The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to sharpen a Chopper 1 axe

how to sharpen a Chopper 1 axe with a grinder

Our friendly, neighborhood hardware store sharpens dull tools free of charge.

I've never asked the people at Home Depot or Lowes for this kind of extra service, but something tells me their store policy would frown on any activity that produced such a high volume of sparks.

Buying a grinder would cost somewhere between 50 and 200 dollars, but beware of the steep learning curve. If you don't do it right you could ruin a good axe or sword.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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It's always bad to lose a favorite sword to overzealous grinding...:-)
Comment by J Sat Feb 11 09:48:52 2012

Bench grinders are very fast, but I wonder how appropriate they are for sharpening tools.

The axe head is large enough to absorb a lot of heat, but with smaller tools like chisels and knives the edge can become hot enough to alter the structure of the metal. This could destroy the temper of the steel, depending on the alloy.

A sharpening stone (whetstone) lubricated with water will certainly not heat up the metal enough to do that.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sat Feb 11 14:40:56 2012

J --- Yes, a common homesteading problem. :-)

Roland --- Interesting. It's quite possible our hardware store guy wouldn't have used the bench grinder for anything smaller --- I believe he's used it on our lawnmower blade as well as the maul.

Comment by anna Sat Feb 11 16:49:18 2012 that your wood splitting axe? I don't think you want it sharp as the purpose is to use the force of the downward swing to split the wood apart..if it is sharp the axe will dig in more rahter than split and you will spend more time digging the axe out of the block you are 6lb maul is VERY dull.
Comment by eagergridlessbeaver Thu Feb 16 11:14:15 2012
eagergridlessbeaver --- Interesting point, and it makes a lot of sense. The axe had a lot of chips along the blade from rough handling, and I could see how smoothing those out would make it easier to split wood, but I can also see your point that you don't want your maul to be too sharp.
Comment by anna Thu Feb 16 13:12:50 2012
I have cleared literally hundreds if not thousands of miles of trails in a wilderness area where power tools were not legal to use. We lived with our axes and crosscut saws - though not as much as the omni-present axe. I would always and only use a mill file. Old time sharpening wheels are good too - but very rare. High speed bench grinders or hand grinders create too much heat that will take the temper out of your axe edge and you will never hold an edge again for very long. If a single bit, place it in a vise, put on a heavy pair of leather gloves and stroke the edge from front to back across the face of the edge, at about a consistent thirty degree angle. Consistent being the key word. After repeated strokes on each side, your edge will get sharp. Usually you can just file the middle two thirds of the edge, leaving the upper and lower ends of the edge alone. Over time this will give you a fuller cutting edge - instead of a highly curved face with minimal wood to metal contact. If its a double bit, you can bury one side in a big round of firewood in lieu of the vise. Same procedure. We used to make one side really sharp and save it for chopping limbs above (off) the ground, signified by a little red paint. The other side could be a little duller for chopping limbs where you know you'll hit the ground. That's my two cents - do it by hand with a file and save your edge!
Comment by tony Thu Feb 16 16:50:30 2012
tony --- Sounds like you know what you're doing! Learning to sharpen tools is on my list for sometime in the next year or two. I know that I'd get better results even from shovels if I was good at sharpening them. Yet one more skill to learn!
Comment by anna Thu Feb 16 18:28:03 2012
I have a sharpening business and have over 40 years experience. As some have stated that heat is bad. They are absolutely right. Anytime you use a grinder that causes sparks you are going to ruin that tool. Also the speed of the grinder is what will generate heat if it turns to many rpm's. I use the Tormek system which uses a wet stone that turns at only 90 rpm's and the stone rotates thur a water basin. The stone is 2 inches wide, this gives a good flat surface to help maintain a straight sharpening edge. For an axe I will start out with a 45 degree edge. This can vary depending on the size and strength of the person using the axe and the type of wood being split. It you don't have a wet stone or access to one you can hand file the axe, but this requires paying close attention to the angle. Your other option is to take it to a professional sharpener. The cost should be 5 to 10 dollars depending on the condition of the axe before sharpening. I hope this helps.
Comment by jim ford Thu Nov 15 08:38:25 2012

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