The NESIS-AIP reports indicate that 11% of the mechanical injuries were caused by using an axe. These injuries included lacerations on hands and legs, with finger loss being the most prevalent. These statistics have triggered a very controversial debate, with everyone asking, ‘Should a splitting axe be sharp?’
One cardinal rule for every woodman is to have their axes free from rust and sharpness. That is in the quest to ensure that the steel material does not corrode, which affects its durability, and avoid spending hours using a blade that can’t get through. Are we already supporting that you should always have the axe sharp? Certainly not! Let’s use a better approach by discussing if it is necessary to sharpen an axe. Can we get into it?
Why is it necessary to sharpen a splitting axe?
With the axes claiming 11% of the injuries, with 65% of them occurring at home, it is so natural to wonder if it is necessary to sharpen your axe.
A sharp axe has fewer bounce backs and easily sticks on the wood, which significantly prevents accidents. Additionally, they reduce mangling, which gives cleaner cuts. Similarly, you will easily split the wood with a sharp axe, which means less effort will be applied and lesser back strains.
However, if you miss the target, a sharper axe keeps you at the risk of accidents. Frankly, no one wants to put themselves at such risk. Should that keep you away from using an axe? Not at all! A blunt axe is also not of any good! After straining for hours, it will only leave you with blisters and back strains to split a simple wood. Not to mention that a blunt axe quickly bounces back, which even increases the chances of accidents?
So what’s the solution?
Have your safety gears that can absorb the impacts. The gears include gloves, work boots, and goggles for your eyes. But, more importantly, be very careful when handling an axe. Otherwise, you will have yourself to blame.
How to sharpen a splitting axe?
Sharpening an axe takes place in two major steps. First, you should file the blade to clean it before you start the actual sharpening process. However, if you don’t want the axe too sharp, you can only file the axe.
How do you file an axe?
Step 1: Wear the safety gears
Before any task, you must ensure that you are not at any risk. Consequently, you need to wear hand gloves before you get cut by the edge of the blade.
Step 2: Clean and polish the blade
You should clean the axe to remove rust which is the leading cause of blades breakage. Take a coarse-grit aluminium oxide sanding paper and rub it gently on the blade. Repeat in circular motions until all the parts of the blade are clean.
You can repeat the sanding process with a finer sanding paper and also apply a metal polish if you want the metal to be sparkling clean.
Step 3: Clamp the axe
Clamping the axe will keep one of your hands free from handling the blade. Thus you can direct all the effort to the task, which gives fast results. So how do you clamp an axe?
Take a vice and clamp the axe on the working bench horizontally. Also, some people prefer tilting the axe to an angle of 20 to 30 degrees. However, if you find it hard to determine the right tilting angle, you can position it parallel to the workbench.
Step 4: Get the bastard file
The ideal file for axes should be 25 to 30 centimetres. Also, you can sand the file if it is corroded and apply soft chalk powder to prevent it from clogging.
Step 5: File the axe
Next is the actual sharpening to get the edges in place. Before that, take a look at the shape of the axe and be careful on the edges to prevent accidents. Next, hold the file with your dominant hand tightly. Next, curl the other hand’s fingers around the axes head and press it down on the working bench.
Move the file slowly on the axe in repeating motions until you achieve a smooth cutting edge. In case the edge has a rough point, stroke the file in a forward motion until the edge is even. Avoid pushing the file in backward motion because that may damage the file or, worse, destroy the axe.
Step 6: Switch to the other side
Once the edges are sharp, turn the axe to the other side and repeat step 5 until all the edges are pointed on both sides.
How to sharpen an axe
If you want to have the most effortless splitting process, then you should do more than just filling the axe. Below are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Set up the axe
Clamp the axe tightly on the working bench with the blade at the edge of the bench. The axe should be parallel to the bench and not tilted.
Step 2: Sharpen the axe
Some people use a sharpening machine, while others prefer using a whetstone. While using a sharpening device, ensure that you power it on before it gets in contact with the blade.
On the other hand, whetstones have coarse and fine sides. Therefore, first, rub the rough side on the blade and later rub the fine side until you are pleased with the sharpness of the blade.
Step 3: Keep the blade rust-free
Now that your blade is sharp, you need to maintain it well. One of the maintenance tips is to pour machine oil after sharpening to prevent environmental oxygenation, resulting in corrosion.
How regularly should you sharpen the axe?
Frankly, this is the most debated question. However, experts suggest that you should rub the coarse side of a whetstone every time you want to split wood with an axe. Also, if you are splitting on very stony ground, you will have to sharpen the axe almost every time you use it.
However, keeping every other factor constant, we recommend you sharpen the axe once every two weeks if you are a regular user and once every month if you rarely use the axe.
Would you bear having to take hours to split a simple wood while you could have done it in a few minutes? Similarly, are you ready for backs trains, blisters, and any other possible injuries resulting from using a blunt axe? I suspect you are not!
Consequently, it would help if you always sharpened your axe. But, then, while using it, wear safety gear to prevent accidents. We have provided the answer to one million dollar question, “should a splitting axe be sharp” and the best part, we have given you the safest steps to sharpen your axe.