How to use a bastard to sharpen an axe...


June 24, 2008, 05:54 PM
Bastard file, that is. I bought the best file I could find at a bigbox store, paid about $10 for a 12" Nicholson, and went to work on 3.5 pound felling axe. New out of the box, and dull with an uneven bevel. At first, the file seemed to cut agressively, but in a short time was more burnishing than cutting. I may have errored using a wire brush to clean the cuttings from the file teeth? Seems I remember back in ag shop a file card (?) that was made especially for cleaning files. So, what am I doing wrong?

sm, I bet you can help me with this. I do have a pedal powered sandstone grinding wheel, complete with the bean can water drip system. Probably should have just used that.

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June 24, 2008, 06:53 PM

The Tourist
June 24, 2008, 07:07 PM
A question of my parentage is not a key element in my skill to sharpen an axe.

I find it a cold and hurtful comment, and I bruise easily.

June 24, 2008, 10:18 PM
lol tourist :)

That page that CWL linked to is one of the best things I've seen on axe/tool sharpening outside of an old farming manual from the depression era that I have on the shelf.
that, and having someone who lived through the depression there to show you.

June 24, 2008, 11:47 PM
great link. having suffered through several cheap axes, i stole my dads axe a few years ago. chain saw is easier but less satisfying. does anyone know of a good currently manufacured double bit axe?

June 24, 2008, 11:52 PM
There are some good axes out there. Try Granfors Bruks, if there's a particular traditional axe you want. They do have a double bit axe on there.

June 25, 2008, 09:44 AM
Sorry, Tourist. I value your knowledgeable posts on this forum and hope that my poor attempt at humor has not sundered our relationship.

I have a Gransfors Bruks American felling axe and a wildlife hatchet. Excellent tools, if a little spendy. I also have a Wetterllings hatchet. They are not as expensive as the GBs, but are also very good quality . Here's where I got my felling axe. They also carry Wetterlings.

I have the manual you referenced, CWL. It's an excellent reference. My original question stands: Why does my file seem to lose cutting ability quickly, and is there anything I can do to regain or retain that or have I ruined the file?

Probably off-topic since I don't particularly consider these a "Non-Firearm Weapon."

June 25, 2008, 10:02 AM
not double bladed, but B E A U T Y F U L

June 25, 2008, 10:25 AM
I actually own one of the Fiskars felling axes that I bought out of sheer curiosity. It's kinda neato and light.
But, to be sure, the gransfors products eclipse the fiskars offerings in every way, except for the tacticool and n00b resistant handle.

And, if I'm going out to actually fell a tree, I leave the Fiskars at home.

June 25, 2008, 10:28 AM
I always chalk my files - it seems to keep metal from building up and reducing the efficiency of its cutting ability. I wait until September/October and head to Wally World and buy a few buckets of children's sidewalk chalk, which is invariably on clearance that time of year.

That being said - you get some strange looks and comments when you use the pink/orange/baby blue chalk on your file prior to use !

June 25, 2008, 01:34 PM
Use Chalk.
Push, but don't ever pull the file or you will instantly knock the teeth down.

That being said, Nicholson files just ain't made as good as they used to be!
I still have some very old, well used ones that cut better then a brand new one after a few uses.


June 25, 2008, 02:30 PM
Well I have been called other names when handed a file and told to go sharpen an axe....

Great Link provided above, thanks for posting it.
I agree, the older files were better, and use chalk.

I also use the red handled Norton carborundum "file", and pucks and pocket stones.

One handy stone is the domed puck. Especially for a new person and out in the field.

Just set the puck, flat side down, domed side up on a stump, and apply the axe to the stone in a circular motion.

The person just has to hold the axe handle, and not get fingers and hands near edges to use this domed puck this way .

Yes, they should gloves, still once this is shared , they can more safely touch up a blade.
I do this with younger folks with hand axes and the like.

They watch and learn the other methods, and these kids can help me, just I/we share safety if they get to touch up a small hand axe, under supervision, but they get to do it, this works very well.

A 3 year old with a rubber/plastic hand axe can get the motion and all pretty good.
She is much better at using that domed puck, to smush bugs on the ground with the flat side. *lol*

She was helping and her axe cutting stuff was all done with here axe.
[You should have seen her eyes when her little rubber / plastic axe split that pre split wood!]

She was doing a great job of bug smush duty.

June 25, 2008, 02:53 PM
make sure you are pushing the file. pulling a file doesn't remove metal, and dulls it very quickly.

Smokey Joe
June 25, 2008, 03:02 PM
LOL, Tourist, you beat me to it!

When I worked in the woods the Plumb Dreadnaught was the ne plus ultra of axes. Worked @ a camp where old guys from the Natural Resources Department came and showed the newbies how to sharpen & care for an axe, among other tools.

The files available back then would produce a shaving edge on an axe. They were mostly Nicholson mill bastards, IIRC. (Sorry, Tourist! :D )

Haven't bought an axe in 40 years--I still have my 2 old Plumbs, a single-bit and a double-bit. (I'm kind of long-handled, so I supplied my own.)

If you're just clearing brush on a weekend, you DO NOT want a double-bit axe. They are a specialized tool, and require care and practice to use well. Also, there is no "safe" side to them. My camp required the use of toe guards and shin guards for axe use, and all the shin guards had big scars in them where they'd stopped a rebounding double-bit.

Anyhow, if Plumb axes are still available, and if I needed an axe, there would be no question.

BTW, an axe is NOT a hammer, even though a single-bit looks vaguely like one. If you want to hammer something, go get a hammer. Hammering with an axe will distort, or break, the eye, and then where are you.

June 25, 2008, 04:07 PM
make sure you are pushing the file. pulling a file doesn't remove metal, and dulls it very quickly.
When hearing that it just slides over the work, this was my first thought as well.

Most new would-be filers will engage the file in both directions in a push-pull motion that will KILL a file very quickly.

A good file will cut well for a VERY ling time if kept chalked, pushed smoothly and firmly ahead, lifted off the work for the return stroke and carded every so often.


June 25, 2008, 05:12 PM
Who is making a good file like yesteryear?

Nicholson's are fine, just to me not like they used to be.

I tried a Sears and it was not worth a flip!
Someone snagged a Harbor Freight and another one from a small town discount store bin.

The $2.99 rinky dink from the small town discount store actually cut better and stayed sharp.
Maybe it was the neon green chalk?

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