Don’t be dull.
If you are like me, your auger is cutting fine. It’s been drilling holes in the ice just fine. You only need to push down on it a little more these days, and you seem to be burning a bit more gas. You haven’t started cussing about it yet so all is good, right? Wrong. If your blades are more than two seasons old, they are probably more dull than you would think. Get them re-sharpened. We re-sharpen LOTS of ice auger blades for hand and power augers.
What you need to know.
These are ice blades for cutting ice. We’re not cutting meat or fabric, or foam, or celery. We’re cutting ice. Only one side of the ice auger blade gets ground to produce a sharp edge, period. Over and over I see the “home sharpening” of ice blades where they sharpened the top of the blade to restore the edge on the bottom of the blade – the part that digs into the ice. But that is not good enough! When you only sharpen the top of the blade, you WILL leave a burr on the bottom edge. Everybody who has every sharpened a pocket knife KNOWS that leaving a burr that can fold over and not expose the sharp edge is a bad thing. This is true for a knife blade which is evenly ground on each side of the edge using finer and finer grit. Then, the blade is stropped (rubbed back and forth on a leather belt on each side of the blade to effectively fold off the thin metal burr to the point that it falls off leaving just the razor sharp edge). This technique that I’ve described is what many think of when they hear sharpening and apply it to everything from hunting knives to axes. But, we are NOT sharpening knife blades – these are ice blades and they are sharpened more closely to wood chisels and hand plane blades. But those, too, require finer edges because it’s a LOT harder to cut wood than it is to cut ice. Don’t get all obsessive about applying what you know about regular blades to ice auger blades.
The whopping mistake that many make is that they correctly sharpen the top of the ice auger blade but then they lose it when they discover the burr that forms on the edge. Somewhere along the way, the general ice fishing populace has learned that a burr is bad and for blades (regular knife blades, axes, machetes, etc.) that require grinding on both sides. I would agree just like I described above. But, contrary to popular belief, that burr in ice auger blades is meaningless. In fact, it probably helps the blade cut faster and it definite wears off quickly.
When I first sharpened a set of Lazer hand auger blades (curved, pie-shaped, Strikemaster blades), I did it as I was taught but the tool and die maker who trained me on the machine he built. I sharpened the top, ignored the burr and gave it back tot he customer who paide me $14.95. The customer took them home and was back in 5 days with a different set of dull Lazer blades in his pocket. He told me that initially with the first set of blades I sharpened, that he was really concerned about the burr that I left on the bottom of the blade edges but kept an open mind and decided to try them first. He quickly found out that that they sliced ice like butter and that is what compelled him to bring me a second set. Good enough for me, or so I thought. But, an endless stream of my other customers (many of whom know just enough about knife sharpening to make them sound skilled) would panic about that burr. I got SO sick of explaining to customers who looked at me like I was running a con (for $14.95 and they know where I live – some con, eh?) in ice auger blade sharpening and what is going on on the ice, that I simply make my sharpening a two-grit process which thins out the burr even more. Then I strop the edge, the burr falls away, and everybody’s happy. It’s entirely not needed at all, but the “male ice fisherman blade-edge ego” can burn up a lot of time on verbal blade analysis and explanations. It’s just easier to make it shiny and take off the burr. There is no difference in the cutting – at least none that a big clunky, less-than-accurate power ice auger is going to notice. The shiny edge is all just for show.
Along that male ice fisherman blade-edge ego, most of the really screwed up blades that I get have been home-sharpened and the problem stems particularly from when they are compelled by unseen forces to grind off the burr from the bottom of the blade. You can’t do this, period. If you touch the bottom side of the blade edge, the part that touches the ice, you will mess it all up, period. I have seen numerous blades when the owner lightly ground the bottom side of the blade s to take off the dreaded burr and then, they topped it off by polishing it. NONE of this is good for your blades. The only way the burr can be removed is by grinding the top-side with increasingly finer grits and then stropping the fine ribbon of metal that forms the burr. If you touch the bottom of the blade with anything else, you will screw it up. I guarantee it. The edge that comes in contact with the ice is all that matters and it has to be flat. Don’t turn it into a microscopic ski to spin around on ice while not digging in.
Or, just send them to me. I sharpen everything but Nils blades and I’m really affordable compared to a lot of other options like a new set of blades. I get a lot of blades from the US Geological Survey stations around the country. Those blades are from lots of various augers and they are usually used extensively in terrible conditions like drilling in rocks where a river was supposed to be. If your blade edge on the bottom side is rounded upward for more that 3/32 of an inch where it should be digging in to the ice instead of riding around on top, or if there are big chunks broken out that go deeper than 3/32″ of an inch, you are going to need to get new blades. Those are pretty shot. I had some USGS blades the other day that I sent back and refunded because they looked like they were used in a blender to chop up rocks. There was no edge anywhere and I don’t know how they could have even drilled a hole with them, unless the rock was the last thing the blade met and they then put those blades away.
I once had a guy send me a Strikemaster Ultra Mag, three-blade set that were so rounded off it took me about 45 minutes and several belts to get past the up turned part of the bottom side of the three blades. You can’t buy those anymore and the guy called me to ask something after I sent them back with a new edge. I asked him why they were SO dull and up-turned – it looked like he was drilling in rocks. Knowing that one cannot buy these blades anymore as he mentioned, he told me that he decided to see if his ice auger could be used to drill post holes in gravel. That is correct – you read right – he used his auger as a post hole drill – with blades that he could no longer purchase anywhere. Then, he decided he wanted to use the auger for the ice, but it wouldn’t cut anymore. Go figure! The crazy, ridiculous things people will do with their stuff! And a fairly high percentage of them will later come in seeking a warranty claim after flat-out, knowingly, misusing their equipment. It’s just wrong. Them’s balls, man.
So, in ice auger blades, if you detect a burr on the edge after they’ve been sharpened, don’t worry about it. If you are in a pinch at home, sharpen the blades from the top side only – NOTE – Jiffy and Strikermaster Chipper blades need to be sharpened from the bottom side only and the angle must be matched. Do not touch the bottom of the blade edge with anything. You’ll be much happier. Make sure that you don’t remove 1/8 inch off of one blade and not the same off the other. They have to be the same size or really, close otherwise you auger will try to walk sideways when you are drilling. Or you can just go to our web link and read the instruction on how to ship the blades to me. I’ll sharpen them and send them back.