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Sharpening an axe for carving and shaping


There is no one size fits all for carving any carving tool because the shape of the actual cut you want, the reflected result from the cutting edge and bevel,  relies on different issues, that’s why carvers often have what appear to be the same tools with different shapes on or behind the cutting edges to their carving tools. It’s the same with axes. When you do find an axe you like you will most likely use it and adapt it to different tasks. Then again, there are tasks that axe will be difficult to use on.

DSC_0854Here is how I sharpened this axe for the work we will be doing. It’s a new axe made by or for Husqvarna who make the chainsaws and is hand forged. It costs £23, is quite heavy and has a comfortable feel in use.

I clamped my axe in the vise at a presentable angle so I could file into or toward the body of steel. I used fine 8″ and 10″ mill files, but one or the other will work fine. To remove the file marks I suggest either using the sharpening plates or small diamond files. I then polish the bevels on my strop to further refine the cutting edge. The end result is a cutting edge sharp enough to sharpen my pencils with.

DSC_0858If you have my sharpening plate setup you can sharpen an axe using circular motions and going through the grits from 250, 600 to 1200 and then follow on with the strop and buffing compound. just keep the axe as low as possible to prevent too much convex round above the cutting edge.

DSC_0872Here is the end result to my axe cutting edge.


  1. winboxes on 19 August 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Paul, it looks from the pic that you are pushing the file towards the edge? Wouldn’t it be safer to file from the back of the edge.

    • Paul Sellers on 19 August 2013 at 7:51 pm

      It’s not unsafe at all. I am not taking a full forward stroke but a circular stroke into the body and then off to the side in an arc.

  2. Scott on 19 November 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Hey, Paul! First, thanks so much for all of the amazing info on your site and YouTube. Can you tell me what angles you use for your carving axes–mainly for spoon and bowl carving? Also, do you go with a flat bevel or slightly convex? Thanks in advance for any info.

    • Paul Sellers on 19 November 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Convex works best so I go from 15 degrees and then drop off into the main body of the axe.

      • Scott on 8 January 2017 at 12:52 am

        Didn’t see your reply until now — over a year later. Thank you very much for the info!

  3. Gary on 17 June 2016 at 2:27 am

    I enjoy all you offer, thank you.

  4. Kevin Holler on 19 September 2016 at 8:52 pm

    I am very curious about what makes the shape of the Bahco better for carving after you reshaped it. I have been searching for a while now trying to find an explanation of how different shapes change the use of the hatchet. I have found a lot of carving hatchets and they seem to all have long curved blades, but I have not found a discussion anywhere on why this works better for carving. I did find a very helpful explanation of how a different “profile” can impact the way the hatchet or axe splits the wood, and how to hollow the cheeks below the cutting edge, but that was not about the curve of the edge. I bought the Bahco above based on your post, and I like it very much, but I’d like to know more about the shape of the edge, and how it changes the hatchet, before I do anything drastic to it. Thanks as always, I love your approach and tutelage in the *craft* of wood working. I feel like hand tool woodworking has taught me the fundamentals and the real versatile knowledge of wood working, where my years of machine wood-working was just a series of “tricks.” If I didn’t know the right trick, or have exactly the right tool or jig, the task was impossible. Just the opposite, with some basic hand tool knowledge I can figure out how to do tasks several different ways, even if I haven’t been exposed to them before. Anyway, I had been meaning to say thanks for some time now, so thank you very much. I am also introducing my 8 year old son to woodworking, and he loves the coping saw, the spokeshave, and the 4 in one rasp/file. Thanks again.

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