Axes work hard and deserve a little love whenever you can give it. In this guide, we’ll give you the rundown on how to keep an axe head from rusting. After all, it’s easier to maintain tools than it is to deal with fixing them once they’re looking the worse for wear.
How do I stop an axe head rusting?
The easiest way to protect an axe head from rust damage is to give it a light oiling every six months. Cleaning the head of dirt and moisture and storing it away from the elements and moisture will also keep rust at bay. Over time, your axe will develop a natural patina that helps protect the tool from unwanted rust.
Steps to prevent an axe from rusting
Once you’ve finished working with your axe, follow these instructions to keep your axe in tip-top condition.
- Clean it: Start by checking the axe head to make sure it’s clean. Wipe off dirt and debris with a cloth. Tannins and sap should be removed using steel wool combined with acetone.
- Check for rust: Can you see early signs of rust forming on the steel? Get rid of it straight away by using vinegar and fine steel wool.
- Oil it: You can oil both sides of the head of an axe by squirting a small amount of gun oil or WD40. Otherwise, Vaseline or beeswax can be smeared onto the metal. Using a rag, wipe it lightly to make sure it gets spread all over. Don’t wipe off any excess oil.
- Dry it: Place the axe head on a sheet of cardboard or newspapers and allow it to dry for around two hours.
Safety tip: Oxidation of some wood oils can result in fires. Store linseed-soaked rags in an airtight container submerged in water. Oily paper should be composted or burned off.
Fast fact: Oiling an axe head doesn’t just offer protection, it also helps the blade cut through wood deeper and faster.
Other ways to prevent axe rust
Paint: Use a clear lacquer to protect the metal and touch up occasionally on the wear points.
Bluing solution: Coat your axe head in a bluing solution like Birchwood Casey Super Blue Liquid Gun Blue. This product is a double-strength solution that is ideal for bluing hardened steel like axe heads.
Rust-o-leum: Remove any rust and dirt, then coat in Rust-o-leum. A final coat of oil will offer excellent protection from rust.
Animal fat: If you’re off-grid with no access to man-made protectants then animal fat like hog grease or any other animal you kill will work well.
Commonly asked questions
How often should I oil an axe head?
To keep an axe in top condition, try to oil the head every six months. If you’re often working with an axe in wet conditions, then monthly oiling is well worth the effort.
What is a patina?
When metal is exposed to air, it oxidizes in a similar way to a fresh slice of avocado. The surface transforms into a richer color and acts as a protective layer to destructive rust. Patina is usually smooth and has a greyish-black shade.
Having a patina on an axe head is a positive signal. It shows that your axe has a high carbon blade.
How do I add a patina to my axe head?
Adding a ferrous oxide patina to your axe head is quick and easy. There are many ways to get the job done, but a mixture of boiled orange juice, salt, peroxide, Epson salt, and vinegar will help expedite the process.
How to remove severe rust from an axe
If your axe head is completely rusted over then you’ll need more than just steel wool and vinegar. Instead, remove the axe head from the handle and soak it in a bath of white vinegar.
How do you keep an axe head shiny?
To keep an axe head looking like you just bought it, add a little polishing compound to the polishing wheel of a rotary power tool. Polish the metal until it has a shiny finish.
What is the best product for preventing rust?
The ideal product for rust prevention on an axe will depend on what you use it for. Natural animal or plant oil is best if you use it to process food or for hunting. Gun oil, beeswax, or WD40 are excellent for axes used on wood or other everyday jobs.
Our guide to the best axe oil will be available soon and we’ll post a link here when it’s published.
Benjamin Franklin once said, ”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Wise words that couldn’t be truer when it comes to axes. These tools are easy to maintain, so get into a regular habit and your axe will keep giving for many years.