How To Break In A New Axe? – [Get The Most Out Of Your Axe]

Are you wondering how to break in a new axe?

Well, you’ve come to the right place because that’s exactly what I’ll be going over in this post.

So let’s just get straight into it!

Oiling the handle

The first thing you’re going to want to do with your axe is sand down the handle.  Everything from rough spots to any varnish you will want to sand. You want to make sure you are not going to get any splinters and deteriorate the wood right from the get-go. 

After you have sanded it, you then will apply the proper oils to your handle. You want to apply multiple layers of oil to the handle. 

Between each application, you are going to leave the oil to soak in fully, as well as dry off.  Though for it to completely dry off will be difficult, you should take a rag to wipe off what’s left after an hour.

As the oil is applied it will begin to soak into the wood causing the wood to expand.  This is of the utmost importance when it comes to the eye of the axe; you want to make sure the wood has expanded enough to keep the head of the axe attached. 

This oil does the job of protecting against the elements that the axe will experience in its life.  You don’t want to leave the axe outside but on occasions, when it happens, the oiling will be your last line of defense.

You want to look into purchasing linseed oil.  There are two different kinds of linseed oil: raw and boiled.  The boiled linseed oil is quicker to dry; however, it does contain “metallic dryers”. 

Some people do not like these “metallic dryers” mixing in with their wooden handles.  These people will typically look to the raw linseed oil products because they come without “metallic dryers”.  You’ll just have to set aside more time for the oil to dry.

Protect the handle with a collar

Something everyone experiences every once in a while is the complete whiff.  You swing the axe and it just overshoots your target by a few inches and thud. 

You feel that deep in your core, but your axe feels it just the same.  With enough of these, you can damage the shoulder of the axe to the point where it can’t handle the strength of a successful blow.  A way you can counteract this wear would be to give your axe a collar.

While you don’t need it right away it is better off to get it before it’s too late.  More of the higher end mauls will come equipped with a steel collar, but the lower end ones will not. 

Steel would be a great option for protecting the shoulder of your axe but it is not the only option.  You can find leather options, paracord options, and more.  

You can find plenty of leather options on Amazon, but if you want to have a paracord option, it’s probably best to make it yourself.  Because every axe handle is different from the next, so too are the respective sizes of the shoulders. 

While buying a third-party collar is an option it is more difficult to find one that will fit your axe’s shoulder size.

Sharpen your new axe

Not often will you purchase a brand new axe and the head is already as sharp as can be.  Only on some higher-end axes will you find that they are already sharp enough to use.  So when you first get your axe you will need to sharpen it before using it. 

This should not be a daunting task as it is a similar process to sharpening knives.  But if you are unfamiliar with either, you can find several videos on the matter. 

If you are on a budget you are better off using any file you can find to sharpen.  If you have access to tools like angle grinders or bench grinders, these will make the job faster.

There are two different styles of edges you can implement on your axe head: a “straight edge” or a “rounded bevel edge”.  A straight edge is what it sounds like, flat and equal on both sides. 

The rounded bevel edge is a bit more complicated to make happen; it is rounded on one side with more support coming into play for the cutting edge.  Because of this, I advocate for the rounded bevel edge, it’s just a more dependable cutting edge.

When it comes to sharpening the axe, you’re going to want to take whatever file you have and move it in line with the direction the axe head will cut. 

Never go perpendicular to the grain as this will disrupt the ease in which the head will cut through the wood.  It’s much easier to run the file/grinder over the head rather than vice-versa, as one might expect.

How often should I sharpen my axe to keep it cutting the best it can?

This is a very subjective topic to address.  You want to keep your axe sharp because a dull bit can be quite dangerous.  However, to have a bit that has been sharpened too much can lead to chipping.

You can carefully touch the bit of your axe to see if it’s sharp or not. If not, just get out a grinder and sharpen up that bad boy.

Actually use it

You’ll want to clear an area to chop or quarter your wood.  Clear everything out of the way so that there will be no interference in your swing. “Clear the ground an axe-length’s round and above” as the old saying goes.

Regardless of your goal in cutting wood, you will want to have a wide sturdy stance keeping your knees just slightly bent.  Line up your swing so that you know you will hit the target, straightening your arms with the axe as an extension of your arms. 

The end of the axe will be your target to hit.  As you swing you will have to keep your eyes on the target, so you should be wearing protective eye gear as well. 

You’ll want to make sure you are holding the axe properly as this can be an essential piece in the power and efficacy of the swing.  Start with your right hand just below the axe head, just under the collar or shoulder, and your left head in the throat of the handle. 

Keep a tight but not too tight grip, raise the axe, and on its downswing allow your right hand to slide into your left hand.  If you are left-handed, merely flip these instructions to work for you.

Using the product is easily the best way to break in your axe.  Most of what has been discussed throughout this article are the best ways to prepare for actually using the axe. 

You want to make sure to adequately prepare yourself for the actual act of using the axe because nothing else will actually break in the axe.

If you are looking to go beyond just splitting wood you will need to research more about how to break in your axe when felling a tree or whichever other technique you look to attempt.

How to store and protect your axe

Your axe can last for a couple centuries if taken care of properly.  There are only a few things you need to do to preserve it for a while.  First of all, you will want to keep it in its sheathed whenever it is not in use. 

In addition to that, keep it inside in the warmth, as a cold, weathered axe is liable to chipping, rust, and can warp the wooden handle.  

As explained earlier, sharpening is essential for every time the bit gets dull.  One final note would be to avoid using the axe as a hammer; this is because you don’t want to harm the head too much.


You break in a new axe by oiling the handle, protect the handle with a collar, sharpen the axe with a grinder, and ultimately, you need to use it in order to break in your new axe. 

Hope you found what you were looking for in this guide.

Happy chopping!

– Adam