice handle for easy grip.

Here is what to do while filling an ax:

  • First, ensure that the ax is stable. You can clamp it into a vice or set the ax on a flat workbench.
  • Then grasp each end of the film firmly. The file tip should be in your dominant hand and the handle in your non-dominant hand.
  • Apply gentle pressure as you slide the file along the ax’s edge.
  • Follow the contour of the blade, exerting consistent pressure during each file stroke

 until the blade’s edge is smooth.

Remember to use a wire brush to remove the metal particles from the file when buildup occurs.

A blacksmith sharpening an ax using a file

A blacksmith sharpening an ax using a file

Sharpen an Ax with a Whetstone

Whetstones have double sides with safe types featuring a finger groove in the center.

  • Start by securing the ax to the vice and apply a lubricant to the sharp edge of the ax.
  • What follows then is rubbing the coarse whetstone side along the edge of the ax in circular patterns. 
  • Sharpen both sides, in turn, and remove the burr that forms. Also, you should remove any excess paste on the ax edge.
  • To achieve finer, razor-sharp edges, use a finer whetstone.

It would help if you protected the sharp ax head edges from moisture by rubbing oil or beeswax on them.

A whetstone

A whetstone

Sharpen an Ax with a Rock

It is extremely rare to encounter a circumstance where you need to use a rock to sharpen your ax. However, mother nature is full of surprises.

  • It will help if you start by getting the ax blade and your rough stone wet. 
  • Then place the ax in one hand with the blade’s top side facing. The other hand holds the rock. 
  • Using your rock, apply even pressure, rubbing against the ax edge in circular motions from one end to the other. 
  • After sharpening both sides of the ax, you need to eliminate the burr that forms.

Ensure your fingers are safe during the process.

sharping stone and a kitchen axe

sharping stone and a kitchen axe

Sharpen an Ax with a Dremel Tool

A Dremel tool is one of the simplest tools to use when sharpening your ax. This is how you do it:

  • Turn on the Dremel and align the blade’s bevel with the flat edge of the head of the Dremel.
  • Make circular motions while grinding the Dremel and applying moderate pressure on both sides.
  • Once the metal begins to heat up, stop the Dremel and submerge the ax in water to cool it.

Always take extra caution while using a Dremel and put on protective gear.

 A Dremel tool

 A Dremel tool

Sharpen an Ax with a Belt Sander

A sander has numerous grit belts, which may restore the sharp edge to your axes. It is a powerful tool, thus, appropriately uses safety equipment, such as gloves, protective glasses, and dust masks.

  • Start by setting the belt sander.
  • Once the belt sander is on, grind the ax on it, maintaining a tight grip using both hands.
  • Apply gentle, uniform pressure while making smooth passes to get a crisp, even edge without damaging the metal.
  • Lastly, dip the ax in water to cool it off if it becomes too hot.
An electric belt sander

An electric belt sander

Sharpen an Ax with an Angle Grinder

An angle grinder can sharpen, polish, and grind axes. While using the angle grinder;

  • It would help if you used clamps or a vice to secure the ax head.
  • Turn on the grinder and slide the angle grinder over your ax.
  • Make sure to perform an exact number of passes on each side of the blade.
  • Remember to often dip the blade in water to help it cool.
Angle grinder tool

Angle grinder tool

What is the Best Way to Sharpen an Ax?

Using basic tools like a file and a whetstone is the best method for ax sharpening. It doesn’t take much longer than five minutes to resharpen your ax. Furthermore, there is less chance of damaging your ax than there would be with a power tool. 


Ax sharpening goes a long way in saving time and energy while preserving the ax head’s quality. 

Once the sharpening is complete, protect the blade against corrosion and rust. You do this by rubbing beeswax and additional oil onto the edge, especially when the steel is warm.

If you have any inquiries concerning ax sharpening, contact us.