How to sharpen an axe with a file?

Do you know what makes an axe effective and safe? It is sharpness that ensures the efficiency and the safety when it comes to wood cutting. It is common that an axe becomes dull after several uses, and this is unavoidable. But a dull axe not only interrupts smooth cutting but also often causes danger. So, sharpening axe is very essential to remake your tool effective and safe as like as new one.

However, axe sharpening can be done with file, stone or grinder. Of all methods, sharpening with a file is very easy, effective and popular. But sometimes it becomes difficult and reasons injury due to wrong technique and improper practice. Do not worry; it is not a big deal since this article is meant to help you know how to sharpen an axe with a file with proper and effective means.

Safety First:

The first and foremost important thing to consider while sharpening axe is safety tools. Many injuries occur because of avoiding safety wearing. Here are tools you must use while sharpening a dull edge.

  1. Hand gloves made of thick leather.
  2. Goggles to protect eyes from metal dust.
  3. A mask.

Clean and polish the blade:

Clean the head of the axe with a steel wool, and it is enough to remove normal dirt. But if the blade is rusty, it is important to remove rust polishing with sandpaper, resulting in less time to sharpen properly. To get the best result, repeat polishing with fine-grit sandpaper applying pressure.

Draw a guideline on the edge:

Most of the axes are the convex shape with a view to protecting them from damage against wood while cutting. One of the most common mistakes people make that I see is sharpening axe randomly, resulting in a removal of bevel shape. To avoid this, draw a level line with a black marker and sharpen only the marked area of the edge.

Grip the axe with a vice firmly:

A vice would be very important tool to avoid the movement of the axe when sharpening. The major problem people have while filing an edge is axe movement which causes slipping. So, it would be a great technique to clamp the axe with a file in order to avoid slipping.

Choose a 10-12-inch mill file:

Getting a 10-12-inch long mill file which is coarse, single-cut and tapered is a better choice. Make sure that the file has one-way cuts, and teeth are clean. Using a file card, clean file teeth if there is any dirt stuck into the teeth. Inspect the file if teeth density is the same.

Inspect the angle of bevel and file:   

Matching the angle of bevel and the angle of the file is very essential to create a convex shape to protect the axe from damage by wood while splitting. The more convex shape, the more suitable edges are for cutting firewood. Take a close look at the existing bevel and try to develop a 20-30degree curved edge, keeping the file in proper alignment with the bevel angle.

Hold the file properly:

Having the proper grip on the file is the most important technique what appropriate axe sharpening depends on. Grip the handle of the file with the dominant hand and catch the top of the file with another hand, keeping the fingers around the end of the file. Make sure that the file is at a slight angle on the blade while holding and keep a distance in front of you so that you can push your arm easily.

Start filing the blade:

Filing can be done in two ways, pushing method and pulling or drawing method. Both are popular with wood cutting people. If you go with pushing method, start filing by pushing the file on the blade along the edge with little pressure. Do not keep the file in contact with the blade when pulling back. Repeat the stroke moving the starting point from one end to other along the width of the blade, resulting in the creation of fan-shaped curve on the blade.

On the other hand, if you apply draw file method, pull the file on the blade instead of pushing and avoid making contact of the file with the blade when going back for next stroke. Then repeat the pull stroke by varying starting point until your desired convex shape appears.

Perform the same strokes on the other side:

Check the side of the blade you have already sharpened, and if you think it is looking like what you wanted it to be, flip the axe and repeat the equal strokes on the other side. To get more even edge on both sides equally, it would be better to change sides frequently throughout the sharpening process.


Since you have already taken all above-mentioned steps thoroughly, you have now a sharp axe in your hand. You are ready to go for chopping and cutting even old hardwood. With little care, your sharp edge newly found by sharpening will last longer and be durable as like as newly purchased one.

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