Questions for the saw sharpening shop: Files for axes, sharpening shiney blades

Vern Burke SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

In this post, I’m going to answer a couple of more questions that I’ve seen come through regarding the right file to sharpening an ax and sharpening “shiney” blades.

1. Double or single cut file for sharpening an ax?

An ax is the ONLY tool I’d ever consider using a double cut file on and then only if I couldn’t get a single cut file. If the ax bit is so bad (severely dull, nicks, missing chunks) that you think you need the more aggressive double cut file, use a 6″ bench grinder instead.

My normal routine for sharpening axes is to restore the shape of the edge and remove nicks or missing chunks with the bench grinder, being extra careful not to burn the metal of course. After that, I smooth the bevel flat with a single cut mill file which leaves almost a perfectly sharp edge. I finish by running a medium stone across the edge lengthwise a couple of times on each side to remove the wire edge. The end result is an ax that you DON’T want to be testing with your thumb. Forget the double cut files.

2. Sharpening “shiney” blades.

The cutting irons in late model Craftsman planes are a good example of the evil “shiney” blade. These irons apparently contain a fair amount of chromium, making them effectively stainless but lousy to sharpen (a file will skid right across them). These types of blades really need to be machine sharpened and then I feel they produce a substandard edge. Best to throw these for standard high carbon irons. They might take a little more care but you’ll be a LOT happier with the results.


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