Tools: How To Sharpen An Ax - Greg Stephens

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Greg Stephens is vice president of A.M. Leonard Inc. (Piqua, Ohio), a national mail-order company founded in 1895.
Since so many folk showed a interest in th' axe an' Emailed me for advice, I thought I'd take this here time to show you whut I learned.
Fust, find a piece of log about 4' long and bury it about 1/3 way in the dirt. Then go and cut yourself a few stakes about 6-8" and as big as your thumb. Next, Lay your axe alongside the log on it's smoothest side so that the blade points straight up to heaven. Use the stakes to pin the axe securely (2 along the handle and one near the blade) by pushing them into the dirt.
With the axe now firmly secured, you can go to work. For best sharpening, invest in a good fine file and a two sided whetstone - the big ones are what I like, but a little one works well too!
Get yourself a piece of cardboard or thin wood about 2" square for a handguard and punch a hole straight in the middle and slip this over the end of the file where you hold onto it. If it's got a handle, remove the handle and put the cardboard/wood handguard on in front of the handle then put the handle back on. This'll keep you from slicing off your fingers.
Look at your blade - if it has bends or cracks in it, you may have to hammer them out before you proceed, but chances are your axe has gotten dull. There ain't nothin' worse than a dull axe - it plumb tuckers a feller out an' it's dangerous too. Them dull axes will bounce clean off of a log an'funny thing, they suddenly gets real sharp like when they hitcha in the legbone.
Start to filin' on that blade by using a smooth vertical motion, gently working the file as you go down along the length of the blade. Boy if that ain't confusin' I don't know what is. Take that file and file, and as you are filing downward, make the file move a little along the length of the blade. This will make a smooth stroke that covers the blade. Repeat this several times, then turn the axe over. You may need to go back and forth several times.
If you've got some paper, drag it over the edge of the blade and if it snags and cuts the paper, you are sharp enough. Be careful not to file too much or at too harsh of an angle or you will definitely hurt the edge. You should be able to look down and see a thin edge that looks like a sliver of silver hair down the middle of your blade.
Remove the axe from it's holder and take out your whetstone and put some oil or spittle on it - oil is better. Use your whetstone along the edge of the blade and move in small circular motions up and down each side of the blade. The blade will seem less sharp when you get done, but it will be smoother and less likely to crack. Don't be tempted to use it with the rough edge, it'll break your blade for sure.
For you folks who are out in the North, afore you go a choppin' wood or anythin', warm that axe blade up if it's freezing. That axe blade can get water in it and get brittle when it's frozen. You can put it under your arm pit (careful which way you point that sharp end though) or warm it near the fire. Never stick no axe blade or any other tool into the fire or it'll lose it's temper an' I don't mean it'll get mad. Temper is the strength of the blade and if you don't know how to blacksmith, it's best to not go sticking tools into the fire.
The best way to sharpen your axe is to not let it get dull. Don't go sticking any axe or knife into the dirt, don't cut paper (except to test the sharpness of the blade), and keep it in a sheath if possible. I saw a feller carrying his axe in the woods and he fell and cut the boy in front of him clean to the bone on his calf muscle.
Keep your blade from getting rusty by oiling it regular like. If'n that blade comes loose of the handle, take it all the way off and get another wedge or shim and put it in there. Don't use no nails or nothin' cuz they don't hold very good an' one day you'll be cuttin' and zippitydoodah your axehead will go flyin' through the woods and hopefully it won't hit nobody in your party.
Don't use that axe to drive wedges with. I know, I know y'all are sayin' "But Daniel, one side of my axe is flat jes like a hammer". That's right it's fer drivin' wooden stakes, not fer hittin' another piece of steel. If you are a goin' t' drive wedges, git a hammer - otherwise y'all break that axe.
I got me a thing called a 'monster maul' thet we use t' split up our wood an' it works something ferocious like. Course it's heavy an' all, but it beats the dickens out of havin' t' tap them wedges inta th' wood, smackin' em through and then goin' and pickin' em up. When we go t' wood splittin', it's me an' my two boys. One sets the logs on top of my stump an' the other picks up and stacks the pieces. Now thet them younguns are bigger'n their daddy (an' I'm a purty big feller), they takes turns a swingin' the maul so's their daddy don't get wore out. (Actually I ain't gittin' wore out, I jes know them younguns needs t' feel important an' like theys helpin').