Post Updated: 25 Feb 2023
I felt compelled to write this post because there’s some crazy people out there… and it scares me! Can an axe be too sharp? I’ve heard similar questions being asked on Google: Can a ball be too round? Can a swimming pool be too wet? It’s brilliant! Who types this stuff in?
But actually, there is some relevance to this particular question…
There seems to be some confusion out there on how sharp an axe should be. “A chopping axe should be razor-sharp – but a splitting maul doesn’t need to be sharp, it should be dull”.
Or “an axe blade should be sharp enough to cut toilet paper, or you should have a ‘working edge’ not a razor edge”. Or “you should have a thin sharp edge not a thick sharp edge…”
An axe should be sharp – as sharp as you can get it! Depending on the type of axe and the profile of the blade, proper sharpening CAN result in a cutting edge that you can shave with. But for some types of axe this is simply not necessary.
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Straight to the point – Can an axe be too sharp?
An axe that is TOO sharp has been over-sharpened and the bit has been weakened. This can happen when you ignore the existing bevel of the blade and file away at too narrow an angle. You WILL get a razor-sharp edge but it will be of no use for any serious axe work.
Should an axe be razor sharp?
There are many different types of axes, and generally they should be as sharp as possible. A chopping axe for example is meant for chopping INTO the fibres of a tree or log for felling or chopping up wood – so it make sense for the blade to be as sharp as you can get it.
Razor-sharp if possible. An axe used for splitting logs for the fire still needs to be sharp but these are meant for splitting ALONG the grain of the wood so it’s a different tool for a different job.
Sure, you could spend an hour getting a really sharp edge to your splitting tool, but you’ll be wasting your time. It’s not necessary for splitting wood. Axes and hatchets should be razor-sharp.
They are for intricate work such as carving, limbing small branches, kindling firewood and performing duties around camp much the same as a bush knife.
Splitting axes and mauls – not so much. The big takeaway from this is: learn how to sharpen your axes properly – do it regularly, use the correct axe for the purpose it was designed to do, and you will have success!
Axe sharpening video tutorial
You simply must watch this great video from Wranglerstar on axe sharpening. He gives an awesome demonstration of honing a Gransfors Bruk versus a Fiskars axe… with a unique sharpener!
What the professionals say
“An Axe To Grind” by Bernie Weisgerber is a much heralded US Forestry Service guide on everything you could possibly want to know about axes. Here’s what Bernie says about axe sharpness:
Always check the ax for sharpness. A honed ax will cut faster, be safer to use, and stay sharp longer… If you followed procedures, your edge should be sharp enough to shave with. I sometimes check the sharpness by carefully dry shaving the hair on the back of my hand. This is a traditional method used in the woods for years.
So, if you can achieve a razor sharp edge to your axe, it’s gonna be a more effective cutting tool. Check out my article on axe sharpening here: How To Sharpen An Axe – A Step By Step Guide
How often should I sharpen my axe?
Every time you use your axe, especially for heavy work like tree felling, it’s important to spend a little time repairing the damage you’ve inflicted. My preferred method is a file to sharpen up, and a sharpening puck to hone the edge.
Just 10 minutes of care after the job is a great way to wind down and take care of your axe. This will keep it in optimum shape for the next day.
Axe sharpening ideas…
Check out the full range of axe sharpening tools on Amazon
An axe should be as sharp as you can get it, and learning how to properly sharpen your axe will ensure a razor-sharp edge to your cutting tools. Much like any hand tool, regular maintenance is the best way to ensure your axe is ready for action.
Can an axe be TOO sharp? Unless you’ve filed that bit so hard that it’s become the sharpest wafer on earth, you should be good.
An axe used for chopping into wood needs to be as sharp as possible – razor-sharp! So hone your own sharpening skills to keep your axes on point and ready for anything.
Please comment below with any suggestions on how this article could be improved or any questions you may have, I’d be happy to help!