How Sharp Does an Axe Need to Be?

22 March 2014
Is this an easy question for someone out there? I've played and played with my Delaronde forge bag axe and dutifully put marker on the edge and sharpened it with a mat and wet and dry paper. The edge is sharp enough to split wood and will chop but when you look at the cuts it makes they are not smooth but quite ragged.

I've used everything I can think of on the axe from paper to stones and strops - it just doesn't ever get really sharp. I'm pretty disappointed with a beautiful looking tool which just can't seem to do its job. Every other tool I have is shaving sharp yet this axe seems to resist all my efforts.

On the other hand I have some cheap Indian tomahawk heads - you can put a good edge on them with a file. They don't hold the edge too long but I'd prefer a softer edge that comes up sharp easily than a harder one that never wants to. There's also the positive aspect that the edge will roll rather than chip if you happen to come across something harder than expected when chopping.

The other reasons I lean more towards the cheap tomahawk heads are the other utility aspects. The handle is relatively easy to switch in and out as it's a friction fit. You can fit a longer handle if you're going to be chopping more, or perhaps go as far as the Polish highlanders' axe, the ciupaga, and add a 4 foot handle and use it as a walking stick. The head can also be taken off and the radius of the cutting edge allows it to be used as a a knife or ulu. It's also good for a small survival kit, a cooking pot, 'hawk head, plastic sheet and fire starter make a quick basic survival or minimalist camping kit. The whold weight comes to less than a kilo too.

I've come across this video from the A-Z of bushcraft on axes.

Here's Dave Canterbury, formerly of Dual Survival extolling the virtues of the tomahawk

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