Do New Axes Need To Be Sharpened?

Post Updated: 25 Feb 2023

So I finally decided to trade in that decades old axe that just wouldn’t cut it anymore. I scoured the internet for the ‘best axe for whatever’, spent my hard-earned money on a shiny new axe and it was winging it’s way to me via a well-known online retailer.

The thought of some brand new shiny steel to chop, cut, hone or split wood makes me all warm inside as I think of all the new and exciting possibilities this new purchase has opened up for me.

At night I dream of felling the biggest tree in the forest with one mighty swing of my new axe as thunder erupts overhead and nature cowers before me in awe of my magnificence…

It arrives the very next day. The weight of the package feels good, this is going to be it, this axe will put all my struggles up to this point firmly behind me and set me on my road to success! I’ll never need another axe as long as I live.

I’ll take good care of it, treat it how it should be treated – how it deserves to be treated.

Today my life changes forever! Wait…What… What the ever-loving hell is THIS! I can’t remember buying a damn sledgehammer…Did I? It certainly looks like it, but it’s axe-shaped – this can’t be right.

Oh no, no, no this is not what I dreamed, this is NOT gonna fell the biggest tree in the forest with one mighty swing… this thing couldn’t cut down a frigging sapling! You could ski down that edge!!! Oh whoa is me, the cruelty is too much to bear…


Straight to the point – Do I need to sharpen a new axe?

The factory edge on a new axe is rarely optimal for effective work. You should always sharpen and hone the cutting edge before using your new axe. A file or sharpening puck is the best way to ensure your axe blade is ready for action.

Why is it new axes don’t come sharp?

I may have laid that on a bit thick but it’s a common occurrence I assure you. I’ve rarely seen an axe that was really sharp out of the box. I say rarely because some axes DO come really sharp but they tend to be the crème de la crème ones such as the Gransfors Bruks American Felling Axe (Ahh, it’s a beautiful thing…)

Generally speaking, new axes WILL need to be sharpened to get an optimum edge for whatever task your axe will be performing.

Many axes are manufactured this way because people have different uses for axes – chopping trees, splitting logs etc. so they are produced with a ‘factory edge’ to allow the user to choose their own edge profile… and it saves money on production costs!

Now, that’s all well and good but what if I specifically buy a Felling axe? Shouldn’t that be sharp and ready to go? You’d think so, but again it comes down to saving money on production by the manufacturers.

They’ve done their research, they’ve looked at the statistics and found that most people who buy and use axes regularly – or even now and again – will have vastly different opinions on what sharp is or what the perfect edge looks like… or even how it should perform.

They decided somewhere along the line that it was easier, therefore more cost-effective to produce axes with a standard edge that can be modified by the user for their own specific purposes.

Another reason of course, is that it’s probably not the best idea to have thousands of razor-sharp blades hanging around in stores or being transported around the world! This all makes perfect business sense. But for the end user, this can be a bit of a let-down.

But it’s no big deal, in many ways this leads us into sharpening and honing our own cutting tools which is a great skill to have if you own an axe! If you’re looking for some advice in this regard, I have the very article for you right here: How To Sharpen An Axe – A Step By Step Guide

How sharp should my axe be?

There are many schools of thought on HOW sharp an axe should be and since this is my blog… you’re getting my opinion – which happens to be the correct one!

First we need some distinction between the different types of axes. Now traditionally, an axe (or ax) is a sharp cutting tool for cutting INTO the fibers of a tree or log, or piece of wood. This is different to a Splitting axe or Maul which are used to split wood ALONG the grain.

There are many, many derivatives of the axe – check out my article: 28 Different Axe Types – And What They’re Used For if you have a few minutes to spare.

The general principle is this: The sharper your AXE, the better – no exceptions. SPLITTING axes and Mauls don’t NEED to be razor-sharp but having a sharp edge to your splitting tools will not impact on their performance.

There are some who believe a splitting tool should have a dull blade – it should not and this is why:

When you split wood, the edge does the important job of beginning the split by driving into the wood first, allowing the rest of the wedge to follow through to the chopping block.

Do hatchets come sharpened?

Most hatchets will be supplied to the user with a factory edge, meaning it should be capable of chopping or splitting wood – to a degree.

However, since people have different uses for their hatchets the manufacturers usually go with the factory edge option because it is easier to produce, and most likely the user will want to tailor their cutting edge to their own preference anyway.

As with larger axes, the high-end brands such as Gransfors Bruk or Hults Bruk hatchets will have a much more honed cutting edge ‘out of the box’ as these are handmade with far more care and craftsmanship than your hardware store run-of-the-mill hatchets.


  • AXES for chopping INTO wood (felling trees, cutting logs etc.) should be as sharp as possible
  • SPLITTING tools used for splitting wood ALONG the grain don’t NEED to be razor-sharp, but certainly should not be dull

Please leave any comments or questions you may have below, and I’d be happy to help!


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