How to Sharpen an Axe With a Whetstone

Updated November 21, 2016

Proper care and routine maintenance will ensure that your axe has a long life and functions properly when used. Dull, dirty and rusty blades can become useless and even dangerous to the user. Dull blades can bounce off the wood instead of penetrating it, increasing the risk of injury. Sharpening an axe blade takes little time and is simple if the right technique is used. For best results, sharpen your axe blade using a whetstone.

Clean the axe blade using dish soap and a cloth. Apply the dish soap to the blade and rub over its surface with the cloth. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely with a towel. Check to make sure all debris, dirt and rust has been removed. Apply a light coat of motor oil over the blade's surface.

Clamp the axe blade to a work bench or table using a vice. Tighten the vice securely to hold the axe in place. Wear thick gloves to protect your hands from injury.

Soak a coarse whetstone in water or motor oil. Run the stone against one side of the blade making long, smooth, circular strokes. Begin each stroke with the stone at the tip of the blade and move inward, towards the blade's centre. Match the current angle of the blade with each stroke.

Make one stroke on the opposite side of the blade for every ten strokes on the current side. Alternate between the sides of the blade to sharpen them both evenly. Re-wet your whetstone often during the sharpening process.

Switch to a fine whetstone after the blade has been sharpened. Soak the stone in water or motor oil. Run the stone over the blade in the same manner as before to smooth the sharpened blade. Apply a new coat of oil onto the blade when finished.


Always clamp down the blade before sharpening. Always move the sharpening tool over the blade instead of moving the blade over the tool.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Cloth
  • Water
  • Towel
  • Vice
  • Gloves
  • Motor oil
  • Regular and fine whetstones
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