There are not many things that can go wrong with an axe. Of the things that might become a problem, most of then can be avoided with proper axe maintenance. This article will discuss 5 problems that may occur with an axe and how they can be prevented or corrected.
Handle Shrinkage and Splitting
Axe handles that are left exposed to the weather may have a tendency to shrink, splinter or split as axe handles are not generally sealed or coated. Freezing weather can cause swelling and shrinking of the wooden handle as well.
To prevent damage of this type, store your axe indoors or away from the elements. Do not store the axe outside, and cover the axe's head with a shroud when not in use.
Rusting Axe Heads
Most axe heads will rust if left exposed to moisture. The easy way to prevent rust is to coat the axehead with oil or some other inhibitor, such as WD-40. An added benefit of treating the axe head in this manner is that it will actually work better. An oiled axe blade will cut deeper and faster, saving you time and effort when chopping wood.
Chipping in Cold Weather
A chopping axe is usually made with a tempered axe head. This prevents the axe from deforming during use, but it also makes the blade more brittle. If the temperature is below freezing, the axe blade becomes far more likely to chip or cup.
If you are going to use an axe in sub-freezing conditions, warm it up before you put it to use. As long as the head is above freezing, the danger of chipping will be much lower. Do not warm the axe by exposing it directly to fire, as this can damage the integrity of the wooden handle, making it more likely to break.
Loose Axe Head
Occasionally, the head of your axe may become loose. When this happens, tighten the head by driving a metal wedge into the top of the handle. Drive it directly into the handle groove, which will expand the material and lock the head in place. If a wedge is already installed in the handle, remove it and replace with a slightly wider wedge.
Keeping a Sharp Edge
Oiling the axe head is a good way to preserve the cutting edge, but you will periodically need to sharpen it no matter what you do. Mount the axe in a vise with the edge facing up. Using a sharpening file, make long, complete strokes that span from the toe of the blade to the heel. Do not file in one place at the expense of the rest of the blade. Apply machine oil to make sharpening easier and promote a lasting edge once it has been sharpened.