How do you sharpen an ax

How do I sharpen an ax?

We are often asked what is the best way to sharpen an ax. A good question that we are happy to answer. We really know everything about axes and can therefore tell you everything about them.

A blunt ax is life threatening. You will notice that you have to use more force and make uncontrolled movements - we certainly don't have to explain to you what this can lead to. You won't slip with a sharp ax and you can use technology instead of brute force to chop. Much safer and less tiring!

In addition to caring for the stem, it's also important to keep the edge sharp. We prefer “traditional grinding” with whetstones. In this topic we deal with the sharpening of a damaged or very blunt ax, with the very sharp sharpening of an undamaged ax and of course with the correct sharpening position.

Grind roughly

By the rough cut we mean the repair of a damaged cutting edge. You can use a file or a coarse (diamond) grindstone. The coarser the grain, the coarser the stone and the more material is removed. A diamond whetstone removes material faster than a ceramic whetstone and is therefore very suitable for repairing a damaged ax. But do you even have to sharpen a damaged ax?

Is there a chip in the cutting edge? Don't worry, you don't have to dispose of the ax immediately! You can either grind the chip away or just leave it in the cutting edge. If you leave it in the cutting edge, it will be "ground out" by the chopping over time. You can also grind it away with a coarse diamond sharpening stone, even if you then have to remove a relatively large amount of material from the ax head.

Sand fine

By fine sharpening we mean sharpening a relatively sharp or undamaged ax. There are usually two different types, namely the convex edge or the scandi edge. A convex edge can take a lot of force because there is more material just behind the edge. However, sharpening requires more attention because you are not sharpening at a fixed angle.

A scandi-cut ax is sharper but less powerful. This cut is therefore particularly suitable for carving axes or small hand axes. Sharpening a scandi edge is usually easier because there is a fixed angle.

Sharpness of axes

The cutting edge of a splitting ax is straight and undamaged, but does not have to be sharp. A cleaver has to be sharp to remove a lot of material. A trekking ax needs to be very sharp in order to do the lighter jobs as efficiently as possible. A carving ax also has to be very sharp in order to be able to do the smallest jobs with the highest precision.

Care of the ax head

The ax head itself doesn't need much maintenance. Dry it off thoroughly after use. Fresh wood is wet and, in the case of oak, for example, also contains tannic acid. This not only causes rust, but also other unsightly stains on the ax head. As long as you keep the ax dry, not much will happen. If there are stains on the blade or the rest of the ax head, you should not use a whetstone. This would leave scratches. Then better use the Naniwa Rust Eraser.

Grinding posture and technique - easily from the wrist

The correct grinding posture is different for everyone. After all, different grinding methods also require different postures. With the KME Ax Sharpener, it is most comfortable when the ax lies flat on the thigh. Hand sharpening works best when you hold the ax head in your hand and place the handle behind your neck. You can see clearly at which angle you are grinding. This position can be taken either standing or sitting. The sharpening angle of an ax is usually around 30 degrees per side.

It works best if you make a rotating movement with the grindstone. It's like polishing something. Try to keep the movement as small as possible so that you are sharpening the entire edge. It also reduces the risk of the stone slipping. Do this until you feel a ridge and then move on to the other side of the ax head.

To check that you are sharpening the entire cutting edge (and thus using the correct angle), you can mark it with a waterproof marker. If you see that a marked part is still visible after grinding, it means that this part did not make contact with the whetstone. Then you have to adjust the angle.

Grinding posture and technology - in the garage

Would you prefer to sharpen your ax at home? No problem! You can also fix your ax in a vice. Since the ax is firmly clamped, you can use both hands to sharpen it. This way you can better maintain the grinding angle and control it more easily. This technique is less dangerous, but we strongly recommend the use of work gloves.



For sharpening an ax, we recommend small whetstones, as you make circular movements and a small whetstone is lighter. Below are a few possible grindstones.

Top product
Fällkniven Diamond / Ceramic Whetstone DC4Combined diamond and ceramic stone; the sharpening stone consists of a fine diamond stone (25 microns) and a ceramic stone made of synthetic sapphire.

Slip your ax

Finally, you can use a leather strop to top it off. Run the ax over the strop a few times to remove the last bumps that you can't see with the naked eye.

The sharpness test

To test whether your ax is sharp enough, place the cutting edge (carefully) on your thumbnail at an angle of 45 degrees. If the ax slips off your nail, it is not sharp enough. Another way to check the sharpness of your ax is to cut an A4 sheet of paper with it.


What else do you pack when working with an ax and grindstone? Right, a first aid kit!

Electric ax sharpening

Of course, there are more ways to sharpen your ax. Certain belt sanders are also ideal for this purpose. Examples are the Work Sharp Multi Sharpener Ken Onion Edition and the Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener. The Ken Onion Edition comes with 120, 220, 1000, 3000 and 6000 grit sanding belts. With this handy device you can first remove the unevenness from the ax blade and correct the edge angle, then you can use the other tapes to give the edge the ultimate sharpness. You can vary between an angle of 15 and 30 degrees (and all sizes in between). Practical, as you usually have to maintain an angle of 30 degrees with axes.

The Knife & Tool Sharpener has 3 different sanding belts with grit 80, 220 and 6000. So a little less choice, but thanks to the belt with 80 grit it is still suitable for extremely blunt blades. The angle can be set to 20, 25 and 65 degrees. This makes it a little less suitable for sharpening axes than the Ken Onion variant.

Do you still have questions? Then don't hesitate to ask us!


Ax sharpening video

Padraig Croke of the Trial by Fire podcast carefully explains how to sharpen an ax in the video below: