A sharp blade is a safe blade, and that’s as true of ice augers as it is of knives and axes.
A sharp auger blade will bite ice without requiring much force from you, and less downward pressure on the auger leads to less risk should it fail to bite and kick. And, of course, a sharp auger will chew through hard water in no time, getting you fishing that much faster.
No one doubts any of this, but dull auger blades are more common on the ice than you’d think.
The simple reason?
It gets expensive to send them back to the factory for sharpening.
What if I told you that you could match the factory’s performance at home?
Keep reading to find out how to sharpen ice auger blades all by yourself!
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Check out our buying guide for the best electric and manual ice augers
Before I get into how to sharpen ice auger blades, let me make clear what you do not want to do.
Never use a power grinder (angle grinder or grinding wheel) on your blades, even if you cool them with water. You will inevitably overheat the thin edge, spoiling its temper and softening it to the point that it won’t remain sharp.
The exceptions are blade-specific power tools like belt sanders and professional sharpening grinders--but if you have these, chances are you’re not reading this article!
Much like sandpaper, sharpening stones (or whetstones) vary in coarseness, which is measured in “grit.” The higher the grit, the less metal the stone removes from an edge, and the more each stroke polishes it.
You’ll find stones in common grits like 120, 400, 1000, and 6000.
Some whetstones are literally wet stones, requiring a good soaking in water before they’re used and more or less constant wetting during the sharpening process. That’s because the water acts as a lubricant and lifts the tiny metal particles clear of the surface of the stone.
This keeps the stone’s “pores” from clogging, and it creates a polishing slurry that floats over the surface of the stone, further enhancing its performance.
As you’d guess, oil stones require oil as a sharpening medium, so be sure to read the instructions that come with your stones and know the difference.
Oil stones will not work well with water, and water stones will not work well with oil.
Start with three stones: something in the neighborhood of 120, 400, and 1000. Don’t get hung up on the exact grits. What matters the most is that you have a coarse stone that can really remove metal quickly, and then two graduated stones to remove scratches and result in a relatively polished surface.
This doesn’t need to break the bank. One of my favorite stones for the rough work is the SE silicon carbide. It’s inexpensive and offers 120 and 240 grits to really get things going.
Follow this with a Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone, and you’ve got a sharpening kit for your auger that won’t set you back much at all.
Prep your stones with oil or water, as necessary.
Take a good, close look at your blades. Look for nicks, dings, and damage to the edges that are going to require extra attention.
You’ll notice a few chips to the left side, as well as uneven wear.
You’ll notice that auger edges are composed of three surfaces: the back bevel, which is almost flat to the edge, and the front, which has two surfaces: the primary and secondary bevels.
The back and secondary bevel are exaggerated here for clarity.
If your edge is in relatively good shape with no real damage, you only need to work on the secondary and back bevels.
But if your edge has serious damage like chips and nicks, you may need to work on the primary bevel before moving on to the other two.
Using a Sharpie, color over the entire primary bevel.
This will act as a guide for you to assess whether you’re actually getting the whole primary bevel onto the stone.
Flip the blade bevel down, and tilt the edge down to find the primary bevel.
Make long, slow, sweeping strokes with very light pressure, and periodically check the primary bevel.
Use a Sharpie--it will help immensely!
If some areas are still covered by marker, you’re not working the entire bevel against the stone.
Adjust your technique--this is going to take practice!
When you’ve ground the primary bevel to a flat, even surface, move on to the next higher grit and repeat the process until you’ve achieved the level of polish that you want.
Always use very light pressure and let the stones do the work.
Use your finest stone for this.
With the blade resting on the primary bevel, lift it just slightly onto its edge and make 10-20 light passes.
Notice that the primary bevel isn’t in contact with the stone.
You’re creating a micro-secondary bevel that will make the edge tougher without compromising cutting.
Use very, very light pressure.
You may be tempted to skip this step because the edge of your blade will already be hair-shaving sharp.
Creating this tiny secondary bevel will multiply the service life of your edge, greatly improving its performance over time.
You can just see the micro-bevel, which is perfect.
Use your finest stone for this.
Lay the blade flat on its back and make 10 to 20 light passes. This will clean up any burr on the back edge.
This, too, is a critical step!
Don’t skip it.
I know professionals who prefer sandpaper to stones, so don’t make the mistake of thinking this is second best.
You’ll need some basic supplies: duct tape, a large piece of glass, tile, or metal that’s perfectly flat, and some wet/dry sandpaper. The flat surface is the real trick, and it needs to be truly flat and smooth.
Just like with the stones, you want several different grits of sandpaper: a coarse, a medium, and a fine.
To set up, carefully cut a piece of sandpaper that’s just a tad smaller than your flat surface.
Then, tape the sandpaper in place, pulling it tight to remove any wrinkles and keep it firmly against your flat surface.
Wet your blades, and you’re ready to go - just follow the steps above!
With just a bit of preparation and some experience, you can get results that rival the factory sharpening service.
With practice, you can have both blades sharp again in an hour, allowing you to keep your auger in tip-top form all winter.
We hope this article has helped you learn something new, and if it has, we’d love to hear from you!
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Don't forget to check out our guide on essential ice fishing gear!