Tool care (USA)

by Keith

Raining a little today so I was out in my shop reflecting on this passing year while I was puttering around. I sat down with a file, a honing stone, a machette, an axe, a couple shovels, and a hoe. As I was putting new edges on all the tools and honing each to achieve the right level of sharpness I was reminded of a friend who cut himself on one of my knives while cutting a rope. He was very surprised at how easily the rope was cut, and said "I don't ever have anything that sharp". Makes me wonder how many people are struggling with the right tool but let the tool languish unattended until needed, then can't understand why the work "has to be so hard" (or some variation there of). Tool maintenance should be at the top of the to do list during the slow periods.

Sharpen that axe!

This tool is intentionally left soft. That is the steel is not as hard as it could be. This is done to keep the blade from shattering on impact, and helps absorb some of the vibration from impact to keep from damaging the handle prematurely. It makes it easy to sharpen, but will not hold a keen edge. You should never try to sharpen one to a delicate razor like edge. You should not be able to see light reflect off the edge when viewed straight on. To sharpen an axe simply follow the factory edge with the file. Move the file in the direction that wood passes over the blade. Do both sides over-lapping the file strokes. When you are satisfied with the bevel of the edge, use the honing stone in the same manner to put a final finish on the blade, oil the blade to keep it from rusting, and you're done. Unless the axe has been abused or neglected this should not take more than 15 minutes, and is time well spent.

Shovels and Hoes need a sharp edge too

Most shovels and hoes sold in the US have very blunt edges that cannot hope to cut into the soil or through weeds or roots. All hoes (in my experience) and shovels do well with about the same edge. The bevel should be between that of a pocket knife, and the axe youjust finished. One big difference between the bevel of an axe and that of the shovel or hoe is that the axe has a double bevel edge, while the shovel and hoe both have a single bevel edge. In a double bevel edge both sides are tapered or beveled to the cutting edge. While single bevel edges are sharpened from one side only. Even the popular scuffle hoe can be improved by sharpening.

Knives I hope are self explanitory. A dull knife is good for cutting soft butter and little else.

Saw blades also need to be kept sharp, but are beyond my expertise. I hire that job out since there are too many types of saw blades to be discussed here I'll leave it at that.

Tomorrow I'll be busy dulling that axe blade, as well as the Scythe. Time to clear out a spot for the smoke house, and another shed.

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