The Axe Life
Join 1000's of Authors at StreetArticles Today!

I have a love and adoration for a good axe. Several times in multiple careers have I come to appreciate just how handy a good axe, hatchet or tomahawk can be. I’ve used all three for a wide variety of tasks, including falling trees, splitting wood, butchering chickens, shavings limbs from small trees, and even in wildland firefighting training. The axe and any variant of the axe is an incredibly effective and versatile tool. So much so, that the axe and tomahawk remains one of the oldest serving tools in the United States military. The tomahawk is a part of kit issued with one of the Army’s light armored vehicles, and an axe is found in every Humvee kit.

As a personally purchased item, soldiers and Marines utilize tomahawks and small hatchets not as weapons, but as valuable tools in the field. A tomahawk allows troops to collect wood for a fire to cook over, or to keep warm on a cold night. Troops on small patrol bases often have zero luxuries, and life is very much like it was in the 1800s. An axe, hatchet, and tomahawk are used extensively and because they are so widely used, they must be cared for.


My knowledge of sharpening axes and their associated tools comes from the U.S. Forest Service. While I’ve never worked directly for the Forest Service, I do work with a similar agency who adopted their methods of caring and maintaining for tools. Their methods are commonly capable of being utilized in the field and do require any specialized tools or equipment.

Reforming a Bevel

Now if your axe is extremely dull, and perhaps hasn’t been sharpened in years, you may need to reform the bevel first. This is not something that needs to be done every time you sharpen an axe, but depending on use, should be gauged and done occasionally.

Reforming the bevel of an axe can be done with a bastard file, and a pair of gloves, and that is all you really need. However, if you have an axe bit width gauge and a vice you can gauge the sharpness of your axe a little easier and work a little safer with a vice. Also, if you replace the bastard file with a heavy duty sharpener you’ll make life a little easier. The advantage of a file is it can be used for a multitude of tasks and sharpen a wide variety of tools, a sharpener can only be used to sharpen.

If you are at home, clamp the axe down on a vice for safety and toss the gloves on. If you are in the field do ahead and take a seat. Hold the axe head in your lamp, and place the handle over your shoulder. Always keep one hand on the axe when sharpening. The axe is upside down in this position, but this is a safe position to work. If you have gloves wear them, a sharp axe is a sharp axe, and not something to play with. With an axe, you file into the edge, and if you slip it could be quite devastating.

Now carefully look over the axe and find the bevel angle, the bevel is the edge of the blade and different blades have different angles. You’ll want to hold your sharpener or file at the same angle as the bevel of the blade. You want to lift the sharpener or file at the end of every stroke and avoid a sawing motion. All files and most sharpeners only sharpen in a single direction. Using a sawing motion can damage your blade, and ruin your sharpening device.

As you sharpen you want to move the sharpener in a fan-shaped pattern. It’s also helpful to keep a count on the strokes on each side of the axe. With an axe blade, you do have to sharpen both sides, and the more even the sharpening the better. A sharpening gauge is a simple piece of wood or metal and has a notch carved into it. You measure you blade insert it into the notch, and if it fills the notch evenly and flush it is properly sharpened. If it doesn’t fit, or there is slack around the edge the blade is too dull, or too thin. An axe blade or bevel gauge is usually less than ten bucks, so if you have a working axe it’s a wise investment.

After the rough work with a file or sharpener is done and the bevel is reformed you can start with basic sharpening. A basic sharpening should be done every morning the axe expects heavy use, and is relatively easy to do.

Daily Sharpening

It’s time for a whetstone. A whetstone can be an oil stone or a water stone. Both refer to the method of moistening the stone to remove metal particles. The oil is any whetstone oil, commonly found in hardware stores and can be used for any kind of blade, and water is water of course. These stones have a fine and coarse side. I really like the DMT Diafold for axe sharpening. It resembles a butterfly knife and offers a good sturdy handle. This makes it convenient and comfortable to use, but more importantly it keeps your hands far from the blade and prevents injury. I know a lot of the old school guys favour the Arkansas whetstone and these bad boys are extremely common, and have a solid reputation.

We start with the coarse side and rub in a circular motion, going into the blade. Count your strokes and apply stroke evenly on both sides of the blade. Work one side of the axe until it creates a bur. Then begin working the other side of the blade until you create another burr. Now flip the sharpener over and begin with the fine side. You are doing to do the same process until you have a fine burr. As you are using both the coarse and fine sides occasionally wipe off the stone and apply water or oil. Once you finish with the fine side of the sharpener your blade should be able to cut paper.

Further maintenance

Once the blade is sharpened to your satisfaction I suggest applying some type of protectant to the blade. Something non-corrosive, of course, and something that will protect the blade from rust and aid in wicking away moisture. I suggest something like Tuf-Glide, evenly applied via rag over the entire axe head. After that you apply a protective coating you are ready to go to work. These methods can be used on an axe, tomahawk or hatchet quite successfully. Remember a dull axe head glances off, a sharp one digs in.

Street Talk

No comments present
You May Also Like
Why is Kinesiology Tape Gaining so Much Popularity Among Athletes Nowadays?
It needs not be announced that athletes should protect their bodies. Therefore they make sure that they are taking required safety precautions along with the training. Though the players are always very careful about these sensitive issues but then again at times, it so happens that athletes train so hard…
By: VARA_Tape in  Recreation and Sports  >  Running   Jun 06, 2016  
  Likes: 14

So You've Sign Up to One Club Now What?
So you heard about this whole One Club thing at Wendover and thought you’d give it a try. You signed up, signed in and now you’ve got your shiny silver star with a big ol’ zero in the middle of it. So … now what? Well, the short answer is…
By: Bruce Buchanan in  Recreation and Sports   Jun 03, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Looking for Extra Fun In 20s? Hold on to These Men Hobbies
Achieving a perfect balance between work life and personal life has become extremely difficult these days. If you have your dream job, you should give all your soul, heart, passion, energy and time into it. But, if your work doesn't give you the lust you're looking for, yet you're working…
By: Alex Banner in  Recreation and Sports  >  Running   May 28, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Led Headlamps Quite Useful for Camping
No matter how much planning and thought goes into your activities, it seems something is bound to go awry. You have made your list, checked it numerous times and are certain all is ready for your camping trip. Well not all is in order as you will find out once…
By: Grant5 in  Recreation and Sports   May 24, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Latest In Fish Finder Technology
For most of us fishing can be quite a long a tedious task, especially if you don't own a boat. Whilst having a boat can provide you with the ability to access most places that any shore angler doesn't have access to. I mean the big guys are out in…
By: sam22 in  Recreation and Sports  >  Fishing   May 20, 2016  
  Likes: 0

What Not to Do While Playing Poker at Wendover
Poker is a game of strategy, reading your opponents, getting to know their habits and striking when you have the hot hand … or bluffing your opponents into thinking you have a hot hand. In terms of strategy, there are things you should avoid doing and in terms of poker…
By: Bruce Buchanan in  Recreation and Sports   May 20, 2016  
  Likes: 0

7 Surprising Ways to Become A Better Runner
You don’t have to go to great lengths to be a better runner. However, there’s no ala-Captain America super serum either, just a bit of work and some nice tricks on the side. Here are 7 surprising ways to become a better runner. Go Fishy In order to become a…
By: Baburaj Devi in  Recreation and Sports  >  Running   May 18, 2016  
  Likes: 1

5 Easy Swimming Tips for Summer
Summer is the perfect time for a swim. And while you’re at the beach or the pool, why not improve your swimming technique? You don’t need extra swimming lessons or to be buddies with Aquaman, there are simple ways to make you a better swimmer. Whether you swim for sport,…
By: Baburaj Devi in  Recreation and Sports  >  Swimming   May 16, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Football News
LAGOS (Reuters) - At the Campos Mini stadium in Lagos, cheerleaders dance as spectators root for their local team. However, the players at this game are not the usual defenders guarding posts or strikers scoring goals but linebackers and quarterbacks huddled round the line of scrimmage and aiming for touchdowns.…
By: John Rooky in  Recreation and Sports  >  Football   May 12, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Is It The Time For Terry To Leave ?
Many people were labeling this season as the last season of John Terry but they it seems like Terry has few years left in him. In a recent statement he admitted that he is looking forward to extend his contract with the Blues. Unluckily, his last two fixtures were spoiled…
By: iftakhar in  Recreation and Sports  >  Soccer   May 11, 2016  
  Likes: 0

How to Get Started With Fantasy Golf - PGA Fantasy Simplified
Fantasy golf is one of the more interesting types of fantasy sports out there, though you may be surprised to know that fantasy sports may have started with PGA fantasy, way back in the 1950s. In the latter part of that decade, Oakland businessman Bill Winkenbach came up with his…
By: Cheryl Muncher in  Recreation and Sports  >  Golf   May 11, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Why Are Brain Injuries From Outdoor Playground On The Rise?
Recently, research study found that more U.S. kids need treatment for traumatic cerebrum wounds, for example, blackouts from wounds on the play area regardless of security changes in play area hardware. Around 28,500 kids a year in Canada need therapeutic treatment as a consequence of play area wounds extending from…
By: David Rossye in  Recreation and Sports   May 11, 2016  
  Likes: 2

Great Golf Advice That Can Work For Anyone!
Playing a good game of golf is essential in many business environments. Golf is social, interactive, and can be a fun way to mingle with your superiors. For the beginner, golf is also challenging and sometimes confusing. Trying to get both the body movements and swing down, can pose some…
By: Kim Valerio in  Recreation and Sports  >  Golf   May 10, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Horse Racing Crewkerne Training: A Brief Digest
Are you willing to run your horse in a race? Wondering how to get it trained? Well, there are so many horse racing Crewkerne training clubs that can assist you in this. These clubs come with a lot of facilities such as, hundreds of grass acres, outside schooling fences, sand…
By: aby in  Recreation and Sports  >  Horse Racing   May 04, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Stay at B & B Blandford Forum And Explore Rural Dorset
An English getaway to the rural countryside would be the best deal if time is not what you have much to play with. How about visiting rural Dorset and putting up at a B & B Blandford Forum, which is just a quarter of an hour away from Winterborne Zelston,…
By: sylver in  Recreation and Sports  >  Horse Racing   May 04, 2016  
  Likes: 0

Article Views: 604    Report this Article