There is nothing more frustrating than unpacking your camping gear, setting up your campsite, then pulling out your camping axe and start cutting firewood only to find out you have a dull axe. Unless you brought tools to sharpen your axe, you are stuck. The best you can do at that point is to find soft tree limbs lying around to use your dull axe as a sledgehammer to pound the limbs into pieces. And of course, old wood like this burns quickly so you spend your entire camping trip collecting more old wood to cook over and to stay warm. Not fun.
In this article, I'm going to show you how to sharpen your camping axe in 5 minutes or less so that you can either sharpen your axe at home before you leave or right after you get back home so it’s ready for your next camping trip.
In general, you will be wearing cotton gloves. Spray the axe blade with WD44, wipe with a cloth. Then tighten the axe head in a vice or a table clamp. Mark both sides of the edge with a wide black sharpie, then sharpen the blade edge using the draw method with a Bahco File and testing the sharpness of the blade when finished
Use Cotton Gloves
The purpose of cotton gloves instead of leather gloves is to give you the ability to grip the file more firmly. Using WD40to clean the axe head and blade is just quick and easy unless you've left your axe out in the rain and weather for a long time. If so then you maybe have to use fine-grit sandpaper to remove the rust before you use the WD40 to clean it.
Spray with WD40
After you spray a nice coat of WD40 on the blade you simply let it sit for about 60 seconds then take your cotton cloth and wipe it off. All you are doing here is removing any tree sap or grit that would fill up the gaps in between the file's teeth which would reduce the files cutting or sharpening ability.
Axe head in a vice or clamp
When you tighten the axe head in the vice you will want the blade's edge facing up and the same is for table clamps. If you use clamps you will want the blade edge to point out away from the table so you can use the file easier.
Use a wide sharpie
After you’ve cleaned the axe head and tighten it down and are sure it is secure, then take a large tip sharpie and run it down both sides of the blade next to the edge. This allows you to track your progress as you use the Bahco file to sharpen the axe blade’s edge.
Now you are ready to sharpen the blade using the draw method. You simply grip the Bahco Filehandle and run the file’s teeth along the side edge of the blade where you have it marked with the sharpie. You slide the file away from the axe head as you move it down the blade. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. All you are doing is creating a rough edge on the blade. You do this on both sides of the blade. Each side should only take about 12 to 15 strokes with the file.
You’re not trying to put a polished edge on the blade. Actually, you are doing the quite opposite. You’re creating a rough edge on purpose which for general use is perfect for a camping axe.
Test the edge
And finally, the quickest way to see if you got a good edge is to take it out of the vice or clamp and use it to shave some kindling. If the edge is good, then the shavings will be nice and even.
I’ve done this for decades and it has usually taken me around 5 minutes. It may take you a little longer to get the hang of it but it’s the quickest and easiest way I know to sharpen your camping axe. Always remember to take your time when learning anything new. It’s the smartest and safest path.
Here are the 8 steps in bullet form in case you want to snap a pic for your phone before you head out to the barn to give it ago.
1. Put on a pair of cotton gloves
2. Use WD 40 to clean the axe blade
3. Wipe the blade and head with a cotton cloth
4. Tighten the axe head in a vice or clamp to a bench
5. Run a wide-tip Sharpie across the sides of the blade edge
6. Use the draw method to sharpen the axe
7. Use a Bahco 10-inch Mill Cut file for sharping
8. Test the sharpness of the blade
How to Sharpen an Axe Using a Whet Stone/Oil stone
I personally don't use a whetstone or oil stone for sharpening a camping axe and here's why. First off it take quite a while to learn to get the hang of it. Even though my grandfather could do it, I never could get the hang of it. Besides, even though stones put a real nice edge on the blade (one you could shave with) it’s not necessary unless you want the bragging rights to sharpening an axe that well. For, general cutting purposes for camping you need a rough edge not a smooth one.
How To Sharpen An Axe With An Angle Grinder Or A Belt Sander
Using an angle grinder or belt sander to sharpen a camping axe is like using a bazooka to go squirrel hunting. Way too much power here for the job for a couple of reasons. The angle grinder will most like nick and gouge holes in the axe blade not to mention overheating it. You got to have a real steady hand to do this. It can destroy your axe blade in a hurry if you don't know what you're doing.
Using the belt sander is better than the angle grinder, however, you run the risk of rolling the edge of your axe blade, or worse, like the grinder, over time you take off too much material of the axe blade leaving it a little one-sided. Don't know if you have ever tried to chop or split wood with an axe head that's been ground thin on one side, but it’s a bit dangerous. It has a tendency to pull the blade a little to one side, like a car tire that low on air will pull your car to the right or left. Again, not my favorite way to sharpen one of the most important tools around my campsite.
How To Sharpen An Axe With A Dremel Tool
If you got a steady hand a Dremel Tool will work. My son is pretty good with a Dremel but you again run the risk of gouging or rolling the edge. For me, nothing beats a little patience and a file for sharpening a camping axe.
Well, that's all I got for you today, I hope this saves you a little time and gets the job done. And if you’re looking for a good all-around camping axe, I got one for you. Check out this article I wrote entitled, How to Choose A Camping Axe.
Thanks, so much for reading this old guy's articles. I really appreciate it.
All the best,
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