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  • How to Care for a Handmade Axe

    July 19, 2021 3 min read

    How to Care for a Handmade Axe

    Abraham Lincoln once said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening my axe.” I think he should have cared for his tools better.

    - Nathan Gareau, Axe Enthusiast

    Axes are fun! Whether you're a true lumberjack or just a lover of well-made things like myself, it's easy to see why chopping wood and using an axe is so much fun. For me, one of the big joys of owning well-made axes is seeing how they age and develop with use - and with proper care.

    An axe that has been properly cared for should last for generations. The blacksmiths that make our axes use high-carbon steels, which allows for a sharper edge that lasts longer. This also means that a hand-made axe is much safer than an axe that dulls quickly. There are a few steps that you can follow to keep your axe happy and safe for decades to come.

    What Oil Should You Use on Your Axe?

    High carbon steels have huge benefits, but can be fussy at times. It is very important to keep your axe head oiled and free of excess moisture as the steel can rust if forgotten about and left damp. We recommend Kent of Inglewood Blade Oil, the same oil that one would use to keep a treasured razor from tarnishing between uses. A few drops rubbed into the steel with a clean cloth is all that is needed to protect against aggressive oxidation.

    We offer sharpening services in store, but the joy of sharpening your own axe cannot be overstated.

    How to Sharpen an Axe by Hand

    A sharp axe is a safe axe; take care of your axe and use it as intended. A carbon steel axe is for cutting, chopping and whittling wood, not stones and other hard materials; misuse will result in a chipped edge. That being said, chips aren’t the end of the world. Minor chips and touch ups are easily taken care of with a small sharpening stone such as the Kent of Inglewood Axe Stone. Rub the stone against the edge using small circles to wear out chips and sharpen the blade, and be sure to keep the stone wet with water while using it. Start with the rough side of the stone, and polish your edge with the smoother side. Learn more about axe sharpening here. Keep in mind that any axe purchased from Kent of Inglewood can be brought into the shop for a first-time free sharpening.

    The Best Way to Care for Your Axe Handle

    The axe-head and edge would be nothing more than a dangerous paperweight if not for the hickory handle. Taken from the center of an American Hickory Tree, the haft of a hand-made axe provides the perfect blend of strength and flexibility. There is no need to fear the occasional over-swing, these handles are made by hand to last. It’s best to keep the wood oiled and waxed to prevent drying and shrinking, particularly where the handle runs through the head. We prefer Kent of Inglewood Handle Wax because it also has mineral oil in it to hydrate the wood and protect it. If the axe becomes loose while chopping, stop working and re-affix the head. This can be accomplished by firmly hitting the bottom of the handle with a mallet or by sinking a wedge into the ‘eye’.

    Our handle wax is specially formulated for knife and axe handles.

    Use Your Axe Properly

    One of the best things I ever did for my axe was to read Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting. In his book, Mr. Mytting lays out the entire life of a tree from sapling to firewood and details felling, splitting, stacking and burning methods. Following his instructions made me a more competent axe-user.

    Norwegian Wood, the wood-cutter's bible. 

    Keep a Good Knife or Hatchet Handy

    Most axe-related injuries are done to ones-self when cutting kindling. Avoid this kind of folly. A sharp small blade like the Helle Eggen, Higo Knife or Hultafors Hatchet can be used to chip wood for starting fires, cut feather sticks or slice small pieces of kindling. Why do a job with a heavy, unwieldy blade that can be done more safely with a smaller one?

    Some tasks are just better done with a knife.

    Each axe has a unique and specialized use; some are for chopping, some for splitting, carving or even throwing. Regardless of the use, be aware of your surroundings and follow good axe safety. If you'd like to figure out which axe is right for the job, check out our guide on How to Choose the Right Axe. Happy chopping!

    Check out our outdoors "axessories"