Dull ice auger blades aren’t much better than no ice auger blades. Cutting through ice becomes very difficult, not to mention that you are damaging the blades even more when using dull blades.
Well, if your ice auger hasn’t been too effective lately, then maybe it needs a good blade sharpening!
Things to Keep in Mind With Ice Auger Blades
First of all, you need to keep in mind a couple of things with ice auger blades:
- Each blade has its own bevel angle. When sharpening the blade edge, you should maintain the exact bevel angles that the blades have been manufactured with. You can confirm if the angle is right visually, or you may use sharpeners that have angle guides to help you maintain the angle.
- Most of the work will be done on the secondary blade edge. The primary edge usually requires just light polishing.
The secondary blade edge is angled more than the primary edge, and it’s situated on the top surface of the blade. The primary edge’s purpose is to cut into the ice, while the purpose of the secondary edge is to lift it.
- Ice augers have plenty of small parts that could get lost easily during disassembly. Make sure that you keep everything organized to avoid losing anything. Pay special attention to the small shims that maintain a proper blade angle.
You may use a magnetic parts tray to help you keep everything organized and secure. Alternatively, you can DIY a magnetic tray by attaching a magnet to the bottom of a metal tray.
- Sharpening heavily damaged or entirely blunt blades may not be worth it. Instead, we suggest that you go and get brand new blades.
- You should be wearing cut-resistant gloves since ice auger blades are pretty sharp even when blunt.
How to Sharpen Ice Auger Blades
If you’ve ever sharpened any kind of blade in your life – be it a knife or an ax – then you should have no issues with sharpening ice auger blades. They are just like any other kind of blade, and all the techniques that work with other blades will work with auger blades.
Among the tools that you could use to sharpen ice auger blades are:
- Rocks (if you’re out in the wild and don’t have tools with you).
- A grinder.
- A Dremel.
- A file.
As you could have noticed, these are the same kind of tools you may use to sharpen any other kind of blade.
With that said, if you don’t know how to sharpen blades, then we’ll give you a couple of sharpening methods below.
The 3-stone method
The 3-stone method is the classical technique of sharpening any blade. It’s a bit tedious, but it provides excellent results when you have the time and tools for it.
As the name of this technique suggests, you will need 3 sharpening whetstones – coarse, medium-grit, and fine-grit, 1 of each. The logic behind such a set of stones is the following:
- You remove the chips, dings, and other forms of severe damage with the coarser whetstone.
- You then slightly polish the blade and remove lighter damage with a medium-grit stone.
- Finally, you polish the blade to perfection with your fine-grit stone.
Aside from the 3 whetstones, you will need honing oil or water. Which one you will need depends on the type of whetstone you have. Some online guides may also recommend you to have a fine honing stone.
Here’s how to sharpen ice auger blades with this method:
- Lay the coarsest whetstone down on the surface of your worktable. Alternatively, you may fix the ice auger blades in a vice, if you have one.
If there are no burrs, chips, dings, or other traces of severe damage, you may jump straight to finer whetstones.
- Coat the blade edge with a little water or honing oil. Throughout the sharpening, you will need to reapply the honing oil or water as necessary.
- Start with the secondary blade edge. When sharpening the blade, hold its edge towards you and move the blade away from you along the surface of the whetstone.
- Start by making slow strokes and progressively make faster strokes as you feel the surface of the blade edge becoming smoother. If starting with a coarse stone, you have to remove all burrs, chips, dings, and other traces of damage.
- Once you feel that the bevel of the blade is flat, switch to a medium-grit whetstone and repeat the process.
- Once you can no longer improve the blade’s condition with the medium-grit whetstone, switch to your finest stone and polish the blade to perfection.
- Then, you will need to switch to the primary blade edge. This side of the ice auger blade usually doesn’t require much treatment, as mentioned above. People usually stroke the primary blade against a honing stone at an angle of around 40 degrees for some light polishing or removal of burrs. A fine-grit whetstone may work just as well as a honing stone.
- Repeat the entire process for the rest of the ice auger’s blades if necessary.
As you can see, the sharpening process of ice auger blades doesn’t have anything too specific or complex about it – you do it in the same way as you would sharpen your regular knife or ax.
This method is perhaps the best for sharpening if you are out on the ice and need to sharpen your ice auger blades urgently. You may, of course, use rocks lying around, but it’s more convenient to use whetstones.
But overall, you should always check your ice auger once home and sharpen its blades if necessary to avoid being left out with a dull ice auger.
The grinder method
Believe it or not, but you can also sharpen ice auger blades with a grinder. This method is more difficult than the classical 3-stone method, and you also need a grinder along with a proper set of grinder wheels.
Auger blades are quite delicate, so regular grinder wheels are probably going to be too coarse for them. Instead, you would want to use a cloth buffing wheel like outlined in this video guide. This wheel is delicate enough not to cause severe damage to auger blades, though you still need to be careful with it.
Also, you should wear safety goggles since the blade material flying around won’t do good for you if it gets in your eyes.
This method requires skill and proper tools from you. Aside from that, it may be a little overkill for ice auger blade sharpening, but it’s a pretty convenient method if you know what you are doing.
Here’s how the sharpening can be done with a grinder:
- Make sure to install a cloth buffing wheel on your grinder. For more severe blade damage, you may give regular grinding wheels a try, but they will most likely be overkill for ice auger blades. If your blade isn’t too heavily damaged, a soft buffing wheel should work good enough.
- Apply a polishing paste to the grinding wheel. If your paste comes in a stick form, then you may turn your grinder on, place the stick against the wheel, and it will get covered in the polish in one revolution.
- Start sharpening your blade’s secondary blade edge. You need to hold the blade in a way so that the wheel rotates away from it, i.e. the blade has to face the same direction that the wheel is rotating in. Otherwise, you will just destroy the blade.
- Make sure to maintain the blade’s original bevel angle when sharpening the blade.
- Slide the ice auger blade right and left to ensure that its entire surface gets sharpened. Make sure to maintain the bevel angle at all times.
- Stop the grinder and have a look at the blade. If it is smooth and polished, then you are pretty much done with the sharpening and buffing.
- Sharpening the secondary blade edge most likely caused a burr on the primary edge. If so, then very lightly polish the primary edge against the grinder wheel to get rid of the burr.
- The burr may move to the secondary edge. If so, then again switch to the secondary edge and lightly polish it to get rid of the burr. Switch sides and repeat as many times as needed to get rid of the burr on both sides. You will need to go progressively lighter on the blade edges to get rid of the burr.
- Repeat the process for the rest of the blades.
Grinding ice auger blades with a buffing wheel is going to do more buffing than sharpening. With that said, a soft buffing wheel is coarse enough to help you get rid of less severe blade damage.
If this method isn’t able to make the blades clean and polished, you may:
- Use the 3-stone method instead.
- Use a coarser grinding wheel.
- Throw the blades away and get new ones.
The optimal thing to do if you can’t fix the blades with a buffing wheel is to try the 3-stone method. It’s a good technique that works in many cases, and it’s safer than using a grinder.
Another option would be to try a regular grinding wheel, like you would do if were to sharpen an ax, for example. You may use more than one wheel grit to remove severe damage and polish the blade, just like in the 3-stone method.
Ax and ice auger blades aren’t the same though, and it’s easier to damage auger blades since they are less durable.
Auger blades are also small, so even the smallest mistake could irreparably damage them. Grinders can also remove material very quickly, which is another thing that makes regular wheels not the best for ice auger blades.
So yeah, we don’t recommend you to use regular grinding wheels for sharpening, but you may give them a try.
If you do decide to use regular grinding wheels, then keep in mind that you will need to occasionally cool the auger blades down with water. It’s very easy to overheat any kind of blade on a grinder, so you should be very careful.
Overall, if you don’t have experience, you should probably avoid attempting to use a grinder to sharpen your ice auger blades.
The Dremel method
You may also use a Dremel with ice auger blades. Dremels are safer and more delicate than grinders. When it comes to sharpening, a Dremel is essentially a small grinder. Dremels and grinders are also pretty similar in their use.
To sharpen an auger blade with a Dremel, you will need to get a grinding stone attachment for it. The most common grinding stone type is the aluminum oxide grinding stone, which should be more than enough for ice auger blades.
Here’s how you’d sharpen your ice auger with a Dremel:
- Ideally, you should clamp the ice auger blade down to make the sharpening easier.
- As with other methods, you start from the secondary edge of the blade. Make circular motions along the secondary edge while maintaining the bevel angle.
- Once the secondary edge seems fine enough, have a look at the primary edge and see whether there is a burr on it. If there is one, then you’ll need to lightly treat it with the Dremel to get rid of it.
- Occasionally cool the ice auger blade with water throughout the process.
Again, don’t forget to wear safety equipment when handling a Dremel.
If necessary, you may use different grits to sharpen the ice auger blade. You’d use the grits in the same manner as with whetstones – coarser grits for severe damage and finer grits for polishing.
So yeah, there really is nothing too special about ice auger blade sharpening. You sharpen ice auger blades just like any other blades!
But if you’ve never sharpened blades, then follow the instructions given above. We also suggest that you practice on a blade that you aren’t afraid to damage. Practice will give you a good idea of what you should be doing.