How to Sharpen An Axe | An Easy DIY Guide for a Sharp Edge

If you’re seeking to learn how to sharpen an axe at home or outdoors, this is the page to be. It is perceived that the sharper the axe, the faster and easier it is when working.

But before we look into how to sharpen an axe, you must learn how to prepare yourself for the task.

First, find strong, sturdy, and comfortable gloves to protect your hands and fingers.

Next, wear a dust mask if you intend to sharpen the axe in an indoor space. You can also include safety goggles and ear protection when using power tools.

What if your axe head is rusty?

Well, you need to find steel wool, sandpaper, or rust eraser to get rid of rust before sharpening. Apply even pressure on the steel wool or sandpaper while rubbing the axe head. Do so until it gleams.

Now that we’ve covered how to prepare for axe sharpening, let us look at various ways of sharpening an axe.

Quick Overview

This guide will cover six different ways to do so. Here is a sneak peek at what to expect:

  • How to sharpen an axe with a Dremel.
  • How to sharpen an axe with a belt sander.
  • How to sharpen an axe with an angle grinder.
  • How to sharpen an axe with a file.
  • How to sharpen an axe with a whetstone.
  • How to sharpen an axe with a rock.

But why should you go through these lengths to sharpen an axe? Here’s why.

Why You Should Sharpen an Axe

First, it is safer for you when using a sharpened axe than a blunt one. How so? When chopping with a blunt, rounded shape, you need to apply more force to cut, increasing the axe’s likelihood of slipping. Should this happen, you can seriously injure yourself.

Second, you save time and energy working with a sharp axe. Ever tried cutting meat using a blunt knife? How much energy and time did that take?

The same applies to working with a blunt axe. It does not get any work done, hence the need to sharpen it.

Lastly, when you frequently sharpen the edges, they stay sharp and strong for long periods. This improves the durability of the axe.

Lets get started…

How to Sharpen an Axe with a Dremel

Dremel tools can easily sharpen axes but at the same time damage them when misused. The most effective Dremel tools have aluminum oxide that strips away metal to hone axe blades.

When working with one, have a source of water to cool the axe in case the metal overheats. Sharpening with a Dremel is straightforward, but it’s best you learn how to go about it.

Here are the steps to take:

  • Step 1: Turn on the Dremel.
  • Step 2: Match the angle on the bevel with the Dremel tool.
  • Step 3: Grind the Dremel from one edge to the other, making circular motions. Apply light pressure.
  • Step 4: Stop grinding once the metal overheats.
  • Step 5: Dunk it in water or let it cool. You do not want the axe head to lose its temper.
  • Step 6: Grind the other side while following steps 2-6.
  • Step 7: Use a wire brush to clean the edges and remove the burr.

Tip: Overheating is usually a result of using finer grit to sharpen a coarser grit. Therefore, always begin with a coarse grit head before moving to fine grit.

When using a Dremel tool, ensure you wear protective gear. 

My Recommendation

I recommend the Dremel 932 Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone as it is effective in removing burrs and sharpening axes. The 1/8″ shank sharpens, grinds, and deburrs rigid materials.

In addition, the Dremel can achieve a maximum of 30,000 RPM, which makes it ideal for transforming blunt wedges into razor-sharp edges. This tool is tough, durable, and efficient.

I love that the Dremel 932 is not overpriced, considering its high quality and effectiveness.

How to Sharpen an Axe with a Belt Sander

If you are looking to get perfect angles on your axe, use a belt sander to sharpen it. The sander features multiple-grit belts that transform old, rusty axes into their former glory. However, this efficiency comes at a risk, and you should be highly cautious when using it.

Here is what you should do:

  • Step 1: Set up the belt sander.
  • Step 2: Use both hands to maintain a firm grip on the axe as you grind it across the sander. Move your hands in slightly curved motions while paying attention to the curve of the bit and edge.
  • Step 3: Apply even pressure while making smooth passes to achieve a sharp, even edge without wearing the metal.
  • Step 4: Cool the axe head if it gets too hot.

Tip: Remember to use coarse sandpaper when working with rusty, dull axes to prevent overheating. Also, wear protective glasses, gloves, and a dust mask for your safety.

My Recommendation

I believe the Makita 9403 Belt Sander is the best axe sharpener in this category. The sander has an 11-amp motor that achieves a top speed of 1,640 feet per minute. This means that the machine is equipped to handle even the most challenging applications.

The belt sander has an over-mold handle that offers user comfort and optimum grip for DIYers. I believe you will find this tool effective in sharpening your axe.

How to Sharpen an Axe with an Angle Grinder

Angle grinders can grind, polish, and sharpen metals, including axes. A good angle grinder should have a balanced power-to-weight ratio. It should also feature a dust ejection system that ejects debris and dirt away from the machine.

To sharpen your axe with an angle grinder, follow these easy steps:

  • Step 1: Use clamps or vise to hold the axe in place.
  • Step 2: Support the axe head with a block of wood. This makes it easier to follow the bevel.
  • Step 3: Move the angle grinder over the bit in smooth, steady strokes. This will help you monitor the angle of the edge.
  • Step 4: Count the number of passes the grinder moves over the axe bit and balance it with the other side.
  • Step 5: Use water to cool the metal if it overheats.
  • Step 6: Turn off the grinder after use.

Tip: Be extra careful when using an angle grinder. It is potentially lethal and dangerous and should be operated on with care.

My Recommendation

I recommend the DeWalt Angle Grinder DWE402 for its compact size yet powerful performance. It weighs 6 pounds but can deliver up to 11,000 RPM. Besides sharpening axes, the grinder can cut through concrete, grind floors down, and slice through sidewalks.

What’s more impressive is how affordable the grinder is. Given that the angle grinder has a dust ejection system, oversized brushes, auto-off brushes, balanced power-to-weight ratio, One-Touch Guard, among other features, this is a perfect tool for you.

How to Sharpen an Axe with a File

You’ll need an 8-12-inch axe file and sturdy gloves when sharpening. Here are the steps to take:

  • Step 1: Place the axe on a flat surface. It could be a bench or table.
  • Step 2: Have a wooden edge under the axe head. This adds stability and lifts the bit from the surface.
  • Step 3: Use a clamp to secure the axe to the flat surface.
  • Step 4: Hold the file at a 15-20-degree angle. Use one hand to hold the handle of the file while the other changes the angle.
  • Step 5: Apply gentle pressure as you move the file across the bit.
  • Step 6: Work into the primary and secondary bevel while assessing the cutting edge.
  • Step 7: Flip the axe and repeat steps 1-6.

Tip: Remember to count the number of strokes when sharpening to maintain a clean edge on both sides.

My Recommendation

I recommend the Helko Werk Dual-Sided Sharpening File as the best axe sharpening file. It measures 9 inches and weighs 3.9 oz. The sharpening file is not only reliable but durable since it is made of high-carbon steel.

The dual-sided file has a single-cut tooth pattern on the front side that is great for touch-ups, finishing, and deburring. It also features a double-cut tooth pattern on the bottom side for reprofiling and rapid sharpening to achieve a razor edge.

The Helko Werk is effective, a reason why you should get yourself one.

How to Sharpen an Axe with a Whetstone

Whetstones deliver razor-sharp axes. If you have a chipped axe, use a whetstone that is less than 1000-grit. If you are looking to sharpen dull ages, a 1000 – 3000-grit stone is the ideal choice.

Here is how to go about it:

  • Step 1: Secure the axe.
  • Step 2: Coat the axe edge with a lubricant (preferably water or oil).
  • Step 3: Place the edge of the head on the whetstone. Ensure it matches the angle of the bevel.
  • Step 4: Use circular motions to rub the stone against the edge. Move the whetstone from one side to the other while applying gentle pressure.
  • Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 on the other edge.
  • Step 6: Work both sides of the blade equally until the burr is gone.
  • Step 7: Use a finer whetstone for more refined, razor-sharp edges.
  • Step 8: Wipe any accumulated paste.
  • Step 9: Apply oil or beeswax on the axe head and edge to protect against moisture.

Tip: Use a leather strop to remove burrs.

My Recommendation

It is time to turn your blunt axes with the double-sided Fallkniven Diamond – Ceramic Whetstone Sharpener. It has a rough 600-grit side and another fine 1200-grit.  I believe that this axe will work the edges on your axe into fine edges without wearing them down.

I love that the sharpener is lightweight and affordable. Besides, you do not need to use a lubricant when sharpening.

How to Sharpen an Axe with a Rock/River Stone

If you ever found yourself outdoors without an axe file or a whetstone, find a flat rock to act as a natural hone. You can also look for small river stones, hard sandstones, or small coarse or smooth stones.

Here is what to do:

  • Step 1: Wet the rock.
  • Step 2: Hold the rock in one hand and the axe in the other. Ensure the top side of the blade faces you.
  • Step 3: Make circular sweeping motions with the rock, working your way from the top of the edge. Do not expose your fingers when doing this.
  • Step 4: Turn the blade and repeat steps 1-3.
  • Step 5: Strop the sharpened axe against a pant leg or a piece of leather to get rid of the burr.

Tip: Although stones are excellent at sharpening axes, they should only be used as a last resort.


It is possible to sharpen an axe, with or without tools. When you sharpen an axe, you save time and energy. Besides, it preserves the quality of the axe head.

When we started this guide, you were looking for ways to sharpen an axe. I believe that you now feel empowered to do it yourself following the provided steps.

Remember to wear protective gear to avoid hurting your fingers, eyes, and ears.

Related Questions

What is the Best Angle to Sharpen an Axe?

It should be a 15–20-degree angle. To put it simply, have the sharpening tool lie against the contours of the blade.

Do I Need to sharpen a Splitting Maul?

Splitting mauls do not necessarily need sharpening. Their blunt wedge-shaped axe heads are designed to split along fibers. However, sharpening the maul can improve penetration into the wood.

How Can I Ensure that the Axe Blade Stays Sharp and Strong?

Sharpen your axe frequently, use it for the activities it was designed to handle, and store it properly. If you follow these three steps, the edges will stay sharp and rust-free.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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