One of the keys to safely using an axe is to keep it wicked sharp. The internet is full of advice and how-to videos on sharpening an axe. It can be overwhelming. But here are three easy rules to follow to keep your axe in tip top shape.
1. Keep it Clean! After using your axe it will accumulate some sap, tar and dirt on the axe face. This will lead to the axe rusting. It also makes it more difficult to sharpen. Use bug and tar remover or denatured alcohol to remove any dirt, grime or sap after each use. If using the axe in wet conditions, wipe it dry too.
2. Keep Your Axe Sharp; Don't Sharpen Your Axe! This is an old adage around our shop. It means that if you routinely sharpen your axe after every substantial use you should never have to take to the extreme measure of taking it to a belt grinder (like a Bader BW-III which we use) or clamping it to your workbench and attacking it with a mill bastard file. Sharpening with a mill bastard file should only be necessary if you get a nick or chip in your axe.
Keeping your axe sharp is simple and easy using a honing puck or a honing paddle.
Both of these products are available at our on-line shop.
3. Keep Your Axe Protected. One of the easiest ways to get a chip in the bit of an axe is to drop it, knock it over or nick it on a hard surface. I have to admit that I have this t-shirt! Your axe probably came with a sheath so use it! When using your axe never leave it laying on the ground, land it in a piece of wood that you are chopping too.
If you have bought a vintage axe that needs a lot of work or haven't taken care of your axe in awhile there are plenty of really good videos on line of how to bring that axe back from the brink. Our friend Dan Wowak at Coalcracker Bushcraft has a comprehensive video on sharpening your axe in the field.
And remember Abe Lincoln's adage to keep your axe sharp:
If you follow our three tips on keeping your axe sharp you shouldn't need to work as hard as Old Abe to keep your axe sharp!