Regular readers know my work philosophy is pretty laid back. I don’t sweat tear out on secondary surfaces, I think knots are fine for drawer parts and back boards, etc…
That’s why when it comes to axe edge maintenance, some might be surprised at how fastidious I am about keeping it tip top. Some folks don’t feel a need to keep up on their coarser tools but I don’t buy that distinction. When your coarse prep relies on human muscle rather than machines, a keen edge is your best friend. I’ve wasted too much time straining myself working with dull tools. Saving two minutes of sharpening only to grunt through 20 minutes of miserable work is dumb. It’s simply not worth ignoring your edges.
When I take out my axe, it’s because I need to remove a lot of wood. So if my edge isn’t awesome you bet I’m going to take the time to tune it up. If I’m in the shop I’ll use my water stones but if I’m outside or working in the barn at my house, I turn to my EZE-LAP diamond paddles. I picked these up based on the recommendation of my good friend, Tim Manney. I’m glad I did. The two grits: fine and super fine are all I need to get back to work in no time.
I never sharpen my axes holding them in midair. I hone the edges in one of two ways... The first way is by setting the axe head on edge on a stable surface like a bench. With the axe still, I can polish the very edge with both grits without things moving around on me.
The other (and better) way I do this is by hanging the bevel off the edge of a low bench. This provides the most rigidity. It’s as secure as honing on my stationary water stones.
Having either the tool or the sharpening medium stationary is the key to success for me. Most of my failures in sharpening have been when I’m hotdogging it in midair.
Besides picking up a pair of these EZE-LAP paddles, the best advice I can give you based on my failures is to make sure things are stationary. Not only is it more secure, but there is a whole lot less to think about.