How to sharpen an axe blade- 8 Ways to Sharpen Your Axe (Even When You don’t have any Tool)

A sharp axe or hatchet will save time and energy as it cuts wood more easily than a blunt.

Hence for maximum efficiency with any cutting tool, sharpening is imperative.

Today’s guide will explore ax sharpening basics and the tools required to do it yourself. Thus, keep reading to learn how to sharpen an axe blade.

Tools you Need for Axe Sharpening.

Ax and rasp. 

Ax and rasp. 

It would be best to have an extensive range of tools to sharpen your axe (Both at home and out in the field). They include the following.

  • A pair of leather gloves, safety goggles, and a gas mask. 
  • Ear muffs, Vice and Whetstone.
  • Steel Wool, White Vinegar, and Dremel Tool. 
  • Machine oil, sharpie, and Bastard File. 
  • Bench Grinder, wax, sandpaper, and Lansky Puck.

You might only require some of the above tools to sharpen an axe.

So below, we’ll discuss the axe sharpening procedure using the respective tools. 

How to sharpen an axe with a file

Sharpening an axe with a file. 

Sharpening an axe with a file. 

It’s the most simplistic axe sharpening operation, as all you need primarily is a 10mm file/rasp, and you’re good to go. Here are the specifics of this technique.

  1. If you’re sharpening the axe in your workshop, clamp it with a bench vice. But that is unnecessary if you’re sharpening it in the woods, as you can clutch it on your laps. This step is critical in ensuring the axe doesn’t move as you sharpen it. 
  2. You can opt to clamp the axe in a horizontal or vertical orientation. Each technique has its upsides, so choose the one that suits you best. 
  3. Next, indicate the bevel edge with a marker to ensure you always sharpen at a constant level. 
  4. Also, while sharpening, you may opt for push filing ( filing in pushing stroke movements)  or draw filing (filing in pulling stroke movements). Either of the methods is okay, depending on your preference. 
  5. Most importantly, ensure you’re cautious when sharpening the axe edge, as you can easily cut your hand deeply, especially if it’s too sharp. 

How to Sharpen an Axe with a Whetstone

A whetstone and knife. 

A whetstone and knife. 

When sharpening an axe with a whetstone, you primarily use its soft or coarse end. The choice of the whetstone mainly relies on your expected outcome after sharpening the axe. 

For instance, you can use a soft whetstone if you intend to shape the axe (give it an edge outline). Nonetheless, if you want to sharpen the curved areas, you require a hard whetstone.

Also, you need a lubricant such as oil or water while sharpening. 

Here is a stepwise elaboration on sharpening your axe blade with a whetstone. 

  1. A whetstone is porous yet hard, so the first step is to soften it by immersing it in water for about 15 minutes. 
  2. Next, place the stone on a platform and grind the axe against it until you realize a silvery slush on the stone’s surface. It is an indicator that the axe is getting sharp.
  3. If the stone’s surface appears rough and there is no sign of the silvery deposit, wet it with water. 
  4. Sharpen one side first, then reverse the axe to sharpen the other to your level of liking. Remarkably, the surest way to ensure efficiency with a whetstone is to ensure it never dries up. Hence, you must keep softening it with water. 

How to Sharpen an Axe with a Rock

Sharpening an axe with a stone. 

Sharpening an axe with a stone. 

Any experienced lumberjack will tell you that sometimes, you may find yourself in the woods with a blunt axe that requires some sharpening.

In such a scenario, sharpening it with a stone comes in handy primarily because rocks are readily available anywhere. 

Nonetheless, you must choose the best type of stone for efficiency and good results.

A sharpening stone should be large and smooth. But you can also use small coarse-grained rocks or hard sandstones. 

Overall, a river stone makes the best axe (or knife) sharpening tool while you’re out in the woods.

Again, the sharpening procedure for an ax with a rock resembles that of a whetstone.

Hence, follow the steps above (in the previous section). 

Tips on sharpening an axe with a Dremel Tool

A Dremel Tool. 

A Dremel Tool. 

If your axe needs a bench grinder, then you can opt for the Dremel tool, which is equally effective.

You first need to install a grinding stone bit to the Dremel tool, and you can begin sharpening your axe. 

Next, follow the steps below. 

  1. First, mark the outline of the area you want to sharpen (with a marker) to avoid overdoing the edge, which will cause the axe to wear out fast. 
  2. Next, hold the axe strongly against a hard surface like a wood bench. You may also opt to use a bench vice if it is available. 
  3. Then, switch on the Dremel tool and move the bit over the area you want to sharpen. Once satisfied, you’ve sharpened one end to your liking, shifted to the other, and repeated the above procedure. 
  4. Lastly, if there are blur parts, gently remove them with a file or a wire brush. 

The top secret to successfully sharpening an axe with a Dremel tool is ensuring you make long strokes gently on the axe edge. 

Can I Sharpen My Axe with a Belt Sander?

Sharpening an axe with a belt sander. 

Sharpening an axe with a belt sander. 

It primarily works similarly to the Dremel Tool as both require electrical power. Here are the steps to sharpen your axe blade with this tool. 

  1. Switch on the belt sander and set it to a relatively slow motion for a start. 
  2. Next, hold your axe head (preferably with two hands for firmness) and run it via long circular strokes over the belt sander. 
  3. Also, ensure you don’t press the axe too hard on the belt sander, as this will cause it to wear out fast. The key to an excellent sharpening experience is running the axe softly on the belt sander. 
  4. After sharpening, apply a coolant such as cold water on the axe head. It will also help if you sand the axe edge after sharpening it to even out the remaining rough surfaces. 
  5. Besides, choose the right sandpaper coarseness depending on the condition of your axe. If it’s too rusty, a coarser one will come in handy. 

How to Sharpen an Axe with an Angle Grinder

Ax and Grinder. 

Ax and Grinder. 

You can also opt to use an angle grinder to sharpen your axe, but for this procedure, it’s imperative to clamp it first.

Again, you may also consider marking the edge outline to prevent eating into the inner side of the axehead, as this will wear it out. 

Moreover, ensure you sharpen along the edge by making long soft strokes over the surface.

Consider pressing the angle glider onto the axe head if it’s rusty to open up the top layer.

Then, switch to softly curved strokes along the outline of the axe edge until it’s sharp.

Is a Bench Grinder good enough to sharpen an axe?

Sharpening an axe with a bench grinder. 

Sharpening an axe with a bench grinder. 

Lastly, you can use the bench grinder for a quick sharpening job. But it is not among the best sharpening tools, especially if you’re inexperienced.

It also bites a considerable chunk of the edge, so it will wear out your axe faster than you’d want. 

First, switch on the grinder and set it to medium running speed.

Next, run your axe edge across the bench grinder while applying minimal pressure.

Then, turn over the axe and sharpen the other end using the same procedure. It would help cool the axe with a water spray after sharpening it. 

Sharpening an Axe Without Tools Hacks?

An improvised whetstone. 

An improvised whetstone. 

Is there a way to sharpen your axe blade without the above tools? 

You can still sharpen your axe without the tools above by improvising with readily available materials. 

  1. For instance, a glass bottle, shovel, or knife spine can make a good sharpening tool. 
  2. Moreover, you can use a ceramic utensil such as a plate, cup, or even an emery board. 
  3. Lastly, consider stropping it with your belt if you can access neither of the above remedies. 

Nonetheless, you must always have safety gear on when sharpening your axe.

For instance, find a way to protect your eyes and hands. You can use sunglasses and leather gloves, but you can also improvise with the available replicas. 

Lastly, clamping the ax while sharpening it is essential as it improves the overall experience.

Hence, even though you don’t have the real clamp available, you can improvise using wood pieces or even rocks. 


Your work experience will always be easy when you have sharpened your axe.

As we’ve elaborated above, there are many sharpening techniques, so you can choose the one that best suits your scenario.

For more insights on axe sharpening, contact us any day, and we’ll come to your aid.