Just the tip of the Ice Cube.....

Jul 25, 2012
That extremely curious u-tube of Ray Mears sharpening his axe (in the woods with three water stones:rolleyes:) got me thinking about just how you'd really do it in the field. One of my several hobby horses is that hockey puck sharpening stone that is so often urged on the fledgling axe owner.

It's my contention that these stones are an accident just waiting to happen. This image is from the Lee Valley folks in their axe section. The fellow in the photo is soon going to have a bandage on his middle finger. Much to the amusement of his co-workers. I question the angle his sharpening will put on the blade but it's his axe and maybe he likes it dull.

This is my hand for another view of what the problem is; you're quite right that's not a sharpening stone but the center spool of my masking tape dispenser. I don't have one of those stones and much as I like you guys, I'm not spending fifty dollars on such rubbish. Probably I'll keep my thumb and index finger more or less safe but the three others being out of my line of sight I may forget them, plus being weaker they may try for a better grip on the stone and in so doing put themselves in harms way. There is no forgivness in my axes; if you run along the sharp you will be cut.
So, what to do?........

This is the smallest whet stone usually carried in hardware stores and it's glued (gorilla glue) to a piece of scrap wood from my shop. I've turned it up so you can see the stone but in use it's down on the sharp. My hand is on the side of the axe holding the stick. I establish the angle I want by touching the backside of one of my fingers to the side of the axe and adjust for the angle I like.

There really isn't any absolute, if you'd like a larger stone and don't mind carrying it then by all means have at it. For me a stick that long will move my hand back away from the sharp to safety, make it so you're happy with yours. Before you start working on the axe in the field, clean off sap and tree juice, you don't want that stuff gumming up your stone.
Now, in the field what you're doing is touching up the edge, the real serious sharpening will be done at home and maybe there you may like to use water stones or what ever. By gluing the stone to the stick you give up one whole side of the stone and once you see a dip in the surface of the stone it will want to be dressed on another stone until it's flat once again.
Or I suppose you could pitch it out and make another. If memory serves that stone cost about three dollars.

Best Wishes,

Sep 13, 2013
Long Island, NY
Yep, we have to keep the stuff that bleeds off of the sharp things.

I have a pair of folding DMT Diafold sharpeners that works similarly. They work well and don't take up too much space.
Xtra-Coarse, Coarse on one and Fine, Xtra-Fine on the other all color coded. I don't know what I paid for them but they are
selling for around $30.00 each today.

Jul 31, 2011
Aberdeen, MD
I use several methods, depending on the tool.

My knives are mostly convex and therefore sharpened with sandpaper on a foam pad, followed by a strop. I made a little wooden block to hold all the necessary papers, foam, leather, and stropping compound for field sharpening over a week-long trip. (the small blade on my Swiss Army knives stays 'flat/scandi' ground, as I prefer that for whittling. I reshape the larger blade into a convex.) If it's a short trip (1 or 2 overnights, the majority of my trips), I may not even bother bringing it.

I have 4 axes that regularly go on trips, depending on method of travel.... dayhike, overnight backpacking, hard canoe trip, easy canoe trip, smallest (12oz) to largest (2.5lb). But they all get sharpened the same... round Lansky puck. On canoe trips, I have a small 6" mill file and a 1"x3" stone that go along as well. I like your setup with the stone on the stick... makes sense. I have never cut my fingers (yet) but have definitely thought about the riskiness of the round stone.
Feb 1, 2013
Well, I've always been a member of the "Good-enough" tribe, so a simple axe file is as far as i go with sharpening. I bought one of those hockey puck things, but truthfully, I couldn't tell the difference in sharpness after I used it.