How to sharpen a hatchet axe with a file knife sharpener bench angle grinder dremel whetstone wetstone or without tools using a rock

How to sharpen a hatchet or axe with a file, knife sharpener, bench or angle grinder, dremel, whetstone wetstone or without tools using a rock

Do you want to learn all the different way how to sharpen a hatchet or axe?

A good axe or hatchet is a valuable instrument in the arsenal of almost every camper or person who wants to chop or split firewood or chop trees, plants in the gardening and is especially useful when camping. If you need a great camping hatchet you should read my review of the best hatchets and axes for camping, hiking, backpacking and survival here or you can buy my recommended camping hatchet here. Or if you are looking for a cheaper option the fiskars x7 is a budget price hatchet..

An axe or hatchet can be very useful in helping you split firewood for the winter or other wood related tasks such as bow making, bowl carving (though making a wood bowl is better done with a wood lathe – check out my review of the best wood lathes on a budget under $300, $500, $1000, $1500 &  $2000 here) and production of camp furniture.

However, as every gardening/camping instrument, the blades of the hatchets and axes require some sharpening if they are getting blunt. That is because a blunt axe edge or wobbly hatchet handle can make the tool less effective and make you work harder to achieve the same result. There are many different methods for sharpening an axe or a hatchet, each of them having its own advantages and shortcomings.

How to sharpen a hatchet or axe with a whetstone (wetstone)

Whetstones (sometimes also called wetstones) are not the best tools to sharpen an axe or a hatchet unless it is already sharp and you are just making it super sharp. They are used predominantly for sharpening of knives. Nevertheless, if you want to hone your already fairly sharp axe, then this tool is just the right one for you. The sharpening process involves the following steps:

  • Apply some honing oil to the edge of the hatchet or axe, and then rub the tip off with a coarse whetstone using a circular motion. Hone both sides of the axe and make sure you have removed the burr from one side to the other. This burr also called a “feather edge”, is the very thin bent edge of the axe.
  • Hone the axe or hatchet with a finer whetstone or a strop. You should perform this step in order to make sure that the “feather edge” is removed completely. When the edge is perfectly honed it will not reflect any light. You should repeat the honing when you are about to use the axe next time.
  • Protect the blade from rust. If you want to protect the blade of your hatchet or axe from rust I would advise you to wipe with honing oil. When doing that you should also make sure that the steel is warm.

The whetstone I recommend has three different levels of coarseness. You can buy it here. However, if you are on a tight budget you can buy a good old-cheepie here it will work almost as good.

I also recommend Thirteen Chefs Knife and Honing Oil for using with your whetstone (it is much better than using water) and keeping your axe or hatchet from rusting. You can buy it here.


How to sharpen a hatchet or axe with a rock or stone – sharpening a camp axe in the wild

People have used rocks to sharpen their axes and other tools since ancient times. If you are out camping and your camp axe becomes blunt then you can use a rock to improve the sharpness of the blade. It may not be perfect but if you do not have a proper sharpener and need to improve the sharpness of your axe or hatchet, then this is an option.

However, you should know that not all rocks or stones are suitable for sharpening. The best option here will be to choose a river stone. That is because the river stone is naturally smoothed by the constant flow of water in the river, revealing its solid essence.

The main characteristics which a stone should possess are uniform surface, grain and density. The sharpening process passes through the following steps:

  • Position and firmly fix the axe that needs sharpening
  • Apply water or oil to the stone. By this way, the rock will be kept from clogging and the sharpening process will be a lot easier.
  • Sharpen each side of the axe consecutively using circular strokes and starting from the edge towards the base.
  • Periodically rinse with water or oil and make sure you follow the ping-pong transition of the burr until it gradually disappears.

Are you into camping? Chech out my articles about fun things to take camping or things you need to take camping.

How to sharpen a hatchet or axe with an angle grinder

Did you know that axes and hatchets can also be sharpened with an angle grinder? An angle grinder is a tool that uses a rotating abrasive wheel or disc and is usually powered by electricity but battery powered models are gaining popularity. Dewalt makes a good quality corded angle grinder for a  reasonable price. You can buy it here.

Before beginning the sharpening process, check the condition of your axe or hatchet. Its metal head should be firmly attached to the handle. If it isn’t then there is a high probability that it would fall off and hurt you seriously during the sharpening process. If the blade of the axe is chipped or dented it may be necessary to buy a new one.

The blade should be clean and with no signs of rust. If there is by chance any rust on it, you should consider using a steel wool pad to remove any spots. The next step is to place the blade into a bench vice (like this one) so that it will be stable during the sharpening process.

Before turning the grinder on you should put safety goggles, mask (or combo) as well as ear plugs and protective work gloves. When turning on the angle grinder, hold it firmly with both hands. If it is attached to the power network you should make sure that the cord is long enough, allowing you to walk around the axe in the vice. You should stay solidly on the ground with your legs slightly apart for the maximum stability.

When grinding the surface of the axe blade with the rotating disc, you should consider the angle between the blade and the disc to be at around 5 to 15 degrees. Using slow, long and continuous strokes sharpen the axe’s blade, observing the blade does not to become overheated.

After you have completed the sharpening process, turn of the angle grinder and leave the axe blade to cool off for a few minutes. When releasing the blade from the vice, you should be very careful not to drop it on the ground, because it will be too hot for you to hold it.

How to sharpen a hatchet or axe with a file

Probably the best method for sharpening an axe or a hatchet is using a file. For that, you will need a special kind of file- the so-called mill file. You can buy a good mill file here. For the sharpening process, you should observe the following steps:

  • Put the head of the axe or hatchet between your knees, with the blade facing outwards. If you are at home, you should consider placing it in a vice. Position the end of the file against the axe blade trying to achieve an angle which is equal to the bevel.
  • Draw the file across the blade applying a steady amount of pressure. Sharpen with long strokes. Half a dozen strokes are usually sufficient for the purpose.
  • Apply the same number of strokes for the other side, and then examine the edge whether it is straight and centered. If not continue with filing until it is in the right shape.

How to sharpen a hatchet or axe with a knife sharpener

The safest way to sharpen an axe or a hatchet is to use a traditional knife sharpener. Although almost all knife sharpeners are designed specifically to sharpen only knives, there are some models with which you can sharpen the blade of your hatchet or axe with an utmost ease.  Fiskars (well-known axe & hatchet makers) have a knife and axe sharpener. You can buy it here.

The sharpening process is not complicated at all. You should simply put the blade into the specially designed slot and then slide it. Specially designed ceramic wheels will simultaneously sharpen each side of the blade. The knife sharpener uses 30 degrees angle which makes it ideal for axe and hatchet use.

How to sharpen an axe or hatchet with a bench grinder

You can use a bench grinder to sharpen your axe or a hatchet in the case when it is very dull. For achieving best results you should use 6-inch or 8-inch wheel. It is important to remember to use a grinding wheel that easily removes the metal chipped from the axe. Before starting the grinding process you should put the items in an oven. The gradual heating will prevent the metal from cracking under the stress of grinding. During the grinding process you will be producing large, loose chips of red-hot metal, so you must be very careful and take your time. Do not overheat the metal. Before returning the edges of the axe to the wheel let the metal cool all by itself or quench it in oil. When you are finished with the aid of a wire brush remove any rust and shoot some spray lubricant over the blade.

How to sharpen a hatchet or axe with a Dremel

Sharpening an axe or a hatchet with a Dremel is pretty much the same as that of sharpening a knife.

You will need the following objects in your equipment to perform the sharpening process:

  • A Dremel
  • A vice to hold the axe while it is being sharpened
  • Safety goggles
  • A blunt axe

Now you are ready and equipped to sharpen the axe and should follow these steps:

  • Put the aluminum oxide bit in
  • Place the knife in a vice
  • Start the dremel up
  • Grind at about 10-degree angle
  • Turn it over and grind the other side too
  • (optional ) buff the axe

As soon as you have completed these steps you will have an axe with an extremely sharp blade!

Wrap up

As you see from this article there are plenty of methods for sharpening your axe or a hatchet. Choosing the right one depends on the state of the axe and how blunt it is. Sharpening your axe and hatchet is very important because using a blunt or dull one requires more effort to use. If you are unsure what to use suggest that you use a mill file as it is a cheap but effective option.

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