How to Sharpen an Axe with a File

You may have brought the best axe from the market that is not enough to get your job done all the time. To keep it effective, you need to keep it sharp and polished. This old-fashioned tool comes with heavyweight that only sharpening is enough for making it operational. You don't have to be worried about using the right tool. You can even do the task with a file. The question is, how to sharpen an axe with a file?

There is a misconception that sharpening an axe is difficult and it requires a heavy tool. But the reality is the opposite. Only dedicated time and your effort are enough to sharpen an axe. Here We are aiming to write in detail how you can do sharp your axe like a pro just with some hand tools.

Yes, you can sharp an old axe just using a file.

You need to use a few things which are –

  • Polishing Paper
  • Wiping cloth
  • A Bench
  • Cleaning Laundry
  • Sandpaper
  • A Large file

Step by Step to Sharpen an Axe with a File


At the very beginning of sharpening, you need to ensure that the axe is clean and polished. Yet, it is not a hard task to clean the axe. For cleaning the axe, use some cleaning laundry. Mix the cleaning laundry with water and soak the axe for at least half an hour. Then take it and wipe with a clean cotton cloth. If you have followed the process, there will be very little mess on the axe.

Now it is time to polish the axe. You can use the sandpaper for polishing. Make sure that you are choosing the metal sandpaper for this purpose. No matter how good the axe quality is, still it requires polishing after a few months. Even if you are using a good quality bushcraft axe, you need to polish it for the effectiveness.


Before you start applying the file, you need to secure the axe. There are several options for this. You can use a bench and clamps to hold the axe securely. Make sure it is remaining in place even when delivering force with the file. If you don't have clamps, you can also use something heavy to keep it secure. People even use two pieces of bricks for holding the axe with a bench.

No problem even if you don't have a bench. Take the axe, place the head in between two feet of your legs, hold it securely and start the next step. But using clamp is recommended.


Now it is time to apply the file. Match the bevel and the angle of the file. It is crucial to avoid any unwanted pressure on the axe. This could spoil the edges. The file should be at least 10 to 12 inches for your convenience.

After matching the bevel and the file angle, start slowly with gentle strokes. Don't force heavily in the whole process. However, use your two hands to avoid unwanted pain on the wrist. In each stroke, pass the file over the edges only to the outside. If you are moving it in and out, you are doing it wrong.

Instead of getting a sharpened axe, you will damage the edges. So, be careful at this point. Gradually you will notice the changes in the edge. It will start shining which indicates that the edge is getting sharper. Apply the file for the whole head and bring the visible shine. It should cover every inch of the axe.


In this step, you should check the sharpness of the axe. The thing you can do is apply the axe for a regular job that you used to with it. If you have done the above process properly, you will realize the difference in performance. If you think it requires more sharpening, follow Step-3 again.


Though you have cleaned the axe with laundry, you may want to give it a shiny look like the edge of the axe. For this, I will suggest applying a wire brush. Before applying the brush, secure the head as earlier and start applying the brush. Clean the whole head of the axe with the brush and use clean water during the process for making it more clear within a short time.

Safety Tips for Sharpening an Axe

You should obey some rules for axe sharpening safety. When you are holding the axe head or the file, use a pair of gloves on your hand. I am not saying to use a general fabric glove or surgical gloves. You must use your leather gloves for holding the pile and touching the edges. If you don't have any, buy one which you can further use during your camping. Maintain a safe distance between your hands and the edges of the axe.

Final Verdict

Now you shouldn't have any confusion about how to sharpen an axe with a file. The process here described is universal. Whether you want to sharpen a Hatchet or a regular axe with sharpened edges, you can apply the same method. Instead of applying an automated sharpening stone, applying a file is cheaper. You can do that at home and it takes less effort. So don't hesitate to follow the process to make your axe looking like new.

We think you're going to find these pages as well:

Leave a Comment