If you’re an axe enthusiast like us here at Axe Adviser, you’d probably agree that buying a new axe is like Christmas. But when you get home and start swinging that blade, the results can disappoint.

What gives? You avoided the $10 starter axe at the store! In this article, we’re going to look at whether axes need to be sharpened before use? To help us out, we reached out to some of the leading axe manufacturers to get their advice.

Should I sharpen my new axe before use?

If you need a sharp axe, then you’re probably going to need to sharpen a new one before use. From our research, we found that most brands avoid excessively sharpening their blades.

You’ll find that most axes bought at hardware stores aren’t as sharp as they could be. This includes quality brands like Fiskars and Estwing. Premium brands like the Gransfors Bruks American felling axe and hatchets are razor-sharp. Husqvarna and Stihl advised that their axes are ready to use from new.

Hults Bruk provided the most in-depth response:

“It depends on your preference and the axe. Premium axes are finished by hand at the factory and feature a fine ground edge, razor sharp finish. Agdor axes are rough sharpened by hand to a working edge that’s ready to use out of the box. With time, a file and sharpening stone, the high quality Swedish steel can be sharpened to a fine edge.”

Advice from Hults Bruk Representative
Power tools make quick work of sharpening axes.

Why aren’t all axes sold sharp?

Axes that get sold in stores are mostly placed on shelf with a dull blade. This makes sense for safety reasons, with inexperienced users and kids easily able to touch them. Unlike a pocket knife that is sold closed, in a sheath, that’s often not the case for axes.

But that’s not the full story. In America, axes were traditionally used for felling or splitting wood. While chopping down trees requires a sharp bit, a blunt axe is preferable for splitting.

It made sense back then to sell the axes blunt as water grinders were found in every town. Those that needed sharp axes could easily sharpen them. It seems that not much has changed over the decades, with blunt axes still the norm.

Do I need a sharp axe?

If you’ve brought a new axe home from the store or it’s just been delivered, you may be wondering whether to sharpen it. This will ultimately depend on what you intend to use it for.

Axes used mostly to split firewood don’t need a sharp blade. It’s best to leave the bit a little blunt and use the weight of the axe head to break through the wood rounds.

On the other hand, axes needed for felling, limbing, bucking, carving, and everyday chores require sharpening to make life easier. Premium axes usually won’t need sharpening which is a bonus.

Can you sharpen an axe with a knife sharpener?

If you use a sharpening stone or whetstone as a knife sharpener then it will work fine as an axe sharpener. Fixed-angle knife sharpeners aren’t suitable for sharpening axes. Their angle is made for knives, not axes.

If you want to give your axe bit a seriously sharp blade, then check out our guide to axe sharpening. You’ll get step-by-step instructions on how to make a dull blade super-sharp.   

How much does it cost to get an axe sharpened?

To get an axe sharpened, you’ll find the price varies, but you can expect to pay around $8-12 for a sharpen. This service usually has any nicks removed and includes cleaning and oiling.   

How often does an axe need sharpening?

While knives require regular sharpening, you’ll find that axes only need sharpening when they become hard work to use. An axe that isn’t used regularly, will only need sharpening every 3-6 months. Mauls and splitting axes generally only need their blades sharpened if they’ve been damaged.

Related reading: Find out how to tell the top of an axe.

A vertical collage of two men examining an axe blade and two other axes.

Summing up

If you’re a DIY type of guy or girl, buying a new axe is exciting stuff. It’s important to keep in mind that your new tool probably won’t be very sharp.

Don’t be disappointed. This is just the way they’re manufactured, so if you need a razor-sharp edge, then sharpen it.

You’ll discover that most brands sell their axes with thick bits that take a lot of work to sharpen by hand. If you don’t have power tools capable of sharpening, save yourself the headache and take it into a professional sharpener.    

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