After use: wave your cloth
Working with wood is hard work. When you've finally finished chopping and stacking 10 m³ of it, the temptation just to put your axe back in the shed and your feet up is almost overwhelming. But with just a little time, you'll win in the long-term. Cleaning and caring for your tools after use is the be-all and end-all – and it doesn't require a lot of effort. Clean the axe head with a cloth, and then rub in a drop of anti-corrosion oil with a cloth. A blade protector will reduce the risk of injury and protect the axe head against external influences.
Getting ahead: remove scratches and other marks
Axes and splitting hammers are striking tools, which means that signs of use such as scratches and other marks are unavoidable. However, restoring your tools to their usual standard is easy to do in four steps.
1. Pre-filing and removing marks from the blade
Tools and materials:
- Double grinding machine, file or grindstone
- Water for cooling
Rough notches and scratches are easy to pre-treat with a double grinding machine or file.
If using a double grinding machine, whether to grind in or against the direction of rotation is a matter of personal preference. Grinding against the direction of rotation causes burring. However, the risk of tilting is less if working in the direction of rotation. This grinding technique is advantageous particularly when working on rough marks on the blade.
What is always important is to ensure that you grind evenly on both sides of the blade in order to retain the original shape. Tip: Use a felt tip pen to draw the round contour on the axe head first, and try not to change the cutting angle when grinding.
The pad and cheeks of the axe are crowned in shape; any "flattening" may shorten the service life of the blade. If you want to be absolutely safe, work with a fine-toothed flat file. When grinding at an angle, the file or disc should always be worked over the entire surface of the blade in order to prevent a bulbous result.
Pay particular attention to the development of heat, especially when working on the axe head mechanically (e.g. with a double grinding machine). Cool the blade with water from time to time to prevent it from becoming too soft. Heat may cause the axe head and cutting surface to soften. If the axe head turns blue – known as "annealing colour" – this is a clear sign that the steel is too hot. The absolute rule is "cool, cool, cool", and do not apply too much force when working.
2. Fine polishing
Tools and materials:
- Coarse whetstone
- Fine whetstone
- Water or petroleum
The best tool for removing burring and sharpening the blade is a grindstone such as the OX 3000-0200. Moisten the grindstone for optimum results.
The grindstone should not bulge even after being used for a long time. So work the axe with the edges of the stone, turn frequently, and grind on both sides to eliminate the undercut edge.
If the grindstone becomes worn, remove any adhering sharpening burrs that could damage the blade. Of course, it is also important to clean the grindstone thoroughly after use, which is easy to do with a standard household item such as a nail brush.
3. Leather stropping
- Leather strop (or strap)
For the traditionally-minded or those who care about the fine details, the axe can be polished with a leather strop after fine polishing. This will also remove the minimum burring. The sharper a blade or axe is, the more quickly it will become blunt in use. You need to decide what is the best cutting form for yourself. The axe may be sharper for soft woods such as poplar than for hard woods such as oak. And here's a little thing that is extremely important: please remember to pull the leather away from the blade.
4. The final polish
- Anti-corrosion oil
- Soft cloth
Apply the oil all over the axe head with a soft cloth, and leave it to absorb.
Storage: good climate
Forestry tools are intended for outdoor use, and so are designed to cope with wind and weather, but incorrect storage in a too damp or dry place may damage the steel and wood.
The axe head will quickly rust if it is kept somewhere that is too damp. This will not impact on safety when working with the tool, but it doesn't look nice. It is different with the handle. Wood is a natural product, and storing it somewhere that is too damp will change its physical characteristics. If the wood gets damp it loses rigidity, and with that bending resistance, which makes it easier for the blade to break.
However, it mustn't be kept too dry, either. If the axe handle loses moisture, the wood will start to work and its dimensions will change. To be more precise: the wood will shrink, and will no longer be quite so securely attached to the axe head.
The best place to store your axe and other tools is in a tool shed or in a dry storage room that is not heated in winter, and out of direct sunlight.