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Stuart Smith
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Location: Tuscany, Italy
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sorry if this has been covered somewhere before, had a look but couldn't find anything so here goes...hope it's simple.

Just want to know how to sharpen a side axe, bought it to put points onto fence posts but clearly comes with a dull edge so need to know how to get a working edge onto it.

Thanks all!
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Travis Johnson
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You might try looking up "How to Sharpen a Broad Axe" which is the proper term for what you have.

Most broad axes have one bevel so that it can chop straight to a line making sharpening it easier than most pole or two bit axes. It is hard to discuss sharpening in a post, but I will try. The key to getting a super sharp edge is making sure the back of the blade is really flat. In fact you will spend more time getting the back flat then the bevel. Hard to believe huh? But it is true. When the back is absolutely flat, you get a straight line, and then you can make the bevel meet it.

Everyone has their preferred methods...me I am super frugal so I use sandpaper and glass. Glass is very flat, so it is an ideal surface to sharpen on. I use self-adhesive sand paper stuck to the glass starting with coarse paper. By the looks of your axe it looks extremely dull, so I would start with 100 grit and work up. It is going to take awhile, but run the flat part over the steel until the back is shiny straight across. Then start working up in grits. 100, 150, 220, 320, 400, 600, 1200, and 2000 grit, using water in the higher grits. What you are doing is making the "scratches" in the steel more and more refined. The deeper the scratches the more dull the axe is. However once you get up to 1200 and 2000 grit, it is going to be super polished.

From there you flip the axe over and start on the bevel. Here though you must do one thing: keep the bevel the same. If you try to do this my hand or eye, you will inevitably lift or drop the edge thereby "rolling" it, and by doing that, it is dull. You need to make a consistent bevel hit a perfectly flat back. When you do that, you can literally shave with it. You can use a block of wood cut to the right bevel to make sure you maintain this consistent bevel.

That axe looks like it is pretty dull straight out of the factory (most are) so it might take some time, but once you realize (1) a flat back, and (2) consistent bevel, and (3) polished steel is what it takes to get something ultra sharp, it will open up a whole new world of woodworking, from framing lumber slicks, to router bits, to hand saws.
 
Stuart Smith
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Location: Tuscany, Italy
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Thanks a lot Travis...a fantasticly detailed response and I appreciate the time you've taken to do so 👍 I feel much happier about having a go at it now.

The back of the axe blade is currently flat (single bevel) but painted so I guess I need to get that polished first off.

The bevel has two angles currently, the main bevel you can clearly see in the photo although also painted, I guess I need to work to this bevel angle until I meet the flat back of the ace removing what is an obtuse little bevel currently on the edge.
 
Travis Johnson
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No problem...

When I mean flat on the back, I mean absolutely flat. You will see this when you start to sand the axe on glass. The high points really get polished, where as the lower points don't. After the paint gets rubbed off, sometimes I will use machinist layout dye to make sure I am getting the backs absolutely flat. Sadly it takes a very long time to get the back of a blade absolutely flat, but once it is done, it is done for life so it is well worth doing. Sharpening the bevel side then becomes pretty easy.

As for how sharp something should be, well only you can answer that. For hogging off fence posts to points, it may not require ultra sharp tooling, but who knows, once you see that you can shave with an axe, you might be so impressed you will never look at something as sharp or dull the same way again.

BTW: You can get high grit (1200-2000 grit sand paper at automotive stores. Now where you live the grit size might be different then here in the USA.
 
Stuart Smith
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excellent thanks again Travis!! 👍

I have some wet and dry papers up to 2000 grit as I use them for straight razors so seems I've got everything I need...just need to crack on now, raining here today so might get started this afternoon...will keep you posted.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Travis, could you run it on a belt sander for the low grits on the flat side? Seems like it would save some time on a factory blade...
 
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